Champions hits the shelves in the first set of the new wave of Marvel Now! comics. Written by Mark Waid, drawn by Humberto Ramos, inked by Victor Olazaba, colored by Edgar Delgado, and lettered by Clayton Cowles, this comic is available in a wide array of covers, from a John Tyler Christopher action figure cover depicting Ghost Rider from the 1970s Champions series to Jay Fosgitt mixing Gwenpool into the Champions’ corner of the Marvel Universe.
Readers who have been around for a little while might recognize the Champions brand. Others might be familiar with “Marvel” and “Champions” from the “Contest of Champions” game. Or, if you saw the standard cover, you might be picking it up to see what one of your favorite characters – Cyclops, Nova, Viv Vision, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, and Hulk – is doing with these others.
And you just might be in for a treat.
Marvel has done a great job of matching talent to character, and that is so very, very true with Humberto Ramos’ Champions assignment. Known for his near-ridiculous anatomical exaggeration, Ramos injects most characters with wide-eyed excitement and vitality. That worked for his time on Amazing Spider-Man, and it translates well to this title, which includes a different Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and a handful of associates, all of whom are anxious and hopeful to make a difference.
A philosophical descendant from the original Champions that featured Angel and Iceman and a loose collection of other heroes (the Johnny Blaze version of Ghost Rider, Black Widow, Hercules, and, eventually, Darkstar), Champions sets out to make a difference. Kamala Khan has hastily discarded her Ms. Marvel identity, left the Avengers, and is spending more time with her family, when it occurs to her that maybe she could be more proactive.
Already familiar with the young trio of characters from All-New, All-Different Avengers, Mark Waid quickly and organically brings in Spider-Man and Nova, as Kamala has an idea, but needs to talk it through with her friends.
Waid uses a by-the-numbers plot that completely serves the purpose of showcasing personalities and interactions while bringing the heart of the Champions team together. Interaction is where Waid really sells this concept, as the kids have the energy and enthusiasm of youth to want to make a difference and the abilities to truly affect change. With their humanity front-and-center, the characters give Champions #1 a fun, but poignant rhythm, clicking along and finding its voice rather effectively in this thirty-page debut issue. It’s a market-savvy move from the veteran writer, as it makes this issue remarkably new-reader friendly without being a pure exposition dump.
As mentioned, Ramos is spot on for the vivaciousness of youth, infusing the art with energy, from the first page depicting a hastily discarded Ms. Marvel uniform to the way Spider-Man moves, the expressions on Amadeus Cho’s jade-jawed face, and the visual application of Ms. Marvel’s powers. His penchant for detail is welcome in establishing this new team. It’s clear from the drawings on the pages that Ramos is having fun exploring new characters, settings, and powers. My only concern is that Ramos is perhaps a too little flashy with what should be modest and somber depiction of human trafficking. It’s not awful, but it seems to me that it could have been dialed down a bit. Readers don’t need to see what the villain of the piece is exploiting.
Victor Olazaba, as always, does a great job with Ramos’ lines, spotting blacks, adding textures, and separating character from setting. The real champion of the visuals in Champions #1, however, is Delgado. His colors are remarkable, bold and brash in the present-day, reserved and subdued in flashback. The flashback of the Avengers fighting the Wrecking Crew (here’s hoping Waid uses them as go-to opposition, much as he used Team Turmoil in his work on The Flash) made me stop and study. It’s a subtle shift to be certain, but there is no mistaking, from color alone, that the story is in the past. I’d love to see Delgado continue to use this, and would be even more intrigued if he dials up the effect as scenes go farther back. Delgado uses the full range of the tools at his disposal and visually celebrates the Marvel Universe’s diversity and energy.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the logo, or, rather the symbol of the new Champions, the split, flying “C”. Maybe it’s just me, but the “C” looks like a rip-off of the Cleveland Cavaliers brand, which might be intentional, given the propensity of youth to copy that which they emulate, but in my opinion, if this comic wanted to stand out as being different, wouldn’t the block “C” be more dynamic in a sea of wannabes?
I can live with the decision, especially since it brings the Champions brand back to the new comic rack. The Champs were one of the first comic book-based teams I encountered, and putting a new Champions title out gives me hope that maybe we’ll see the classic team appear (beyond the playful Champions variant covers), if even in a exquisitely-colored flashback. As for this team, well, I’m hooked. I’ve been a fan of the Sam Alexander Nova and the Totally Awesome Amadeus Cho Hulk. Miles is enjoyable, and I fully trust Waid to make the character more endearing, while Kamala Khan is the new face of Marvel, and a character I find enjoyable. Viv is the wildcard for me, but in this issue, she provides some much needed straight man humor, while giving the readers another character to learn about. Ramos, in one panel, sums up the potential exceptionality for Viv, in a humorous, logical image.
This is the Champions, my friends. If you enjoy comics with fun art, characters with heart, and are looking for something new, hop onboard. Waid, Ramos, Olazaba, Delgado, and Cowles are as reliable a creative team as any in comics today, and I’m locked in to see where they take these Champions and what new legends they craft.