Champions has always been a comic book series about hope. The hope to change the world, but also the hope in the hearts of the young heroes on the team. It’s a book that has also played around with different kinds of heroes, and in this latest trade paperback, “different” is an understatement. The heroes enter Weirdworld and things get, well, weird.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The Champions’ mission in space (in INFINITY COUNTDOWN!) has left its mark, and the team tries to move on. A chance to bring life back to a desolate village might be just what they need – or push them even farther apart… While Ironheart and Amadeus Cho take major steps forward in their super hero journeys, Nova takes a step back. As the team faces a complicated and dangerous threat, Sam Alexander wonders: Is there a future for him with the Champions?
Why does this matter?
This collects issues #22 through #27 as well as the Champions Annual #1. It’s a meaty book running a bit longer than the usual trade paperback. It also houses an excellent issue dedicated to the newest Alaskan member of the team. It’s a cultural exploration and it’s fun to see a brand new character get so much focus.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This collection houses one twist after another involving the Man-Thing and, by the end, a Weirdworld experience. Jim Zub writes quite a story integrating fantasy themes while never forgetting about character work. The story opens with a nice reminder that these characters are always changing. Ironheart has a new suit, Amadeus Cho’s powers are now different, and Sam is no longer Nova (and pretty pissed about it). You’re never far from understanding the feelings of the characters and that helps keep you invested in them while the crazy superhero stuff drops.
One of the most compelling characters in this story arc is Viv, who has had some of the most drastic changes over this Champions run. Her father, Vision, is recouping from a major incident which puts emotional pressure on Viv who just recently had to kill her clone self. It’s a whole thing. As the story progresses, Zub explores what it means to shut off your emotions, which I’m sure teenagers can relate to. It ties directly into the Man-Thing narrative since his whole deal involves fear. By the end of this story Viv seems further developed and Zub even drops an interesting romantic twist on us.
I can’t say enough how cool the Weirdworld scenes are. Each character gets a new costume design and Miles aka Spider-Man may have the coolest one. It’s a mashup of Assassin’s Creed meets Spider-Man, and it’s quite cool. This whole section is fun due to it following the fantasy theme which reminds me of Zub’s great Dungeons & Dragons series over at IDW. Some of the characters can’t remember who they were in the real world, further complicating things and giving the creative team a lease on heroes fighting heroes. It’s a fun twist that I could see every Marvel book jumping into with ease.
The art is by Kevin Libranda with Francesco Manna on the first two issues, then jumps to Sean Izaakse and Max Dunbar for the next four and then closes out with Marcus To on the annual. Key to this series is the emotion and inner turmoil of the characters, which is displayed well by all artists involved. There’s a sharp superhero feel to the art that suits it too. As I said above Izaakse’s fantasy costume design for the characters in Weirdworld is out of this…wait for it…world.
Hey peeps. So since everyone seems to be loving the connecting covers for Champions issues 25-26 I thought I’d share what they look like connected as well as my character designs for our teen heroes for this arc. Colours on these covers by @Menyz who brought all the atmosphere. pic.twitter.com/vZqhLeOqZe
— Sean Izaakse (@SeanIzaakse) August 22, 2018
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The placement of issue #24 is jarring, given it tells a singular story about gun violence. It’s a good story and purposeful, but it would almost make more sense to put it at the end of the trade. The annual is also somewhat tacked on in part because it only features one character. This issue is common with trade paperbacks trying to complete a run, though.
The annual story is purposeful and good, but it also runs quite slowly. It has a pace as if it was stretching itself out to fill the usual longer format of an annual issue.
Is it good?
It’s hard to find fault with this series. It’s bubbly, fun, and compelling with its approach to complex character development. It’s hopeful and with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse running with the notion that anyone can be a hero, this series seems to fill that conceit for comic books.