Review: Champions Outlawed

The Civil War event, but for teenagers. 

Written by Eve Ewing, with art by Simone Di Meo and Bob Quinn.

The very first post I wrote was ‘Let’s Talk About Marvel’s Outlawed’ about the then-upcoming event called, well, Outlawed. I discussed the special one-shot Marvel released to start the event as well as its similarities to Civil War and more. Now, well over a year later, the event has finally wrapped up. Sort off. The entire whole pandemic thing didn’t do the event any favours. The core of the event started months after it was supposed to, tie-ins from existing series were published out of order and tie-in limited series never made it to print. But the core of the event told in the Champions, is now over. Let’s finally review it!

Is this ‘Civil War but for teen heroes a worthy read? Or is it just another unsuccessful attempt of Marvel to try and recapture the success of that event? It’s an event that has some very strong individual moments but fails to bring everything it does together in a compelling and strong narrative.

Let’s dive in.

Issue 1 begins not long after the events of the Outlawed one-shot and the Cole disaster. With Kamala’s Law, the law that prohibits teenage superheroes, now in effect the teenage superhero community is torn. While the official goal of the law is for teens safety, in practice, many (ab)use it to their own ends causing friction between teens and adults. After Ms. Marvel makes an online statement announcing that the Champions won’t back down, things reach a boiling point. The Champions themselves start to fracture and law enforcement cracks down on a meeting they had. Many of the Champions are taken to ‘re-education camps'. It's up to Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, Nova and Iron Heart to free their friends and try to navigate this entire mess.

Let’s start with the event’s strong points. The artwork is good, let’s get that out there first. It’s a bit inconsistent with facial expressions and you can see the change in artist in #4 and #5, but that’s really not a big deal. The individual moments are very, very strong. The event focuses on not just the Champions vs Kamala’s Law and their struggle against law enforcement but also on the tension between the Champions themselves. The book does a good job of showing where these characters are coming from. That their different situations mean that their stands on the issue are not clear cut.

Riri, for example, has a public identity. While she opposes Kamala’s Law and wants to help her fellow Champions the fear that the government will retaliate by targeting her mother. She’s in a much more vulnerable position which is why she so hesitant to stand up to the law. That’s not what the public and even some of her fellow Champions see however resulting in people come down hard on her for inactivity against Kamala’s Law. A very clear piece of commentary on our current society, no doubt.


Not every Champion sees eye-to-eye on how to handle the situation, even those who find themselves on the same side of Kamala's Law.

There’s also a moment where one of the heroes encounters a kind old African-American woman who allows her to stay over for the night. When said teen wonder how the old woman can be so trusting It’s revealed that the woman was a protestor and advocate for Black rights back in the 1950s. A well written and strong moment that hits home beautifully as well as providing a neat life lesson. It's these kinds of moments that make the book worth reading.

What this book also does very well in my opinion is showing the progression of the main characters. A big part of why the Champions exist is because its founders became somewhat disillusioned with the older heroes. They didn’t want to make the same mistakes they have. In this series, they’re faced with their own version of Civil War but unlike that event, they manage to get through it without falling apart. Not only that, but the characters learn and grow from the experience and the story is stronger for it.

Where the issue falters is the overarching narrative of the story and tying everything together. There are a lot of social issues that these 5 issues touch on. From the impact of unjust and ill-thought out laws. To the polarization of social debates and politics. Some of these topics the story handles well, others not. Part of that is because of the pacing. There just isn’t enough time to really dig into each and every one of them, resulting in some falling through the cracks.

Another big flaw of the series, one that trickles down to other aspects of the book, are the villains. While the series does an amicable job of portraying the issue at hand as complex the book still felt the need to have a clear-cut bad guy. Thus, it does have an almost cartoonish, moustache-twirling group of villains that both the characters and reader can hate and is satisfying to see go down. It does that part well.

What the book doesn’t do well with these clear-cut villains is that they’re not well thought it. Their presence and the way they’re portrayed have a lingering effect on the story which causes problems. The best example is Bombshell’s story. I get what her story is supposed to be, she feels genuinely bad for the part she played in Cole’s disaster and that her fellow Champions are failing to take responsibility for that. Because of the part the villains play, it becomes unclear if this is truly something she feels or if the bad guys have essentially brainwashed her. Combine this with the flawed pacing and Bombshells story becomes a flip-flopping mess and the underlying point is missed as a result of that.

Yeah, that's truly a face you can trust!

Conclusion

It’s for these reasons, angles of falling through the cracks due to a lack of time and others falling flat, that makes this story less than the sum of its parts. If the event would’ve had one more issue and if some aspects that could not be fully explored were cut, this event could’ve been spectacular.

Still, even with these problems Champions Outlawed is still a good and enjoyable little event. It boasts some strong character work, some individual moments that really work like the aforementioned African-American woman. Alongside good, if a bit inconsistent, art. It’s perhaps not the easiest to get through with some of its often complicated and not clear at all subject matter, but it’s quite enjoyable and has some funny parts in it as well to lift the tone up a notch when that’s needed.

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