Review by Ian Keogh
For the generations of Marvel fans who grew up in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s whether Thor was stronger than the Hulk was a question for the times. Marvel played along with with this, never providing a definitive answer, although The Avengers/Defenders War featured a well fought draw. Given the lower profile of both the Hulk and Thor over the course of the 21st century, does the question of which is strongest now occupy forums? Is it a question answered in Champions of the Universe? What do you think?
Jeremy Whitley’s approach isn’t entirely successful. To begin with the light comedy method he uses crosses a line to give the impression this is a graphic novel aimed at the younger end of the Marvel demographic. It’s not, as later jokes about drinking and sex confirm. However, neither is it until the third chapter’s dragon story that the feeling of juvenilia fades. By then Whitley has introduced the plot of the Hulk and Thor having to compete in a number of environments for the right to fight the Champion, an Elder of the Universe whose strength is legendary, and who considers our two heroes upstarts. The clever element is Whitley’s definition of strength extending beyond just physical power, so the Hulk and Thor face a desperate situation and psychological interrogation as well as the more expected scenarios.
Artists Simone Buonfantino (sample art left) and Alti Firmansyah alternate on chapters, each having a decent enough superhero style that moves the story along. They both edge toward cartooning, with Buonfantino the stronger when it comes to laying out an interesting page, and more likely to move the reader’s viewpoint out a little further.
With our heroes set a task of collecting an object from each location they’re transported to, astute readers will figure out there’s possibly more going on than is being explained by the Champion’s assistant, the Promoter. Ultimately Whitley works his story into a dead end and can’t figure out anything better than a random complete change of mind over a couple panels to solve the situation. The tone throughout has been jokey, but even so something better might have been expected. There are good moments in Champions of the Universe, but also space filler and unconvincing patchwork, so not a must have graphic novel.