As Viv battles for her life, the rest of the team faces off against a complicated, powerful threat. Meanwhile, Sam tries to figure out if he even has a future as a Champion.
Champions #23 – ‘An Adventure into Fear!’
Writer: Jim Zub
Artists: Kevin Libranda & Francesco Manna
Color Artist: Marcio Menyz
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Stefano Caselli & Marcio Menyz
What You Need to Know:
The Champions have come to Tanzania to help out with a new water filtration system, only to run afoul of a giant-size Man-Thing!
What You’ll Find Out:
Viv Vision has lost the fight with Man-Thing and is lying unconscious as Snowguard, having taken the form of an antlered wolf, angrily attacks Man-Thing. Amka is so angry that her roar echoes through the jungle, and has alerted the other Champions that something is very, very wrong. They appear on the scene – Ms. Marvel, Wasp, Brawn, Ironheart…and Sam Alexander. Wasp starts zapping the Man-Thing while Ms. Marvel and Brawn try to hold him down. Wasp tries to shrink the Man-Thing, but he’s found a way to resist the effects of the Pym Particles. Sam is warned to get away from the area because he could get hurt, and that’s exactly when Man-Thing makes a move for him, though Ironheart and Ms. Marvel are able to save him. Ironheart finally takes Man-Thing down with new micro-impact precision missiles. As Man-Thing falls, Brawn helps Snowguard snap out of her anger and she reverts back to her human form.
In another part of the globe, the Master of the World – as he still likes to call himself – has been paying attention to the Champions and has tracked them to Tanzania, where the energy readings are very high. He intends to investigate the anomaly and find out what is going on.
Back on the Champions’ mobile base, the Champions watch over Viv’s comatose body. Snowguard tells Sam that he shouldn’t have rushed into the fight, but he explains that he couldn’t just do nothing. Wasp tells the group that Viv’s not dead, but that she’s in some sort of stasis cycle, one that they can’t force her to wake up from because it could cause permanent damage. Wasp says that they can closely monitor her condition and hope that things improve.
Inside the stasis cycle, Viv meets her emotional core, which she had shut off some time ago. The core has also taken the form of Viv and talks to her about the choices she’s made, asking why she’d turned the core off, and if it was because she’d felt fear. Viv agrees that it was, and the emotional core is happy with the response – it means that they’re getting somewhere.
Outside of the stasis cycle, Brawn and Ironheart meet with their contacts at the village. Man-Thing has been trapped and put in stasis himself, and the discuss what needs to be done with him – which for the most part is to take him somewhere safe since they don’t really know how to communicate with him. Man-Thing, it turns out, doesn’t respond to intellect or reason, but emotion. Unfortunately for the Champions, there is someone who is going through a lot of emotional upheaval just then – Viv Vision, who is reconnecting with her emotional core. Man-Thing awakens and starts to break out of the glass containment unit…
…just as Viv Vision awakens, screaming as she reconnects with her emotional core. She tries to fight it off, but emotions are a powerful thing, even for synthezoids. The Man-Thing responds to this and makes his way to Viv, a vortex opening up behind him. The vortex – which is going to suck Man-Thing into it – seems inviting to Viv as well. She’s about to give in to it, but her teammates try to stop her, pulling her back. Snowguard asks Man-Thing to close the portal, but the power of the vortex is too strong. Viv apologizes to the team, telling them that this wasn’t what she wanted. Meanwhile, Sam has been hanging on for dear life and seeing his chance to be a hero once more, let’s go, heading straight for Viv to knock her out of the way of the vortex. Wasp reaches out to Sam and grabs him, and they both start to shrink down. The vortex closes, and Man-Thing is gone, while Viv is saved. Sam and Wasp, though? They’re nowhere to be found…
What Just Happened?:
This issue delves – quite literally – deeper into Viv Vision’s psyche, and what we get is a very interesting character study on what it means to be human, even when you’re a synthezoid. Emotions are a powerful thing, enough to revitalize the Man-Thing and snap a synthezoid out of a stasis cycle. The melding of magic and science is interesting too, seeing how even science can affect magic in powerful ways. Though Sam doesn’t get a lot of panel time, Zub delivers a couple of very powerful scenes where Sam struggles with his new normal – non-powered life. In the end, when he decides to try and save Viv, he seems almost suicidal, leaping towards a mysterious portal that leads who knows where. It’s deep, powerful stuff, and one wonders where Wasp and Sam have disappeared off to at the end of the issue – have they shrunk down into the Microverse, were they sucked into the portal? On the bright side, at least Sam is with Wasp – there are few more upbeat than her.
Jim Zub’s use of language and dialogue in this issue is, as always, amazing. The various alliterative nicknames he peppers Man-Thing with are great and descriptive, and the bits of aside dialogue he adds in through the series really serve to flesh out its world, such as when Riri Williams just casually drops that she used to be Queen of Latveria. Many times, when characters are written in their own titles and in team books, the two tend to keep separate continuity to an extent, but Zub is careful to keep the universe fully-fleshed out and integrated, and it’s a delight to read.
Kevin Libranda returns as artist for this issue, teaming up with Francesco Manna, and their pencils and layouts work out well for the most part. Expressive, kinetic, adventuresome art, they’re more than up to the task for the action-packed and emotional script that Zub has written. If there’s one complaint, it’s a minor one in that the panels for the penultimate page are a little confusing. It’s not clear what exactly has happened to Wasp and Sam, but then perhaps that’s the intention of that specific cliffhanger. Marcio Menyz, as always, turns in a vibrant, lush color palette – of note are the absolutely beautiful notes of blue and green used throughout the initial fight with the Man-Thing.
Final Thoughts: Jim Zub continues to make the Champions one of Marvel’s must-read books with his incredible character work and dynamic plots. Libranda, Manna, and Menyz only add to the excitement with lush, kinetic art that helps make this book one of the best things that Marvel is currently putting out. This book comes highly recommended.
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