Sticks Pick 6: a “Champions” #2 (Review)
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler: Humberto Ramos
Inker: Victor Olazaba
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
WARNING: Major spoilers – article meant only for those who have completed reading this issue!
I am not crazy about this new team’s name. Particularly due to the recent Contest of Champions series, which causes a bit of brand confusion, especially since that series had very little to do with the current in-line continuity. It is a footprint in history that I would just as soon see erased, with nothing left around to remind me of it. Regardless, this is a team setting out define its own identity, despite their “Avengers Jr.” kind of genesis. The second book that I read out of my stack this week, I was looking forward to seeing the title in motion, under the cool hand of one Mark Waid. I was a little concerned that it was going to read like a 21st century re-tread of Power Pack, though. Fortunately, this book is shaping up to be a bit more.
Champions #2 starts off with a camping trip with the new team. Huddled around the campfire, Kamala Khan has directed that the team roast kebobs, and share every detail of their power set. I have to say that I love this collection of heroes. Ms Marvel, Nova, Spider-Man, Hulk, and Viv possess that unique blend of weird and standard that makes the book feel like a core capes team book while also being able to have fun with some non-standard powers as well as a great mix of diversity for the character driven stories. While the team gets to know each other, they are ambushed by Scott Summers. One of the wayward original X-Men from the past who is trying to find his way in the present, Scott errantly thinks the team is being attacked when Hulk returns from a test jump, crashing suddenly into the midst of the group.
Waid has absolutely nailed it with a definitive tone and approach that he intends to take with this series. I get the humor, and it is shaded perfectly; that one pitch just above sarcasm and teen angst. But in the humor I can almost detect the tragic sub-frequency running just below the main carrier wave. I have no question that, while littered with whimsy, this is going to be a very adult series in terms of what it deals with. Not Power Pack. With Scott’s arrival, it will be very interesting to see how Waid manages the obvious friction that should arise from Kamala and Summers both seeming like natural leaders for the team. Across the various venues in the Marvel Universe that she appears, Ms Marvel has been getting groomed for leadership. There has been a concerted effort to evolve her from the star-struck, wide-eyed teenager that she was, into someone who represents and fights for a group of people who may not always line up with the veterans of the Marvel Universe.
The banter in this issue is pitch-perfect for this team and it kept me engaged through every single panel. It was like watching any one of my favorite tv shows. In fact, this would make a great live-action or animated. I love having an intelligent but adolescent and frat-boy like Hulk, the extreme heroism of Nova, and the bare-chested honesty of Miles Morales. Viv is perhaps the most enlightening character, and I adored her resolution of the Scott Summers appearance. What is perhaps most refreshing about this group is their potential. While I do not normally go in for heroes that are overly young, I do love the thought that these guys may become the team that eventually supersedes the Avengers. While there is humor and adorableness in each of them, again, there is an undercurrent soundtrack in much of what they say that indicates strength, will, and sacrifice. What this series needs to do more than anything is not set up lame, underpowered villains opposite this cast. They need the same kind of threats that the Avengers would face, and sometimes, those consequences need to be dire. The other big question is whether or not this is something that Marvel keeps Mark Waid on or do they do a bait-and-switch? Keep Waid on long enough to get some regular subscribers, and then pull him off to work on the next Marvel Milestone, leaving the series in the hands of the inexperienced, or, worse, a creative team on a get-well plan.
The art in this issue was delectable. As I have mentioned, the power-set of this team I feel like lends itself to opportunities for some great set-pieces. Either that or Ramos just knows how to draw ‘em. There is some cartooniness to the art that I do not care for, especially when he draws fingers. Because it is a team that skews younger, so I did not mind it as much from panel-to-panel, but it did bug me overall.
The opening panel is great. It shows all of the Champion’s hands around a camp fire, each holding a kebob, with the Hulk’s being significantly larger than anyone else’s. The next panel shows them all full-body, and the great image here is that of Nova sitting on his helmet. Ramos later portrays some great kinematics in displaying how nimble this Hulk is, as he jumps up from the camp fire and reaches around Nova to pluck his helmet up off the ground like a Linebacker recovering a fumble. The image of the Champions standing around looking skyward as they witness Hulk proving how high he can jump is just wonderful.
This is largely a story that takes place around a campfire, and Delgado dials his shading skills to infinity, as the light dancing across the characters’ faces literally feels like it is in motion across the excellent facial portraits that Ramos lays down. If Delgado stays on, he should have a ball, and if you look closely at the character costumes, you can tell why. There are two characters in blue & gold, two in red and blue, and two with a green motif. It will be an excellent opportunity to do loads of foretelling, sub-surface insight, and all sorts of story-telling nuances by playing with the even distribution of colors.
There are really just too many things to mention about this book that had me enamored with it. I am strongly considering shoving something on my current recurring pull-list aside to make room for this. While I typically do not manually monkey with my pull-list except at specific trigger events, this series has grabbed my interest with the strongest pull since the Warren Ellis – Declan Shalvey Moon Knight debut. I highly recommend that you check it out, even if it is just to look into this single issue. If I do not jump on this, I will certainly be on the lookout for the trade. Simply superb.