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Champions #15 review: Finale that induces double Vision

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After six long issues, this crossover comes to an end. Will it be a Vision of success, or failure in Champions #15?

Champions #15

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Humberto Ramos

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

Inker: Victor Olazaba

For the last three months, both Champions and Avengers have done a mini-crossover. Mark Waid has had both of his superhero teams unite to battle a crisis from Counter-Earth. In theory the suspense should revolve around either the threat imposed and/or on the clash of characters. After all, this presents teen heroes vs. adult heroes, with some of the teens having been former Avengers. This is best symbolized in having the Vision and his daughter Viv Vision work through emotional issues mid-battle.

In practice, however, neither of these have worked out. The threat of High Evolutionary and Counter-Earth was drawn out beyond a level where it could create suspense. Even worse, much of the emotional character interaction was kept to a minimum. Many sequences seemed to exist due to expectation. One of those was the seeming death of Viv Vision. In the previous chapter, she sacrificed herself to shut off the High Evolutionary’s doomsday machine and save both worlds.

Funerals Always Bring out the Emotions!

Despite the fact that Viv Vision was consumed by the same sonic waves which caused people and objects to transport across dimensions throughout the series, both the Champions and Avengers believed her to be dead. Don’t they know that a lack of a body means someone isn’t dead? As a result of her sacrifice, Viv Vision has found herself in another dimension. However, she’s not alone. The High Evolutionary (and not his “son,” the Higher Evolutionary) has been brought there with her.

Back on Earth, both the Avengers and Champions are taking her death hard. While the Champions could be forgiven for taking it seriously, it is a bit mind boggling that the older Avengers have given up on her, too. What little emotional meat that this story has occurs for a few pages here. The fact that the Avengers bulldoze over their younger peers comes to a head when Ms. Marvel notes how Thor keeps talking over her. Yet the hero taking it the worst of all is the Vision, Viv’s father.

Another hero taking it hard is Sam Washington, a.k.a. Nova. He breathlessly announces that he is leaving the Champions in grief. While the pain of losing Viv Vision is a part of it, her loss also dredges up Nova’s feelings of inadequacy among his teammates. Specifically, Nova often feels like an idiot among geniuses like Amadeus Cho or Kamala Khan, as well as strategists like Cyclops. Nova didn’t just have a crush on Viv Vision, he also felt that she didn’t make him feel so useless.

The Vision Handles Things Badly. It Must Be a Thursday!

Yet when the Avengers show up on the lawn to try to calm the situation, they only make it worse. Nova, much like Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man (Miles Morales), used to be among them. As much as the Champions often made him feel like a loser, the Avengers treated him even worse — as a sidekick. A hot temper causes Nova to provoke a fight with Hercules, which leads to a shouting match between Falcon and several of the other Champions. The loss of Viv brings it all to the surface.

Finally, the Vision himself is in the basement of the home he shared with Viv. The Vision had already lost his wife and son in his own series last year, and losing Viv as well seems like it has broken him. In fact, the only way that Vision can seek to absolve his pain is try to literally rebuild his daughter. Nadia Pym, a.k.a. Wasp, is alongside him trying to talk him out of it. As she rightly states, Viv Vision is unique and can’t be rebuilt from whole cloth. All Vision would do is create a double of Viv.

The genuine Viv, meanwhile, is still trapped in another dimension with High Evolutionary. The nature of their travel has left their memories slightly fuzzy. At least that’s the best explanation for some of their bizarre dialogue. However, it quickly boils down that the High Evolutionary has “evolved” into a living energy signal of pure data. He is eager to leave, and sees Viv Vision as his only portal towards doing so. The more Vision tries to rebuild Viv, the more Viv is able to “see” through the robot’s eyes.

Too Little, Too Late!

After making what has to be the billionth pun on the superhero name “Vision,” the High Evolutionary insists that Viv’s connection to the new robotic body her father is building on Earth is a gateway back home. After a brief debate between the two, High Evolutionary insists that Viv Vision aid him in returning to Earth so he can continue his work. While the High Evolutionary insists he’s merely speeding up normal evolution, Viv Vision sees him as a monster, and bails.

The irony is that as a result of trying to rebuild his daughter, the Vision has given her a gateway home. However, in typical fashion, he’s complicated things considerably. After some dramatic pacing and yet another explosion, Viv has returned home. Only now, there are two of her — the robot Vision was rebuilding, and the “human” version High Evolutionary “evolved.” The issue ends with a similar “double Vision” pun as this article began with, only Mark Waid has less excuse.

Mark Waid saved some of his strongest emotional beats between the Champions and Avengers for this issue, but it is too little and too late. Much of the character interaction over the last few issues have been functional dialogue relating to the crisis. This would have been fine, had the crisis been executed competently. Unfortunately, about a third of this crossover was spent with busywork revolving around earthquakes or meteors. Most of the rest was on hitting animal-men.

Does the High Evolutionary Need to Retire?

Waid didn’t make things easier for himself with his choice of villain. His overuse of Kang in his Avengers run suggests his preference for detached menaces who can issue a lot of technobabble. The High Evolutionary is similar, only he operates from a biological perspective rather than a temporal one. Yet when written poorly (or at least straightforwardly), the High Evolutionary is a generic mad scientist from central casting with an outdated Jack Kirby design.

A better villain would have driven home Mark Waid’s theoretical premise of a clash of generations. The Champions are made up of teenage heroes who mostly felt the Avengers’ way of doing things didn’t work. The Avengers, for their part, have long felt that teenagers at best should stay out of superheroics and at worst should be heavily mentored and observed. An ideal antagonist would have capitalized on either the Avengers’ oversight and/or the Champions’ naivete. Evolutionary did neither.

Even the angle of High Evolutionary “evolving” Viv Vision didn’t capitalize on this. He never tries to convince her of its benefits, at least in an active way. Instead he tells her that it’s for the best. Viv is rendered unconscious and has little way of defending herself. It is a terrible violation, but it doesn’t play to the central theme. Nor does the concept of evolution itself, which typically involves the young. Instead the High Evolutionary merely presents the threat of the month that involves two teams.

An Underwhelming Experience Overall!

The Vision, in his grief, trying to rebuild Viv accidentally plays into this. By trying to replicate Viv rather than honor her loss, he’s showcasing that Vision holds little more respect for her autonomy than High Evolutionary did. It makes Viv’s debate with the Higher Evolutionary last issue feel more hollow. Despite Vision’s eloquent words about wanting to protect Viv because he knows for a fact she will die before him, his actions suggest control, and only Nadia is willing to hold him to task.

Humberto Ramos continues on his astounding run as solo penciler. It’s become incredible rare for any artist to draw a book for over a year without any breaks or massive delays, yet Ramos has done it. Delgado and Olazaba enhance his work with their colors and inks. High Evolutionary revealing his true form is one visual highlight. Another is the sequence showing Viv Vision’s return. The scene itself may be a bit over-the-top, yet Ramos works with it for maximum impact.

In conclusion, this was not a successful crossover. Whatever imagination and creativity Waid demonstrates in ArchieCaptain America, or even regular issues of Champions did not translate. The stodgier and more outdated tropes which have bogged down his Avengers run bogged down this entire crossover. In fact, the only reason why this arc is memorable at all is for Viv Vision’s transformation and duplication. Both series, sadly, now end the year on a downswing. Hopefully 2018 brings out better.