Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Economy Is So Bad That …

The title of this issue is dreadful, luckily, the story more than makes up for it. The only place that Champions five could take place is the 1970s. Why? Because the supervillain, Rampage, is about a businessman who is getting screwed over by the crushing economy.

Stuart Clarke is a (apparently very) poor man’s Tony Stark. His company had an offer to be purchased, but Clarke wouldn’t sell out. His competition (actually, Tony Stark* himself) decided that they’d get in on what he’s doing. He came up with a light-weight exoskeleton that cops would wear so that they don’t get hurt on the job. Since Stark has more government connections than Clarke, he quickly made a crap ton of money and Clarke owes a lot of people a lot of money.

* Why didn’t he just find and fight Iron Man?

This sends him into a rage and he starts robbing FDIC-insured banks because he thinks that since they’re insured, the little guy won’t get screwed. Which, I mean, c’mon, even in the 70s people were cynical? realistic? less naïve enough? to know that the government isn’t just going to cover the bill without passing the check to John Q. Public. For a smart guy, Rampage is really dumb.

While this is going on, Warren Worthington III (aka the Angel) is in the office of his family’s accountant with Bobby Drake (aka Ice Man). For some dumb reason, they’re in their superhero uniforms, but that doesn’t matter much because the Angel just found out that he’s incredibly rich. I guess he always knew that he was loaded, but it was his parents’ cash, so it wasn’t a big deal but now he got it all.

Ice Man comments that Angel now his more money than God, which I guess means that this Angel got an incredible promotion. Wocka, wocka. Anyway, Angel says that he’s going to use his money to fund the Champions and make them a real team and hires the guy who was Hercules and Black Widow’s lecture agent, Richard Fenster, as the Business Manager of Champions, Inc.

It’s a good thing he was walking around the UCLA campus talking out loud to himself about how unlucky he was to get fired. The two mutants just happened to overhear him, picked him up (literally) and offered him a job on the spot. This is exactly how I got my second job. Weird coincidence.

While Ice Man and Angel are acting like adults and spending money, Hercules, Black Widow and Ivan are hanging around the UCLA football field. Despite not understanding football, Hercules is practicing with the “team” and he’s kicking their ass. I put team in quotes because the UCLA football team is wearing red pants, a white shirt with black numbers and a red helmet. Not to get all Paul Lukas here, but that’s more of USC colors than the Bruins’ blue and gold.

(UCLA is on the left)

Maybe the USC team is pulling a Greg Brady and is fucking with their rival. If so, consider yourselves Jerry Rogers-ed*, Trojans.

* This is such an ancient reference, that it actually happened a few years after the original Trojan War.

(Look at Jerry Mackin' on Marcia! That cad!)

(Caught in the act!)

(I wanted an excuse to post this picture. It rules.) 

WWIII calls a meeting of the Champions and lays it all out on the table, the Champions are going to be “Storefront Superheroes”. Of course, Hercules is confused by this too: “I care not for the thy desire to place the Lion of Olympus at the command of mere mortals.” Fucking Hercules, first you don’t understand football, now this. All the Angel was saying is that if a person needs help with extraordinary circumstances, they can call on the Champions*.  

* Basically they’re Heroes for Hire without the tiaras and slippers, though as long as Angel is around, each team both still have the groovy chest-baring shirts. I wonder if Power Man or Iron Fist sued for copyright infringement? They should have. BTW, tiara or not Luke Cage looks so much tougher than the Angel and his dopey ass. 

Bobby is on his way to the meeting (“Thanks for starting it without me guys, seriously!”) and sees Rampage robbing the FDIC insured bank. He springs into action and gets knocked through a plate-glass window. He’s about to receive Rampage’s final death blow when the Champions come out of nowhere.

Angel says it’s because the restaurant they were eating at didn’t have Muzak, but pump in news broadcasts. Which isn’t a thing. Like ever. Do you realize how annoying that would be to sit down, relax and eat some salmon and some Paul Harvey jackass prattling on about Watergate, gas lines and Jimmy Carter? No one would eat there. Ever.

The Champions fight Rampage and the battle goes back and forth. It looks like the Champions are going to win this battle but all of a sudden this happens:

And can you blame Rampage? Who wouldn't want to jam a fist into the Angel's skull? BTW, metaphor alert! Here's the down-and-out Rampage about to get revenge on the obscenely rich Angel. If you're a regular joe buying this comic in 1976, who are you supposed to identify with? The guy who was so far down on his luck that he was pushed beyond his breaking point to take matters into his own hands or the pretty boy who just had a crap load of money dumped into his lap for doing absolutely nothing? 

And there's more: Angel versus Rampage! Angel has blonde hair, Rampage has black hair! One lone man versus four powerhouses! Who's the good guy and who's the bad guy here?

It makes you think! Or not. 

BTW, Angel seems to get himself into a lot of these situations. 

What a dummy. 

A couple of things about this issue:
  •   This was a really good issue. The plotting was fast, there wasn’t as much exposition, the action was there and there were some funny down time moments. Honestly, it was probably the best issue of the run so far.
  •  There wasn’t a lot of bickering, Angel toned down the dickishness, Ice Man was starting to have an existential crisis and Hercules was cool. Black Widow still sorta hangs out without a defined roll (her assistant Ivan is more fleshed out).
  •   Finally, the Champions are given a reason to exist! It’s not the best reason in the world but an altruistic super hero team is not bad. And everyone buys in, so there’s some sort of overarching factor that keeps this group together.
  • You’ll notice that I didn’t mention Ghost Rider at all. He wasn’t in this issue and I wonder if that’s why it was a good one. Maybe old Ghost Rider is the weak link?
  •    Rampage looks cool, he’s not cool; but he looks cool. He’s a two-bit anti-Iron Man.
  •    The cover for this issue was a miss. It wasn’t that great, but next issue looks awesome.

All-in-all, I give this four out of five Angels!

Four Angels? I'm shocked too, guys.

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