Review: ‘Champions Vol. 1: Change The World’
Champions Vol. 1: Change The World
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba
Marvel Entertainment; $15.99
Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos have been making comics since I was a teenager, so they likely wouldn’t be among the first names to pop into my mind if you asked me who might be best qualified to create a brand-new Marvel team comic featuring a highly-diverse cast of the publisher’s newer, younger teenage heroes. A book that, oh by the way, would tackle torn-from-the-headlines social issues and problems…filtered through the superhero/fantasy prism of the Marvel Universe just enough to make them scan as political without being overtly partisan.
But not only did the pair get the gig, they also managed to produce one of the publisher’s more well-done, more engaging team books.
Waid, to be fair, has had plenty of practice writing half of the characters on this team, which is a kinda sorta spin-off of Waid’s All-New, All-Different Avengers. Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Spider-Man Miles Morales all quit the Avengers over disagreements with the adult half of the team. They recruit Amadeus Cho, the current Hulk, who is appearing in the pages of The Totally Awesome Hulk, and he in turn recruits Viv, The Vision’s daughter from the pages of the critically-acclaimed (but quickly canceled) series The Vision.
When these five characters’ impromptu team-up results in their foiling a particularly heinous crime, and Ms. Marvel gives a particularly inspiring heroic speech that is caught on film, one of the words she uses in her speech—”champions”—gets a trending hashtag, and the team has their name, making them maybe the first superhero team whose name was chosen by a social media algorithm.
They get their final recruit when the teenage Cyclops joins. He might seem like a particularly unusual addition, given his association with the X-Men, but an ongoing plot in the Marvel line has been that the original teenage X-Men have been brought forward into their future/our present, and they have been deliberately making different life choices so as not to end up like their adult selves. And, in perhaps a bit of meta paralleling, the original Champions line-up from the 1970s featured a pair of X-Men.
The young team’s remit is to change the world for the better, rather than just maintaining the status quo, and so they find themselves engaging in the sorts of missions The Avengers or other teams might avoid…and generally finding out how complicated such missions can be, which might be why other teams avoid them. So, for example, they travel to a fictional Central Asian country meant to represent Pakistan or Afghanistan, where women and girls are being persecuted, assaulted and killed for attempting to pursue educations—Malala Yousafazi is referenced, and there is a Malala-like young woman there—but the heroes must tread so carefully that they spend the issue in disguise.
Later, they visit a county run by a Joe Arpaio-like sheriff, who is even more cartoonishly prejudiced—with mutants, Inhumans, and synthezoids in addition to immigrants, Muslims, and homosexuals, the Marvel Universe’s paranoid xenophobes have so many targets to attack, it’s amazing their brains don’t just short-circuit. This is the most political of the issues/chapters of Champions, with some pretty obvious allusions to life in Trump’s America, as the kids find they can’t just punch out injustices when they come in certain forms.
Even their formation contains an admirable societal awareness, as Ms. Marvel alludes to police shootings, stressing that these superheroes will never punch down, and that they will always “enforce justice without unjust force.”
Ramos, who had previously collaborated with Waid on DC’s Impulse series and is about as experienced an artist of teenage superheroes as you’ll find, naturally excels at his assigned subject matter, with all of the kid heroes actually looking like kids; their bodies are mostly skinny and gangly, their hands and feet are slightly over-sized, like the paws on puppies who haven’t quite grown into them, and in the case of Nova and Cyclops, their helmet and visor look slightly too big for their still-growing heads.
I can imagine there are readers who wish the creators were young and diverse in the way that the cast is, but one can’t quibble with the creators on the grounds of the quality of their work, which is excellent throughout this entire first collection.
Filed under: Reviews, Young Adult
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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