Champions #17

Issue Date: 
February 1978
Story Title: 
The Sentinels Hunt Again!

Bill Mantlo (Writer), John Byrne (Penciler), George Tuska (Inker), John Costanza (Letterer), Phil Rachelson (Colorist), Archie Goodwin (Editor)

Brief Description: 

A quiet night at Champions HQ for the Black Widow and Hercules is interrupted by the arrival of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants - Blob, Lorelei and Unus, who are being pursued by Sentinels. The Black Widow and Hercules offer the Evil Mutants sanctuary, while they deal to the Sentinels. During the battle, Black Widow manages to activate the Champs-signal on their skyscraper HQ, unaware that a mysterious figure is lurking in the shadows, watching the battle. Meanwhile, Angel is soaring the skies of Los Angeles, when he sees the Champs-signal. He goes to collect Iceman and Darkstar who are waiting in line to see Ghost Rider’s new movie, though Iceman is not keen to see it. When they see Angel, they realize something is wrong, and Iceman switches to his ice-form, revealing himself to be a mutant in front of a large crowd of people - this angers the crowd, who attack him, though he and Darkstar hold their own. Ghost Rider arrives and aids his teammates, before Angel reports that something is wrong at HQ. Iceman and Ghost Rider argue, before everyone makes their way to their HQ, seen by the mysterious lurking figure, who is pleased that the rest of the Champions have returned. The Champions immediately engage the Sentinels, while Black Widow explains why the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are present. One by one the Sentinels fall, and Unus explains how the Brotherhood came to be pursued by the Sentinels, before the mysterious figure reveals himself as the Vanisher - and stuns the six Champions, rendering them unconscious. The Vanisher explains that he wanted revenge against the X-Men, and hoped to lure the X-Men to him by killing Iceman and Angel. Darkstar however overheard the Vanisher’s story, and to save her teammates, she reanimates one of the Sentinels, causing it to take out the Brotherhood. The Vanisher threatens to kill Darkstar, when Iceman wakes and ices the Vanisher’s weapon. The Vanisher prepares to teleport away, but Darkstar uses her Darkforce against him, trapping him mid-teleport. A desperate Darkstar seeks comfort with Iceman, while the Champions wonder what to make of Darkstar, and what to do now.

Full Summary: 

After several recent battles, the Champions have taken some time out at the Los Angeles headquarters for rest - but, fate it seems has other plans, Hercules and Natasha Romanova a.k.a. the Black Widow discover when the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants - Blob, Unus the Untouchable and Lorelie - burst into one of their rooms. ‘We’re under attack!’ the Black Widow exclaims, remarking that their alarm system is out as it was damaged during the battle with Swarm. ‘We had no warning!’ she declares.

But as the Black Widow and Hercules leap to their feet, the Blob tells them that they have it wrong. ‘It’s us that’s being attacked! And we need your help - cause the Sentinels hunt again!’ the Blob exclaims as three Sentinels burst into the room, shattering the outside wall to the Champions HQ. One of the Sentinels states that the Blob is correct, and that he, Unus and Lorelie are their prey. ‘Surrender mutants - or die!’ the second Sentinel exclaims, while the third addresses Hercules and the Black Widow as non-mutants and tells them not to interfere, unless they wish to be destroyed.

‘They’ve found us! No one can save us!’ Unus the Untouchable exclaims, while Hercules tells the robot to have a care, and warns it that he will go hard if it dare command the Son of Zeus. The Black Widow points out that the Sentinels are ignoring them, and attacking the others. One of the Sentinels picks Unus up and tells him to cease struggling as it has cancelled his repelling powers. ‘No! Help!’ Unus calls out, while Hercules realizes that the Sentinels do ignore them, denying those who petitioned their aid the right of sanctuary.

Hercules tells the Black Widow that honor demands he enter the fray, with all the shattering strength of his immortal sinews! With that, he smacks one of the Sentinels in the head. One of the other Sentinels reports the critical dysfunction recorded by its fellow, while the other tells it to assist, while it deals to the mutants alone, and reaches out for the Blob and Lorelei. The Blob remarks to Lorelei that they were fools, as there are only two heroes here, and they don’t stand a chance against the Sentinels. ‘We may only be two, Blob - but we’re still Champions!’ the Black Widow snaps back as she unleashes her widow’s sting on one of the Champions, adding that no Sentinel is going to take the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants out of here unless it is over the Champions’ dead bodies - that may be sooner than Natasha realizes as the Sentinel retaliates, blasting her with an energy beam, causing her to fall like one fatally injured.

‘Effectiveness of female non-mutant…neutralized!’ the Sentinel announces, while the Black Widow carefully reaches for a control panel, thinking to herself that the Sentinel Is clearly wrong, as she twisted herself away from the burst just before it hit. Natasha knew that It would bring her closer to the instrument panel, and after pressing some buttons, the windows of the upper floors of the Champions skyscraper go dark, a pre-arranged pattern, they form a huge “C”.

That causes one of the Sentinels to announce that its sensors compute that a warning signal has been activated. ‘And it will bring the rest of the Champions against you, robot!’ the Black Widow declares, while Hercules exclaims that he and the Black Widow insure that they do not depart before their teammates arrive. The Black Widow exclaims that they will try, and turns to the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, declaring that they will need their help. ‘Help? You…you’ the Blob asks. ‘But we came to you for help! They can neutralize our powers!’ he exclaims. ‘Blast you! Then Hercules and I will have to hold them off - and hope the others get here in time!’ Natasha exclaims.

As the battle continues, no one notices a man dressed in green hiding behind a corner, watching the proceedings. ‘Good, good! Even better than I planned!’ he thinks to himself, realizing that the Black Widow takes the Blob’s protest for cowardice. ‘Soon all the Champions will be assembled to fight the Sentinels - unaware that the real menace lurks in the shadows!

Meanwhile, soaring the night winds high above Los Angeles is Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel, suddenly sees the Champsignal go off, and remembers that Hercules and Natasha had stayed behind at HQ together. Warren swiftly turns around in the air and supposes that the signal could have turned itself on, or gone haywire like every other system he purchased, before deciding that it might be a genuine alert, and that he cannot take chances. Warren tells himself that he needs to get the others first and then get to HQ fast.

Down below, in amongst the milling crowds, Bobby “Iceman” Drake and Laynia “Darkstar” Petrovna are waiting in line to see a film featuring their teammate Johnny Blaze. The glamorous Laynia tells bobby that American crowds are much like those of Leningrad. ‘I hope they have better taste in Russia, Laynia! I mean biker flicks are the pits!’ Bobby replies. ‘Even if they do co-star our blazing teammate!’ he adds, before seeing Angel fly through a skyward pointing spotlight. ‘Look!’ he exclaims. Laynia adds that Warren knew the two of them were coming here, before Bobby switches into his ice form, and exclaims that Angel must be trying to find them, which means there is trouble. ‘Bless his feathered little heart! Now we don’t have to see this movie!’ Bobby exclaims, while the crowd of people begin staring at him: ‘What - what are you? A frozen streaker?’ one of them asks.

‘No! It’s that mutant freak - the Iceman!’ someone else shouts. ‘Since when did being a mutant become a crime, friend?’ Bobby replies. ‘Since you and your partners started using L.A. for a battleground!’ another civilian exclaims as several of them reach out for Iceman, but as one of them puts a hand on Bobby’s arm, he shouts that Iceman is so cold. ‘What’d you think this was - window dressing?’ Bobby asks. One of the civilians calls Iceman a wise guy and exclaims that they might not be able to hurt him: ‘But your lady friend, here -’ he begins, until Darkstar interrupts: ‘Is more than you have bargained for, comrade!’ and with that, Laynia declares that Darkstar does not take kindly to being threatened, and engulfs the troublemakers.

‘What gives? Who turned out the lights?’ one of them shouts. ‘The mutie’s freaky chick! They ain’t human! None of ‘em!’ someone else shouts. Another troublemaker declares that they have the numbers, and urges his associates on. ‘You’ve got everything but the brains, fella - and the guts!’ Iceman replies, which of course is the wrong thing to say, as it incites the bloodlust of the already insane mob, who close in on Iceman and Darkstar. ‘Looks like my premiere’s been a riot’ Johnny Blaze thinks to himself as he appears in the crowd, switching into his alter ego - Ghost Rider - for he knows that there Is not much he can do about the situation simply as Johnny Blaze, stunt-rider of the silver screen, but as Ghost Rider, it is an entirely different story.

Blaze blasts at the ground with his hellfire, causing his flame cycle to materialize, and getting on it, he thinks that it is time to give the troublemakers something they will remember all their natural lives. ‘Beware, mortals! To attack one Champion is to attack all!’ Ghost Rider exclaims as he mounts his flame cycle and rides toward the mob. ‘Cripes! They’re coming out of the woodwork!’ one of them exclaims, while Laynia takes to the air and tells Bobby that they cannot waste time here. ‘Look! She - she’s flying!’ someone shouts. ‘Don’t they all?’ someone else asks.

Bobby agrees with Laynia and remarks that even though the mob started this, the Champions don’t want to hurt anyone, and so he creates an ice-screen to keep everyone back. ‘It took you this long to think of it, Drake?’ Ghost Rider asks as he speeds towards Iceman, who declares that if it wasn’t for Blaze’s lousy movie, he and Laynia wouldn’t even be here. ‘So who invited you?’ Blaze asks. ‘You did, mister!’ Iceman exclaims, before remarking that it makes him wonder whether Ghost Rider might have planned this little reception. ‘Why you - I oughtta melt that ice-wall of yours and let them at you!’ Ghost Rider declares, to which Bobby tells Blaze to keep it up, and one day they are gonna see how fire does against ice. ‘Any time, frosty! Any time!’ Blaze replies, when, suddenly, Angel dives down and lifts Bobby off the ground.

‘Wha - Angel!?’ Iceman exclaims, while Darkstar follows them in the air, Warren exclaims that there is trouble at HQ, and it might be more than the Black Widow and Hercules can handle. ‘Hope I didn’t interrupt your fun’ Warren adds, to which Bobby exclaims ‘Don’t lecture me, Daddy Warbucks! We can’t all be angels!’ Down below, Ghost Rider thinks to himself that Drake is right, that someday, there is going to be a showdown between the two of them. ‘But not today. Not while the Widow is in danger!’ Blaze thinks to himself as he speeds back to Champions HQ on his flame cycle.

Moments later, the four members of the Champions arrive back at their home and headquarters, Angel points out that the Champ-signal is still lit and tells his teammates to hustle, to which Darkstar suggests that Angel carry Iceman, and she can transport Ghost Rider, to which Ghost Rider quickly tells her not to do him any favors, and declares that he doesn’t need help from Darkstar, to anyone else. ‘Stop offering - and stop pitying me!’ he snaps, as he suddenly speeds up the side of the skyscraper on his flame cycle. ‘But I - I didn’t mean -’ Laynia calls out as she flies up the side of the skyscraper, Angel carrying Iceman at her side. Bobby tells Laynia that it isn’t her, that Ghost Rider has something eating inside him.

Laynia removes her civilian clothing as she flies upwards, revealing her sleek and stylish purple and blue costume underneath, while thinking to herself ‘Pity? At last I understand his coldness towards me! He thinks I see him as a monster!’. Darkstar tells herself that if Ghost Rider knew of her birth, then he would know that she is the true unhuman. Preoccupied with events, none of the Champions notices a strange figure in green lurking on the rooftop, watching them, he thinks to himself ‘Excellent! The lambs march to the slaughter…their fate is sealed! I cannot fail now!’

And within, Angel, Darkstar, Iceman and Ghost Rider arrive to see the three Sentinels wrecking havoc: ‘All right, Champions - hit them!’ Angel calls out. Ghost Rider engulfs one of the Sentinels in hellfire, while Iceman and Darkstar strike out at another one, who announces that it is adjusting its systems to repel a mutant / non mutant attack as ice and the Darkforce wreck its systems. ‘Bobby - what are they?’ Laynia calls out. Bobby explains to Darkstar that they are mutant killers, but remarks that they were supposed to have been destroyed by the X-Men some months ago.

Suddenly, a confused Angel spots Blob, Unus and Lorelei standing near the Black Widow. Natasha explains that the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants came seeking help - followed by the Sentinels. Hercules smashes his fists into one of the Sentinels and remarks that they repair themselves as fast as he can rend them asunder. ‘Truly they be demons like unto Pluto’s dread hordes!’ the Olympian exclaims. Iceman bombards one of the Sentinels with a blast of ice, and remarks that they seem slower - sluggish, even, not like those he has fought in the past. ‘Alien force disrupting systems…this unit is…’ one of the Sentinels begins as Darkstar covers it in Darkforce. ‘Doomed, robot! Destroyed by the Darkforce!’ Laynia shouts, concluding the robot’s sentence, while a wide-eyed Lorelei stands against a wall.

Suddenly, one of the Sentinels grabs a surprised Iceman in its robot hand. ‘It’s got Bobby!’ Angel announces, to which Natasha declares ‘It won’t keep him long!’ and blasts the Sentinel with her widow’s bite, while Ghost Rider is not long behind her, engulfing the Sentinel in hellfire. Angel kicks the final Sentinel in the head, knocking it over, he exclaims that Bobby is free and this is the last one, before declaring that he thinks they best get some answers - and fast.

Moments later, Unus the Untouchable exclaims ‘Sure! You saved us - we owe it to you!’, before explaining to the Champions that the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants were turned into kids after Magneto blew it against the Defenders.

Shown with flashback illustrations, narrated by Unus:

A few months ago however, Erik the Red restored Magneto his true adult form, accidentally restoring he, Lorelei and the Blob, as the ray penetrated their cell. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants saw that Magneto ran out on them, and the trio decided that they had had enough of the whole super-villain business, when they were suddenly attacked by Sentinels, which was all they needed. They managed to defeat the lone Sentinel, but knew others would follow, so they sought out the only two X-Men who had gone public.


‘And knowing we’d joined the “team for the common man”, you suddenly turned common, huh?’ Angel asks sarcastically, before asking Unus to pardon his disbelief, and declares ‘You three are as phony as these pseudo-Sentinels!’ Iceman exclaims that Angel is right: ‘Once an Evil Mutant, etc!’. This annoys Unus, who snaps back: ‘You punks are as arrogant as you wuz with the X-Men!’, and declares that they hoped the Champions could help them. ‘But if you’re gonna make things difficult all we can do is - DESTROY YOU!’

Suddenly, an energy ray sears out of nowhere with incredible force. So sudden is it, so unexpected, that even Hercules is stunned with his five teammates, who are all knocked to the ground. ‘We did it! We set ‘em up beautifully!’ exclaims the Blob, when the man who fired the energy ray steps into full view - the weapon still blazing, the mysterious man in green exclaims ‘And I knocked them down, Blob! Never forget the guiding intellect behind this operation - belongs solely to the Vanisher!’. ‘Okay, already! Save the speeches!’ the Blob moans, while telling the Vanisher that the Champions got wise to them. ‘Ain’t no way we can use ‘em now! I say we kill ‘em!’ the Blob declares.

‘For one so slow, Blob, you are remarkably lacking in patience!’ the Vanisher exclaims, declaring that he wishes to savor this moment, before launching into a story:

Shown with flashback illustrations, narrated by the Vanisher:

The Vanisher explains that ever since he awoke on an observation table aboard Dr Steven Lang’s orbital platform the sheer beauty of Lang’s scheme has overwhelmed him. ‘I saw that all the functioning Sentinels had been destroyed - but those still under construction remained for me to complete!’. The Vanisher explains that he made a few modifications in their programming, of course, as his Sentinels were not above attacking humans or sparing select mutants. ‘They were mine to command!’

The Vanisher sent his Sentinels off: ‘Go, Sentinels! Seek out those who will aid me in destroying the X-Men!’. The Vanisher’s robots lacked the power of Lang’s, of course, and the whereabouts of Xavier’s students were unknown to him, but the Sentinels brought him to the three remaining members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.


The Vanisher concludes by declaring that had the Champions been taken in by the Brotherhood’s “conversion” to good, then they would have led him to the X-Men. ‘Yeah. But they weren’t fooled!’ the Blob exclaims. ‘True, obese one! But perhaps news of their deaths will draw their former teammates here!’ the Vanisher declares. The Blob agrees, and exclaims that the X-Men will come gunnin’ for the Sentinels, only to find the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants waiting instead. ‘I like it!’ he declares. ‘Then let us set the trap, shall we?’

As the Vanisher raises his weapon to the unmoving six Champions, who lie scattered in the Sentinel rubble, Darkstar softly stirs. ‘Barely…conscious! But I must act! I cannot let him…kill those who have…befriended me!’ the brave heroine tells herself. Without warning, the unexplained power that is the Darkforce suddenly ripples from Laynia’s weak fingers, engulfing a fallen Sentinel, it empowers the unliving with destructive life, as Darkstar forces the machine towards the Brotherhood and the Vanisher. ‘Vanisher! The Sentinel! It’s attacking us!’ the Blob cries out.

Of course, the Interesting thing is that in order to make the Sentinels’ attack on the Evil Mutants convincing, the Vanisher endowed these Sentinels with the ability to negate the powers of his allies - so that neither the Blob’s immovability, nor Unus’ untouchability, nor Lorelei’s mind-numbing singing - has any effect on the Sentinels at all, and they are all taken down with ease.

‘You accursed female! You did this!’ the Vanisher shouts at Darkstar, aiming the weapon at her, close range. ‘Pray to whatever God you worship, for now you die!’ the Vanisher booms, when, suddenly, Iceman slides over and freezes the ray, telling the Vanisher to save it for the judge. ‘You’re finished!’ he exclaims. The Vanisher realizes that the ray has warn off, and Iceman declares that the rest of the Champions will be awake any second. ‘Then I would be a fool not to flee!’ the Vanisher decides, as he opens a portal and races towards it, exclaiming that with his power of teleportation, there is no one living to stop him.

However, Darkstar is close behind the Vanisher, and shouts ’No human, perhaps! But Darkstar is more than human! MUCH more!’ Laynia declares as she casts the Darkforce at the Vanisher, who, half-way through his teleportation portal, suddenly screams - then goes silent, half-present, half-vanished. ’Lord! You stopped him halfway! Can he have survived the shock?’ Bobby asks. ’I - I don’t know! Oh Bobby, hold me!’ Laynia replies as she presses herself against Iceman, who puts his arms around her. The rest of the Champions gather around and watch Iceman and Darkstar, while Angel asks if the others heard what Laynia said about not being human. ‘Aye, lad! In truth, there is a mystery here!’ Hercules exclaims, while Ghost Rider thinks to himself that perhaps he has been all wrong, while the Black Widow solemnly asks ‘But what can we do now?’….

Characters Involved: 

Angel, Black Widow, Darkstar, Ghost Rider, Hercules, Iceman (all Champions)

Blob, Lorelei I, Unus the Untouchable (all Brotherhood of Evil Mutants)




In Flashback Illustrations.

Magneto as an infant

Erik the Red

Blob, Lorelei I, Unus the Untouchable (all Brotherhood of Evil Mutants)

In Vanisher’s Flashback:

Blob, Lorelei I, Unus the Untouchable (all Brotherhood of Evil Mutants)



Story Notes: 

The Champions fought Swarm in Champions #15.

The Blob, Lorelei and Unus last appeared in X-Men (1st series) #104 where they were returned to adulthood.

This issue touches briefly on Darkstar’s original planned origin - she states that if Ghost Rider knew of her birth he would know she is the true unhuman, and when Iceman and Darkstar strike the Sentinel it announces a “mutant / non mutant” attack, and later in the story when fighting the Vanisher she exclaims that she is not human. However, later Darkstar stories, specifically Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #258-259, clearly reveal Darkstar to be a mutant. Whatever Bill Mantlo’s original plans for Darkstar were, they will presumably be forever unknown.

Iceman’s comment about the Sentinels supposedly having been destroyed by the X-Men refers to the classic X-Men (1st series) #100.

Magneto was defeated by the Defenders in Defenders (1st series) #16.

The Vanisher awoke on Steven Lang’s orbital platform after X-Men (1st series) #100.

Vanisher’s situation is resolved in Bizarre Adventures #27, when the X-Men find him, and Nightcrawler manages to rescue him.

Lorelei is not seen for some years, next appearing in Captain America (1st series) #415, while the Blob and Unus return to their criminal ways.

Final issue of The Champions. Apparently low sales were the cause for the book’s cancellation. Aside from Darkstar, the other five members of the Champions all go on to star as main characters in various other titles over the years.

At the end of this issue there is a blurb that mentions the Black Widow’s question will be answered in a future issue of the Avengers. This storyline was presumably dropped, as it never eventuated, instead, the Champions’ disbanding was briefly shown in a flashback of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #17.

Following this issue, Darkstar returns to Russia for reasons not made clear. Her next proper appearance is in Iron Man (1st series) #109.

Years later, an X-Force / Champions 1998 Annual reunites the Champions (except for Darkstar) and teams them up with X-Force.

A second Champions title (featuring new characters not related to the six Champions members), was to debut in 2007, as one of the Initiative teams. At the last minute, Marvel was forced to change the title of the comic and the team name to the Order (2nd series) as the trademark to the Champions is owned by another company.

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