Champions #1.MU Review: Fighting Corporate Super Villains And Monsters


If it’s Wednesday, it must be time for a Marvel Comics crossover! The Champions tackle their first as a team! Will they survive?

Champions #1.MU

Writer: Jeremy Whitley

Artists: Ro Stein & Ted Brandt

Colorist: Frank D’Armata

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The Champions formed when a bunch of teenage superheroes got tired of the mess that was Civil War II. Now it’s a new year and time for another crossover, Monsters Unleashed. Some crossovers involve each tie in being a key chapter to the stories. Others merely provide writers a launch point. Yet this one seems similar to 2008’s Secret Invasion, where anything was a tie in so long as it included a Skrull. If a story unleashes monsters, it can count as part of Monsters Unleashed.

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Yet, as per the norm established by series writer Mark Waid, the main plot of this one shot involves some topical social justice. In an obvious parallel to the Standing Rock protest, the eternally evil corporation Roxxon wants run an oil pipeline through a California national forest. As a result of protesters and media coverage of the event, Roxxon has hired a team of super-beings called the Freelancers to end it. Led by Might, they include Panic, Crush, Hotness, and Cursed Cass.

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Corporate Stooges or Monsters. Which Are Worse?

Consequently popping up on social media, Kamala Khan rallies the rest of the Champions into action. While Roxxon’s pipeline was approved legally, having hired goons rough up protesters and threaten the media is a step too far. While the Champions insist on diplomacy, the Freelancers are fairly blunt about their objectives and provoke a fight immediately. Hotness begins to burn the forest while Panic rallies the crowd into a frenzy. And Cursed Cass is an invulnerable bomber!

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Yet how does this tie into Monsters Unleashed? At pure random, two giant monsters literally fall out of the sky amid this chaos. This forces the two teams to have to unite to both defend the civilians and themselves from the giant “kaiju.” It is as subtle as it is obligatory, but it does provide for some fun moments. Might is a begrudging do-gooder, preferring her day job as a corporate stooge. Crush, on the other hand, seems thrilled to take on giant monsters with superheroes.

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Written by Jeremy Whitley, of Princeless fame, he does a good job of capturing the Champions’ established personalities. Ms. Marvel is the unofficial leader in spirit, even if Cyclops often has more tactical knowledge. Viv Vision is reliable with cold logic and an array of mechanical powers. Amadeus Cho’s Hulk is as arrogant as ever. All but stealing the show here is Sam Washington’s Nova with his awkward flirting. Friend or foe, any lady nearby is a target for the human rocket.

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The Monsters Are Worse This Time!

Whitley does his best to flesh out the Freelancers a little too. More mercenary than evil, they’re just there for a paycheck. I was fascinated that even a hit squad hired by an evil corporation is more diverse than in years past. Had this been a 1990s comic, it would have been four square-jawed white guys with a blonde vixen. Today, the Freelancers include three women of color and a full-figured lesbian. In addition, Hotness lives to recite one lame fire-related pun after the next.

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Ro Stein and Ted Brandt handle the art here, and do a fine job. It’s about what you would expect from a “house” Marvel superhero comic, which isn’t a bad thing. The designs for the Freelancers are on the whole great, especially Might and Cursed Cass (who somehow has earrings despite being invulnerable). The giant monsters are massive, and the action against them is pretty vivid. Kamala even fights one “Ultraman” style! Spider-Man’s eyes look odd, but the rest is gravy.

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Next: The Champions meet Gwenpool in #5!

The finale is a bit sudden, as it merely encourages you to go buy the rest of Monsters Unleashed. Whitley’s editorial memo likely included doing any story he wanted so long as monsters were unleashed in it. His choice fit in well with the Champions and their objectives of socially conscious heroism. The Freelancers’ open admission to being corporate thugs does trivialize the similar life events a bit, but comics have always done that. A quick, but fun interlude between regular issues.