Comic Review: Champions #1
So, most have agreed that Civil War II has not been a shining example of a comic book event from the character deaths for pointless shock value to the fact that Captain Marvel has basically become a fascist overnight, and there is really no reason for anyone to be on her side. In Champions #1, writer Mark Waid addresses the fallout of (the still ongoing) Civil War II as the young All-New, All-Different Avengers Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Spider-Man (Miles Morales) have quit the team and struck out on their own. Their new team isn’t just there to fight and punch bad guys, but to help communities affected by superhuman attacks. It’s a good sentiment and a decent hook for a team superhero comic, but struggles in the execution in both the art and some of the plotting.
Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba fluctuate between an loose elastic, almost manga art style in Champions #1 and rigid house style superheroes. (Think a lot of DC’s New 52 books.) He also has some issues matching character faces to the context of the scene, which makes funny scenes serious or serious scenes absurdly hilarious like when Ms. Marvel’s face is scrunched up like a chipmunk when she is supposed to be helping some coal miners in Kentucky. Or in an even darker scene when Amadeus’ Cho Hulk is supposed to be truly angry when the clown themed villain and child trafficker Pagliacci kills a hostage, he looks like a well-muscled, green kid throwing a temper tantrum. And Waid and Ramos come at the problem of human trafficking with all the subtlety of a Law and Order: SVU episode.
Champions #1 doesn’t know if it wants to be a comic about real world problems using over the top superhero metaphors or a fun, slightly humorous comic about heartfelt teen heroes, who want to make a difference. The comic is at its best when it is doing the second thing like when Waid and Ramos show Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, Nova, and Hulk using their unique abilities to save some coal miners from a cave-in that concludes in a nice homage to the scene in the original Secret Wars where Hulk saved basically every major Marvel superhero from a mountain falling on top of them. And Ramos’ art really shines during these “big” moments like when Ms. Marvel stretches her body to catch or train, or Spider-Man hits Pagliacci with a well-placed web. He can do comedy too, like Vision deadpanning about refrigerators when the team comes over to recruit his daughter Viv as a human Google search. Her presence on a team is a nice nod to Tom King’s excellent Vision run, and her “skills” can set any of the team’s future missions or recruits.
And the ending of Champions #1 conveys what is good and bad about the series. The good is shown through Ms. Marvel’s speech as she talks about being a superhero team that tries to avoid collateral damage, killing, and hurting civilians and focuses on bringing people hope. (The monologue reminded me a lot of Mark Waid’s essay about the failings of Man of Steel.) This is a powerful scene, and a reminder that superheroes can be both aspirational and inspirational and don’t have to be dark, edgy, or deconstructed. And it’s not just a wall of text as Waid and Ramos show a montage of possible recruits for the new Champions team. (Fingers crossed for Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.)
But then there is the final page with the Champions on their cellphones tweeting and texting “hip millennial lingo. (There are hashtags involved.) This sequence felt more like “How do you do fellow kids” than an authentic look at how actual young people would react to the Champions’ actions and decision not to kill Pagliacci. It’s also almost the same as the hashtag driven ending to Archie #1. This final page doesn’t work because Waid and Ramos just show tweets and posts out of context instead of showing the humans behind them. There is no feeling of a community behind the Champions just an empty sentiment of “Hey kids. We know about social media too. Have another woke hashtag.” The response to the Champions doesn’t feel organic, but like people trying to make a video viral on purpose.
A diverse team of young hope bringing superheroes is definitely a good idea for a comic, and Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos create a nice sense of camaraderie and team chemistry between the members of the Champions. But the tone and art style of the book fluctuates between silly and serious, sincere and shallow too many times to make the first issue of Champions any more than just a mixed bag.
Rating: 4 (out of 7)