COMIC BOOK REVIEW – Infinity Countdown: Champions #2

Nova, Ironheart, Ms. Marvel, Viv Vision, and new recruit Snowguard become Champions for Thanos(!) as they fight to put a stop to a genocidal plan and risk losing everything.

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Infinity Countdown: Champions #2

Writer: Jim Zub
Penciller: Emilio Laiso
Color Artist: Andy Troy
Letterer: VC’s Colton Cowles
Cover Artist: Clayton Crain
Assistant Editor: Annalisse Bissa
Editor: Jordan D. White

What You Need to Know: 
Answering a distress call from a Nova far out in space, Sam Alexander and the available members of his Champions team – Ironheart (Riri Williams), Viv Vision, Snowguard (Amka Aliyak), Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), and the unstoppable Wasp (Nadia van Dyne), venture out into space, only to find themselves in an impossible situation between Warbringer and Thanos. Thanos has taken over the Chitauri, the race of shape-shifting aliens that Warbringer belongs to – and Warbringer intends on wiping out all of the Chitauri so that he can free them from Thanos’ control. The Champions make a difficult decision and opt to jump into the fray against Warbringer so that they can save the Chitauri, as they are innocents in this situation.

What You’ll Find Out:
The Champions are fighting Warbringer and his forces, determined to stop Warbringer from committing genocide by destroying all of the Chitauri under Thanos’ control. As Nova faces off against Warbringer, the other Champions focus on taking down the transportation skiffs. Nova tells Warbringer that he’s crazy for trying to raze down the Chitauri, but Warbringer explains that he wants to restore the honor to the Chitauri and their legacy and that as long as he commands his loyalists, they will not stop attacking the Chitauri who are under Thanos’ command. That’s when Nova realizes that the way to bring Warbringer down is to get the loyalists out from under Thanos’ command, and so he commands the Champions to rally together.

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Nova’s plan works and he brings the Chitauri who are loyal to Warbringer under his own command, stopping them from fighting and killing the Chitauri who are under Thanos’ command. While Nova swells with pride and wishes that his father (Jesse Alexander, a former Nova himself) was there to see his success at taking down Warbringer, Thanos ruins the mood by telling the Champions that they must be proud at having fought for him and winning. Ironheart challenges Thanos to show them some gratitude for helping out, which doesn’t turn out well for her because Thanos destroys her Ironheart armor. He explains that the only reason she is still alive is because she helped defeat Warbringer for him and amused him for a second. Unwilling to challenge Thanos any further, the Champions depart – with a captured Warbringer – for a Nova outpost.

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Riri lays curled up, scared by the fact that she could have died, upset at the fact that she lost the armor that she put so much hard work into. Viv reminds her that Riri is essential to the Champions, because, without her, they may not have saved the day. Viv explains that machines can be repaired when they are broken, and then agrees to help Riri design a new Ironheart suit. Unbeknownst to them, the same Ultron recording unit that had been spying on them in the last issue continues to spy on them, recording their names and what they are – human and synthezoid.

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The Champions reach the Nova Outpost where Nova Scott Adsit thanks them for their hard work in taking down Warbringer. Unfortunately, Adsit cannot offer them a reward for their hard work, because Nova resources are tapped out, doing damage control across the galaxy. Ms. Marvel tells them that they have to be getting back to work, but Adsit asks them where their Nova unit is. Nadia explains that he was tired and had to go, but Adsit tracks the Nova helmet to the Champions’ bunker. Sam’s helmet goes crazy and Adsit offers to fix it for Sam…but then reclaims it for the Nova Corps instead, claiming that Sam isn’t authorized to possess it and that he hasn’t had the proper training and certification for it. Sam falls to his knees as his costume fades away, leaving only three powered Champions – Wasp, Ms. Marvel, and Snowguard – to get them home safely.

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What Just Happened?:
Usually, when diving into an event tie-in, character development is one of the last things expected from the story, but Jim Zub manages not only to tell a fun, easy, breezy event tie-in but also manages to give two of the Champions – Sam Alexander and Riri Williams – some excellent character development. While Sam is undoubtedly the lead protagonist of the story – he has past experience with Warbringer and feels guilt and responsibility for Warbringer’s crimes – but Riri is the deuteragonist, out on what is her second mission with the Champions, losing the suit she’s worked so hard on, and now having to find a new direction. Zub does some excellent character work with the both of them, wisely setting up a friendship between Viv and Riri that could lead to some wonderful things. Sam’s own story is sad and heartbreaking – the Nova helmet was his tie to his father and the only way he could possibly still function as a hero. His situation isn’t the same as Riri’s, where he can build himself a new helmet since a new helmet wouldn’t be connected to the Nova Corps or have any of the same benefits. Giving the Champions an early win against Warbringer is great, as it makes greater the pain and loss that Riri and Sam both feel and experience near the end of the story.

Jim Zub really has a knack for these characters and their voices, and again there are little beats he gives them that really stand out. The scene between Viv and Riri is wonderfully written, and it makes sense to form a bond between the two of them, given that they’re both very science types who are familiar with robotics and technology. Viv can relate to Riri on a level that no one else can, and that’s made clear. The implicit trust that the teammates have in each other is also great, especially in a time where comics have had a lot of infighting or snark between teammates. It’s a joyous thing to see a team be a team. The beat between Wasp covering for both Ms. Marvel and Nova while in conversation with Scott Adsit is also a great little beat, reminding the reader that Wasp has spy training and knows how to cover for her teammates when need be.

As with the last issue, Emilio Laiso and Andy Troy are a dream team on art and color duties. The opening page with the team roll call is done well, giving a close-up of each Champion in battle before leading into a full splash page showing the fight at large. Laiso illustrates Ms. Marvel beautifully, showing her all embiggened and stretchy, and he’s also wonderfully adept at showing Snowguard using her powers. The smaller character beats – like how Riri is curled up, feeling scared and defeated – are well-done, and you can feel her pain and her later hesitation while talking to Viv. Even Viv, floating in a lotus position while giving sage advice to Riri, feels spot-on.

Rating: 9/10

Final Thoughts: A solidly written, beautifully drawn and colored tie-in issue that is anything but, Infinity Countdown: Champions #2 has a lot of heart, depth, and action that will definitely have ramifications in the main Champions book as it pushes the characters forward in some new, interesting directions. This one earns a hearty recommendation, especially if you’re a fan of Nova and Ironheart, or if you’re reading the main Champions book.

 

 

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