Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Kevin Libranda
Colorist: Marcio Menyz
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: R.B. Silva, Nolan Woodard
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Review by Nico Sprezzatura
While the Marvel Universe’s youngest team of heroes can save themselves from harm, they’re still teenagers after all, and what teens don’t suffer from growing pains? This week’s Champions #22 introduces a variety of status quo changes for them — but are they welcome ones?
Not unlike the Avengers they originally spun-off from, it seems change is a key component of the Champions’ existence, both on (and off) the page. Original creative team Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos had good intentions with their run, but it often felt like grown adults writing and drawing what they thought modern teens were like.
It wasn’t until Jim Zub and Sean Izaakse (both late of a brief-but-terrific Uncanny Avengers run) came onboard that the Champions’ potential finally felt realized. Zub in particular is adept at nailing the emotional stakes of his characters, no matter how big or small they may be, so who better than him to herd this group of emotional, hormonal teens?
Despite being a jumping-on point for new readers, Champions #22 actually builds on a variety of recent storylines that happened in both this series and other titles — Spider-Man, Avengers: No Surrender, Incredible Hulk, and Infinity Countdown: Champions. You might benefit from reading those first, but if you didn’t, the editor’s notes bring you up to speed decently enough. Here’s a quick catch-up:
- Miles Morales is out of commission for the time being
- Shapeshifting Inuit teen Amka Aliyak (alias: Snowguard) has joined the team
- Amadeus Cho is no longer calling himself Hulk
- Thanos destroyed Riri Williams’ Ironheart armor
- Sam Alexander has been stripped of his Nova status
- Vision is dying, which has Viv concerned
But thanks to Zub’s breezy script, all these factors are dealt with quite economically, and they only take up a third of this issue. Once they’re done with housekeeping, Zub and guest artist Kevin Libranda launch straight into the meat of this new arc, which promises a showdown between the Champions and a surprise anti-hero from Marvel lore. I won’t give it away here, but let’s just say their name is one of the company’s most unintentionally hilarious (and phallically-reminiscent) characters.
As for the major changes introduced here, they should all make for interesting stories moving forward. I really like the look of Riri’s new armor; it retains the influence of her mentor, Tony Stark, enough to establish their connection, but deviates enough to make her look distinct. I’m less sold on Amadeus’ new identity as Brawn—he kinda just looks like Hulkling, a very different character—but like Riri’s visual overhaul, it should help further separate him from his mentor Bruce Banner in the long run.
And then there’s Nova’s predicament, which I expect will be resolved sooner rather than later, restoring him as one of the Nova Corps. But maybe it won’t! Sam getting a new superhero alias would feel in-line with what Zub’s doing with some of his other teammates.
Libranda’s art also successfully mirrors the look of Izaakse’s usual stylings, thankfully avoiding a jarring change like monthly comics often experience through fill-ins. It’s very clean and naturalistic, which colorist Marcio Menyz compliments nicely. In dealing with younger characters, it’s important to avoid rendering them as though they were adults; everybody here looks like the teenagers they are. While Izaakse’s absence is felt in this issue, his replacement more than makes up for the loss.
The Verdict: Buy it.
With a few big, interesting changes to some of their ranks, Champions #22 delivers more of its trademark youthful energy and zippy superheroics.