There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we’re looking at Marvel’s “Champions.” The series has been written by Jim Zub since issue #19, and though the latest issue has a #3 on the cover, it is a continuation of his run. Each arc has featured a different artist, with the latest one illustrated by Steven Cummings, but under Zub’s pen the series has turned into an exciting soapy superhero title.
Who’s This By?
Jim Zub is a prolific comics writer, famous for his silly swords and sorcery series “Skullkickers.” He’s done a lot of comics in the fantasy genre including “Wayward,” and “Dungeons and Dragons,” and he’s been writing books for Marvel since 2016. Zub’s been all about reviving the 90s aesthetic, and his approach to “Champions” has a bit of a throwback quality as well.
Zub has been joined by a number of artists including Sean Izaakse (“Secret Empire,” “Pathfinder”) and Kevin Libranda (“Captain America,” “Uncanny Avengers,” “Ironheart”). Recent issues have been drawn by Steven Cummings (“Wayward”). Though switching artists can sometimes work against a series having a singular identity, all of those artists have something in common: they’ve all worked with Zub in the past.
What’s This All About?
The Champions are a superhero team of Marvel’s young characters. They function as spiritual successors to the Young Avengers. The team was formed after “Civil War II” out of a disgust for heroes fighting heroes. As a team the Champions try to look for peaceful solutions first, though they will resort to punching their problems when the situation requires it. They focus primarily on rescue operations and finding lasting solutions to problems. Though it’s an action/superhero title, just as much time is spent on the ever shifting awkward team dynamics, particularly given how young the team members are.
So, Why Should I Read This?
In short, “Champions” is a throwback to a simpler time of superhero comics. The core of the book is very simple, and that lets the plot get up to crazy shenanigans. “Champions” is a soap opera, one where the teens are constantly kissing, fighting, throwing parties, jockeying for leadership positions, and repressing their feelings. It’s also a superhero adventure, and the heroes regularly need to put their powers to the test. Where lots of other books treat writing about superpowers as an obstacle to overcome, “Champions” has consistently found fun ways for the superpower action to take center stage.
In his first arc, Zub took the Champions on something of a world tour. They dealt with a mad scientist climate change-solving scheme in the Canadian wilderness, and then headed down to the mystical Florida Everglades. Zub followed that up by transporting the Champions to a “Dungeons & Dragons” world, writing them in a fantasy mode that was familiar to fans of his work. Lately Ms. Marvel has led the team, not knowing that Miles Morales has been struggling with a deal he made with the devil to save her life.
In juggling the many characters and their personal conflicts, Zub has made “Champions” feel like classic “X-Men” or “Teen Titans.” In the main cast, Ms. Marvel is struggling with leading her team, Spider-Man is dealing with keeping secrets, and Sam Alexander is facing feelings of inadequacy after losing his powers. Those character threads make up the ongoing narrative and carry over from story to story, whether the team is dealing with Zzzax, the return of an old “Nova” villain, or a training session gone wrong. It’s fairly typical stuff, but in the current climate of superhero comics, it feels refreshing. A lot of series have concise mission statements, or waste a lot of time in mediocre hangout scenes. “Champions” has so much going on that its momentum keeps the book from being a slog, and Zub is a good enough writer that even the high stakes conflicts read light and bouncy.Continued below
There are books with higher artistic aspirations. There are books that are lighter and fluffier reads. But for readers who miss the days when superhero teams were made up of high strong teenage outsiders trying to figure themselves out, don’t miss “Champions.”
How Can You Read It?
Issue #3 is out today in your local comic book store. If you prefer to read your comics in trade, Zub took over the book in “Champions” volume 4, ‘Northern Lights.’ Series creator Mark Waid is a legend, but he had trouble finding voices for the young characters. Everyone read a little bit too “how do you do fellow kids?” “Champions” is also available on digital comics platforms.