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Son of Satan wasn’t available? – The Champions #6

April 22, 2011

The Champions were one hell of a patchwork quilt of a team. Any roster that featured Angel, Iceman, Black Widow, Hercules and Ghost Rider is one whose weirdness simply cannot be denied. I’m sad to report that Johnny Blaze is nowhere to be found in this issue — off on assignment, as it were — but an assemblage that boasts 100% more of the boastful Hercules than your average runt of a comic is guaranteed to get my undivided attention.

This particular selection (Script: Tony Isabella, Art: George Tuska & Vince Colletta) is one that’s apt for our trying economic times. The villain, Rampage, as the intro page clearly states, is a Law & Order “ripped from the headlines” special:

This isn’t some greedy bastard. Introduced in the previous issue, Stuart Clarke is an inventor overwhelmed by bad luck, a financial downturn and crushing debt. Out to rob banks with his power-suit, he draws the attention of the authorities and the Champions, mayhem ensues, and said mayhem is where we pick things up.

As you can see, Rampage is holding an unconscious Angel hostage. He tells the rest of the Champions to hit the road (or else!) and they reluctantly comply. Or do they?:

Yes, Iceman used the oldest trick in the book, one that’s so old it might not even qualify as a trick — the “pretend you’re walking away then turn around really quick” maneuver.

Rampage manages to make his escape, but not before wounding the Black Widow’s buddy Ivan and hurling a car at Hercules to cover his flight:

I so love it when Thor and Hercules talk about “modern conveyances.”

After all this chaos and with Angel rescued, the Champs finally get around to that “leader” stuff:

How will Herc take the Black Widow’s ascension? Quite well, as it turns out:

Only this big lusty lug could get away with a celebratory hip grab like that.

Poor Mr. Rampage hides out and tries to destroy his power-suit, but his former attorney catches a news report about him on the TV:

Yes, a scumbag attorney is the real villain of the story — more on him in a sec. As a man who’s passed a bar exam in his day, I’m not sure how to feel about this. Par for the course, I guess.

The cops close in on Clarke and the Champions aren’t too far behind:

Clarke, scared to death about going to prison, wages a desperate fight (including deploying the jet pack seen on that Jack Kirby cover) but is no match for the combination of the law and the heroes. He decides to not go quietly into that good night:

Iceman tries to shield his teammates and Clarke from the blast and manages to keep everyone alive (I’m not really sure how he managed to shield Clarke — that seems like a post-plot/art decision to not have the character flat-out kill himself). After all the dust clears that dirtbag lawyer shows up at the end for the coda:

Someone had an axe to grind against the barrister class, perhaps?

Like I said above, the Champions were an odd mixture, though I should perhaps thank Mr. Isabella for trying (maybe against his will) to spice things up with a dash of crazy. The lack of Ghost Rider in this issue makes them almost work as a team, as his inclusion on the roster definitely mucks things up. There are certain characters that can exist in a team setting, and some even thrive amongst a crowd (someone like Vision, for instance). But Ghost Rider? A vengeful hell-spirit doesn’t seem like the best fit for such a thing and might be too much of a stretch. But perhaps that’s the whole point and what the brains behind this were striving for — it doesn’t work so it does work, know what I mean? Like how the team in this issue works, but there’s no real fire (no pun intended). It’s just another watered down group book.

One thing is clear — I have no idea what I’m talking about. At least I know that Hercules is, as always, gold. Have a good day, and maybe grab a random woman around the waist if you get the chance.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2011 9:25 pm

    I thought the Defenders were Marvel’s official “Team of Characters Least Likely to Join A Team.” The Champions were worse than that, they were a bunch of losers nobody cared about. I always imagined an editorial meeting where someone said, “We need another team book! Who’s left that nobody’s using?”

    To this day I remember the sense of betrayal I felt way back in ’77 when I bought Avengers #163, expecting another George Perez-drawn gem, only to find a “Challengers” story (!) drawn by George Tuska. Even by the standards of 1970s “Surprise! We Missed Another Deadline So Enjoy This Reprint” Marvel Comics, that was a cheap stunt, a bonafide case of bait and switch that forever turned me against the Champions and ensured I would never buy an issue of that book. And thank God I didn’t, if it kept me from seeing the Angel wearing the humiliatingly awful costume shown here.

    “Champions” has to rank as one of comics’ most ironic titles, but I guess they couldn’t use a more accurate one, since “The Inferior Five” was already taken.

    • April 24, 2011 2:59 am

      I’m actually working on a Defenders post. I guess I’m on a B-squad kick.

      I’m inclined to give most things with old school Hercules a pass, but yes, Champions was a pretty weak broth.

  2. bluekatt permalink
    November 8, 2012 8:39 am

    that cover just reeks kirby
    if it wasnt kirby himself drawing that its certainly a very well pastich of his style

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