By Sara Century
The original Champions book is generally known for being thematically disjointed and low on meaningful character or plot beats, but when one embraces the sheer chaotic nature of the series, it can be pretty fun. A hodgepodge of heroes that never seemed particularly well-attuned to one another, the book followed the combined Los Angeles adventures of Black Widow, Angel, Iceman, Black Goliath, Ghost Rider, and, of course, as of Champions #7, Darkstar. Though she would never officially join the team, our girl Laynia Sergeievna Petrovna would go on to make an impression (on the remaining issues of this short-lived series, anyway).
Issue #13 kicks off with Black Goliath returning from a fight with Stilt-Man only to find the shiny new Champions HQ under attack! This series would only run for about four more issues after this, so one assumes that this random skyscraper in the middle of LA is going to be a pretty hefty tax write-off for someone, somewhere, at some point. Confused by the apparent electrical storm surrounding the building, Goliath decides it’s time to simply climb to the top and figure out what to do when he gets there.
When he reaches the apex of all the chaos, Goliath discovers The Stranger, struggling to control a bomb that was stolen from Tony Stark, which now threatens to destroy the world (maybe stop building bombs, Tony). The Champions were sent to recover the Runestaff, which The Stranger didn’t realize was actually misplaced in previous issues. Goliath decides to defeat the bomb by punching it in the face, so it spits out some attack robots for him to play with for a while.
The rest of the team were sent to retrieve the Runestaff, which The Stranger believed to still be located somewhere on the homeworld of the Thor villain Kamo Tharn. Yet, Hercules recaps for us that he stole this Runestaff with Lady Sif in order to help Thor. Tharn immediately attacks the Champions with the help of his rapidly multiplying Beast Men. Black Widow and Hercules agree that they are both willing to fight to the death while Iceman gently urges them to focus on living. The Champions all fight the Beast Men, but Angel acknowledges that it might be a losing battle due to sheer numbers.
While the rest of the team busies themselves fighting an endless supply of Tharn’s minions, Darkstar sees a (literal) opening in a small rip in the fabric of space, and she takes it. This was the exit strategy granted them by The Stranger, but it’s shrinking fast as he struggles to contain the bomb. Darkstar leaps right through in hopes of keeping the portal open. Iceman, an absolute dolt, leaps after her.
While Darkstar is protected from the pressures of deep space by her energy signature, the Darkforce, Iceman frantically attempts to build a cocoon made of ice to protect himself as he trails along after her. When they make it back to Earth, Laynia focuses on actually solving their problems while Bobby Drake whines about her not paying more attention to him. Meanwhile, she quite literally saves the world by retrieving the Runestaff and using it to end all threats. The Champions are returned home, and everyone has a good day except for Bobby Drake.
Laynia breaking Iceman’s heart in this issue is just one of the many things that makes her a true icon; she also absolutely saves the day in a way that no one else could have. By paying attention to the threat at hand and not allowing Iceman to distract her, Laynia did everything the exact right way she needed to in order to make sure everyone lived to fight another day.
While Bobby glares at her like a petulant child and makes a bad joke about dying of neglect, Darkstar refuses to take full credit for absolutely single-handedly saving everyone’s lives. Though the other Champions disperse quickly, Black Widow takes the time to personally thank Darkstar, insisting that they owe her one, big time.
“You have given me belonging! That is enough!” says Darkstar, our beloved hero, who is humble and gracious, as well as beautiful and kind.
The Champions #13: Refuge
Written by Bill Mantlo
Pencilled by John Byrne
Inked by Bob Layton
Coloured by Bruce Patterson and George Roussos
Lettered by Irving Watanabe
Sara Century is an artist, writer, and filmmaker, among other things. She’s the co-founder of the Queer Spec publishing company and its anthology Decoded Pride as well as being a cohost of the podcast Bitches On Comics. Check her website for more or follow her on Twitter here!
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