Civil war but with teen heroes.
|Written by Eve L. Ewing, Art by Kim Jacinto|
Recently, at the time of this writing, Marvel Comics launched Outlawed, the start to their new event which pits teen Heroes against the government after they are literally outlawed. When the event was first announced and when leading up to its release more and more information became available, I became progressively worried. The event seemed to encompass multiple comic book clichés that I personally heavily dislike. From what seems a 'dark and realistic' storyline to the solicitations of the Champions follow up book listing a 'spy/traitor' my hopes weren't high. After reading the issue, however, most of my worries have been alleviated, though some others have come up as well.
Allow me to explain.
Outlawed switches between two narratives: a congressional hearing about a certain superhero-related incident and the Champions on a mission to protect Ailana Kabua, whose clearly based of Greta Thunberg, after she received a series of death threats. Turns out, the mission didn't go so well. The Champions get overwhelmed by an attacking dragon and its backup of gunmen and due to poor communication between the heroes, Viv Vision blows up causing massive property damage and landing Kamala Khan in a coma. As a result of this, it becomes illegal to be a superhero under the age of 21 and a task force to hunt down teen heroes is instated. The parallels between Outlawed and the start of Civil War are undeniable. Both feature an incident caused by a group of young heroes, resulting in a ban against (certain) superheroes and the promise of heroes coming to blow with each other. The difference is that in Outlawed, the focus is put more on the characters themselves then the event.
Civil War, but with teenagers
In Civil War, the New Warriors cause the deaths of hundreds of people by seeking out a supervillain in hiding for fame and recognition. In Outlawed it's a regular mission gone wrong that results in the incident that starts. This makes it much easier for the reader to sympathise with the Champions than the New Warriors. We understand the motivation of the Champions; wanting to protect an innocent teen and we as a reader can easily get behind the Champions.
With the New Warriors in Civil War, however, it is harder to do so due to the fact that they were seeking fame more so than they were trying to save lives. This makes it much harder to sympathise with them and shifts the perspective from That is already a fundamental difference between the two: in Civil War, the incident was there to jumpstart the story, to make the reader really think if superheroes were given to much freedom. In Outlawed it is made clear that what is happening is a bad thing, but it is more about the turmoil between the characters involved then the act itself. With the tragedy also being on a lesser scale than that of Civil War, the only death is that of Viv Vision and her status as a robot and dialogue in the issue itself makes it reasonable to assume that she will to come back later down the line.
The overall tone of Outlawed is also different than that of Civil War. While Viv Vision’s fate is treated with the appropriate amount of weight, the overall tone is much lighter. People crack some jokes here and there and the hearing itself is filled with a mix of humorous interactions and serious commentary on the events, and our current society. Especially a monologue by Nova, which I’ll show below, is a direct commentary on the current US government and I highly recommend at the very least reading the issue for this panel page alone.
|Wise words Nova, wise words indeed...|
This also so happens to be something that Outlawed does that worries me a little. The book has a clear political undertone that I fear might date the storyline and weigh it down. The fact that it is clearly politically charged isn’t necessarily the problem, it’s more so that Eve Ewing clearly wants to make a statement about multiple ongoing issues and the sheer amount of them might result in the book losing focus. It’s better to say something profound about one thing, then to try to say a lot about many things and end up saying basically nothing. The much lighter elements might also class with the darker elements the story might touch. The humour in the first few pages and the depressing reaction of the characters right after Viv’s destruction works well here because it highlights the before and after. Only time will tell if the balance of these two elements will be handled as well in future issues.
Even with the fears I had going into the issue, and some worries that I got from reading it, Outlawed shows a much more sympathetic look, different tone and bigger focus on the characters themselves then the very similar in concept Civil War that the fears of the event becoming unnecessarily dark and depressing seems to be unwarranted.
While it does have some issue of its own, being very politically charged and the lighter tone potentially clashing with its darker elements, Outlawed is on its way to becoming one of the most interesting stories from the ‘house of ideas’ in years.
Update April 10th 2021