Credits: Tom & Mary Bierbaum (writer), Terry Shoemaker (penciler), Sean Parsons & Harry Candelario (inkers), Marie Javins (colors), Comicraft (letters)
Summary: While on a road trip, X-Force discovers the giant hand of a mythological Titan emerging from Yosemite. Nearby, they discover Hercules rescuing a girl named Victoria from a cult. Hercules explains that a power granted to the Champions by Zeus can force the Titan back home. The Champions soon arrive, but realize too late that their spell is actually accelerating the Titan’s arrival. The cult leader reveals himself as Hades and explains that he altered the Champions’ memory of their encounter with Zeus. X-Force and the Champions trick Hades into boasting about his plan, which forces him to flee from the angry Titan. With Moonstar’s help, the Champions perform the ritual again and scare the Titan away from Earth. Cannonball, who bonded with Victoria, is disappointed to discover her role in Hades’ scheme. She reveals that she does care for him, but advises him not to forget his true friends, Sunspot and Meltdown.
Continuity Notes: The Champions’ first battle with Hades, then called Pluto, occurred in Champions #1-3.
I Love the '90s: Meltdown compares Proudstar’s muscles to Screech’s after meeting Hercules.
Review: Marvel would occasionally produce a comic flagrantly intended as a trademark renewal, and this is one of them. And, clearly, their efforts weren’t for naught. Surely, the next regime wouldn’t be sloppy enough to let another company snatch up the name “Champions” and only discover they didn’t own the rights after a new series with that name had been solicited. That would be like hiring a writer with little experience outside of pornography to write titles like Uncanny X-Men, Avengers, and Captain America. It just wouldn’t happen.
Anyway, just because this comic exists to maintain a superhero team name, that doesn’t mean it has to be terrible. I mean, it is terrible, but not for any legal reasons. I’ve never read any of the Bierbaums’ DC work, but I own most of the Savage Dragon spinoffs they wrote for Erik Larsen in the ‘90s. Most of them are enjoyable comics (especially the Star limited series, which is a lot of fun). This is not. The dialogue is stilted, the action is indecipherable, and the plot hinges on poorly explained elements from the first three issues of the Bronze Age Champions series. It’s a rushed, cramped, and ugly comic. “Ugly” isn’t a word I would normally use to describe a Terry Shoemaker comic, but this was apparently a rush job that can’t be saved by the inkers. The characters often appear inhuman, and several of the fight scenes are hard to decipher. It’s easy to see why people stopped buying annuals if this was the level of quality they expected to find.