A brand new team book comes from Marvel this week, featuring some of their most recognisable and established teen heroes, though I’m afraid this isn’t the book everyone was expecting, this is the “Champions”. Just like most other first issues, writer Mark Waid and artist Humberto Ramos attempt to explain the whys and wherefores of this hodgepodge group in an issue that just doesn’t seem to sit right.
Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
Following the fallout of CIVIL WAR II, Avengers Ms. Marvel, Nova and Spider-Man strike out on their own – joined by Cyclops, Viv Vision and the Totally Awesome Hulk! Six young heroes determined to change the world – and they’re only the beginning!
This latest teen hero comic from Marvel sees the younger, now disenfranchised, members of The Avengers (Ms. Marvel, Nova and Spider-Man) figuring out that they are better off together and so, to that end, form a brand new team. After picking up The Vision’s daughter Viv and the Totally Awesome Hulk, we’re now just one young Cyclops away from seeing this new iteration of The Champions form to fight evil and hopefully not each other (though going off the next issue’s cover they are totally going to be fighting one another). I was really excited for this comic when it was announced a couple of months ago, I am a big fan of pretty much all these characters, and while there could definitely be more girls on the team, overall Mark Waid has done a good job in crafting this roster. Each character fits a particular type of niche and together they represent a fresher side of the Marvel Universe that shows potential. However, whether Mark Waid has fulfilled that potential, further than picking who’s on the team, is a matter of debate.
I have two major issues with the writing in this issue; tonally it doesn’t feel right and, more notably, there is a distinct lack of purpose. Over the past couple of years at Marvel, Mark Waid has taken certain characters and properties, ones that had started to meander and lose identity, and injected them with purpose and direction. The prime example of this being his magnificent work on “Daredevil”. Normally, the first issue is a chance for him to establish a kind of mission statement for the run, and while I don’t always need my superhero comic books to be built around a defining concept, “Champions” #1 doesn’t provide us with anything that suggests it will be any different from all the other team books being put out by Marvel right now. Kamala Kahn, the instigator behind the Champions formation, reasons that while everybody else is fighting it out in the Civil War, the world still needs heroes to save the day. I have no problem with this at all, I’m from that “old school” of thought prefers to see my super-powered humans fight evil rather than each other. I do have a problem however with how this team comes together, it feels forced and uninspiring. There is no greater threat that requires these heroes to come together; nothing that bonds each of them together other than Ms. Marvel’s adamant belief that they simply should do it. We’ve reached a point now where the kind of books that succeed offer more than just punching maniacal villains, and unfortunately, that’s what we are given here.
This funnily enough brings me on to my second point, I struggled greatly with the tone of the book, or at least in the last third. The book starts off with Ms. Marvel meeting up with Nova and Spider-Man to form a team to which we then move on to see them recruiting Hulk and Viv, the former being a little more exciting than the latter. However, in the last portion of the book, our newly formed team (still yet to call themselves the Champions) try to take down a human trafficker styling himself after the fictional clown ‘Pagliacci’. What follows is a number of scenes where these super-powered teenagers knock this sinister mad man around a dock while Nova talks like an early 90’s version of Batman. Then things go from bad to worse when one of the underage captives is found dead and the Totally Awesome Hulk rampages, nearly killing Pagliacci, while being goaded on by a huge crowd who just happened to be walking through the dock area. Overall, I was just left confused and slightly nervous by this whole section. Going into this book I was expecting a full on teen action book, with Humberto Ramos’ art, it is hard not to think that this is going to be an all ages, more lighthearted affair. What we get instead are a bunch of far too serious teenagers who talk like grizzled adults and fight human traffickers. At the end of the book, Ms. Marvel stops the Hulk from killing Pagliacci and makes a speech to the cameras that references the overzealous attitude of US cops against unarmed perps and kids. You can see here what Waid is maybe trying to accomplish with this book and I applaud him for it, but the problem is, with a team like this one, I don’t think we had any doubt that they wouldn’t do the right thing. A message like that one surely needs to be saved for a different kind of book.Continued below
As I mentioned before, I think a lot of the issues I have when it comes to tone, is down to Humberto Ramos being on art duties. I am a fan of Ramos’ exaggerated style, he imbues fun and a traditional approach to superhero storytelling. So if Waid is taking this track for “Champions” going forward I think the themes of this book is going to clash harshly against the artwork. For a book about teenage superheroes you couldn’t find a better artist however with his goofy proportions and the abundant, dynamic energy he manages to capture, not only in fight scenes, but most scenes featuring action. The youthful approach of his work is only exaggerated through Edgar Delgado’s bold and bright colours.
I have a lot of faith in Mark Waid and what he can do with a book. I know he can take often overlooked characters in new and surprising directions and he is a master at crafting narratives in comic books. For this I am going to stick around with “Champions” for a little longer, just to see where he takes it and if the reason for this book becomes more apparent. Though ultimately, a book like this, with these kind of characters, I cant help but feel it would have been better served by a younger, more diverse team with a wholly different voice.
Final Verdict: 6.4 – These are not the Young Avengers you are looking for.