Written by: Jim Zub
Art by: Steven Cummings
Colors by: Marcio Menyz
Letters by: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Sam Alexander’s in a spot of bother. Having taken Kaldera, a Black Order assassin, to a Nova outpost to retrieve his Nova helmet (a decision that produced a depressingly predictable amount of bloodshed and mayhem), he’s found out that the helmet’s already been stolen and taken back to Earth. Oh, the irony! This issue has “big, messy confrontation” written all over it, doesn’t it? Let’s see what’s going on…
This is a fight issue. Fight issues can be fun, but they can just as easily be tedious, confusing and/or even just a little bit – say it quietly – dull. For a fight issue to be fun for this reviewer, the following criteria need to apply: the fight must be easy to follow with each combatant having comprehensible motivations for their involvement; the combat should have a sense of ebb and flow to it (fights are, by their nature, dramatic, but, as with any other type of storytelling, that sense of drama is increased by contrasting action with quieter moments); characters involved in the fight should be recognizable both visually and in terms of characterization and dialogue (more of this in a moment); the combat should have a definite and hopefully satisfying conclusion.
I am very happy to report that Champions 8 hits all those criteria pretty squarely.
The issue opens with Riri meeting up with Viv who is in the process of remotely coordinating a strike team consisting of Red Locust, Power Man, Snowguard and Dust who are in the process of watching the Freelancers try to gain entry to a US military base. This section is well done for a variety of reasons. In a very economical way, Zub introduces the Riri/Viv conversation and then skip back a few seconds in time to introduce the strike team and their mission. The two sections are nicely connected to each other with a seemingly innocuous piece of dialogue that actually proves to be more significant when we get to the issue’s final page. It’s a nice (and subtle) bit of writing.
Both Zub and Cummings are comfortably in their respective grooves here. Red Locust’s “Everyone is a guest star in the grand story of the Locust, my friend” is almost as funny as her expression when the guard at the military base entrance lets the Freelancers through, having been persuaded by Panic that he’s actually seeing a commanding officer on a spot inspection. Before the Champions can even get into the inevitable fight with the Freelancers, however, the creative team crank things up further by throwing Sam and Kaldera into the mix, their arrival announced in typically chaotic and destructive fashion. Sam’s helmet, it seems, is being held on the very same base the Freelancers are going to raid and the Champions have been monitoring. Too much of a coincidence? Perhaps. It all depends on how your suspenders of disbelief are holding up. Mine are doing just fine.
What follows is, as you might expect, pretty chaotic – but nevertheless an awful lot of fun. Dust takes on Hotness. Snowguard catches Sam. Red Locust ends up clinging to the bonnet (hood for you Americans!) of a runaway jeep. Kaldera takes on Might and then Power Man. Sam gets his helmet and demonstrates commendable maturity. The fight ends satisfactorily and there’s a shock twist at the very end of the book. What makes the book so enjoyable are the moments of character interaction, wit, and heroism that constitute the flesh on that basic skeleton. This is, indeed, a fun fight issue.
Together Zub and Cummings elevate what could have been a fairly pedestrian fight and, through careful plotting, attention to detail and deft characterization, make it into something genuinely exhilarating. Sam Alexander gets some hard-earned character development, and the final page alone provides a compelling reason to pick up the next issue. In short, this issue is well worth your time.