Champions #5 by Jim Zub, Juanan Ramirez, Marcio Menyz & Clayton Cowles
Jim Zub’s take on the War of the Realms is an interesting one that doesn’t rely too much on the wider knowledge of the crossover to be entertaining, opting instead for a more character focused approach that makes the most out of the action. In this issue the Champions encounter friends old and new during an alien invasion that results in some incredibly rewarding storylines, with the most notable of them coming from the inclusion of Cyclops who has often been portrayed so differently in other series it’s fascinating to see Jim Zub show a side to the character that fans haven’t seen in a while, and remind him how inspirational he can be as a leader, whilst also addressing the consequences of the younger X-Men’s stay in the present. Bringing the older version of Scott Summers into the equation to interact with the younger Champions justifies the past relationships that Scott had with the group, and elaborates on it working almost as an epilogue. It’s a fun issue that X-Men fans will appreciate as well as Champions readers, bringing the two storylines together whilst not forgetting that this is a Champions book first and foremost.
The character-centric approach remains the book’s greatest strength. Jim Zub really gets what makes these characters work – we get to see the team’s reaction to Cyclops’ reappearance, especially in regards to how it affects Kamala, and their dynamic resurfacing here hopefully means that it won’t be the last we’ll see of Cyclops in this series. He seems like a perfect fit even as his older self and this was an excellent case study as to why Zub should be writing more of him regardless of what series it is. It’s perhaps interesting to note that in relation to the two team books that focus around a younger core cast – Champions and Runaways, both books have not only marked themselves up there as Marvel’s best ongoing series – but have also been consistently providing excellent character-centric material, even in the middle of a heavy battle sequence, character is not ignored when most would often focus on the big set-piece moments instead. There are still big set-piece moments of course, but these only work better than they already do thanks to the strong balance found.
The artwork is explosive and as good as ever. Artist Juanan Ramirez and colourist Marcio Menyz help give depth to the emotions of the characters in the midst of all the battle scenes, as we see cameos from other characters like Power Man and Pinpoint who fit into the series like they’ve been there all along. There’s a single panel portrait of Cyclops leading the Champions into glory against a green background that is one of the standouts in an issue full of remarkable panels, showing that Ramirez and Menyz can make character introductions as good as the best of them.
The lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles as ever, adds impact to Champions #5 – especially on the aforementioned page, and five issues in, it’s clear that this run has of all the confidence and quality of a series twice its length. It’s not rushed and the cameos aren’t forced. Everything flows naturally from beginning to end, with the characters’ interactions leading to some brilliant results, wisely avoiding tying too much into the War of the Realms and getting bogged down with unnecessary baggage.
The guilt that Miles and Kamala are facing is pushed to the forefront in this issue and it explores how the characters are shaped by what they know and who they failed to save. Seeing Miles help the mother of the girl who died felt like a real Spider-Man moment, and although he isn’t in this issue much with most of the focus elsewhere, the quieter scenes outside of battle were often just as impactful as the bigger moments, proving that Champions #5 is so much more than just a simple tie-in and this book continues to show why it should be number one on your pull-list.