Well, I have successfully put friend, and fellow blogger, Michael Miller of My Comic Relief, on his proverbial toes by mentioning I had read a graphic novel under his recommendation, while avoiding any mention of the book of choice or my general feelings about it. By now he has breathed a sigh of relief (no pun intended), as I know, if there were any comic in the last few months he would promote readership for it would be the 2016 re-launch of the Marvel title Champions.
There was another important player in me grabbing this book off the library shelf as soon as I saw it, in a spastic pace like there was someone behind me about to grab it, or it would spontaneously combust if it did not taste the sweet, soft caress of my hand at that very moment. Champions pencil artist, Humberto Ramos, has been one of my favourite artists in mainstream comics since 2006. As Civil War was going crazy, and we were all taking the opportunity to try new things, one of the biggest stand-outs for me was the artwork of Civil War: Wolverine. Since then the talent of Mr. Ramos has not been lost on me, and his Spider-Man is near the top of my list. I had the opportunity to meet Ramos a few years after my introduction to his work, of course I had him sign that Wolverine title for me. My brother went further to commission a sketch of Spider-Man crawling over Logan’s shoulders, and the piece is one of the nicest things in any of our collections.
When you include the writing talents of Mark Waid, the mastermind behind Kingdom Come, and some of the best Flash stories you can read, Champions has all the tools it needs for a successful book to be put together.
I am uncertain how it is that I am aware of the original 1975 Champions team. It was long before my time, was short lived, and I don’t think I’ve ever, physically, seen an issue. My limited knowledge must come from random Marvel facts that I picked up at an early age, collecting Marvel trading cards or reading Marvel encyclopedia’s. Wherever I picked up that useless tidbit, I always liked the idea of Ghost Rider and Ice-Man on the same team. Ice Man was always one of my favourites, and Ghost Rider, well to me, Ghost Rider was always an enigmatic character that Marvel pushed and pushed to make succeed but could never bring him to the top tier. Either way, he has a flaming skull and he rides a motorcycle, that kind of automatically puts you in the cool list. Like, if this was high school you would want the flaming head motorcyclist in your clique.
So, when I saw the first images of the modern day Champions line-up- probably last summer- my thoughts immediately went to “where the heck is Ice Man?”. Is there not a couple Bobby’s to choose from? After the initial shock, I have to admit, this is a pretty unique Marvel team. What stands out on first impressions most, has to be Cyclops. I may not be completely up to date in all cannon, but we all know the original Cyclops went all dark side, and kicked it. Resulting in this young Cyclops having to deal with being seen as a sleeping monster or potentially being just that, has created a complex character that will be fun to watch no matter where they put him. The inclusion of a Cyclops on any team that isn’t mutant orientated is a big switch up from the old Marvel standard as well. Other than the little information I have on the young Mr. Summers, the only other characters I have read anything about would be Miles Morales and the fantastic Ms. Marvel- both great characters that can carry books on their own. Throw in a few powerhouses like a Nova, a Vision, and a Hulk, and you got yourself a strong, diverse group.
Now, when throwing a bunch of random characters together like this you run the risk of making it a) too convoluted or b) too convenient, but, I have to give high praise to this book. Right off the bat they give this team purpose, standards, and motives. Back when the X-Men were created, they were relevant- and still are today- because of the underline social commentary. This revamped Champions team has given Marvel a voice, and face, to a new generation. Beyond the fact that mainstream comic characters have been too wrapped up in issues they have created themselves, or literally facing off with each other, to face the everyday issues in the world today, the line between right and wrong has been blurred. What was important to the generations before mine, is not what is important to the generations coming in. This team of young heroes has given strength to a whole new generation, even if it is a fictional universe.
Between the dynamics of this eclectic group, and the fact they have their own standards of good and bad, this series seems so important and valuable. What took so long? As long as the creators and artists behind this book keep their mind on what this series means, than it should last for a very long time, giving the young heroes a chance to do things that are meaningful to them. Mark Waid has done a wonderful job of setting that par, and I would be happy to read whatever he produces here. And Ramos, well, Ramos did what Ramos does, the art is perfection. All in all, I have to agree with my friend, My Comic Relief (and check out his review), this is one of the best, most relevant main stream comics I have read in a long time. I give book one, collecting issues 1 – 5 a 5/5. Well written, strong foundation, great art, and always important, entertaining front to back. I highly recommend this book to everyone, even if you are completely lost in modern Marvel cannon, this series is worth jumping in on. I hope to read much, much more of this title.
Thanks booknerds, fight the good fight.