Champions #2 was “a lot of dialogue and very few action scenes.” Champions #3 is, likewise, a lot of words, but the change in line artist elevated the overall narrative. The ending, however, left a sour taste in my mouth.
Federico Blee (colorist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Eve L. Ewing (writer), Toni Infante (cover), and Bob Quinn (artist)
December 2, 2020
Like Champions #2, this issue opens on the C.R.A.D.L.E. reeducation center, where Bombshell (Lana Baumgartner), Locust (Fernanda Rodriguez), Snowguard (Amka Aliyak), Wasp (Nadia Van Dyne), and Starling (Tiana Toomes) are detained. Given that they’re all out of costume, I’m grateful for the caption boxes with their names and alter egos. Someone, please, put a roster on the title page of this book. There are so many Champions. I would like to not have to Google characters every time I write a review. I had hoped that splitting the team up would mean that writer Eve L. Ewing and company, with Bob Quinn having taken over as line artist, would focus on a smaller number of characters. Instead, and even with some Champions left out, Champions splits its — and the reader’s — attention.
Further, the point has been made: the Reform School is bad. Even more obvious: that the Outlawed event is a rehashing of Civil War, from the many cameos to a direct reference to the Super Hero Registration Law made by Silhouette (Silhouette Chord, who also appeared in Ewing’s Ironheart). If I wanted to read Civil War, I would be reading Civil War. When Nova (Sam Alexander) talks about being a legacy, what would be a poignant moment is entirely undermined by the fact that these characters are new and different but what should be their event is not.
Quinn’s artwork, with colorist Federico Blee, is new and different, at least, from Simone Di Meo’s. Quinn’s layouts are usually more traditional, with typically square, black bordered panels against white gutters. There are times when panels overlap or change in shape or the gutter is black or disappears, which all work so much better here than in prior issues because they are the exception rather than the rule. Blee’s colors, further, benefit from the white gutter, which makes the panels more distinct from one another than the black gutter favored by Di Meo. The narrative also benefits from the more traditional layouts, which direct the reader’s eye across the page.
I was also glad to see letterer Clayton Cowles borrow the journal caption box style of Miles Morales: Spider-Man (lettered by VC’s Cory Petit) when Spider-Man is narrating; however, Cowles’s skilled lettering cannot make up for just how much there is to letter. A third of the issue is dedicated to Viv Vision, and most of it is spent on a conversation that does more telling than showing. Like Ironheart, Champions has a lot of dialogue. Unlike Ironheart, this isn’t Ewing’s first comic book. This book would almost undoubtedly benefit from a stronger editorial hand.
The issue ends with Cyclops, former Champion, offering asylum to Nova, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), and Ironheart (Riri Williams). Much like the (many, many) allusions to Civil War, the tie-in to the X-Men is something that leaves me asking: who is this for? The X-Men (and X-Fandom) just got their own 22-issue event. They have their own island. They even have an active Champion, Dust (Sooraya Qadir), although I doubt either team could tell me where she is right now. Still, Champions is a team primarily made up of teenagers of marginalized identities, mostly women of color. I’ll take explicit representation over the mutant metaphor any day, and I wish Champions would do the same.