Two weeks ago, on Earth, the Master of the World followed the Champions to East Africa, where they had been helping out, only to find them gone. He followed their energy signatures to Weirdworld, where he chanced upon Nadia van Dyne – transformed into a red-skinned pixyish figure – kneeling over the fevered form of Sam Alexander. The Master healed Sam and told them that he was there to help them.
Cutting to the present in Weirdworld, Ironheart, the only one to remember her life and identity on Earth, tries to convinced Shadow-Spider (Miles in his Weirdworld identity) that the Champions had all gone through something called the Siege Parallel and changed. Miles doesn’t believe her, but Riri realizes that the reason she remembers is because the memory of Thanos kept her mind anchored to her Earth identity. Riri fails to convince Miles that they’re friends and that they have to find their other teammates, but chancing upon a wanted poster for the Mystic Marvel (Kamala) and Snowgore (Amka) makes Riri convince Miles to take her to someone called the Swamp Queen, who might be allies of their lost friends.
Speaking of Amka and Kamala, they both bring Brawnhammer (aka Amadeus) to the swamp, where they’re welcomed by the Swamp Queen. Kamala introduces Amadeus as a prisoner from the forge and hands over the crystals stolen from the forge to the Swamp Queen. Happy to have Amadeus on their team now, the Swamp Queen leads the wayward Champions to the disassembled body of Vivid Vessel, Weirdworld’s identity for Viv Vision. Kamala uses the power from a gem to reassemble the Vivid Vessel, who fills her friends in on what’s going on. The Master of the World – Eshu, in Weirdworld – has trained an apprentice (Sam) in the use of crystal energy, and the crystals represent absolute order. They’re going after some more crystals, and if they find them, Eshu and his people will be nigh unstoppable. An alarm clangs, then, and Vivid Vessel tells the assembled team members that Eshu has sent a strike force to destroy them. A battle ensues, most of the Champions on one side, Nadia on the other. The Swamp Queen gets locked into a battle with Modred and the Shadow-Spider teleports them out of the battle scene with his magic cloak.
Once safe, the team discusses what they need to do, Riri trying to convince them of their past memories and connection to no avail. She finally settles for telling them that they need to stop Eshu’s army from creating any more chaos and damage, which the others agree to. Brawnhammer asks how they’re going to get to to where they need to go, and Mystic Marvel has a plan for that. With a magic word – embiggen – she changes the size of a nearby bird so they can go to save Weirdworld. The one caveat that they’re unaware of? The Wasp is hiding in the feathers of the giant bird, ready to sabotage their efforts.
While the last couple of arcs of Champions have been heavy on the pain and trauma that can affect the lives of teenage superheroes, this arc seems to be gearing up for some classic fun by way of tabletop gaming tropes and classic fantasy settings and ideas. It’s a great way to turn things around and give the stories a different tone, as well as allowing the characters to do something different.
It was a clever move, having only Riri retain her memories of the team and of Earth. When Jim Zub initially took over the book, Riri was the outlier, not sure if she belonged on the team. Allowing her to be the one to bring the team together again, when they don’t have their memories or ties to each other, allows her to prove to herself that she does belong, that at the end of the day, they are her team. It brings her opening arc full circle, and makes the team just stronger by filling in that crack born of her own self-doubt.
The Weirdworld takes on the Champions team is, simply, fantastic. Kamala is great as the Mystik Marvel, wielding sorcery with familiar terms such as “embiggen!” to different effect. Miles works well as the Shadow-Spider, still working alone, but able to transport across town with a magical cloak instead of webswinging around. Brawn being changed into a hammer wielding orc is a great contrast to who he is back home, where he’s allowed to mix his brains with brawn a bit more, and Nadia’s turn as an evil pixie is an interesting which from who she generally is back home. While there’s no doubt that the team will eventually band together, team up against Eshu, and get back home safely.
Max Dunbar is an excellent choice for the artist for this arc – his style does well with a fantasy setting, allowing Weirdworld to seem different enough from Earth, but still familiar to those who are familiar with fantastical worlds torn out of the minds of those who enjoy things like Dungeons & Dragons, Elfquest, World of Warcraft, and other high fantasy books and games. The Swamp Queen’s queendom is lush and vibrant, filled with oversized flowers and mushrooms. His characters are wonderfully expressive, and just toonish enough to remind the reader that these characters are in a different world, and therefore not entirely themselves.
While the fantasy setting may not be for everyone, this is an entertaining, engaging story with great character moments and an adventurous plot that's a breath of fresh air from some of the heavier stuff the Champions have been dealing with as of late.
Champions #26: It’s Time to Save Weirdworld
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 7/107/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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