Marvel’s Champions, written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Humberto Ramos, presents the adventures of a newly formed group of teenage superheroes featuring Miss Marvel, Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Nova, Spiderman, Cyclops and Viv Vision. While there are many teenage superhero teams out there, this is the first one I have read where the focus is less about beating up bad guys and more on activism and social justice. The team is formed when Miss Marvel, Nova and Spiderman find themselves disenfranchised with the actions of their adult colleagues and leave the Avengers to form their own team. After recruiting Amadeus and Viv, the group is immediately thrust into their first mission, and the reason for the T rating of the book becomes clear. The Champions rush to save a group of kidnapped girls who are about to be sold into sex trafficking. By the time they reach the scene, one of the girls has already died. The following comics find them dealing with such issues as racism, sexism, religious extremism and hate crimes. The Champions are not going out on missions to have adventures, they are there to fulfill their mission statement: Change the world.
What Makes Champions the Team of Today
The Champions are the ideal team for the modern day. For starters, their diversity is representative of the global world we live in. We have characters of Pakistani, African, European, Korean and Hispanic descent all on one team. All are American citizens, representing the diversity to be found in the States today (Well, I’m not sure about Viv Vision – do synthezoids have citizenship?). Each member is extremely talented, which has deterred the team from deciding upon a leader, instead delegating tasks as situations arise. My money is on Miss Marvel to eventually become official team leader – as the one who came up with the idea for the team in the first place, Kamala has shown herself to be a capable and inspiring leader amongst her peers, and her speech at the end of issue 1 was an inspiring call to activism instead of violence to be used to change the world.
Another interesting feature of the team is that it is entirely composed of legacy characters, those who are not the first to bear their superhero name. Marvel has been doing a particularly impressive job in the last few years developing new heroes to take on the mantles of their forebears. I think this is wonderful. The iconic heroes and their timeless values live on in new iterations, faces of this current generation who can speak in innovative ways to young readers. Kamala Khan is an excellent example of this. We see bravery and charisma in both Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan as Miss Marvel, but with Kamala there is a new, contemporary charm. She is a huge geek who writes fan-fiction regularly and is an avid gamer. She is also Muslim and many of her actions are influenced by her upbringing. Even her superhero costume indicates her roots, being made out of an old burkini (a combo of a burka and a bikini). We would never have seen a character like her in comics a few decades ago, but now she is one of Marvel’s most popular superheroes. With Champions, Marvel is able to highlight some of its most popular legacy heroes and their interactions and antics. I couldn’t be happier with the result.
The series does a great job of balancing levity and teenage hijinks with the gravity of the issues the Champions face. These are teenagers, and they know how to have plenty of fun. At the same time, they show a level of maturity and humility unseen in many heroes years their senior. When dealing with conflicts on foreign soil they do not simply barge in, telling the victims how it is going to be as they “save the day”. They listen to what the local people have to say and follow their advice, helping empower regular people to stand up and be Champions in their own right. At other times the Champions realize while corruption may be clear, this does not always mean there will be someone they can beat up to solve things. Many issues are simply too complicated for that.
The Champions, while impressive now, will certainly continue to improve and mature over time. I cannot wait to see how the relationships between the team members develop as they face new challenges together. This series is definitely worth a read, especially since only 6 issues (plus a crossover event issue) have been released so far. It would not be difficult to catch up. Check out your local comic book store to pick up the issues. I hope that in reading it, you too will become inspired to become a Champion and do your part in changing the world.