After a series of cryptic teasers, Marvel solicits revealed what the teen superhero team the Champions will be up to beginning in October, starting with Champions #25. Namely, that they’ll be heading to Weirdworld (Marvel’s bizarre, magically-inclined realm) to rescue their friends, and, during the course of their adventure, adopt fantasy versions of their costumes. Essentially, the Champions are stuck in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for the winter.
It’s not terribly surprising to see this happen on some level. Champions writer Jim Zub has a history with D&D; not only has he written comics set in their universe, but he’s also in the writer’s seat for the upcoming Rick and Morty and Dungeons & Dragons comic, due out later this year. It’s just another day at the office for him, and it’s fortunate that now is the right time to do this story with these characters.
Dungeons & Dragons has always had a bit of a negative air about it, even in geek circles. “Sure, I read comics all the time, but at least I don’t play D&D.” That was the prevailing thought for years, but recent history has been kinder to those who partake in pen and paper dice rolls. It wasn’t until the release of Fifth Edition and the bigger emphasis on characters, story and inclusion that the property enjoyed a resurgence. If those factors helped a little, then what helped a lot were podcasts focused around Dungeons & Dragons, particularly The Adventure Zone and Critical Role, the former of which had its first graphic novel published recently and became the first graphic novel to ever top the New York Times‘ trade fiction list.
These days, everything is referencing D&D. Popular cartoons such as Voltron: Legendary Defender and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have episodes that put their characters in a D&D environment. Last year’s Prey featured a side quest centered around the in-universe equivalent of tabletop gaming. Fans just love putting characters from nearly every property into a D&D setting to determine what their class and alignment would be, and there was something simply exciting about the Champions teasers that showed the team in their fantasy garb.
As teenagers, the Champions are all in the right age bracket to get into tabletop gaming. Previous issues of both Champions and each member’s solo adventures have established that they’re all nerds in their own right; Kamala and Miles both write fan fiction, Viv and Amadeus play video games together, and Riri and Nadia are both scientific prodigies. At least one of them has to be into whatever the in-universe equivalent of D&D is, and it’ll be fun watching as they as all react to both their costumes and whatever nonsense Weirdworld throws at them.
If comic book superheroes are going to continue to be relevant, they’ll need to adapt with the times, and getting into D&D is part of that. Gary Gygax’s creation has gotten some life breathed back into it and the simple hook of “superheroes, in a fantasy setting with fantasy costumes” is too good of an opportunity to pass up. DC tried the same thing with Dark Nights: Metal earlier in the year, and it turned out to be one of the most gonzo and fun things the publisher ever did. Recent events have been wild for the Marvel heroes — and will continue to be, thanks to the Infinity Stones — so it’s only natural for things to get weird as well.
Champions #25 is written by Jim Zub with art by Sean Izaakse and Max Dunbar. It is scheduled to be released on Oct. 3 by Marvel Entertainment.
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