Mark Waid’s recent Marvel books have gotten, let’s say, interesting receptions. Five years ago, it seemed like every oldhead and comics aficionado was begging for Waid to have a crack at the big Avengers book. When that day finally came, with the old school action many claimed to long for and jaw-dropping art from Mike del Mundo … nobody bought it.
Waid’s Champions follows a team of young (mostly legacy) heroes as they try to battle the real villains of the 21st century, like inequality and prejudice. With the manic Humberto Ramos on art, it hung onto good sales early, and still does well enough, despite constant sabre-rattling from the segment of the fanbase inclined to shout “SJW” at anything that isn’t written to appeal to them.
If Avengers & Champions: Worlds Collide doesn’t satisfy all of those audiences, nothing ever will.
Although there isn’t a whole lot of colliding going on in this crossover story that encompasses Avengers #672-674 and Champions #13-15. Well, yes, there is the quite literal colliding of worlds that the High Evolutionary wants to pull off, by tweaking reality so that Earth and Counter Earth are “in phase” and will thus smash into each other during their orbits, which he wants because … comics?
Worlds Collide is entertaining precisely because it’s nearly pure action, in a wacky, Silver Age style made modern. The Champions heatedly broke with the Avengers in a crisis of conscience after Civil War II. You still see some mistrust from the kids here, and the desire to not be treated as kids, but the two teams’ differing outlooks never stop them from staying focused on the mission at hand — there is no blown-up misunderstanding leading to confrontation as in that line-wide event that spurred the Champions into being.
And yet, in classic Avengers style, there’s room for character developments and twists, too. As the High Evolutionary wants to create new life, so does the Vision. Sort of. You’ve probably already heard about what happens to his hand-created daughter, Viv, in this story, but the emotion displayed as he tries to, uh, “fix the problem” is palapable and right in line with every other powerful moment in his sordid “family” history.
Waid no longer has del Mundo painting his Avengers plots by the time of Worlds Collide, so we get some traditional (though no less awe-inspiring) pencils from Jesús Saiz and Javier Piña. Seriously, these two create both characters and actions that leap off the page with vibrancy, with Piña getting the assist from Paco Diaz and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg. Don’t be surprised to see these guys creeping up the superstar ladder in the near future.
Ramos and colorist Edgar Delgado handle the Champions issues, with everything you’d expect that to entail. There’s some good action and use of perspective, but it’s a big jar coming from the more “classic” art of the Avengers issues to the highly stylized work of Ramos. They’re two great tastes that don’t go together, less peanut butter and chocolate and more olives and ice cream.
But all in all, Avengers & Champions: Worlds Collide is as good a realization of both these books’ potentials as you could probably get. It’s not too acerbic for the politics-averse, while still illustrating tension; and it’s a very traditional superhero story, while still feeling like it takes place in the now. If both of these books are winding down, it’s a shame that it’s when Waid has finally hit the stride so many had expected from him immediately. Lack of attention to this volume shouldn’t be confused with a lack of quality of the material.