Champions #2 Review
Writer: Jim Zub
Artists: Steve Cummings
Cover Artist: Kim Jacinto & Rain Berado
Variant Cover Artists: Pepe Laraz & David Curiel
Colors: Marcio Menyz
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Previously in Champions…
Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) had been officially elected leader of the Champions and had expanded the roster of the team, and had successfully led a mission to capture the villain Zzzax, who was rampaging through Dubai of the United Arab Emirates. After said successful mission, Kamala went to check on her teammates Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and former-Nova Sam Alexander, but both were oddly combative towards one another. After Kamala leaves, and Sam remains alone in his room, smoke and hellfire fill it, as the demon Mephisto appears. Miles has mad a bargain with him…
Summary with limited spoilers
The comic opens up during the events of the previous issue, but initially from the perspective of Sam, who in his de-powered state, has taken on the responsibility of piloting the Champions’ mobile bunker. As he laments his inability to stand side-by-side with his friends without powers, the comic then cuts to the mission in Dubai, as Kamala, Miles, and Viv Vision are trying to weaken renegade energy-monster Zzzax. Amadeus Cho (Brawn) is trying to finish the preparations on the containment device he’s created to capture Zzzax, all the while Zzzax’s attack continues to devastate the city around the Champions.
As the battle rages, Zzzax rips up power lines that connect to Dubai’s rail network, causing interference on the Champions’ comms, so Sam can’t hear them. And as Kamala tries to shield nearby pedestrians from falling rubble, she’s blasted with the full power of the transit system, sending her flying. Viv flies towards her, as Miles rescues a local girl from more falling debris. As Amadeus lets the team know he needs only eight more seconds to finish the device, Viv’s blasted by Zzzax. A tower loses structural integrity, as Kamala stands beneath it.
Miles desperately makes his way towards the fallen rubble, trying to dig Kamala out, as Amadeus punches his way out, cradling a lifeless Viv’s body in his arms. Miles finally finds Kamala, dead beneath the remains of the building. Amadeus and Miles cry out in despair. Trying to contact Sam, the pair is informed he cannot hear them, by the newly arrived demon Mephisto.
Mephisto has arrived not to gloat he claims, but to offer aid. He wants to fix what’s happened for Amadeus and Miles. They’re unwilling to believe him, and Miles expects that if Mephisto does this, he’ll want their souls in exchange. But Mephisto points out that he has plenty of souls already, and that he wants to do this because he can and because he likes to be unpredictable. He’ll roll back time to just before this mission started, free of charge. No blood-oath, or signed agreement to their souls. Amadeus says they can’t do this, but Miles refuses this protest, desperately wanting no one to have died because of their mistakes. Miles tells Mephisto to do it.
So Mephisto works his magic, as several mystical beings throughout the Marvel universe react to this massive display of power before time is then reversed. Miles opens his eyes, to find he and Amadeus are now standing next to Kamala and Viv, as they just arrive on the ground in Dubai. Miles swings off to fight Zzzax before Kamala can give her orders, as Amadeus tells her he only needs a few seconds to initialize his device. Viv and Miles keep Zzzax distracted for a few moments, and Amadeus activates the containment device, sucking up the monster. They’ve saved the day.
This is a wonderful cover, capturing a feeling of dread, as a photo of the Champions successfully rescuing others is split in two, and engulfed in flames. Kim Jacinto and Rain Beredo convey the surface-level joy of the Champions’ recent successes while foreshadowing Mephisto’s magic, and the deal Miles has struck with him. Things are going to go wrong, and this team may go up in flames as a result.
Opinions on story and art
This comic is wonderfully well-crafted, and I enjoyed the artwork a lot more than in the previous issue. Having said that, upon reading it, this comic didn’t sit well with me. Jim Zub is an incredibly talented storyteller and having read numerous series written by him in the past, I do trust him to handle the aftermath of this story’s revelations in a very well-thought-out manner. But I can’t pretend that killing off Viv and especially Kamala, even if only for a few pages within this one issue of this one series, didn’t upset me. And I know that this act is supposed to be upsetting to the readers. However, it still annoys me that Kamala (and Viv) lack any agency in this story as a result. While future issues could explore this, having such great new diverse characters like Ms. Marvel and Viv die in such a manner rubbed me the wrong way. Something so life-shattering (literally) as this should be explored within Ms. Marvel’s own title, especially for a character like Kamala, who has a very religious background. This may still occur down the line, but until then, this issue is one I’m going to remain pretty uncomfortable with plot-wise.
I will say that Steven Cumming’s pencilling is much more enjoyable and engaging in this issue than I found it with #1, possibly in part due to all of the tragedy within. Cummings excels at drawing despair and heartbreak on characters’ faces (see Image series Wayward for some examples), and this issue is chock full of such expressions. The splash page of Miles upon digging up Kamala’s body is gut-wrenching. Cummings also captures Miles and Amadeus’s recollections of Kamala and Viv very well, with brief panels flashing back to simple moments, like Viv’s confession to Amadeus that she doesn’t like boys, or Miles and Kamala swinging through New York City. It’s all rendered and paced wonderfully so that Miles’s eventual decision to accept Mephisto’s offer is all too understandable.
Marco Menyz continues to deliver wonderful color choices, from the bright, daydreamy blues around Sam as he pilots the ship, all the while growing red, signifying impending danger or doom, to the reds and greys of the attacked Dubai. Though the best bit of coloring in this issue for me was on page 9, as Miles is crying out to Kamala, just before the building falls on top of her. The shadows cast behind her, with the explosive damage in front, all is realized so wonderfully.