For the second of my opinion pieces on recent comic releases, we take a look at Marvel’s latest iteration of the Champions. As soon as I finished the issue I had already begun scripting this post, as this issue pretty much speaks to every reason I started this blog. The open discussions of social issues and the obvious influences that modern culture and situations have had on this issue makes this almost a dream issue for me to write about, so full credit to Mark Waid for his excellent scripting of this comic. Obviously, SPOILER WARNING for Champions #1, as well as some aspects of Civil War II #5 and #6.
Champions picks up from a point after the end of the second superhero Civil War. Obviously the outcome of this is largely unknown at this point, as due to delays the Civil War II series has not yet wrapped up (and has had an eighth issue added), however some hints are given away into how fractured the Marvel Universe has become. It seems that large portions of the world have grown tired of the traditional sense of heroics, particularly after the events of the Civil War. This has also taken its toll on many of the younger heroes, leading to the comic kicking off with a recap of how Nova (Sam Alexander), Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and Kamala Khan packing up from the Avengers team. This does show us some things about the near future of the Marvel Universe, as it is clear that despite the vision Ulysses had in Civil War II #5, Spider-Man is not in custody and still an Avenger following the events.
As the issue evolves, Kamala approaches Miles and Sam to become a new team, focussing on rebuilding everything that has been broken by the ‘grown-ups’. To their newly formed team, they seek to add members to round them out, leading to the team recruiting Amadeus Cho, the ‘Totally Awesome’ Hulk, and Viv Vision, the Vision’s android daughter. The cover also depicts the younger version of Cyclops, who looks to be joining the team from issue #2, however is absent from the action of issue #1.
This new line-up looks to include most of the elements that made the original Avengers line-up so promising. Ms Marvel’s powers of ‘embiggening’ and shrinking powers make her similar to Ant-man/Wasp, the Hulks are obviously comparable, Viv’s intelligence and tech skills make her a good stand in for an Iron Man/Stark character. Spider-Man and Nova don’t truly match with the remaining two earliest Avengers (Captain America and Thor), however they add a nice new touch to this otherwise similar feeling team.
What was also impressive to me was the way in which this newly formed team works together. In multiple places in the issue, the powers of the team are put into use in combo with one another, leading to some fantastically drawn and written pieces to show the teamwork that the Champions are seeking to represent, and something that feels, to me, to have been missing from some of the other team books at the minute. Nova and Hulk have a brilliant team-up towards the end of the issue, but for me the biggest piece here was the combination of Nova, Spider-Man, Ms Marvel and Amadeus as they work to evacuate a collapsing mine shaft. This entire sequence has all the hallmarks of a classic Marvel team-up, and it is absolutely stunning.
But the true standout moment of this issue comes in its conclusion. Ms Marvel comes out with an impromptu speech to a crowd that has gathered and filmed the actions of the Champions. This speech is so full of modern day influence it is hard to ignore. Picking up on elements of modern life, such as excessive enforcement of laws against those who cannot defend themselves or are unarmed, abuses of power and a lack of faith and trust in those with positions of power. However, Kamala does not want her team to resort to the same brand of heroics that the many see the heroes of the world as now standing for. Instead, she insists on how the right thing to do is fight for a better tomorrow, and while this is not going to be an easy fight, this is a fight that the new generation must face together if they wish to win the war for a better tomorrow. This entire speech looks deep into the heart of the current situation of the USA and seeks to provide an image for a new generation to aspire to. By making this team entirely out of the youngest heroes in the Marvel Universe, and hinting at more potentially on the way to join the team (including Riri Williams, the new Wasp, the new Falcon and Moon Girl) I hope this comic lands with the impact and focus it deserves. Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos have done an excellent job providing the youngest members of society with a new set of role models who stand for equality and justice for all. We could all learn a thing from the ideas put forward in this issue, and I sincerely hope that anyone who hasn’t yet read Champions #1 will pick up a copy in order to fully appreciate it.