Friday, May 19, 2017

Champions #1*

* Editor’s note: I’ll probably title each blog post with the title of the comic, but the title of Champions 1 was the same title of my last blog, “The Worlds Still Needs Champions!” and I didn’t want to confuse anyone. I’m cool like that.

I suppose the beginning of every relationship or partnership or friendship needs some sort of coincidence, some sort of synchronicity, some sort of randomness in order for those things to blossom.

For example, I’d never have met my wife if I didn’t know my buddy Tim. My mom went to high school with my other friend Ryan’s mother and they both lived in Tim’s neighborhood (I didn’t live there, but I visited there a bunch). Tim went off to college and three years later, befriended my wife – who actually only stayed at the school for two years before going somewhere else. Now in the real world, Tim and I played fantasy baseball together and we needed one more person since Ryan’s sister dropped out. Tim remembered this girl (my future wife) that he knew in college loved sports so he asked her to play. We played a season and were gearing up for another, she wanted to know which day the draft started. My email was the last one in her deleted box (this was the early 2000s and we did our draft at work via email), so she emailed me. We got to talking, I asked her out and the next thing you know we’re getting married and having kids.

The above wasn’t some sort of look-at-how-precious-my-world-is, but it’s an example of the Butterfly Effect (not the shitty Ashton Kutcher), where if one seemingly small thing is off (say my mother sits next to someone other than Ryan’s mother in ninth grade) then other people’s histories are completely altered in a lot of ways.

The same sort of coincidence happened to the Champions. But instead of the campus of Fairfield University and the neighborhoods of South Lawrence, Massachusetts, the setting is the University of California Los Angeles. The opening pages show ex-X-Men Iceman and Angel in their civilian identities as Bobby Drake and Warren Worthington III* bitching about going to class and wondering if being a normal person is worth it. ** All of a sudden, they and their fellow students are attacked by the Harpies from the legends of ancient Greeks. The two bitchy students spring into action.

* This is such a shitty, 1%, lacrosse-bro sounding name, I kind of don’t mind that the Angel got his wings ripped off his shoulders in the 80s. Stan Lee could be really tone-deaf sometime.

** I wonder how these two got into UCLA anyway? Iceman said that Professor X helped get them into the school, but what does that mean? It’s not like their transcripts from the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters were stellar. I mean are they even an accredited school? Is there a course that Xavier teaches to? Guidelines? What kind of transcripts are Drake and Worthington even sending in to the UCLA Admissions Department? I bet Xavier just mind fucked the head of the Admissions Department and got them in.

As always, remember this, kids:

(You tell 'em, Kitty!) 

Anyway, Natasha Romanov (aka the Black Widow) is on the other side of campus and she’s waiting for an interview with a dean about a position as a Russian teacher. Her bodyguard Ivan (who turns out to be her dad, I think) is hanging out with her. The person she’s meeting with comes through the door and all of a sudden, they’re subdued by Amazon soldiers. The Black Widow leaves Ivan behind and escapes with her interviewer (big points on the interview scale BTW, “Uh, she doesn’t actually know much Russian, but she saved me from being killed! She’s hired!) by busting out a window.

The next scene is Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, who is monologuing about what he’s doing at UCLA while riding around on his motorcycle. He almost gets plugged in the head by a hammer from Cerberus, the ancient Greek guardian of Hades (are you starting to sense a pattern?). Only it’s not the famous three-headed dog Cerberus, it’s a big, troll looking guy. Blaze transforms into the Ghost Rider and Cerberus tries to one-up him by turning into a one-headed giant purple dog. So sort of like Clifford, the Big Red Dog, except meaner. Ghost Rider leaves.

Finally, Hercules, real name Hercules or if you’re being pedantic: Heracles, is on another part of campus getting ready to guest lecture a bunch of kids about the reality of myths and legends. I think that Hercules took the gig to meet some chicks and get hammered but that’s not really discussed. What is discussed is between Herc and his Lecture Agent*, who is talking about the last guy he got to lecture the kids. He called him an “an off-beat … a real Hitchcock type … a scrawny mop-haired New York writer (italics and bold, their’s) who spends all his time writing about some blood thirsty barbarian named Co –“). He is stopped when a bunch of mutate trolls attack Hercules. I don’t know whether the Lecture Agent is talking about Conan’s real creator Robert E. Howard or his comic creator Roy Thomas, but it’s a nice little burn.

* Is Lecture Agent a real thing? Seems like a comic book-y type, made up job. But I suppose it could be a thing. Who knows?

Hercules fights them off and then sees Ghost Rider. Since GR looks like a demon, Hercules is about to punch him too but Ghost Rider convinces him that he’s a good guy. Then GR tells Herc to ride bitch on his bike because he’s got to find Cerberus. They start comparing notes and find out that the each group of bad guys that they’ve been fighting both have the same goal: find the Greek goddess Venus, who also happens to be at UCLA – plus she’s Hercules’ half-sister!

The demon and the demi-god meet up with the two mutants and the Russian spy and a battle royale occurs. The Champions beat up their tormenters, Venus reveals herself as the Widow’s interviewer (interview, totally nailed BTW!) and they’re about to celebrate. But guess who stops the party, Hercule’s jerk of an uncle, Pluto. He wants Venus to marry Ares (who I think is technically her brother) and Hercules to marry Hipployta (who I think Hercules might be related to). I had no idea that Pluto was a backwards hillbilly. We’ll find out what happens in the next issue.

So that was a lot of explanation, which shares a lot with this issue. Writer Tony Isabella over explains a lot of stuff. Like, really over explains stuff. There’s not a lot of subtly (except for the Conan the Barbarian joke) and everything is laid out so that even a five-year-old could understand it. Which is fine, I get that the first issue of a comic – especially a team comic – is a lot like the pilot of a TV show. You need to figure out a way of explaining why these people came together. It’s easy with the Fantastic Four: four people go up into space because the leader is an impetuous, egotistical dick who doesn’t double-check anything. The X-Men are a bunch of mutants who need to hang out with each other, so that the world won’t kill them. The Avengers are a group of alpha-person heroes who fight the good fight.

But why do the Champions need to be together? Oh, because they had a Meet Cute at UCLA once is about as good of a reason for bringing them together as anything else, I guess.

So I get the reason for the expository language, it just doesn’t have to be so dry. It’s really not that bad, but I’m hoping that it gets jazzed up in future issues.

The art by Don Heck can best be described as “workman-like”. I can tell who the characters are, Hercules doesn’t look like Iceman, but there’s nothing really dynamic about the panels. The cover looks pretty bad ass (see above) but the inside art is very static and there’s not a lot of movement. Even in the fight scenes, the characters look as if they’re just standing around next to each other and their opponents.

All in all, I give this issue three Angel vests* out of five! 

* Trust me, we will be talking about what Warren Worthington III was wearing in future blog entries. Seriously dude, you’re loaded, get a fucking tailor who isn’t blind. 

No comments: