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In the aftermath of Civil War II, the younger heroes of the greater Marvel universe band together to form the Champions. Totally Awesome Hulk, Spider-Man (Morales), Cyclops (time-displaced), Nova, Ms. Marvel, and Viv Vision make up the core team. However, in the wake of the endlessly dour Secret Empire event in which Captain America reveals himself as a Hydra sleeper agent and takes over the U.S., shit goes awry.
Champions began as an optimistic title. The younger heroes get to start with a clean slate, learning from the mistakes of their elders. But in this most recent issue there’s a scant whiff of that positive tone. It’s understandable given the story unfolds in the rubble of bombed out Las Vegas (thanks Cap). Still, the initial bombing happens in Secret Empire #2, so why does their tie-in focus on an event two months old?
Writer Mark Waid, artist Humberto Ramos, inker Victor Olazaba, and colorist Edgar Delgado do their best to justify it. Unfortunately, the segmented tale comes up short for a variety of reasons.
Mark Waid is a great writer, but when confined to the parameters of a giant crossover event even the best can suffer. The basic story is in segments of the team and its rescue efforts in the ruins of Vegas. Hulk and the new Falcon start it off with Hulk (Amadeus Cho, boy genius) over-analyzing the casualties.
A good “burden of the hero” moment. But one quickly deflated by him actually asking Falcon “Origin moment?” New Falcon then goes into his backstory, and both end the page feeling dejected by their helplessness in the face of such chaos.
Champions team two is even worse. As Spider-Man, Ironheart (RiRi Williams), and Patriot open up a plane hoping for survivors, they find only death. A grim moment in a heap of grim moments, made worse by some inexplicable bickering between RiRi and Patriot. When it becomes apparent he’s not up to the mammoth task before them, Miles and RiRi fly off. Great teamwork guys.
Viv and the new Wasp round out the rescue efforts, and while they’re both super likeable characters in other books, the main disservice to them here is the art (more on that later). We wrap up on an optimistic note as Patriot reemerges carrying the only survivor they manage to find – an infant. It’s a passable amount of hope to rally the troops, but hardly the sort of story such a compelling team deserves. Champions, they are not. Yet, at least.
Humberto Ramos has a very unique, kinetic art style. This serves action well in big splash pages, and generally in any fight scene spread over a few larger panels. Introspective discussion issues that focus on the internal and figurative external challenges the heroes face, not so much.
That’s not to say there aren’t moments when he gets to play to his strengths. In the Hulk/Falcon segment there’s a sad but touching moment where they find a flame engulfed parking garage. Hulk thinks survivors may lie beyond the flames, so he attempts the patented sonic clap to extinguish the blaze.
They’re well put together panels both in action and emotion. It’s a slow build up to the largest panel as he attempts multiple claps, but to no avail. As the scene ends we’re slowly zoomed out of a kneeling Hulk, dejected and broken by the carnage around him.
The exact counterpoint of that is the Viv and Wasp section. Character design is choppy and disjointed. In addition, the faces, my god the faces. Wasp in particular has a toothy weird looking mouth that seems disconnected from the rest of her being.
The idea behind this team is the type of fresh start that can lead to really compelling stories. Unfortunately, with a company-wide depression session running things all summer, there’s not much even the best creative team can do to turn things around. Here’s hoping once the Secret Empire’s reign is over, the Champions get their due!