After going through many individual changes, the Champions attempt to regroup and bring life back to a troubled village only to run afoul of a surprise macabre guest-star!
Champions #22: Give and Take Part One
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Kevin Libranda
Color Artist: Marcio Menyz
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: R.B. Silva & Nolan Woodar
What You Need to Know:
Nova and the Champions answered a distress call from deep space, where Thanos was keeping a group of Chitauri intentionally defenseless. They saved the Chitauri from genocide at the hands of Warbringer, but at some very large costs – Thanos destroyed Riri’s original Ironheart armor, and Sam’s Nova helmet was reclaimed by Scott Adsit of the Nova Corps. Meanwhile, Amka Aliyak, an Inuk teenager from Nunavat has joined the team as the mystical Snowguard. Amadeus Cho is also dealing with some recent changes in his life…
What You’ll Find Out:
Sam Alexander, Kamala Khan, Riri Williams, and Amadeus Cho are all meeting at a park outside of the Champions Mobile Bunker – their mobile headquarters – catching each other up on all of the recent changes that they have undergone. Amadeus shows off his leaner, somewhat shorter new green body and tells the group that he had to pay his dues for being the Hulk and that he’s now going by the codename Brawn. Riri shows off her brand-new Ironheart 3.0 armor, this armor more of a red-violet shade, with gold, black, and grey elements. Sam, having lost his Nova helmet to the Nova Corps, feels left out and upset. Feeling as though he has no more value to add to the team – other than perhaps as the team mascot – he stalks off back to the bunker.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, Viv Vision is with Amka Aliyak and the Vision, the latter of whom is being looked over by Dr. Toni Ho and Nadia van Dyne, the unstoppable Wasp. Vision claims to be feeling well, and Wasp says that his internal temperature and energy levels look good, so all seems to be well. Viv introduces Vision to Amka, and in true Vision fashion, he accepts Amka into his home, exciting Viv, Nadia, and Amka. The rest of the Champions then arrive in the Bunker, and though Viv wants to stay back with Vision, given his current state, Vision insists that she go with her team – and she can take their robot dog Sparky along with her. Vision waits until the Bunker is out of sight before turning to Dr. Ho and telling her that his situation is worse than he let on – he doesn’t think he can be recovered, and near-system failure is almost certainly a thing that will happen. Dr. Ho offers to help rebuild Vision completely, but he turns down the offer – he now believes, after having had a whole family, that life is finite and that he has to allow himself to pass away so that Viv can inherit the responsibilities of adulthood.
On the Bunker, the Champions meet to decide what their next mission will be. Brawn believes that getting back to their mission and helping people will be the thing that they need to stop feeling a little off. Wasp, with the help of her G.I.R.L gang, pinpoints a spot in Tanzania that could use their help with a new water filtration system, since recent events have corrupted their original water source.
While most of the Champions meet about their mission, Ms. Marvel goes to check on Sam, who is resting in his bunk, still sad by this recent turn of events. Ms. Marvel reminds him that he’s brave, and that he is still a Champion despite having a helmet or powers, and that they will figure out a way to not have him feel like such a loser. Ms. Marvel then offers to unmask herself to Sam and show her her real identity, but Sam tells her not to – he’d rather she did it not as a gesture of pity, but rather at another time when it’s more appropriate. Unbeknownst to them, the Ultron unit that has been spying on the team over the last few issues is still observing them.
The Champions reach Tanzania where they meet Hasina, their contact there. The people start to warm up to the Champions and put together a massive feast for them to welcome them and thank them for the help that they are about to receive. While most of the Champions sit down to eat, Amka goes to find Viv, who has stepped away to think about her father. Viv tells her that she’s shut off her emotional core, but Amka argues that the good emotions really matter and that she shouldn’t lose that. Viv decides to contemplate that advice when Amka’s irises shift to a bright green color and she picks up a whiff of some magical energy. Their search takes them farther than they expected, and they come across a big green vine-y growth rising out from a body of water. Viv decides to study it and suggests taking a sample, but the vegetation starts to hurt her. Viv can’t phase through it, and they quickly realize that it’s a monster. Amka tries to help Viv out of her predicament, but Viv – having switched her emotional core on earlier – starts remembering the past events of her short life. It’s all too much for Viv, who blacks out, leaving Amka alone with their monster – who just happens to the macabre Man-Thing. Angry, she attacks, and far away, her Champions team hears her roar.
What Just Happened?:
I cannot say enough good things about Jim Zub’s handling of the Champions team. I’ve said this before in previous reviews, but it must be said again – he really knows and gets these characters, and he’s deftly put his stamp on them. Zub has always been a strong, capable writer, but there’s something effortless and effervescent about his work on this team here that makes this book shine. Even with an installment that is as dense in dialogue as this issue, with as many subplots as he is juggling, he manages to write a story that is not only a breezy read but leaves you wanting more. His weaving of interpersonal relationships between the characters is absolutely charming – the way he sets up a friendship between Amka and Viv, the effortless chemistry between Ms. Marvel and Sam, the ease with which he implements the changes the characters have gone through in his own books, it’s all done with aplomb. The Man-Thing reveal near the end is exciting, and it will be very interesting to see how Amka’s mysticism fights against and relates to Man-Thing’s mysticism.
Kevin Libranda handles penciling duties on this issue, and I have to admit that Champions has been lucky enough to have some wonderful artists illustrate the book since Zub took the reigns of the book. This is a beautiful, smooth, expressive, classic-looking book. Libranda is excellent with facial expressions – Brawn explaining the changes he has been through, the uncertainty on Amka’s face when she meets Vision, the shy smile that Nova gives Ms. Marvel as they get to know each other the agony on Viv’s face as she’s hit with all the memories of her past – it’s all some excellent work. Both Libranda’s Man-Thing and his take on Amka using her powers are wonderfully illustrated – Man-Thing looks especially threatening and mystical at once. Marcio Menyz returns as the color artist for this issue, and the palette he uses is vibrant, lush, and beautiful. This is not only a well-written issue, it’s a damn beautiful, expressive one too.
Final Thoughts: Champions continues to be one of Marvel’s best offerings under Jim Zub’s capable pen, a strong, well-written team book that is a worthy modern successor to past offerings like the original New Mutants and New Warriors and consistently leaves you wanting more. This book earns the highest of recommendations.
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