I have just one comic this week: Marvel’s Champions, and its one I approached with some trepidation because so far Champions has been everything I love about superheroes, but this one is a tie-in with their big summer event Secret Empire, in which I have little interest.
Honestly, I’m not sure whether this is the best pointless tie-in I’ve ever read, or the most cynical in its determination to tug on the heartstrings. But I do think Marvel could do worse than use this as a masterclass in how to do it right.
There are no Hydra armies in this story, no massive fight scenes or confrontations. Instead it’s just our heroes, most familiar, some new to me, searching through the rubble of a destroyed city, talking about what has happened and what is coming next.
And it’s extremely powerful.
I suppose readers following Secret Empire will have context, but this comic gives little: all we really know is that Hydra, led by Steve Rogers, destroyed Las Vegas. Nothing about how or why, though there are hints. The Champions have split up into smaller teams to search for survivors.
Hulk (Amadeus Cho) works with Falcon (Joaquin Torres) and they learn some hard lessons about the limits of superpowers. Ironheart, Spider Man (Miles Morales) and Patriot (I have no idea what his story is, but he seems to be brand new to the hero biz) confront the full horror of what Hydra has done. Their lesson is how much is too much, and Miles has an answer:
Viv Vision teamed with Wasp shows her mettle a different way. These two women are problem solvers and between them they come up with a way to search the whole city at once for survivors…and what they find is utterly devastating.
And finally, the team reforms to support each other and decide what to do next. Champions stands out as being a fun title, optimistic, youthful, different. This issue is one of near-unrelenting heartache and darkness. The note it ends on is one of hope, but it’s such a small hope in the face of everything that’s happened. It really makes me feel for these characters – and that is what makes Champions worth reading.
I really recommend it.