Saturday, November 27, 2010

Champions Annual #1

For being such good kids, here’s the mind-boggling origin of Giant!

The comic opens on the excavation of a strangely Grecian temple in the middle of the Egyptian desert. A rat-faced man, cleverly named Ratte, is whipping some workers as they open up a tomb in the middle of the ruins. William Johnson, your standard square-jawed rugged type, tells him to stop abusing the workers after the ropes holding the cover slab break and he gets even nastier.

Melissa D’Arque, the head of the expedition, shows up to settle the dispute and sides with Johnson. Only partially because he’s her boyfriend.

They descend into the tomb that night, which is exactly when Ratte and some goons raid the temple and seal the tomb with dynamite to keep whatever’s down there, down there. So he was part of the expedition intending to sabotage it from with in. If his behavior today was normal, though, he’s only got himself to thank for failing.

Trapped down in the tomb, Will and Melissa find themselves in the resting place of Persephone. They read a story depicted on the walls of how Persephone, queen of the dead in Greek mythology, was possessed by a demon of malice and stole the immortality of her fellow gods, just as Zeus had stolen it from his father who’d stolen it from his father.

“What’s important is the fact that her captors would have come so far from Greece and gone to this much effort to entomb her,” exposits Melissa. We at least find out the answer to the second part when Melissa touches the black diamond on the woman’s head: she’s still alive and takes over Melissa’s body.

To have the power to escape she sucks the life out of Will with a kiss, then blasts out of the tomb and once free decides to name herself Dark Malice.

Zeus appears to the nearly dead Will, telling him that a harness also contained in the tomb was created to give birth to a champion in case the demon-possessed Persephone ever escaped.

Will puts on the harness and finds out it not only restores but vastly enhances his strength, allowing him to fight off a group of skeletal warriors who show up just so we can see him in action. It even lets him enlarge himself, heal quickly and summon divine lightning. But Zeus warns that if he stays big for too long it’ll burn him out.

After explaining all this and supplying a two-toned costume Zeus disappears, leaving William Johnson to discover what it means to be a champion on his own.

So we have William Johnson, whose daughter married James Jensen. The creativity just blows your mind, doesn’t it?

There’s an interlude by writer Dennis Malonee explaining that a true understanding of contemporary events comes from an understanding of the historical events that led up to them.

No, it didn’t, and even people who only read the summation on this blog wouldn’t have thought there was no prior history to those characters and their world.

Yet nowhere in the twenty-six pages it took to tell that story did it answer some big questions.  Why was Persephone entombed in Egypt? Too much life in Greece that she might absorb it and escape? Why the elaborate temple covering the place, allowing people to discover her tomb, if the idea was to trap her? Why couldn’t Zeus take back the gods’ immortality if he could defeat and capture Persephone? Especially when he did it to Cronus already. And why devote space that could’ve answered those questions to Zeus explaining the powers of Giant? Both when he leaves our hero to figure things out for himself and when Giant’s one of the least featured of any hero in the company’s stable.

See, after the original miniseries ended the guys who wrote the comic went into business for themselves and published a monthly book about the surviving Champions. Giant didn’t appear again until they did an arc where he finally fulfilled his duty of dealing with Dark Malice, and was subsequently written out of their main universe because he’d done what he was created to do. They’ve revived the character in the 21st century via the previous Giant’s adolescent son, Billy, and are trying to make more use of him, but we’re talking about when the year was 1988.

There are two more features in this issue, the first being a backup story where Malice finds Ratte and gets even with him for trapping Melissa in the tomb by pulling his face off and decrying other divinities. ‘Cuz she’s evil like that. Seriously, the whole point of the backup story seems to be establishing that yep, she’s evil.

What's wrong with your faaaace?
So...she's evil?
The rest is profiles of major villains from the ongoing Champions series, but if those were put up now it wouldn’t make any sense to anyone who hasn't already read these comics.

For now let’s just close the book on a comic that took fifty-two pages and told us practically nothing that hadn’t been told already.

Then again, maybe it’s a good thing we saw so little of Giant.

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