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Champions #1 is out on comics stands and our very own Scott Place is here with the ComiConverse review. Saddle up!
Review: Champions #1
In the wake of Civil War II a new team of heroes is born. They’re young, inexperienced and reckless but they just might change the world. In Champions #1, Ms Marvel, Nova, Spider-Man, the Hulk and Viv Vision team up after growing disillusioned with the old guard of Avengers, believing that they can provide the world with a more conscientious team of heroes. But do writer Mark Waid and penciller Humberto Ramos deliver the fresh take on the superhero genre that Marvel promised or is it simply another basic team-up book?
After the supposedly world changing events of Civil War II, Miles Morales (Spider-Man) and Sam Alexander (Nova) quit the Avengers. Kamala Khan (Ms Marvel) remained but after seeing her teammates apathy towards collateral damage she also resigned, believing that the Avengers should be better than what they have been. For anyone who is concerned about spoilers, Champions #1 expertly manages to evade revealing the outcome of Civil War II while still alluding to its effects on its heroes. It also similarly avoids referencing the conclusion of the solo Vision series.
The montage of Kamala quitting the team looks beautiful as the team of Humberto Ramos (penciler), Victor Alabama (inker), Edgar Delgado (colourer) create a nostalgic tone for the flashbacks by using muted colours, contrasting with the vibrancy of the modern day escapades.
Of course quitting the Avengers is a big deal for Ms Marvel whose fangirling over superheroes is part of what endeared fans to her from the beginning. Thus her exit from the team is frankly a bit depressing. However it doesn’t take long to call her fellow young heroes Nova and Spider-Man to proposition them with the idea of trying to restore the people’s trust in heroes and show their ex-mentors what they’re made of. This leads them to recruit the Hulk (Amadeus Cho) and Viv Vision to create a team of heroes who could not just avenge the world, but be its Champions.
One of the biggest strengths of Champions #1 is Waid’s treatment of the characters. The dynamic between Marvel’s most promising trinity of heroes – Ms Marvel, Nova and Spider-Man – feels completely natural and establishes a strong core for the series. Also the introduction of Amadeus and Viv promises a really interesting team in future issues – especially with Cyclops and possible other heroes joining the team down the line.
However, at times Waid appears to forget that he is writing teenagers or focusses on this too much. For example, this issue both contains Nova calling the issue’s villain a ‘vomitous slug’ mid-fight and a page full of tweets showing public support for the team including such hip and cool tweets as ‘Hanging with Ms Marvel. Where do I sign? #Champions’ and ‘Speaking truth. #Champions’. With the tweets, Waid was clearly trying to emulate the success of this technique by creative teams such as Gillen and McKelvie in Wicked and the Divine and Young Avengers. However this did not have the same level of authenticity as other creators have achieved. Though Waid’s treatment of these heroes is generally strong, moments such as Nova’s archaic language evoke more traditional writing which doesn’t serve these heroes well and seriously contrasts the original voices they have in their solo titles .
The first half of the book is incredibly fun and contains the issue’s standout scene as the Hulk, Ms Marvel, Nova and Spider-Man save a trapped group of miners. This scene brilliantly showcases the individual personalities and Ramos’ artwork injects exuberance and excitement to Waid’s scripts. The significant problem is with the second half as the team fight a human trafficking clown villain who has a cargo of young girls. This confrontation provides Waid with an easy way of having the some of the Champions overreact and try to kill the villain, thus allowing Kamala to give an inspiring speech on their morality as a team. However, the use of human trafficking and the clown villain who organises this feels like a tasteless way of enabling a motivational speech, resulting in an awkward shift in tone for the issue.
This attempt to rush the team to an overreaction not only undermines the quality of this issue, but also the overall mission statement of the book. This series which focusses specifically on a group of young heroes as they aim to improve the world should not need to rely on such a villain. It should be something which showcases young people fighting against injustice and which any school would feel 100% comfortable with having in its library. Champions was advertised as something revolutionary; a young team of individuals acting as street-level Ultimates, proactively taking matters into their hands to improve the lives of people and “change the world”. The use of such an antagonist in this issue makes them appear as just another generic superhero team and detracts from the unique youthful and political tone this series could have. Furthermore, why Marvel believed that a clown villain trafficking underage girls was the best choice of villain for the first issue of a series focussing on empowering younger audiences eludes me. This first issue should have been something that really showcased the different nature of this team due to their youth and different approach to superheroing, something which is seen in many of these characters’ solo titles . Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case and though Kamala’s closing speech was moving, the systemic nature and lack of innovation in the latter half of the book reduced from its effectiveness.
Overall, Champions #1 was a very standard first outing for this team and though it had problems, it showed hints of greatness indicating the series’ immense potential, particularly when it focusses on the humanity of it’s characters and their relationships. I just hope that Waid will define the Champions’ tone and position as a team quickly in future issues and that these fantastic characters will receive the representation they and their audiences deserve.
Scott Place is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottReads
Source: Marvel Comics
Champions #1 offered a solid first outing for Marvel’s newest group of young heroes but not one which highlighted the unique qualities of these characters, resulting in an enjoyable but uninspired first outing for the team.