Riri Williams awakens in the Champions’ mobile bunker after a nightmare about Thanos, who the team had just recently faced off against. Sparky, Viv Vision’s android dog, comes to check on Riri, and the two go to the common area of the bunker, where Ms. Marvel is on the phone with Sam Alexander’s mom Eva, who knows that the Champions won’t give up on their hunt for Sam. Viv comes into the room then and informs the team that she’s unable to get ahold of members of the magical community – everyone from Dr. Strange to Scarlet Witch to Magik (and everyone in between) is either busy or unreachable. With the heavy hitters out of their way, the only mystical contact they have at their disposal is new team member Snowguard.
Snowguard is meditating, trying to reach Sila, the source of her power. When she makes contact, Snowguard tells her that she’s not looking for more power for herself, but because she’s looking for more power to help find her friends, who were taken by a creature. When Sila asks to see the creature that had stolen Amka’s friends, she shows Sila an image of the Man-Thing, who Sila knows. While Amka converses with Sila in her meditative state, outside of it, she starts to glow, worrying the rest of her team. Amka falls to the ground, then, and snapping out of her meditative state, tells them she’s okay and has found something they can use to find Nadia and Sam – a black gem called the Siege Parallel. The Siege Parallel is a device that will take the Champions to the place where Man-Thing took Nadia and Sam, but it will also show them what they could be in other worlds. While at first, Amka feels as though she should go herself, since she was responsible for leading everyone to the Man-Thing, the team insists on going with her. Before they leave, Viv tells Sparky to contact her father if they’re not back in forty-eight hours.
Moments later, Riri wakes up in a chainmail version of her Ironheart armour, surrounded by warrior-rats who are ready to take her down, as this world’s version of her has been a thorn in their side for far too long. She fights them off with her Mace of Light and Truth, but they’re rats and they’re warriors and she’s outnumbered. Luckily for her, a dark knight swoops in from on high to save her – the Shadow-Spider. Once the warrior-rats are beaten, Riri speaks with Miles, the Shadow-Spider, but unlike her, he doesn’t seem to remember his life in their universe. That could be a problem.
In another part of this parallel world, Brawn has become an orc named Brawnhammer, and he has to work in a forge, making weapons. In this world, he’s the last of a group of eighteen orcs who were captured, and he’s also a good enough worker to maybe become a weaponsmith himself. While making weapons, he and the other workers at the forge are attacked by Man-Thing and Snowguard, the latter of whom has taken the form of an antlered wolf, as before. They’re after the crystals that the forge workers collect. Brawnhammer and Snowguard – called Snowgore here – fight, and Snowgore soon realizes that she knows Brawnhammer. She knocks him out and drags him away from the forge, the Man-Things behind her bringing along the crystals. They come into the forest, where Kamala Khan – the Mystic Marvel – is waiting for them. She welcomes Brawnhammer to the Resistance, which Brawnhammer had always thought was just a myth.
Up above them, a small, red-skinned, yellow-winged pixie – this world’s version of Nadia - watches the goings-on before flying away to report to a man in red, green, and gold robes.
In another part of the world, a crystalline warrior named Stalax prepares for battle against a warrior with a vaguely bucket-shaped helmet. They fight hard and they fight fast, and when it seems as though Stalax is about to beat the warrior, the warrior fights back with some powers of his own, and defeats Stalax, turning him into a blade of pure crystal. The warrior then reveals himself to be Sam Alexander...and he’s referring to the Master of Weirdworld as his father.
You really have to hand it to Jim Zub – he’s having a lot of fun with this book and these characters, and it shows. Even an over-sized issue like this one speeds on by as he throws the Champions into their latest adventure – this time going to Weirdworld to save their friends Nadia and Sam. It’s a fun conceit, taking them from their scifi roots and throwing them into a weird, magical world where they’re different from their usual selves – even if their usual selves are something new to themselves, like in the case of Brawn.
He once again shows his knack for writing these characters with sparkling dialogue and wit, and he always adds in these small moments that allow these characters’ emotions to shine, even while they’re dealing with big, heavy things. While they’re heroes, he never once forgets that the Champions are teenagers and young adults, and a lot of what they’re facing are things they haven’t necessarily faced before. He also effortlessly continues to build bonds of friendship between the characters, making them a true team instead of just a disparate group of teen and young adult heroes thrown together for the sake of creating a team. Moments like Spider-Man comforting Ms. Marvel after a difficult conversation with Eva Alexander, the jokey asides about Man-Thing’s name, the Siege Parallel – it all works so well. He’s melding classic Marvel ideas and concepts with new characters, pushing them in fun directions, and it’s a joy to read. The fun continues when the characters get to Weirdworld too – Ironheart reimagined as a paladin, Spider-Man as a Batman-esque fantasy legend figure, Ms. Marvel as a mage, and Sam Alexander as the hero of his own story – these are choices that make sense for the characters and who they are.
If there’s one small complaint, it’s that the narration by the Master of Weirdworld doesn’t work quite as well as one would like. While he’s been an interesting enough recurring villain for the Champions, the revelation that he’s involved somehow probably won’t come as a surprise to eagle-eyed readers who know his real name is Eshu. For those who don’t know though, the narration boxes become a little distracting, because you’re not sure who is narrating or why.
Sean Izaakse and Max Dunbar split art duties here, and it’s a wise decision, because the change in artist allows the reader to truly believe that they’ve been brought to a different world. Izaakse, as has come to be expected in this Champions run, hands in some stellar, expressive work. Especially of note is the page where Amka is having a conversation with Sila. Max Dunbar sets up a classically beautiful fantasy world filled with hybrid-animal creatures and mystic beings that feel fresh, even if the elements are familiar. The fight scenes with Snowgore and Brawnhammer as well as the fight between Sam and Stalax are exciting to see, and the reinterpretations of and redesigns of characters really work. They retain an air of familiarity to them, though sometimes it’s a subtler take than other times. Nadia as a pixie is an especially interesting redesign. Much like Izaakse and Dunbar, Marcio Menyz and Nolan Woodard split coloring duties here, and it’s a wise move, separating the more modern world with the fantastical world. Menyz’s colors are bright and sleek, cool and detailed. Woodard chooses a palette that’s warmer in tone, and it helps set up the fantasy tone of Weirdworld very well. It’s a very good-looking book.
A fun, fantastical new arc that takes the Champions into Weirdworld, this book is filled with great dialogue, wonderful character interactions, and some excellent world-building. It's consistently Marvel's best team book, and not one to be missed.
Champions #25: Weirdworld Bound
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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