Long time comic book fans may have noticed that the current state of Marvel resembles DC from the mid-90s. During the last few years, Marvel has been introducing a whole new generation of heroes and legacy characters; which is why we’ve got multiple Spider-Mans, Novas, Hawkeyes, and until recently, Hulks. So, it’s fitting that one of the main creative architects of DC in the ’90s, Mark Waid, is writing Champions for Marvel. Waid is also teaming back up with his Impulse collaborator, artist Humberto Ramos; and the first issue is out this week.
Because Civil War II has been delayed (again), Champions has to deal with the fallout of that event without spoiling it. Here’s all you need to know: Spider-Man (Miles Morales) clearly isn’t imprisoned for a crime he may or may not commit in the future, and the world hates superheroes again. That’s just the background noise. The thing that really works about this book is the trio of young heroes: Spider-Man, Nova, and Ms. Marvel, all of whom have quit the Avengers to form their own superhero team. Waid’s got a really good dynamic with those three, and his take on Kamala Khan is compelling. The Totally Awesome Hulk (Amadeus Cho) and Viv Vision round out the team (for now), but neither of them were given the spotlight the way that the other leads had. Young Cyclops appears to be joining the team next issue, but he’s only got a cameo appearance here.
For the most part, Ramos’ art is a very good fit for this title. He captures the youth of the characters well, and the man can draw some fun action scenes. A lot of Waid’s pages can get pretty wordy, but it’s to Ramos’ credit that the issue never loses a visual step. The cave rescue in the middle of the book was probably the highlight, and Ramos even made the Wrecking Crew look good when the larger point was Kamala’s dissatisfaction with heroes who can’t or won’t do more for the world around them. The Champions are trying something new, and that doesn’t necessarily mean using their fists to save the day.
That’s an admirable start. Here’s where it veers a bit off-course: the Champions’ first mission as a team was to save a group of girls from being sold into sex slavery…by an evil clown named Pagliacci. Seriously? That joke was old even when Alan Moore did it in Watchmen. And despite a few attempts to make Pagliacci into a genuine threat, his injection into the story just felt like a bad idea. Ramos was also guilty of making some bad decisions regarding the young women in this issue. Cheesecake art has its place, but perhaps that place is not inside of a shipping container with a couple of gratuitous shots of seemingly underage girls in their underwear. Just a thought.
It’s a shame, because until the clown and his captives showed up, this issue was really firing on all cylinders. It’s still one of the best books out this week, it just betrayed one of its own central themes. The team that’s trying to be more than just superheroes were quickly sucked into a pretty standard superhero plot. Given Waid’s experience, we still feel that Champions has the potential to be a great book, but that’s going to require Waid and Ramos to show us stories that we haven’t seen many times before. So far, they haven’t. That said, we’re still very curious to see what they can do with these next gen heroes.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
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Images: Marvel Comics