Champions of Earth #3 review: Revenge of Crimson Phantom

Jupiter Man and Scarab have been on a lucky streak so far! Yet will Crimson Phantom and Captain Galaxy shatter that trend in Champions of Earth?

Champions of Earth #3

Writers & Creators: Alex Banchitta & James Riccardo

Artist: Marcelo Salaza

Inker: Scott Shriver

Cover Artist: Gabe Pinto

Some comic books are about true heroes, but it sure isn’t this one! Champions of Earth by Fright Comics is an unapologetic and often raunchy satire of the entire genre! It is a series where every character is exaggerated and the tropes of both superheroes and the media cycle are the butt of jokes. So far, the title heroes Jupiter Man and Scarab have capitalized on circumstance and bizarre flukes to rise to fame at the expense of genuine heroes Crimson Phantom and Captain Jupiter.

Image by Fright Comics

Both serving prison sentences for crimes they didn’t commit, Arthur Steele and Todd Dylan have languished for years. While the stoic Todd had settled into his fate, Arthur had decided to escape. Yet that’s not the end of the torment for Todd! The prison’s domineering warden lectures Todd into becoming Captain Galaxy again to bring Crimson Phantom back behind bars. After all, escapes make the warden look bad! As a result, both of the so called genuine heroes are loose again!

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Can Our Heroes Defeat Sushi and TV Appearances?

Meanwhile, both Jupiter Man and the Scarab are up to their usual tricks. They’re coasting on their powers for money and fame, and letting their hapless manager Terry do all the work. The former talent agent and van driver tries desperately to bring some culture to the pair. To this end he takes them to a fancy sushi joint where the elite can literally eat off a naked woman’s body. Yet the pair find the entire practice revolting and would rather stick to cheap pizza and macaroni and cheese!

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As usual, Jupiter Man (or J-Man) and Scarab make a mess of things and are generally obtuse. Terry has to make sure the pair are cleaned up for yet another TV appearance, a live interview by ace reporter Jennifer Dylan. Terry’s scheme is to have the pair sell trademarked candy bars in which a pittance is donated to charity. Unfortunately, Jennifer decides to go off script and confuse the pair. Unlike the rest of the world, they can’t remember all of the lies about their origins and powers!

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Unfortunately, much like in real life, the news media is more for entertainment and commercialism than education. Jennifer’s attempt at a more in depth story gets her fired, and does nothing to stem her libido either! Jennifer Dylan decides to vent her hormones on one of the Champions of Earth. And while the Scarab is too clueless to figure out there’s more fun than candy bars, Jupiter Man is eager to oblige. At this point, it becomes clear that Jennifer’s last name is no coincidence!

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Face the Vengeance of Crimson Phantom!

Meanwhile, Arthur Steele wastes no time with his crazed revenge scheme. He tries to blow the pair up with an exploding pizza. While this may have been a deathtrap for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Champions of Earth are able to overcome it and spin it positively to the press! Frustrated and scraped up, Arthur dons the cape and cowl of the Crimson Phantom once again and seeks to ambush the heroes at their lofty penthouse headquarters. The final battle begins!

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The end result is a finale in which all of the various plot threads all come together into a comedic action blockbuster! Jennifer Dylan is naturally the long suffering wife of Captain Jupiter, who breaks up with him just as Todd walks in on the pair in bed! After years of trying to fit a rigid ideal of “goodness” and getting nothing to show for it, Captain Galaxy snaps. Meanwhile, Crimson Phantom gets a chance to avenge himself on Terry (his former employee) before fighting Scarab.

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This finale has a bit of everything! There’s combat, super powers, an ice sculpture, a monkey, the works! While there ends up being some genuine pathos with Captain Galaxy, the focus is squarely on slapstick. Crimson Phantom is almost like Wile E. Coyote in spandex as he attempts to go after prey who benefit from fortune and narrative favoritism more than pluck. Suffice it to say, revenge won’t be had by Arthur today, but there is always the possibility that tomorrow will favor him!

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A Completely Unique Satire for Our Times!

Alex Banchitta and James Riccardo wrap up this arc with a double sized effort. Their sense of humor is unique and may take some getting used to, but by this third issue most readers will have adjusted to their particular style. Naturally, most of the humor is set around the extremes of the characters and how they interact. Terry is an opportunist, a satire of a media manager. Crimson Phantom and Captain Galaxy are satires of Batman and Superman, with a dash of Punisher too!

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As for the Champions of Earth themselves, they take a little bit of a back seat in this issue. I suppose that’s fair since the previous issues were about establishing them and their origin. This issue is about their comeuppance, at least for brief intervals. Scarab is clearly the younger of the two, who is unable to notice a woman hitting on him and is obsessed with monkeys and ice sculptures. Jupiter Man is little smarter, but smart enough to score a booty call for himself.

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There are some jokes which are juvenile or a tad dark or mean spirited, yet it all works out in the end. Part of the reason why, besides it being a satire, is the Champions of Earth themselves. They’re not truly evil, nor do they have a lofty agenda. They’re two typical guys who are jerks most of the time who are coasting on some truly bizarre circumstances. It’s brought out the worst in them, but their worst isn’t more than wanting to ape rappers or get rich the laziest way possible!

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Champions of Earth Is One of the Sweetest Deals in Comics!

Marcelo Salaza takes over on art from Koko Amboro, although Scott Shriver remains on inks. The transition is almost seamless, which is great in keeping the visual look of the series consistent. The black and white style reminds me of some 1990s era manga series such as Gunsmith Cats, complete with a lot of dots used for shading. The strongest designs are for the title heroes, although Crimson Phantom looks as one would expect a Batman satire to look like!

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The cover price for this third issue is $2.50, which for 44 pages of content is a steal; previous issues were normally priced at $1.99. Most comic books haven’t been that price in 15 years. Yet Alex Banchitta is making it easier to get on the bandwagon at Fright Comics! For now this third issue is only 99 cents, with the first two issues being offered completely for free! Issues can be had at the official website, or on Gumroad, Sellfy, and at the Comics Dungeon in Seattle, WA!

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While Crimson Phantom and Captain Galaxy were supposedly the “real” heroes, they prove little better than our immature stars. Arthur Steele became judge, jury, and executioner, even when facing a monkey. And Todd Dylan snapped when he caught his wife cheating (in a dark spin on Lois and Clark). Scarab and J-Man may be lazy jerks, but at least most of their lies are due to Terry’s ambition. If you’re looking for one of the most unique superhero satires around, this is for you!