The latest chapter of "Avengers: No Surrender" reveals the true origin of The Grandmaster, a longtime Marvel Comics villain and a character played by Jeff Goldblum in Thor: Ragnarok. It turns out that The Grandmaster isn't the first to use the name. His brother, a fellow Elder of the Universe, was the first to call himself the Grandmaster.
What we always understood as the the real Grandmaster debuted in Avengers #69 in 1969 as a cosmic villain who uses heroes and villains as pawns in deadly contests against his opponents. The Grandmaster's appetite for watching others fight each other has led him to become a recurring villain for a number of Marvel heroes, including the Avengers, the Defenders, and the Silver Surfer. After years of being limited to guest-starring appearances in various comic book titles (and video games like Kabam's Marvel: Contest of Champions), the Grandmaster reached a new level of popularity with his role in Thor: Ragnarok.
Though the villain has been around for almost 50 years, the character's origin has remained shrouded in mystery. Not much is known about the character's past, other than the fact that he is the brother of The Collector and one of the oldest beings in the universe. Grandmaster, whose real name is En Dwi Gast, has a prominent role in "Avengers: No Surrender," alongside a new character who calls himself the Challenger. In Avengers #679, the Challenger reveals the truth about the Grandmaster's past.
The Challenger and En Dwi Gast were once close friends and "brothers of the board" who shared a love for games. Ages ago, the Challenger was known as the Grandmaster. He didn't realize that his brother secretly coveted the title. In one particular game, the stakes were high: the winner would be the "greatest gamer of all" and the loser would be barred from reality. The loser could be only released in the event that reality ended.
The first Grandmaster sough to end the game, but En Dwi Gast's ambition got the best of him. He defeated his brother and happily stole his title. Forced to dwell in an empty plane outside of reality, the former Grandmaster remained there until the universe was temporarily destroyed, which comic book fans know happened in the 2015 event Secret Wars.
Having returned from his exile as the Challenger, the Elder of the Universe is looking for revenge against his former friend and brother. The two are apparently behind the kidnapping of the Earth. The Grandmaster and the Challenger have engaged a game that pits Thanos' children, the Black Order, against a new incarnation of the Lethal Legion. The Avengers serve as obstacles for the two supervillain teams. The Avengers' interference in the contest resulted in the tragic death of a beloved character. It remains to be seen what other casualties will be claimed in the Challenger's pursuit of vengeance.
The introduction of the Challenger has helped to create an exciting new chapter for the Avengers while also providing an interesting backstory for one of Marvel's oldest and most mysterious villains.
The fifth chapter of "Avengers: No Surrender", Avengers #679, is on sale now.