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Dec 8

Iceman #6-7 – “Champions Reunited”

Posted on Friday, December 8, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

Yes, I know issue #8 is out now, but it’s a totally different story.  So let’s cover this two-parter quickly.

The Marvel Legacy remit requires this to have something to do with past continuity.  As it happens, that works out quite well, because what Sina Grace mainly wants to achieve in these two issues is to give Iceman a reason to quit the X-Men and move to Los Angeles so that his series can go its own way.  That’s fair enough; if he’s going to anchor his own title, there’s a lot to be said for prising him away from the team.  And it fits with the book’s general theme of Bobby trying to establish a new social life for himself outside the X-Men.

Fortunately, old continuity provides a perfectly serviceable reason for Iceman to visit Los Angeles, because apparently Black Widow is dead this week (Secret Empire or something – it really doesn’t matter), which is a good enough reason for Iceman to attend a Champions reunion.  That’s the sum total of the continuity callbacks in these two issues, which is fine. The other Champions get plenty to do, even if most of it is acting as a collective sounding board for Bobby, but there’s no need to descend into any of the detailed history, and the story wisely avoids doing so.

While in LA, Bobby meets a guy called Judah who is obviously going to be the romantic interest going forward.  Arguably that’s not the main plot, but it’s a very prominent subplot and it feels like the thing that Grace is more interested in (after all, it’s the one with more impact on the overall series).  What works about this stuff is Iceman’s side of the relationship, and his reaction to, well, not just dating a man, but just dating normal people, period.  Yes, he’s had relationships with relatively normal people in the past, but that was the early nineties.  It feels fair enough that he’s out of practice.

At least at this stage, I’m less convinced by Judah.  He’s a bit of a cypher-ish ideal entry-level boyfriend.  But if you take Iceman as our point of view character, that’s fair enough at this stage.  That probably is how Iceman should see him right now.

That aside, we have a bit of schtick with the Champions being vaguely numb and detached in their reminiscences about Black Widow – after all, it’s not like most of them were that close to her – and trying to remember how they first met her.  The pay-off to that turns out to be a flashback to Bobby clumsily making a pass at her, but this stuff is really more notable for letting the Champions act supportive.  Perhaps because she’s the least-used character, and thus the one with the least constraints, Darkstar gets a surprising amount of space, played as somebody who’s been off doing cosmic stuff while none of us were watching, and feels a bit harassed and out of place coming back for this, but gets to deliver some words of wisdom about living with your flaws.  But a boisterously supportive Hercules comes across well too.

Iceman’s weakness tends to be the obligatory superhero elements.  That continues here with an odd little plot about a woman trying to build Sentinels in her back garden so that she can get into a career in special effects. There’s a passing mention that she also makes stuff for low-grade supervillains, which goes nowhere; perhaps it’s set-up for a future story with her.  At this stage, though, Leti is a bit awkward.

Bobby and Warren are understandably unimpressed by someone building replica Sentinels as a hobby, but we’re evidently supposed to see Leti as a basically sympathetic character.  The thing is, there’s nothing very sympathetic about her.  Yes, there’s the occasional mutter about wanting a better life for herself and her partner Daisy.  But she’s building imitation murder machines in her back garden; she sends them out to wreak havoc in a public area in the hope of impressing somebody with the footage (which is both reckless and stupid); and somehow it’s supposed to be a happy ending that Iceman puts her in touch with a university that she could have looked up in the phone book?  This might make more sense if she’s going to be a recurring character, and it’s laying the groundwork for future issues – but based on what we see here, doesn’t she belong in jail?

Robert Gill’s art is decent.  He’s a clear storyteller, he can cover the range of scenes (you get the feeling he’s more confident with the action sequences than Grace is), and he can do understated.  Still, I can’t help feeling a shade more nuance could bring more life to this.  It’s perfectly fine, but it’s the good end of “house style”.

Overall, there’s more good than bad here.  There are some glitches that hold it back a bit, but the central ideas work well enough to carry it through.

Bring on the comments

  1. Mikey says:

    I really enjoy this book so far. His Iceman is very funny, and Gill’s art is solid. I just hate getting emotionally committed to books this far in, because I imagine by issue 12 it will get canceled. Marvel publishing is predictable.

  2. Chris V says:

    Jean Grey has already been announced as being canceled with issue #11, and its sales were better than Iceman.

    Although, it might be canceled due to the return of adult Jean, rather than based on sales concerns.

  3. Suzene says:

    @Chris: Where was that announced? Last I heard, Hopeless was saying the Jeen solo was going to continue.

  4. wwk5d says:

    “Perhaps because she’s the least-used character, and thus the one with the least constraints, Darkstar gets a surprising amount of space, played as somebody who’s been off doing cosmic stuff while none of us were watching, and feels a bit harassed and out of place coming back for this, but gets to deliver some words of wisdom about living with your flaws.”

    Being a former GF of Bobby’s, you think that alone would be enough to get her more panel time…then again, did anyone bother showing his reaction to her death by Morrison back in the early 2000s?

  5. Voord 99 says:

    I wonder if we’re going to see more if this sort of thing because of Unlimited?

    The original Champions are something that I think for a while there “sort of didn’t happen.” No-one was actively contradicting that Bobby and Warren had this period of their life, but it functionally wasn’t part of the backstory for their current versions, along with their time in the New Defenders.

    And I don’t think the material was easily available except via collecting the actual back issues. There doesn’t seem to have been an Essential Champions, for instance (not that I’ve searched thoroughly).

    But with Marvel making their back catalogue so available on Unlimited, anyone who wants to can go and read the original run for the price of a subscription, making referencing it more worthwhile.

  6. CyberV says:

    Pfft. Show the X-Men reacting to a death outside of their own books? They STILL haven’t reacted to Lilandra’s death.

    Which is a shame, because I’d love to see them getting their asses kicked by Darkhawk as he tries to explain.

  7. Chris V says:

    Voord-There were two Champions Classics TPBs at one point, collecting the entirety of the Champions series.
    I’m also pretty sure that the Essential Defenders books collected until the end of that series too….although, I may be mistaken on that one.

    I just think there wasn’t much of a reason to mention it due to Champions and Defenders both being defunct teams.
    The X-Men were pretty insular, so they weren’t interacting a lot with characters from the Champions or Defenders series.

    Suzene-It was either announced in this week’s Marvel titles, with an ad for Jean Grey #11, or I read it in Comic Shop News this week. I forget which one.

  8. mark coale says:

    I think both the JMDM and Gillis eras of Defenders are underrated. Some weird but fun stories in both runs.

  9. Chris V says:

    Oh yes, I’m a great fan of both runs.
    Not as great as Gerber’s run, but definitely both quality runs.

  10. Zoomy says:

    I’ve got to chime in as a Defenders fan, too – lots of underrated classic stories in there! The epic Moondragon saga needs more admirers 🙂

  11. Jerry Ray says:

    Where did Lilandra die? I must’ve missed that in a book I don’t read.

  12. Voord 99 says:

    Peter B. Gillis is generally one of those writers who seems (at least to me) like he should have been a bigger deal. New Defenders, Doctor Strange, Strikeforce Morituri: all excellent, and for the time, Strikeforce Morituri was an innovative thing to be doing with superheroes. But it’s great work in things that are at the margins, not the center. And apparently he had to lobby very aggressively even to be given New Defenders in the first place.

    There’s probably an alternate universe in which Gillis’s run on something more high-profile than anything he worked on in our timeline is regarded as an all-time classic.

  13. Suzene says:

    @Jerry Ray: It was during the War of Kings/Kingbreaker crossover on the Marvel Cosmic side of things. Like, seven or eight years ago now, iirc.

  14. Person of Con says:

    @Voord 99: I don’t know if I’d recommend it. since academic books have terrible pricing, but Jose Alaniz’s Death, Disability, and the Superhero has a full chapter on Gillis’ Strikeforce Morituri. It gets really deep into what the approach to death meant in terms of traditional hero and sci-fi comics. (Death-wise, there’s chapters on Superman and Captain Marvel too.)

  15. Si says:

    I might avoid this completely, just so I can keep my accidental headcanon that Iceman is now dating Judah Mannowdog.

  16. Suzene says:

    So far as this arc of Iceman goes, I enjoyed it overall. It was a little lightweight compared to the previous issues, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing given how generally awful Bobby’s parents are.

  17. Luis Dantas says:

    Strikeforce: Morituri sure has a lot more fans than one would expect.

  18. Moo says:

    I actually enjoyed Micronauts the New Voyages written by Gillis. It got me hooked on the previous, original series (which was better, tbh), but the original series had been direct-sales-only just like, if I recall, Moon Knight and Dazzler were as well. I bought mostly off the spinner racks in convenience stores.

    Anyway, yeah. I think Gillis was underrated.

  19. Chris V says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot that Gillis took over on a Micronauts series after the original series ended. Yeah, that was quite a lot of fun, but pretty hard to top the long-running Bill Mantlo book.

    Ka-Zar was also a direct-sales book.
    There might have been one or two other titles also.
    Maybe a Cloak and Dagger series….

  20. Nu-D says:

    Claremont’s Uncanny and Simonson’s X-Factor made occasional nods to both Champions and New Defenders. X-Factor #1 opens with Hank, Bobby, and Warren lamenting the team’s break-up. Back in the DPS, Warren is wearing a costume from his Champions appearance. Likewise, Bobby makes an appearance in the Doctor Doom story that refers to his time with the Champions. But in general, most of those stories were only obliquely referenced in the late 1980’s, and totally ignored from about Inferno onward. As a reader during that era, those stories were completely unavailable to me anyhow, short of an arduous effort to track down back issues via mail order companies.

  21. Moo says:

    I wouldn’t describe X-Factor #1 as a “nod” to New Defenders so much as a necessary acknowledgement. The series had only just ended (along with five other titles Marvel axed that year) and that’s where we’d seen them last.

  22. Thom H. says:

    1. New Defenders was weird and amazing.

    2. I’ve never read Champions, but I love that hodge-podge team of characters with nowhere else to go.

    3. Is Hank’s time with the Avengers referenced very often?

    4. Ignoring that kind of continuity helps Marvel isolate the X-Men in their own world, which seems necessary for the “oppressed minority” stories they like to tell with them.

  23. Moo says:

    2. You’re not missing out. It was awful. Marvel was just trying to sew up team names for trademark rights. That’s literally why they launched it. They just slung some characters together who weren’t being used or weren’t involved with other team books just so they could trademark “Champions.”

    Busiek referenced them once in Thunderbolts, but even he thought the series was crap.

  24. Voord 99 says:

    Hank’s time in the Avengers comes up from time to time, but to be fair mostly when the plot calls for it (e.g. when he went off and rejoined in Secret Avengers). The main exception that I can think of is that Busiek devoted an entire issue to the Beast-Wonder Man relationship in his Avengers run.

    Of course, there’s the point there that Beast’s time in the Avengers represents something much more high-profile than either Champions or New Defenders, so it’s easy to see why it would get referenced a bit more. When I was young, I thought of the blue Beast as “really” an Avenger, not an X-character.

    But there is another problem there that I think gets in the way of it being referenced too often, which is that the characterization of Hank in his Avengers period is hard to square with what Hank became after rejoining the X-books. (On the bright side, we have all agreed to forget about the squicky pheromone powers, thank God.)

    This seems really obvious in that Busiek Avengers issue, in which Hank seems to have traveled in time directly from the late ‘70s. Claremont seemed to me to be putting some effort into reconciling the two Hanks in those five issues of X-Factor that he did after Simonson left (and just before he left the X-books), but most people haven’t really bothered.

  25. Moo says:

    Beast’s Avengers stint should have been more of a talking point in X-Men then it was, IMO. For a long time I’ve felt Beast would have been far better at being Xavier than Xavier was. He’s great with people. He’s media savvy. He knows more about the science of mutants than anyone. He had the respect of both the superhero community and the scientific community. Even the general public. I haven’t read X-books in years now, but at one time I think it was fair to say he was one of the more well-liked and accepted mutants, if not the most. His Avengers stint helped.

    Then there’s Xavier who gets compared to Martin Luther King a lot, which I guess would make more sense to me had King spent most of his life trying to conceal the fact that he was black. That’s one issue I had with Morrison’s outing of Xavier. I didn’t buy the “they’re actually listening” bit. I think most people would have been anywhere from put off to absolutely terrified.

    “I’ve been a mutant this whole time and kept it a secret from you. I can read minds and control thoughts. But you can trust me!”

    Hell with that.

  26. Thom H. says:

    It’s kind of telling that Beast as an Avenger is fun and bouncy, while Beast as an X-Man is depressed and angsty. There’s no real joy in being a mutant in the Marvel Universe, is there?

    Also, I just learned about those pheromone powers on Wikipedia after you mentioned them. Yuck. Has there been a character where “pheromone powers” have actually worked without being icky? I want to say not.

  27. Chris V says:

    Oh boy, I’m laughing at the comparison between Martin Luther King Jr. and Charles Xavier….Yes, it’s so correct.

    I did think that the Champions comic was fun. It was a pretty pointless series, but it was readable, and just had some fun stories that weren’t trying to be anything else.
    I will always have a soft spot for the book due to it introducing Swarm. A supervillain made up of a giant swarm of Nazi killer bees? That was a concept that if it didn’t exist, someone would have to create it.

  28. JD says:

    Beast seems to be back with the Avengers, per the last few issues of Uncanny Avengers (where the token Legacy tie-in was his reunion with Wonder Man). He also looks to be part of the cast when all the Avengers books fuse and become weekly next month.

    (After all, it’s not like he’s very welcome with the X-Men these days. The super-genius role is now mostly taken over by Forge, with Cecilia Reyes sometimes showing up for the medical side.)

  29. Chris V says:

    There’s that, and the fact that he’s a horrible, horrible person now.
    He decided to mess up time just to prove some nebulous point.
    He decided that mutants dying would be an acceptable cost for that the Inhumans didn’t get offended.
    He sided with the Tian government side during Secret Empire, making him somewhat of a collaborator with the fascist regime.

    Par for the course with Marvel heroes by this point….

  30. mark coale says:

    There was also the Beast/Wonder Man mini by Stern and Bagley.

  31. Taibak says:

    FWIW, I suppose part of the problem with Beast having been in the Avengers is that it’s no longer special. He used to be the one X-Man who made it to the big time and was publicly accepted as a hero. Now, Wolverine, Storm, Sunspot, Rogue, Cannonball, Sunfire, Havok, Dazzler, and Cable have all been Avengers. Avengers membership doesn’t really make Beast distinctive any more.

    And with Namor and Firestar having joined the X-Men, it’s not like this was a one-way process either.

  32. wwk5d says:

    You could form a whole Avengers squad now made up of just former X-men characters.

  33. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    My favourite ‘you could form a squad of _______ who were ________’ is still ‘you could form a squad of X-Men out of all the X-Men who were former Horsemen of Apocalypse’.

    As far as Beast being terrible now – generally, yes, but at least the collaborating with Nazis part was due to telepathic manipulation, wasn’t it? I mean Tian was written differently in every other tie-in, but it looked like Emma was running things there, more or less forcing others to go along with it.

  34. Zoomy says:

    X-Factor #1’s ‘nod’ to New Defenders was shockingly minimal – not even a mention of Sassafras! 🙂

  35. Thom H. says:

    Sassafras was the heart of that team.

    Also, I will never get used to Rogue as an Avenger. So weird. I guess if you refuse to retire characters, they’ve got to go somewhere…

  36. Moo says:

    Huh. Didn’t know Rogue was an Avenger now. Strangely, that seems more natural to me than other X-Men as Avengers. Not sure why. Maybe because she debuted in an Avengers comic and that’s where I first saw her.

  37. Nu-D says:

    Rogue has always played best as a character who holds herself on the outskirts of her team. Wanting to be a part, but never feeling at home. That defined her character for the first ten years or so. But after a long time with the X-Men, it’s pretty hard to make nation that kind of outsider status. So she morphed into a stalwart, which never suited her.

    Now , with the Avengers, she can be on the edge again, accepted but barely; integral, but on the outskirts. It’s where she belongs.

  38. Moo says:

    I think it’d be nice if they finally found a role for her that actually suited her name. A person going by “Rogue” really shouldn’t be on any team, now that I think about it. Unless the team itself is rogueish like that one from that Star Wars movie. I forget what it was called.

  39. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    ‘With the Avengers, [Rogue] can be on the edge again, accepted but barely; integral, but on the outskirts. It’s where she belongs.’

    You know she’s the leader of the Uncanny/Unity squad, right? 🙂

  40. Nu-D says:

    “You know she’s the leader of the Uncanny/Unity squad, right?”

    Nope, didn’t know that. I haven’t caught up with Uncanny Avengers since the first dozen of so issues. Rogue was in the right spot at that time. If they’ve given her a leadership position (again) they don’t understand her character.

  41. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    But shouldn’t the character be allowed to move on from what she was conceived as 30+ years ago?

  42. Rich Larson says:

    Also, the Uncanny group got kicked out of the official Avengers. So you could argue that its a bit of growth and she’s still an outsider.

  43. Moo says:

    “But shouldn’t the character be allowed to move on from what she was conceived as 30+ years ago?”

    I think that if you’re going to have a character going by the name of “Rogue” then that character really ought to be roguish to some extent, unless the name is supposed to be ironic.

  44. Mikey says:

    I really loved Rogue as a leader of the X-Men when Mike Carey was writing the book. It was short-lived, but it was fun.

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