Sam Alexander, the recently depowered former Nova, is too embarrassed to ask his friends for any help to become a hero again, and so instead he’s the Champions’ new pilot, taking their mobile bunker from location to location, wherever they may be needed. He might be stuck with Sparky, the Champions’ green robot dog mascot, but at least he’s safe. The other Champions – the core Champions – are in a fight for their life against Zzzax, a being of pure energy. It’s a rough fight, and nothing seems to be going their way, though Miles is able to save a young woman from certain to death. She confers a thousand blessings upon Miles, and Miles thanks her before swinging back into battle. Unfortunately, her blessings are not enough, and there are casualties – namely, Viv Vision and Ms. Marvel.
Miles and Amadeus mourn the deaths of their teammates – their friends – but after a moment, Amadeus snaps back into hero mode and tells Miles that they need to get more help to look for survivors. Amadeus tries to contact Sam, but a voice from nearby tells them that Sam can’t hear them. The electrical explosion that Zzzax created during their fight – the one that took the lives of Ms. Marvel and Viv Vision – disrupted communication for miles...but that’s okay (it’s not) because Mephisto has arrived for a chat.
Amadeus tries to say that the devil’s not real, and Mephisto finds that to be a weird flex, considering that he’s fought aliens, monsters, and gods. Mephisto tells Miles and Amadeus that he’s not there to gloat...he’s there to help them, so that they’re not carrying the endless guilt of their failure that day. (If only he’d been around back when Stamford went boom, but then maybe he had no interest because there wasn’t a Spider-Person involved in that mess?) Amadeus believes that Mephisto is offering a trick, and Mephisto assures them that it’s not – this is a free, clear boon that he’s offering the young men. He’ll turn back time (Cher, circa 1989, would be wildly jealous) so that Miles can find a way (still jealous) to make sure that the fight doesn’t end this way. Amadeus tells Miles not to take the offer, but Miles being the emotional Spider-Person that he is, takes Mephisto’s offer.
It’s a big thing that Miles has agreed to, the change of reality, the altering of fate, and a shockwave goes through the magical community – Doctor Strange, Satana, and others feel the change, realize that a shift is taking place...
...and Miles finds him at the start of the fight against Zzzax. He decides to jump in, taking charge of the situation, which miffs Ms. Marvel, considering she doesn’t know that just moments ago, she had been dead. They save the day and neutralize Zzzax’s threat. The people of Dubai thank the Champions for their job, and Ms. Marvel tells them that it’s what the Champions do – helping everyone they can. Of course, everything comes at a cost, and while Miles was able to save Ms. Marvel and Viv Vision this time around...we find out that the woman he had saved in the previous timeline suffers Ms. Marvel’s dark fate in this timeline. Uh-oh.
And so we learn why Miles was so angry in the first issue of this new volume, why Amadeus was so stressed out, and is it ever a doozy of a revelation! The Mephisto reveal at the end of the debut issue was a wild, wild twist, but the reason he appears – what he offers, what he does or doesn’t expect in return – is an interesting tale. The fact is that any villain never does anything without reason, and though Miles was very tempted by the no-strings-attached offer that Mephisto put forth, there was one little (okay, not-so-little) trade that happened when realities switched that might have a big effect on things – the woman Miles saved before the timeline switch, who he was unable to save after. While it’s not clear if he remembers the woman at all, or if he noticed that she was dead this time around, there has to be a reason why that panel was shown at the very end of the issue. It’s possible that the woman would have gone on to pose some sort of threat to Mephisto – or maybe the magical/mystical/demonic community – and so she had to die, and this was Mephisto’s very messed up way of making it happen. Granted, it could also just be to show that Miles never had a chance of saving anyone, but the moment and the character feel too pointed to just be a one-off, and it’d leave Mephisto without any sort of motivation whatsoever – he’s definitely not someone who’s simply motivated by any kindness of his heart. A secret is never kept a secret for long, though, and Ms. Marvel and the others are bound to find out what happened eventually, if not from Miles, then definitely from Amadeus. How that will play out – and how it will affect the core of the team, as well as the new expanded team – should prove to be some interesting character work.
As always, there are a couple of little character beats that Jim Zub works in that helps expand the reader’s understanding of who the character is and where they are – the opening page about Sam wanting to be back in action, but too embarrassed to ask his friends for help is very effective. I also appreciate how it’s not a foregone conclusion that Sam will become Nova again – maybe he’ll stay powerless for the foreseeable future, or end up taking on a different identity altogether. Because these aren’t the classic, original versions of the codenamed heroes, they have room to change and grow in different directions, and wherever Sam will go should be interesting to see.
Steve Cummings does some pretty solid work in this issue, especially considering he has some very big, emotional beats that he has to show, given the deaths of Kamala and Viv, as well as portraying Miles and Amadeus’ pain, shock, and horror at what’s happened. The art style is maybe a little less cartoony and a little stiffer than one would like for a book like the Champions – especially given the fact that that past artists have included the likes of Marcus To – but Cummings is able to sell the big moments, and draw a Mephisto who seems otherwordly and threatening without leaning too far into horror. Emotion can sometimes be hard to convey in comics, and Cummings has the skills required to show different emotions, and to make sure that the characters aren’t screaming on every page, even in an emotionally wrought issue. It’s commendable work, and I’m excited to see him familiarize himself with these characters more, and see him further flesh out the world of the Champions. Marcio Menyz uses a warm, flat, subdued color palette for this book, and given the gravity of the situation in this issue, it really works. A more vibrant palette, with a shinier sheen, would have seemed at odds with what was going on in this issue – it’s an intelligent use of color.
A solid second issue that hints at some major issues for the Champions, Zub is clearly leading the team into a strong second volume. This is quickly becoming one of Marvel's must-read books.
Champions #2: Yesterday…All My Troubles…
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 7/107/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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