The kids of 2016 Marvel Comics have quit the Avengers and X-Men to form their own cool team called The Champions.  But do you know the unlikely origins of that team’s nom de guerre?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Champions #1 awaits!

CHAMPIONS #1
Writer: Tony Isabella
Penciler: Don Heck
Inker: Mike Esposito
Colorist: Petra Goldberg
Letterer: Dave Hunt
Editor: Marv Wolfman
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 25 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $50.00

Previously in Champions: The Marvel Universe was founded by a team: The Fantastic Four.  Soon after came The Avengers, then The X-Men, and while both those groups had some wobbly beginnings, each would survive for several years.  By 1972, Marvel editorial gathered many of their most unusual heroes into The Defenders, a “non-team” that combined some of the more autre members of the 616 firmament into a fighting force to be reckoned with.  By 1975, Tony Isabella had a plan to add a new team to Marvel’s roster, combining two former X-Men with his newest creation, Black Goliath.  When B.G. got his own title, Isabella was forced to make some changes to his plans for The Champions.  We open on the campus of the University of California – Los Angeles, where Bobby “Iceman” Drake and Warren “The Angel” Worthington have chosen to matriculate in the wake of the formation of a new team of X-Men…

The sudden appearance of a strange dimensional portal on the UCLA quad  is strange, but when the strange mythical creatures known as The Harpies begin pouring out, Bobby and Warren return to their superhero ways.  The Harpies proceed to attack, screaming that they have come for someone called Venus, but are surprised when the veteran X-Men block their path.  Iceman, for his part, is stunned to see that Angel has gone into action without a particular piece of his costume…

…his mask, people.  Get your minds outta the gutter.

During the battle, Angel explains that he is officially giving up the pretense of a secret identity, instead choosing to go public with his mutant status and his hero activities.  These days, this seems like an insignificant moment, given the lack of focus on the Secret Identity trope in modern parlance, but for 1975, it was kind of a big deal.  As the battle rages, we shift our focus elsewhere on the UCLA campus, where another Champions player is awaiting a job interview…

Having relocated to the West Coast some years earlier with Daredevil (whom long-memoried Spoilerites may remember had a run as the only superhero in San Francisco for a few years), Natasha Romanoff is at loose ends now that the relationship has dissolved. Much as with our itinerant former X-Men, she quickly finds the decision of what to do next made for her, thanks to a mysterious floating portal from beyond…

Natasha’s friend here is Ivan Petrovich, her chauffeur/childhood caregiver, and a man who may no longer exist, given the modern interpretations of her origins.  The warrior women engage the Black Widow, but UCLA professor Victoria Starr intervenes, forcing Natasha to retreat, with the professor in tow.  We then turn our attentions to another cast member, one Johnny Blaze, who at this time is working in L.A. as a movie stuntman and had also found himself coincidentally at UCLA…

At this point in his history, Johnny’s demonic transformations are triggered by the presence of danger, and leave his mind in charge of the Ghost Rider, in case anyone was confused.  (The history of all the variations of Johnny’s demonic transmogrification would probably fill a book.  Maybe I’ll write it sometime?)  As Johnny engages the giant in battle, the final piece of the Champions puzzle falls into place in a lecture hall not far away…

Hercules, too, is attacked from beyond, though it should be noted that his opponents are focused on finding him, rather than screaming for the mysterious Venus. The Prince of Power’s trademark lack of restraint takes the battle through the wall of the building and into the quad, where he encounters Ghost Rider for the first time…

I love how writer Isabella always gives Johnny Blaze an immensely charming cowboy drawl that plays well of Hercules’ Shakespearian nonsense, in case you were wondering who the only remaining Champions fan is.  Demon and demigod quickly encounter the mutant contingent, and their combined power makes short work of the Harpies and Amazons, but when they all meet up with The Black Widow and “Victoria Starr”, things take a surprising turn…

Victoria Starr is the Venus whom their opponents seek, and indeed, the Venus of myth, the reason why so many bits of Greco-Roman mythology have shown up in L.A.  I’ve always thought it was kind of a shame she didn’t become a member of the Champions, especially given her unique history in the Marvel Universe, but I suppose two gods might have been a bit much, given the power level of the remaining Champions.  Before the team can mull over Angel’s worry of a puppet-master in the wings, said puppet-master enters…

As the six heroes collapse from the sneak-attack, it becomes clear that things are more dire than anyone could have guessed…

Fun fact: Ares, on the left, eventually spent some time as an Avenger himself before getting ripped in half by The Sentry.  Hippolyta, on the right, was a member of the Fearless Defenders as Warrior Woman during that teams brief run.  Pluto has, as of yet, not joined any Marvel super-teams, but I believe there have been some tentative discussions with the Great Lakes Avengers.  As the issue fades to black, the nascent Champions are on the cusp of a great (albeit short-lived) adventure, one that would lead to the team’s formation under the financial support of Warren Worthington’s family fortune.  Black Goliath would eventually join the team, as would another Russian expatriate, Darkstar.  Their most noteworthy adventure probably involved a dead Nazi covered in bees, but at this point, Champions #1 feels like an exciting new chapter in Marvel super-teams, with an engaging story and some okay Don Heck art, earning a better0-than-average 3 out of 5 stars overall.  It will be interesting to see if the 2016 Champions can overtake the 17 issue run that the original incarnation achieved…

The kids of 2016 Marvel Comics have quit the Avengers and X-Men to form their own cool team called The Champions.  But do you know the unlikely origins of that team's nom de guerre?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Champions #1 awaits! CHAMPIONS #1 Writer: Tony Isabella Penciler: Don Heck Inker: Mike Esposito Colorist: Petra Goldberg Letterer: Dave Hunt Editor: Marv Wolfman Publisher: Marvel Comics Cover Price: 25 Cents Current Near-Mint Pricing: $50.00 Previously in Champions: The Marvel Universe was founded by a team: The Fantastic Four.  Soon after came The Avengers, then The X-Men, and while both those…
An inexplicable team, but one that turns out to be fun, featuring a clever plot and pretty okay art for the time-period...

CHAMPIONS #1

Writing
Art
Coloring

An inexplicable team, but one that turns out to be fun, featuring a clever plot and pretty okay art for the time-period...

User Rating: 2.85 ( 1 votes)

At Major Spoilers, we strive to create original content that you find interesting and entertaining. If you would like to support our efforts, please become a patron today.

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

Previous post

[Preview] Night's Dominion #4

Next post

[Preview] The Mighty Captain Marvel #1

1 Comment

  1. December 18, 2016 at 4:44 pm — Reply

    Champions and The New Defenders were two of my favorites, even more than The Avengers. Thanks for the memories!

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section