Champions Issues #1 to 9
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: mark Waid
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Inker: Victor Olazaba
Colors: Edgar Delgado
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowels
Review by PeteR
“We are the champions, my friends” Queen
The history of comic books has seen a plethora of teenage superhero books. Sometimes the characters in the series were the sidekicks of established heroes such as with the Young Allies in 1941 which featured Captain America’s partner, Bucky and the Human Torch’s pal, Toro. Other times, the kids in question, were a foil for the primary character. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s, Newsboy Legion in Star Spangled Comics functioned as such for Jim Hammond’s identity as the Guardian. In 1964, D.C. Comics debuted the Teen Titans in The Brave and the Bold #54 starring Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad, starting what would be the longest, (on again, off again) team of teenagers to date. Champions continues the tradition of teen team hero comics but with a refreshing perspective.
Champions’ roster includes Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, Sam Alexander as Nova, Cyclops (a younger version of Scott Summers now living in his own future), Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, Amadeus Cho’s Incredible Hulk and Viv, the synthezoid daughter of the android, Vision. In Issue #9 a new character, the Red Locust is also introduced.
The Champions are brought together by Ms. Marvel after she, Nova and Spider-Man quit the Avengers following Civil War II. Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan’s sense of community responsibility could no longer abide the superhero motif of leaving the scene of a wrecked neighborhood after defeating the villain of the week. Ms. Marvel points out that these battles create collateral damage and people’s livelihoods are destroyed. Her point is, punching bad guys is not enough. “We can be better than that. We have to start enforcing justice without unjust force.” Their catch phrase is; “Don’t punch down, punch up!”
Writer Mark Waid does a stellar job scripting the dialogue for Champions. Ms. Marvel is portrayed with the same sense of inherent goodness in this book as she is in her own title (penned by G. Willow Wilson). Amadeus Cho tries not to be a jerk in spite of him being the eighth smartest person in the world and a Hulk as well. Nova is the team goof or as he phrased it, “The sixth smartest person on this team of six people.” Cyclops will always be a well-meaning, stick-in-the-mud. Miles Morales’s Spider-Man has not had a “spotlight moment” yet in this series, but I am confident it will come soon. The real treat of Champions is Viv. She has only been in existence a year but was programed to replicate the behaviors of a teenager. Due to the death of her mother and brother (You need to read The Vision mini-series to understand a family of androids), Viv has turned off her emotions processor. She is the Tabula Rosa, that Mark Waid is able to compose a totally innovative character on.
In the first nine issues, the Champions have taken on human traffickers, misogynistic extremists, racist sheriffs and Atlantean militias. Their most fearsome foes so far, have been the Freelancers. A group of super powered teenage mercenaries who sell their services to corporate interests. They deliberately are the ideological opposites of the Champions. In a stroke of brilliance, after the Freelancers are defeated by the Champions, the Freelancers copyright the Champions name and logo, successfully undermining the Champions message and profiting on it simultaneously.
I have always found joy in Humberto Ramos’s artwork. I don’t care if it’s his renderings on Impulse, The Amazing Spider-Man or Champions, his artwork invokes a sense of freedom in me. I particularly enjoy when his main characters smile. Not the villains’ smiles, because he somehow is able to convey both maliciousness and smugness in their grins. No, the smiles of his protagonists completely exude happiness. I also am intrigued by his use of a wordless splash page at the beginning of each issue to set the dynamics of the story’s theme.
There is one particular scene in Champions issue #2 that stands out to me as an example of how the combination of writer (Waid), artist (Ramos), inker Victor Olazaba, colorist Edgar Delgado and letterer, VC’s Clayton Cowels’s efforts all come together. On page 13 of the story, there are six identical panels of Viv’s face. The only difference is the flare in her eyes between the first and second panels and the words of the dialogue. Somehow in the transition of those six panels, the creative team were able to emanate a subtle yet profound sense of menace, using the same repeated image.
Why you should buy this book? The prevailing aura of comradery. I want to spend time with these characters. More than Young Justice or even the Wolfman, Perez run on The New Teen Titans, I want to hang out with the members of Champions. Their intention to not just defeat whatever nemesis is prevalent, but also their genuine, if sometimes naïve hope, that their actions can change how people treat one another for the better. The message of Champions is a much needed tonic right now.