Eve L. Ewing’s inspired approach to Champions and the one-shot issue Outlawed #1 is getting a trade paperback release this week. It’s a story that has deep meaning about standing up for what is right. This run was horribly delayed due to the pandemic, but is now collected all in one place. How does the story hold up after scaling things back and wrapping up faster than anyone anticipated?
This story originally started in March 2020 before the pandemic, but did not continue until October when Champions #1 came out. There were also tie-in issues — Saladin Ahmed’s Ms. Marvel is possibly the most important — but for the most part, this event came out strong, before being tabled for so long it lost a lot of its energy. The basic premise revolves around Kamala Khan being involved in an attack, politicians making a law against teen superheroes not knowing she is in fact Ms. Marvel, and Kamala taking a stand against the law because heroes, teens included, should never stand aside when they are needed.
This collection opens with Outlawed #1 drawn by Kim Jacinto, which uses a stylized look that is a bit cartoony compared to the rest of the book. The action is good and the major conflict that kicks off the mini-event captures the gravity of the situation by the end of the book.
The story flows to Champions #1 next, and it’s a good jumping on point if you’re unfamiliar with these heroes. The art is electric, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise if you’ve read Simone Di Meo’s We Only Find Them When They’re Dead. Colored by Federico Blee, the art is filled with life and emotion, is expertly told from panel to panel, and is quite good at zooming in on close-ups and moving out to show what’s going on in any given room. There’s a zip here that feels youthful and energetic, which suits the characters on the page. There’s plenty of deadly serious moments too, and Di Meo captures the deep and eclectic mix of emotions very well. There is a lot riding on the actions of these heroes, especially Ms. Marvel, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat every step of the way. That even includes scenes where there isn’t a direct threat, which is important since the weight of the world is on these teenagers’ shoulders.
The impact of this story lives and dies by a key speech by Ms. Marvel in the first issue. Ms. Marvel gives an important one early on in the book, told via a full-page splash of her on a TV screen as the world watches. You can read it for yourself above — it hits at the core of what this team is about, and it’s made more heroic given the fact that adults are telling the Champions to stand down.
A few different characters make clearly stated points that are all legit, but given the circumstances, everything is up in the air. That’s an element in this book that makes it stand apart from your usual superhero comic. The heroes are effectively the bad guys, or at the very least there’s a shade of gray at work where the “good guys” are also the bad guys. That goes for both those who are seeking to stop the Champions and the Champions themselves. Similar to Marvel’s iconic Civil War event, the idea of vigilantism is put into question, which gives the book a moral spin. This extends to each character and their position on things.
It is unfortunate this series was delayed, since a lot of the messaging is empowering, especially for young people to act on their convictions and speak loud and proud. If this book came out on its original release schedule, it may have even inspired more young people out to vote. All that said, the political angle is what makes it good, and if you’re looking for more of an action and adventure tale you may not find what you’re looking for.
This is a comic of ideas and thus there is a lot of talking and a lot of reactions between characters. There are only three scenes with very little in the way of location changes, making the book quite static save for the incredible art. In hindsight, the visuals can only do so much to amp up the scenes.
Champions Vol. 1: Outlawed is a unique series marked by thoughtful commentary on activism and the youth being told they need to know their role as subservient to adults. This is an entertaining read for readers who want a little complexity and thoughtful contemplation in their comics.
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