Champions #1 Review
Writer: Jim Zub
Artists: Steve Cummings
Cover Artist: Kim Jacinto & Rain Berado
Variant Cover Artist: Skottie Young, Michael Cho, Lee Garbett, Phil Noto
Colors: Marcio Menyz & Erick Arciniega
Letters: Clayton Cowles
This new series opens with a newly expanded roster of Champions partaking in three simultaneous missions being coordinated by the newly officially-elected leader of the Champions, Ms. Marvel. As the three missions progress we see how the new recruits interact with one another in the field and handle the various relief, rescue and combat situations they’ll encounter as part of the team. New members to the Champions are revealed to include Victor Alvarez (Power Man), Fernanda Rodriguez (the Locust), Lana Baumgartner (Bombshell), Joaquin Torres (Falcon), Rayshaun Lucas (Patriot), and Qureshi Gupta (Pinpoint), with several other members being listed off by Viv later in the story. After the three missions are successfully concluded, the entire team unites within the Champions mobile headquarters. After the main team’s success at dealing with Hulk-villain Zzzax, Sam (who was depowered during the previous series) tries to talk with his roommate Miles, however, Miles is strangely abrasive and shuts Sam out. As Amadeus passes by he tries to reassure Sam about this, but sam remains confused and this leads to Amadeus then acting needlessly combative towards Sam and slamming him against the wall of the hallway. Shortly after Kamala is delivering a speech to the collected heroes, Viv flies next to Riri in an attempt to address the kiss she gave Ironheart at the end of issue #27 of the previous series. Riri is still incredibly flustered by this and Viv’s attempts to try and act like everything is alright continue to frustrate Riri even further. This leads to Viv being further confused and Riri storming off in a huff. As Kamala tries to include Miles and Sam in her shared spotlight for the team’s success she realizes they’re both absent and has to cut her speech short. Going off to look for them, she laments that while the team under her leadership is more effective than ever, her two closest friends are acting so strangely distant. Thus Kamala goes off to confront Miles and Sam…
Okay, so once again there’s a lot to talk about with this issue of Champions. First of all is the renumbering of the series while previous series writer Jim Zub remains on-board, but bringing a new penciller on-board with Steve Cummings. I’m of two minds in regards to this book receiving a new number 1 issue. As of this one issue of this new volume of Champions, the relaunch seems unnecessary as besides the new batch of minor characters with the new recruits, the storytelling of this issue feels consistent with Zub’s previous Champions stories, although the tone of this issue does feel more ominous. This is both good and bad, as I did enjoy Jim Zub’s previous issues of Champions immensely (being some of my favourite comics of 2018), however, it does mean that new readers may feel a bit alienated picking up this comic without having read at least the last few story-arcs of Champions. The addition of new team members is appreciated, however, they don’t feel like they add much to the plot thus far, feeling like little more than extras in the narrative. Giving ALL of these new recruits a huge amount of panel-time would’ve been impossible, but I’m hoping they are granted some development here. Ideally, I’d like to see this Champions series evolve into a Justice League Unlimted-esque storytelling-engine, where storylines allow for these new team members to be given the spotlight, with a few or possibly even just one pre-existing Champion as part of a story’s main cast. I don’t expect this to happen right away, but it’d be appreciated if it does eventually move towards this. The one other disappointing aspect writing-wise I found with this issue was the lack of attention given to Snowguard, especially after the absolute must-read Champions Annual #1 released a few weeks ago as of this review’s writing. Amka once again sliding into the background is a bit disappointing, and hopefully not a continuing trend for future installments.
All of this being said, I still really enjoyed this first issue’s writing & plot and character-growth quite a lot. Between the growing sense of dread that builds throughout the issue as the Champions seem to be slowly getting at odds with one another, the triumph of the three missions successfully carried out, and Kamala’s engaging and compelling struggles with this new position she finds herself in as the formal leader of the Champions, Jim Zub conveys all of this incredibly effectively.
The new penciller, Steve Cummings, brings a lot of striking imagery and conveys the growing darkness within the ship (and the Champions) quite well. The characters do at times feel a bit off-model from one panel to another, but I’m going to chalk that up to growing pains for Cummings drawing these characters for the first time. Having read his and Jim Zub’s previous collaboration (Image Comics’s Wayward), I know how incredibly talented a penciller Cummings is, and for the most part, this issue shows that. Marcio Menyz once again returns to color the issue (joined by Erick Arciniega), and they deliver some very effective work throughout. The use of heavier and darker blues on board the ship during the latter half, in particular, conveying dread flawlessly. And letterer Clayton Cowles continues to deliver superb work in this issue, the use of slowly shrinking fonts conveying the Champions growing doubts over fighting Zzzax being a highlight of the comic.