I didn’t read the previous volume of Marvel’s Champions series. It was one of those comics that was easy to miss due to everything else that has been published over the last few years. Now with Marvel relaunching the Champions comic book I’ve decided this is a good time to jump in to try out Marvel’s answer to the Teen Titans and Young Justice comics. While I don’t recognize all of the young heroes on the cover of Champions #1 I’m excited to learn more about them. Having Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Wasp, Viv and Ironheart on the team at least gives a few familiar faces to the team. Now Let’s see how Jim Zub and Steve Cummings start things off with Champions #1.
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Steve Cummings
Colorists: Marcio Menyz and Erick Arciniega
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: From a command center in the Champions’ airship Ms. Marvel, along with Viv and Spider-Man (Miles Morales), has two different Champions strike teams on missions.
The strike team led by Snowguard and Falcon (Joaquin Torres) stop a cartel group who are holding children as prisoners in Culiacan, Mexico.
Over in Kochi Prefecture, Japan, Wasp and Ironheart lead their strike team to save people from a shipwreck.
With those two operations running successfully Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, Brawn (Amadeus Cho) and Viv arrive at their mission point and jump out of the airship. They quickly work on saving people from a disaster.
Later the three teams regroup at the Champions airship.
Spider-Man walks off on his own, which Sam Alexander (formerly Nova) notices. Sam follows asks what is wrong with him. Spider-Man says he is just tired and locks himself in his room.
Brawn tells Sam to let things go. Sam reminds Brawn that he lost his powers and is trying to stay positive. Brawn slams Sam against the wall and tells him to let it go. After Brawn walks away Sam quietly wonders what is going on.
Over in the command center after Ms. Marvel thanks everyone for their hard work.
While Ms. Marvel talks Viv tries to stand next to Ironheart during the meeting. They have a back and forth about how uncomfortable things are after Viv kissed Ironheart without permission. Viv asks permission to kiss Ironheart. Ironheart tells Viv to give her space and walks away.
Back at her speech as Ms. Marvel talks about how the Champions started she realizes Spider-Man and Sam aren’t around. She tells everyone to have fun and party after their success.
Ms. Marvel runs down the hall to find Spider-Man. Sam tells Ms. Marvel he is in his room.
Ms. Marvel tries to knock on Spider-Man’s door but when she doesn’t get an answer she shrinks down and gets in through the cracks.
Miles tells Ms. Marvel to leave him alone as he is dealing with stuff. Ms. Marvel does not accept that he should be celebrating with the others as the Champions are becoming a global movement. Miles yells at Ms. Marvel to leave, which she decides to do.
Once alone in his room Miles is confronted by Mephisto. Mephisto states he is surprised because he thought the Champions’ status was everything Miles wanted. End of issue
The Good: For an opening issue Champions #1 does its job in successfully introducing the reader to this team. Jim Zub establishes who each of the Champions members are and what the team’s overall mission statement will be. Everything was working for the Champions #1 until a questionable twist ending attempted to ruin all the fun.
Right out of the gate Jim Zub does not waste time building out the roster of the Champions. Instead he hits the ground running with the Champions already formed and out saving the world from various disasters. This is a fantastic way to show that the Champions aren’t going to waste time in working on saving the world. They want to be sure that they are making their presence known as a movement that the next generation of superheroes are here.
Ms. Marvel benefited the most from the structure of the Champions #1. That is exactly how it should be as she has been given the position of the leader of the Champions. With us seeing three different Champion squads out saving the world he needed to make sure that it was clear Ms. Marvel was in charge. He did that well by showing her as someone that had a good understanding of all her teammates strengths and weaknesses.
For a first issue this was an important thing to establish since Ms. Marvel continues to build an audience. In the process of building that audience Zub needed to get across that there was no questioning Ms. Marvel’s leadership. That is exactly what he does as we see her completely focused on making sure the first two squads accomplished their missions before her Champions squad went out on their own mission.
Having Ms. Marvel act as the narrator for Champions #1 worked out very well to introduce all of the characters on the team. With lesser known characters like Snowguard, the Locust, Patriot and Pinpoint this was especially important for them. Even if these characters won’t get as much spotlight as other well-known members early on at least this introduction opens the door for future character exploration. The best part of this structure is that Zub does not spend too much time on each character spotlight so they don’t outstay their welcome.
Getting these character introductions out of the way helped make the sub-plot between Ironheart and Viv standout. Though we don’t learn how exactly it all went down Zub did a good job making Ironheart and Viv compelling in how awkward they were with each other. The dynamic between the two was handled well as the chemistry was there. And with both Ironheart and Viv still being in the new character position exploring their relationship will help add to who they are beyond their powers.
Steve Cummings did a very good job delivering artwork that captured the youthfulness of Champions #1. He got across how all of these characters are that next generation of the Marvel Universe who are ready to take the reigns. With all of the characters having different powers and abilities Cummings was able to juggle all of that while spotlighting each member of the Champions.
The Bad: The biggest thing that held Champions #1 was the twist Zub decided to conclude this issue with. Mephisto is one of those characters that as soon as he appears on screen he immediately brings everything to a screeching halt. The character has never added anything to a story.
Connecting the character to Miles Morales was an especially bad move considering Mephisto history with Spider-Man. Even though his history is with Peter Parker, as soon as you see Mephisto talking to Miles only bad memories are brought back up as a Spider-Man fan. It instantly made this the focus rather than the good team building that Zub did before this reveal.
What hurts this Mephisto reveal even more is the fact that it was not necessary at all. There were so many other routes that Zub could’ve gone with giving Miles his own story for Champions. A sub-plot such as Miles secretly working with the benefactor of the Champions would’ve made much more sense. It would have given more context as to how the Champions could operate on their own without the Avengers involvement.
At the same time, it is tough to buy into this major twist because of how much Miles having a relationship with Mephisto affects things. As one of the only characters on the team with a solo series and present in other comics this is a move that affects how Champions readers can perceive him. Mephisto is not a character that can be simply use without affecting Miles other Spider-Man adventures. So because of that it was tough to buy in to the ramifications of this move since it feels disconnected to everything else going on with Miles in other comic books.
Sam Alexander’s sub-plot is another one that ends up falling flat in Champions #1. Sam losing his powers did not add anything to him since we don’t get the details on how that happened. Since we don’t know that it is hard to connect with his loss. This is something that Zub will need to go into better detail on or else lose newer readers not familiar with the previous volume of Champions or Sam’s past as a member of the Nova Corps.
Without that connection to what happened to Sam it made Brawn look like an asshole with how he dealt with someone that is supposed to be his friend. The interaction between the two made it look like they were never friends. It was to the point that Brawn looked more like a bully in that situation towards someone that he sees as nothing more than an annoyance. That was a stark contrast to how they interacted earlier in Champions #1, where there was no hints of animosity between the two.
Overall: Champions #1 is a good start to get new fans invested in Marvel’s next generation superhero team. Jim Zub quickly establishes who each character is, what roles they serve, the team’s mission statement and several dynamics between team members. Because of all that good work it was disappointing that Zub decided to conclude Champions #1 with a twist ending that so easily damages the entire issue. The sooner that twist ending is resolved the better it will be for the future of the Champions.