Can you sense it, in the air? That feeling of excitement, like electricity crackling darkly through the skies? That’s pure Darkforce energy, and it’s here because – at last – we’ve reached The Champions issue #7: AKA the issue where our beloved Darkstar, Laynia Petrovna, first made her debut. Vremya Veselit’sya!

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We open the issue with a bomb sailing through the window and, as is the wont of a bomb, doing a loop-the-loop round the room. Hercules immediately fails to catch it, which means it was probably a good thing he didn’t stick around and join the university American Football team from the previous arc. Iceman, in his panic, knocks an especially ugly lamp to the ground, which I have to imagine is partly intentional. He warns Hercules that you shouldn’t catch a bomb (sound advice) which leads Hercules to try and… punch it out the air?

I swear, the moment Black Widow leaves the room, Herc’s sense of strategy just goes straight to hell. Thankfull he fails, so Iceman tries to hit it with some ice. Y’know, because that’s his gimmick. That fails, but luckily Hercules catches him (cute!) and they can try one last time. The third attempt sees Iceman create an ice tunnel around the missile, leading the device all the way over to where Hercules is standing, and he heroically stands there as the missile slams straight into him and… vanishes. Job done.

Black Widow and Ivan run in, their super-spy senses going off only once a missile explodes in the room next door and not when the window smashes, Hercules punched the wall, or Iceman threw a gauche lamp to the floor. Herc passes the device to Ivan, who goes off to investigate it. As Natasha ponders the device, we can see through the window that the bloke who fired it is still bloody standing on the rooftop opposite, with nobody checking to see. Ugh! He’s wearing a green jacked with a green polo jumper and fedora. It’s grim.

Nearby, we catch up with Rampage, who is still in prison and refusing to get any legal help of any kind. He sends Warren’s lawyer packing, for whatever reason. Waiting in the room next door are Angel and Ghost Rider, and Johnny immediately requests a recap of the last few pages, which Iceman happily obliges to do. Upon hearing about it, Johnny suspects something is up and goes back in to investigate…. as Ghost Rider! But the guards have already been knocked out by some kind of awesome Russian mutant (I’m guessing) and Rampage is already gone.

Looking at where the darkforce beams came from, Ghost Rider sees Rampage joined by Griffin and… DARKSTAR!!!!! <3<3

Griffin goes on the offensive, pounding him down before turning to do a tail whip – AKA my sister’s tactic in Pokemon Blue. That basically sees Ghost Rider off, somehow, but Darkstar blocks Griffin from moving in for a killing blow. They leave him there and head out the window, but are hit by a gas bottle and knocked to the ground. Turns out that Angel threw it, and he “rescues” Rampage from the villains and takes him back to the hospital.

Angel has a short monologue about how clever and grown up he is, which ends when Rampage turns round and smacks him in the balls with a mighty “whud”. Before Angel flaps Rampage to unconsciousness (which is something he legitimately threatens to do, here) Darkstar returns and immediately takes out Angel with no effort whatsoever, because she’s a badass. She makes it look like Angel is dead before handing Rampage back off to Griffin – only for Ghost Rider to start following them. Griffin panics, but Darkstar keeps her composure and hurls darkforce at him from all directions. The attack throws him off his bike, which explodes! I didn’t realise his bike could be destroyed. Darkstar is so powerful and cool.

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Back at The Champions’ incredibly generic HQ, Hercules and Iceman complain about having to have a dedication ceremony to mark the founding of their team. They both just want to be superheroes, but Angel (and Fenster, their manager) seem to be pretty insistent that it has to go ahead and be overly elaborate and fancy. In their bickering, none of the heroes notice that there’s a villain hiding round the other side of their filing cabinet. Whaaaaat?! Fenster notices, and they give chase – Hercules smashing out a wall, Iceman tripping up the suspect – until they find a kid standing there, who needs their help.

The full sized adult villain swapped places with a small, sad child! What a perfect and incomprehensible plan! Whilst the kid cries into Hercules’ toga, the actual filing cabinet fiend escapes – revealing himself in the process to be Ivan’s son. And speaking of Ivan, next we head back to see what he and Black Widow are up to in the lab. Ivan’s dissembled the missile to find a single black pearl inside it, which possibly means that the Pirates of the Caribbean are going to show up by the end of the issue. Wouldn’t surprise me! Or Natasha, actually, because she recognises it.

The pearl then starts talking to them, which they under-react to. Natasha, recognising the voice, finally looks up to the rooftop and sees a man standing there with the other side of the walkie-talkie. She leaps out the window and swings across on a rope to the other rooftop – I’m not sure how physically that’s possible without a grapple, but that’s why she’s the world’s greatest spy. She thinks “Commissar Bruskin” is the man on the roof, which seems to be someone who wants her to defect back to Russia from America.

She looks round for him on the empty rooftop for far too long before she’s somehow snuck up on. Spinning, she smacks the gun out his hand, but his armoured sweater counters her attacks and they meet face to face again. He says that she’s beautiful now, even more than when she was a little girl – so immediately I think we’re all agreed this is creepy. Bruskin was apparently the one who first trained her, and he has some kind of warning he wants to pass along. Why this warning started off by firing a missile into their office is beyond me. Don’t overthink it, I suppose.

Before his actual warning can get passed on, however, he’s hit with an energy beam and knocked out by The Titanium Man! More Russians!! We’re promised that next issue will feature exactly “three super-shock surprises” and not one more, so come back next week and let’s find out which they are!

 

The Champions #7: The Man Who Created The Black Widow!”
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: George Tuska
Inker: Vince Coletta
Letterer: Karen Mantlo
Colourist: Phil Rache

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