Champions #3 Review

by Charles Martin on March 06, 2019

Champions #3 Review
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Steven Cummings
Colourists: Marcio Menyz with Federico Blee
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Reviewing comics issue-by-issue is a fun gig and it's usually easy for me to gauge the quality of what I read within that context. Until suddenly it isn't.

Champions #3 drops me in the middle of what might be an all-time epic story arc. A lot hinges on the resolution provided in future issues. Judgment calls - and reading recommendations - get much harder to make with a story so clearly shaped on a bigger scale than the single issue.

This installment hammers further on the Mephistophelean pact Miles Morales entered in issue #1. All the details of that deal were notably concealed until #2. The uncertainty of that plotting decision led a lot of critics to bash down their ratings for #1. 

And that uncertainty is still rolling now. This issue shows us Miles grasping the crushing weight of what he's done. It's an emotional gut-punch delivered with Tyson-esque speed and power, but the ramifications - and his teammates' reactions - are still to come.

The Mephisto story is unfolding powerfully. It's definitely good; it might be great. But I can't tell for sure yet. 

This issue's busy script also turns Sam's frustration over losing his Nova helmet in a promising new direction thanks to a surprise antagonist. And there's some standard-issue Champions business - a quick training session and a pocket crisis (with an impressive performance by guest-star Dust) - to keep the rest of the team on their toes.

Quick digression: Thank you, creators, for not hooking the Champions up with Marvel's umpteenth iteration of a Danger Room. Training in a state park feels right for them. Consistent, too - two years ago they were doing paintball as a team-building exercise.

Artistically, this story is told with strong consistency. The vast Champions roster looks as good as ever, with Sam's new nemesis treated to an extra helping of detail and style. There is a little stiffness to the portrayal of motion and emotion in group panels, and the number of characters running around does call for a lot of those. But layouts, costumes, and storytelling flow all remain impressively clear.

The main Champions adventure receives bold, vibrant colours, but the palette is appreciably tweaked to heighten emotions and make settings distinctive. We start with an outer space scene washed in cool blues and greys. Dust brings some frantic yellows with her when she fires her mutant powers. And Mephisto, of course, drags overpowering red washes around with him. Those reds are skillfully merged into the setting in the final scene when Miles returns to Dubai at dusk.

Besides breathless flurries of plot development, this issue's script is packed with sharp character work. Miles, of course, gets a lot of productive attention, but there's space for others to shine. Amadeus Cho provides brief but illuminating support to Miles and Sam's frustration continues to read naturally. There's even space enough to shine some welcome light on Pinpoint, the teleporter who was previously leading the pack in the "forgettable-est new Champion" race.

This volume of Champions demonstrates its dedication to powerful, long-term plotting in its third issue. It may not be an "OMG you have to start reading this" triumph on its own, but it patiently builds upon its solid foundation and rewards committed readers with glimpses of a magnificent structure taking shape. I doubt this arc will disappoint once it's completed, and it may become truly extraordinary.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
This story was planned from the outset as a larger unit rather than a collection of issues. "Written to the trade" is often an insult, but this title shows why it ain't always so.