Previously, in…THE CHAMPIONS! Warren Worthington III, the erstwhile Angel, decides to put the painful physical and psychological issues he’s been dealing with aside and restart the Champions, his troubled, never-made-it supergroup from nearly a decade ago. His best friend, the Iceman Bobby Drake, has reluctantly agreed to lead 3-D Man (triple human capabilities), Firebird (fire generation, flight), Ultragirl (strength, flight, enhanced vision), and Hercules (strength, immortality) to protect Atlanta, Georgia!
Local crimelords the Lark Brothers discovered that the supervillain suits they thought they were buying from the Tinkerer are, in fact, inferior forgeries of his work. Last issue, with the help of the Trapster, they tracked down the source of the forgeries to a young engineer in Nevada named Corey Kiley. The Trapster was hired to kill Kiley but had a change of heart, giving him information on the Lark Brothers and telling him to go to the Champions for protection.
Meanwhile, at Warren’s urging, the recently out Bobby signed up on a dating app. He assumed his boring profile wouldn’t get much of a response, but to his surprise, almost a hundred Atlanta men responded.
THE CHAMPIONS #6
“Reach Out And…”
Hit the town in style with your host, Gallivantin’ Great Boos Up!
PAGE ONE (SPLASH)
The scene is at a nightclub. Hercules (wearing his regular old Herc gear) is in the back, lifting a couch with three women on it, everyone having a laugh. In the foreground, Warren Worthington, Bonita Juarez (in a conservative black shirt and pants) and Delroy Garrett (in casual clubwear) watch, amused.
HERCULES: HA HA, DO YOU GET IT? I BELIEVE THE IDIOM IS “PICK UP CHICKS”!
WARREN: Man, he still parties the way we did back in the old days.
DELROY: What do you expect? You’re almost ten years older. He never ages, right?
Warren and Delroy have a casual conversation. The whole time, in the background, Hercules is egged on by other patrons to drink larger and larger drinks: a shot, a pint glass, a huge stein, a keg…
WARREN: So…I want to make sure you’re still happy with the Champions, Delroy.
Delroy responds with mock shock.
DELROY: “Wait, you mean my boss took me out for drinks just as a pretext to talk about work??”
WARREN: Ha, but seriously…
DELROY: I cannot complain. I’ll admit, I grumbled about the thing with the chickens1 at the time, but that and the charity work we’ve been doing, and the youth outreach stuff, it feels good. Right, Bonita?
BONITA: I agree.
DELROY: And it’s not like I’m not getting my standard superhero meat and potatoes in, what with all the guys running around Atlanta in secondhand supervillain gear.2
WARREN: It’s been really difficult to crack. Everyone we’ve caught for the cops are too scared to talk.
Cut to: Corey Kiley, the faux Tinkerer, at a bus station, asking for directions.
CAPTION (WARREN): “I feel like if we could just get someone desperate enough…”
COREY: Which line goes through to Atlanta?
Back to the club.
WARREN: But seriously, that’s the last I’ll talk about work stuff. I just want to have a good time, honestly.
WARREN: Suzy’s underage…I feel bad about not including her, now.
BONITA: Why didn’t Bobby come out tonight?
WARREN: Ha, get this: he’s still going on about a million dates.
WARREN: See, he signed up for this dating app, and…well, a superhero on a dating app. Obviously once word got out…
BONITA: He said he was a superhero on his profile?
WARREN: Well, no, he wrote something super boring. Possible self-sabotage.
WARREN: But he used a photo of himself. He’s used to the relative anonymity of the X-Men; he didn’t even think people would see a guy who looks exactly like Iceman of the Champions minus the ice and put it together.
DELROY: So did he freak out or what?
WARREN: No, I think it was actually good for him. Shook him out of his funk.
Bobby’s sitting at a restaurant, rather bored, talking to a guy who’s too excitable about him being a superhero.
CAPTION (WARREN): “I’m sure he’s having a great time.”
DATE: So: Captain America. Is it all an act? Is he really the way he seems on TV?
BOBBY: Uh, I mean, I don’t know him super well. But he’s always seemed like a pretty genuine dude when…
DATE: My roommate’s got a huge thing for Daredevil. Did you ever fight him?
BOBBY: I mean…I’ve fought a lot of people, it all sort of runs together after a while…
BOBBY (thinking): Okay, this bites. But I’m gonna stay positive. Certainly someone wants to actually talk to me as a person and not as a superhero.
Time passes. We get three single-panel vignettes about Bobby on dates on different days with different guys.
BRO: I just want you to know that, like, I’m down with the mutant thing, you know? I’m super-woke, actually.
YOUNG “INTELLECTUAL”: …liberal media likes to dogpile on Tony Stark, but if we had more successful businessmen in politics and on superhero teams…
BEARD-O: So you and the Angel. Tell me something ever went on there. I mean…I heard part of his mutation is that he has zero percent body fat?
Cut to Bobby having a really deep heart-to-heart talk with a guy.
BOBBY: I never even kissed a guy until college. I mean, I went out with this girl as a teenager, but it never really got all that physical because…well, I didn’t want it to, right?
BOBBY: But then once I was away from my family, my friends, on my own. I thought…”It’s college. Maybe if I can get it out of my system now…”
DATE: I know what you mean. I actually slept with my prom date in high school. ”Maybe I’ll get used to it.”
BOBBY: Hey, this is…this is really great to be able to talk to you about this. To open up. I haven’t had…great luck with this dating thing so far.
DATE: Yeah, I—
DATE: Oh, hey, there’s no ice in this drink. Do you think you could…you know…
Bobby’s eye twitches.
Cut to Bobby going through the app.
BOBBY (thinking): All right, dating app, you get one more shot. Show me someone who doesn’t just want superhero gossip or to freak out their parents dating a mutant…
BOBBY (thinking): Okay, “Gunther,” I’m up to catch a Braves game. Tomorrow at noon at SunTrust Park. This better not be a huge mistake.
The next day. Corey Kiley, wearing a Zeppelin T-shirt and lugging a very heavy-duty metal suitcase, gets off the bus at the station, nervously.
He asks the person at the ticket counter where the Champions Center is. They tell him and he thanks them.
In the foreground, we see a shadowy figure has heard the exchange.
In a series of wordless panels, Corey walks to the Champions Center downtown. He is completely oblivious to the shadowy figure in the background of every panel following him.
Corey walks into the Champions HQ. The shadowy figure waits outside and makes a phone call.
FIGURE: Mister Lark? This is Tomlinson. You know, the new new Unicorn?
FIGURE: That inventor guy just showed up. Just like you figured…
PHONE: Then we don’t have much time. Return to home base for instructions.
Close-up of the suitcase, opened on Warren’s desk. It has a Blizzard suit in it.
WARREN: This suit certainly seems to back up your claims, Mr. Kiley.
WARREN: My assistant, Ms. Green, tells me you claim to have made the suits for all of Atlanta’s new supervillains.
KILEY: Not all, just most.
WARREN: They’re defective.
KILEY: Look, technically I only sold these as “working replicas.”
KILEY: Like I told your assistant, I graduated at the top of my class in engineering but I’m drowning in student loan debt. So I whipped these up to sell to Devlin DeAngelo, and they made their way here, and now the Lark Brothers want to kill me!
WARREN: “Lark Brothers”?
COREY: You don’t know them? The Trapster said they run all the crime in this town.
WARREN: The Trapster?!
Corey pulls out a manila folder.
COREY: He gave me all the info he had on these guys. I’ll turn this over to you, to the cops, whoever. Just keep me safe!
Warren’s assistant, Laura Green, comes in to show Corey out.
LAURA: My associate is just outside. He’ll show you to some temporary accommodations while we figure out what to do.
COREY: Oh thank God! You won’t regret this!
Warren slumps back in his seat. Laura takes the dossier.
LAURA: I’ll contact the police and the FBI, run this through with them.
WARREN: Thanks Laura.
WARREN: I couldn’t do this—any of this—without you, you know.
WARREN: Nobody but you could’ve figured out Firebrand, Scorcher, and Jack O’Lantern’s connection to Zachary Saxony.3 I’m sure you’ll figure this out.
LAURA: Thank you, si—Warren.
LAURA: What’s going to happen to him?
WARREN: Corey Kiley will have to answer for his crimes. Selling working supervillain equipment to a known arms dealer.
WARREN: But…if the information in this dossier is legitimate, it’ll give us and the police the answers to who’s been behind all the supervillain crime in Atlanta, hopefully stop it.
WARREN: The courts won’t overlook that.
Warren gets up to leave.
LAURA: So you think he has a shot at redemption?
WARREN: I think everyone has.
WARREN: That’s—what this version of the Champions is really about, I guess.
WARREN: Second chances.
Warren exits the room. Laura stands behind, meaningfully silent.
Bobby at the Braves game, sitting next to an empty seat, checking his watch. He’s wearing a plain jacket and a baseball cap.
BOBBY (thinking): My ticket was at the gate, but still no sign of my date.
BOBBY (thinking): It’s bottom of the second already. Did I get ditched? Man, I don’t even really care about baseball, I just…
Someone comes up beside him. We don’t see his face yet.
MAN: I think this is my seat.
Bobby looks up.
BOBBY: Oh! You showed. I almost–
Close-up of Bobby, shocked.
BOBBY: Oh no. Oh no.
MAN: Yep. I’m your “date,” Iceman.
Big reveal of a sinister looking man, looking down on Bobby.
MAN: Unus the Untouchable.
An abandoned building. Hercules, smiling, comes crashing through a wall. Ultragirl, also smiling, comes crashing through another one. Smashing their way through, they bring the whole thing down on top of them. After a moment, they emerge from the rubble, unscathed and laughing.
A foreman in a construction worker’s helmet meets them outside.
FOREMAN: Can’t thank you enough for acting as an improvised wrecking crew. Ever since Derek Disaster hijacked all those wreckers the other week,4 we’ve been short on equipment while the city removes all his drone technology from our vehicles, and this building was a safety hazard as long as it remained up.
ULTRAGIRL: Our pleasure, sir. The Champions are always here to lend a hand!
Ultragirl and Hercules walk over to their Champscraft.
ULTRAGIRL: Nice workout, huh? You really looked like you were having a good time.
HERCULES: AYE. TO REVEL IN SHEER POWER! TO FEEL SOLID ROCK CRUMBLE UNDER YOUR MIGHT! TO FEEL STEEL TWIST AND SHRIEK IN YOUR BARE HANDS!
They get in the Champscraft. UG drives.
ULTRAGIRL: Like, I haven’t even had powers this long and I’m already almost taking them for granted.
ULTRAGIRL: You’re like from ancient times and you still get this excited about them?
The Champscraft takes off.
HERCULES: IT IS…BECAUSE I AM IMMORTAL, YOU SEE. THE SECRET TO ENJOYING A LONG LIFE AND STAYING ENGAGED IN THE WORLD IS TO TAKE TIME TO APPRECIATE SUCH THINGS EVERY DAY.
ULTRAGIRL: That is so cool.
Hercules gets very serious.
HERCULES: UNDERSTAND, FRIEND ULTRAGIRL. I—
HERCULES: I TAKE THE CHANCE TO DO GOOD WITH THE CHAMPIONS VERY SERIOUSLY. I WANT YOU TO KNOW THIS.
HERCULES: I WOULD DO ANYTHING TO BELONG.
The Champscraft rockets off into the distance.
ULTRAGIRL: Well…just keep doin’ what you’re doin’ I guess, right?
HERCULES: BELIEVE ME. I INTEND TO.
Back at the stadium. Unus punches Bobby and sends him tumbling down rows of seats. Baseball fans keep their distance but gather around to watch what they think is going to be a normal fight.
Bobby wipes his face.
BOBBY: You’re my date? What’re the odds?
Unus reacts harshly.
UNUS: Hey, I ain’t gay, punk!
UNUS: But the rumor started goin’ around that one of the original X-Men was going out on a date with pretty much anybody who asked.
UNUS: So I set a trap.
Bobby turns away.
BOBBY: You want a fight? Forget it.
BOBBY: You’re mad the X-Men kicked your butt a dozen times? I really do not care, and I don’t want anyone getting hurt. I’m taking off.
UNUS: I figured you might try to walk away. That’s why I brought along somebody else who wants to see you dead.
Suddenly, the Vanisher appears, grabs two kids, and teleports to the top of the scoreboard. He yells that he’ll throw them to their dooms if Bobby runs away.
Bobby grimaces. Close-up of putting his hands in his jacket pockets.
Then he throws off his jacket and ices up.
Iceman forms a dome of ice around Unus. Unus expands his forcefield and the dome shatters.
UNUS: Forget it, punk! My forcefield’ll smash through your stupid little ice cocoons.
He grabs a bat and extends his forcefield around the bat.
UNUS: Here’s a neat trick I haven’t done in a while…
Iceman puts up a bunch of ice barriers between him and Unus.
ICEMAN: C’mon man, all I wanted to do today was maybe go on a date that wasn’t about me being a superhero, and look at me now!
Unus smashes through a barrier with his bat.
UNUS: Oh boo hoo!
UNUS: You know me. You know how my forcefield gets out of control sometimes and I can’t touch anything.
UNUS: Or anyone.
The Vanisher cheers Unus on as his kid hostages look on, terrified.
VANISHER: Smash him, Unus!
VANISHER: Revenge for the many indignities we suffered under Xavier’s brats!
Unus smashes through another barrier, his rage increasing.
UNUS: Do you know what it’s like? Putting up barriers your whole life between you and other people? Unable to get close to someone…even when you want to?
ICEMAN: Hey, I totally do! Literally and figuratively, see?
Unus gets through the last barrier and smashes Iceman with the bat.
UNUS: Shut up!
UNUS: You got some nerve, y’know. You’re young and you’re good looking and you still whine about it!
Unus extends his arm, and his forcefield picks up Bobby by his neck, strangling him.
UNUS: Who loves Unus the Untouchable, huh?
ICEMAN (quiet): Well…not me…especially…
Suddenly a jet of flame shoots by Unus. It startles him, and he lets Bobby go.
Unus looks up, and Firebird comes swooping down.
Bobby pulls out his communicator from his jacket pocket, indicating that he contacted her and was stalling for time.
Firebird shoots a low-level flame blast, but Unus puts up his forcefield.
UNUS: Dumb broad. You must not know very much about me or you’d know I’m not afraid of a little fire.
Firebird looks intense.
FIREBIRD: That’s where you’re wrong.
FIREBIRD: When Iceman signaled me, I checked your file. I know how your powers work.
She unleashes a dome of flame around Unus.
FIREBIRD: Your forcefield is invisible, which means light can get through it. And heat.
UNUS: Ha! You ain’t got the guts to cook me alive in my forcefield.
Unus, under barrage from the heat from the flames his forcefield is keeping at bay, begins to sweat.
UNUS: Or maybe you do, what do I know?
UNUS: Go ahead, babe. Turn up the heat. What do I care?
UNUS: Who cares if Unus the Untouchable lives or dies?
The Vanisher panics.
He teleports from the top of the scoreboard into Unus’ forcefield.
VANISHER: Leave him alone!
They both teleport away.
Bobby de-ices while Firebird grabs the two kids from the top of the scoreboard and safely deposits them back on the ground.
BOBBY: Well, how about that?
BOBBY: I guess someone cares about Unus the Untouchable after all.
FIREBIRD: I came as soon as I got your signal. I never intended to kill Unus, of course, but I thought I could incapacitate him.
Firebird flames off and they talk.
BOBBY: It worked one way or another.
FIREBIRD: Where are they?
BOBBY: Who knows? The Vanisher’s a teleporter. They could be anywhere by now.
FIREBIRD: Warren told us that you’ve been reluctant to start dating. Is this going to…discourage you?
BOBBY: You know what? Just the opposite.
BOBBY: I probably better stop finding reasons not to reach out and connect to other people if I don’t want to end up bitter and alone like Unus there.
Bobby looks hesitant.
BOBBY: Uh…hey, since we’re on the subject. I know you’re very…religious, and…I’m gay, you know. If that’s a problem, you know…that’s your problem, but I want to know if you…
FIREBIRD: Bobby, I…was raised to believe certain things. Most of them I still believe, but some…
FIREBIRD: We’re all God’s children, I decided that a long time ago.
FIREBIRD: And obviously, I worked with the Living Lightning for years!
She walks away. Bobby stays behind, rather surprised.
BOBBY: Really, Living Lightning…?
An elderly woman in a tenement building gets up and goes to the window. Her eyes widen at what she sees.
The Beetle comes in through her window.
WOMAN: Did you remember the hummus?
BEETLE: Do I ever forget it?
The Beetle produces a bag of groceries, which the old woman takes. She thanks him and he graciously accepts. He says he has a few more elderly people to drop off some groceries for. Then he scuttles out the window. He crawls up the fire escape. And on the top of a building, someone calls to him off-panel.
VOICE: Hey, Beetle!
The new Unicorn greets Beetle. The Beetle is pretty much frozen.
UNICORN: It is “Beetle,” right? I thought I knew everyone but I recognize the costume from the Thunderbolts thing back in the day.
UNICORN: Bosses are calling a meeting. You already on the way?
UNICORN: You gotta keep on top of your email better, bro.
UNICORN: We’re gonna invade the Champions’ headquarters! It’s gonna be epic, I’m telling you.
UNICORN: You coming?
Beetle is silent a moment.
In a meeting room, Warren is going over the facts of the case with the team. There’s a picture of the Lark Brothers on an interactive screen.
WARREN: Their names are Bartleby and Milo Lark. Brothers from Seattle.
WARREN: And if our Mr. Kiley is to be believed, they run all of the crime in this town and are pulling the strings of the supervillains running around.
ULTRAGIRL: Oh my god. They bought knockoffs.
WARREN: Excuse me?
ULTRAGIRL: Like fashion designers, y’know? You can get a knockoff Louis Vuitton. I never imagined you could get a knockoff Tinkerer.
Laura Green enters the room. Instantly, in the background, 3-D Man perks up.
LAURA: Oh, I’m sorry, I’m interrupting.
WARREN: Actually, if this is about the Lark Brothers, you’re right on time.
WARREN: You’ve met Bobby, but I don’t think any of the rest of the team has met you yet.
WARREN: Champs, this is Laura Green, my personal assistant. She’s the—
Suddenly, 3-D Man LEAPS over the table and punches Laura in the face. Everyone is, as you can imagine, shocked.
Everyone is trying to hold 3-D Man back, but he’s screaming, pointing his finger at Laura.
BOBBY: Delroy, what the hell, man?
3-D MAN: Show them! Show them or I’ll keep hitting until you can’t hold that shape anymore!
3-D MAN: Reveal yourself!
All eyes on Laura. She closes her eyes. Her body changes into the form of a female Skrull.
SKRULL: M—my name is Lyja.
SKRULL: I can explain…
NEXT: Holy jumpin’ catfish, what next? Just a little something we had to call ASSAULT ON THE CHAMPIONS CENTER! On time, this time, we promise!