Champions Universe Review

By TheEmerged, AKA Thomas C. Huskey

Last Update Dec 3, 2002

 

First Impressions

 

·        I like the non-traditional starting point for the mythology of the costumed superhero!  While most universes have a tradition of the occasional “preemie” superhero, having the tradition go to the Revolutionary War is a nice touch.  It also connects the “superhero” to America in a nicely different way.

·        The books Planetary and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are obvious and welcome inspirations for the backstory.  I’ve always felt that superheroic comic books haven’t given the pulps and dime novels sufficient credit as their own ancestors.

·        I don’t like the idea that the Nazis are given credit for creating the modern era of superheroes.  I’ll bet there’s more to it than this (I haven’t even LOOKED beyond page 11 as I type this), but it just rubs me the wrong way.

·        The Grover Mill incident is real J  Granted this one is almost cliché anymore, but it’s a cliché I’m personally fond of.

·        Disappointment alert!  The whole “Axis protected by a mystical spell” copout is used.  That sound in the background is my dog trying to cover his nose.  At least losing their powers & falling into a coma is a little less laughable than the DC Universe’s “Become a Black Hat” nonsense.

·        “Long-term exposure to the energies of the Janus Key has moved Dr. Macabre along the sanity spectrum from eccentric to outright barmy.”  Hah!

·        I like the explanation about a large part of the suspicion the US has for UNTIL (CU pg 16).

·        I wonder if the black superheroes pictured on pages 16 & 17 are supposed to be the same guy – because one has a right fist pictured, the other a left fist (among other differences in costume).  This might be intentional, I seem to recall something about each fist being raised having a different meaning to black radicals.  If it’s intentional and these are different characters, insert applause here.  UPDATE: Apparently this is a synchronicity of epic proportions!

·        Ah, the ever popular Celestials… er, Progenitors explanation for how humanity has the potential for superpowers.  I guess this is what the Nazi’s “awakened”.

·        I’m going to skip the rest of the timeline for now, as it deserves a fuller treatment than a “first impression” can fairly grant.

·        Champions Universe Characteristics Standards, page 28 – nice.  I’m especially glad that “Superhuman” is set at 31+ instead of 21+.  Put THAT in your “Batman has a Dex of 20” argument and smoke it J

·        Prevalence of Superhumans & Superhuman Distribution, page 31.  Woot!  Most games just throw out blatant ratios with big, round numbers (1 in a million).  This is actually relatively close to the concept I’ve long used for The Emergence universe, except I’ve always been to lazy to put it to specific numbers.  I may need to get a clarification on reading that chart though…

·        Superhumans and Dark Champions sidebar, page 32 – do-WHA?  Need a little more of an explanation than that, boys and girls.  That “some unspoken agreement” throwaway on page 80 isn’t any better.

·        Hero to villain ratio (page 33) seems too low.  However, I like the statement that most super-powered people are actually neither.

·        Treatment of the Registration Act is too… simplistic for lack of a better term.  I find the assertion that the database has never been tampered with or used for ill purposes just a notch short of laughable.

·        Artwork for Victory, page 42.  I shouldn’t harp, especially given my own distinctive lack of graphic arts talent, but my opinion of the artwork in the book took a nosedive on this one.

·        No Captain Australia?  I’m disappointed J  This particular point is sarcasm!

·        No Sentinels in Canada?  I’m sorry, Northern Guard doesn’t sound right.

·        I find Great Britain’s version of the registration act to be contradictory to their real-world history (consider their treatment of firearms, for example).

·        As of page 48, I’m a little disappointed about how little of the existing continuity has carried over.  I can’t say I’m surprised, strictly speaking, because it follows the pattern from Champions.  That doesn’t mean I like it.  Are there legal issues involved or something?

·        Why am I not surprised at the extensive “Superhumans and the Law” section?

·        Why am I also not surprised at its quality?

·        I find the insanity defense material amusing.

·        Final note about the legal section – a sidebar about which of the legal decisions named (naming the cases was a nice touch btw) are actually real or based on real decisions would have been interesting.

·        The technology section had the same “copout” feeling the World War 2 explanation did.  While I recognize the charms of the Astro City mentality (superheroes have existed without really changing the world that much), the flaws are equally recognizable.

·        The world/map section is nicely done…

·        …But it just brings me back to the whole “Why weren’t more of the pre-existing continuity/material/characters used?”

·        The city-specific material is good but not great – a little bit too “techy fanboy” for my personal taste.

·        Monster Island, page 94.  Insert Godzilla-fanboi praise here.

·        PC alert!  Okay, if it weren’t so obvious I wouldn’t criticize this but – all three of Victory’s “Plot Seeds” involve her being a victim in some way (her powers going out of control so she goes to a villain for help, she discovers an alien invasion and crashes into the heroes’ base comatose, and she gets turned into a living battery by Mechanon).  That’s very poor form there, folks.

·        In fairness, both Binary Man & Stalwart are presented as less-than-heroic characters, and their plot seeds reflect this.

·        Text, page 132.  Yes, I know the correction is already up – which I appreciate.  Errata Link Here!

·        The picture on the bottom of page 148 is very suggestive of Sanctuary, something conspicuous by absence of mention.

·        Speaking of the same picture, I hope Greg realizes he must die now for implying poor Solitaire is working as a barmaid… J

·        The adventure is okay, although it commits the barely-pardonable sin of “use so-and-so’s writeup”.  As short as it is, personally I think DOJ would’ve been better off dropping this and adding more character writeups.

·        BTW, the adventure includes a piece of artwork from earlier in the book.  That’s poor form, although far from unheard of.

 

Bottom Line?

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