Champions #9 review: Viv Vision meets the Red Locust


Viv Vision strikes out on her own without the Champions and runs into the Red Locust! Is the Red Locust friend or foe?

Champions #9

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Humberto Ramos

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

Inker: Victor Olazaba

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What do you get in an issue set between the end of a multi-part story and the start of a crossover tie-in? Why, a solo character piece of course! To this end, Viv Vision finds herself venturing to the west coast alone to investigate a lead on their only reoccurring foes, the Freelancers. Yet she finds herself stumbling onto not just another cartel, but a new armored figure. This new comer is the Red Locust, and she very quickly makes her presence felt in more ways than one.

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In fact the rest of the Champions barely have a cameo in this issue. The entire team is huddled in Amadeus Cho’s Olympus Group base, watching TV. They barely have enough time to eat snacks and make fun of Cyclops’ stiffness before the topic shifts to nostalgia. All of them in one way or another have some fun things from childhood to recall. Yet for Viv Vision, she has none. She was built less than a year ago, and has already lost both her mother and brother. TV is trivial to her.

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Turns out Red Locust Is More Fan Than Foe!

As a result of feeling out of place, Viv sets out to occupy her time with other pursuits. On a whim Viv takes a commercial flight to San Diego in one of her holographic disguises. Revealing herself before cabbie Amar Rai, she sets out to spy on the Freelancers. Yet by pure coincidence, Amar’s cab gets crushed by a random woman in a costume. Viv quickly learns that this woman is none other than the Red Locust, a new super heroine on the scene. And boy, is Red Locust ever glad!

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While Viv has never heard of the Red Locust, the Red Locust is a big fan of her and the Champions! The pair were in pursuit of a teenage runaway, which leads them to a larger enterprise. A man named Mr. Gloom has outfitted runaways with explosive microchips and forced them to cook drugs for him and his mysterious boss. The pair make quick work of Mr. Gloom and save all the kids, then share origin stories over some home cooking. Yet will all of this lead to a bigger plot?

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All in all, Mark Waid writes a perfectly solid one-shot issue which offers hints at long term subplots. While the recent affairs with the Freelancers are mentioned, it ties back to the debut issue. The Champions initially united to save some women being trafficked by a clown assassin named Pagliacci. Mr. Gloom appears to be working for the same man as Pagliacci was. This man’s identity is unknown, but the sight of a bald white crime boss suggests the Kingpin himself.

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There’s Only One Thing That’s Buggy about This!

The Kingpin is obvious, but makes some sense. It isn’t as if Wilson Fisk is above crimes that involve trafficking women or forcing runaways to become drug cookers. And Mark Waid has written Kingpin before, recently in his long run on Daredevil. So far, the Champions have battled no well known villains. While this is by design, since they’re trying to be a new type of super hero team, having an A-list villain turn up or stumble upon one of their schemes wouldn’t be bad.

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Red Locust isn’t the first guest hero Champions has had, but proves to be more fun than Gwenpool was. She’s an original creation by Waid and Humberto Ramos, tracing her legacy to the ancient Aztec empire. Less of a crime fighter and more of a protector of runaways, her origin is similar to that of another classic superhero, the Phantom. Much like Kit Walker’s daughter, Fernanda Ramirez is the first female Red Locust and, therefore, has a lot to prove to her elders.

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Artist Humberto Ramos continues his incredible uninterrupted run on this series. As noted by editor Alanna Smith in the letter column, he apparently came up with the design for Red Locust first before Mark Waid embellished her origin. Fernanda is a fun and bombastic character, and made for an amusing partner to the more rigid and isolated Viv Vision. In fact the only quibble is the bug that she is named for. Red locusts are native to Africa, not Mexico or former Aztec lands.

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Can It Stay This Good with a Crossover Looming?

But, hey, Marvel editors and writers can’t be bothered to spend 2 minutes on Wikipedia to research their own continuity. Expecting them to do so about bugs is asking for the moon! Despite this noticeable oversight, the issue is highly entertaining. Ramos clearly has a zeal for Red Locust’s armor, and has fun drawing her in all sorts of dramatic antics. The plot furthers the Champions’ mission to fight more for everyday people and common threats than get lost in far out sagas.

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This makes the upcoming Secret Empire crossover all the more concerning. The plot of that crossover series involves an America which has been completely dominated by HYDRA and their new leader, Captain America. Despite bleats to the contrary by editorial, it appears likely that a lot of the ramifications from this will be erased by a reality altering Cosmic Cube. Therefore, it is likely many of the tie-ins taking place in an alternate universe. Therefore, none of them really matter.

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Next: Check out how Nova saved them all in #8!

Selling comic books that don’t matter is essentially Marvel Comics’ primary strategy, but it would be a shame for Champions. It is easily Mark Waid’s best book for Marvel right now and, despite its faltering sales, has properly assembled a lot of their young stars. More importantly, it is a series with more of a premise which seems to tap into the current mindset of readership more than others. Here’s hoping that the crossover issues manage to capture the same magic as this one.