Marvel is having a light week, but the publisher’s teen heroes are still looking to expand their roster in Champions #16! AJ and Alex take a deep dive into the issue while Alexander checks to see if Avengers: No Surrender has improved since the debut–welcome to this week’s Marvel Rundown!
Written by Mark Waid
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
Inked by Victor Olazaba
Colored by Edgar Delgado
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Alexander Jones: AJ, the Champions are expanding their roster and lots of recent events have changed the traditional status quo of the team. After being absent for a large chunk of the current Champions run I have a lot to say about chapter 16, what did you think of the series’ newest installment?
AJ Frost Hi Alex. Well, after rushing to catch up on the book, my thoughts on the latest issue are pretty mixed. On first glance, there’s nothing wrong with the story and it’s a solid continuation of the sage of Viv Vision’s bifurcation into the human realm. There were nice touches of humor here and there and pretty thrilling action scene taking place at the Mexican border. But after I finished the issue, I just thought “Meh, that’s alright.” So, my initial take is while there is nothing wrong with the issue, there’s nothing patricianly memorable either. Standard MOR stuff.
Jones: I’m right there with you AJ. I did think the Viv Vision’s status quo shifting after the High Evolutionary turned her mortal was interesting, but aside from the character work, this title explores in-depth, I’m not sure about the overall tone of this comic. The script feels particularly light and the personality for each Champion doesn’t get the chance to shine through here. There are lots of superhero team books where every hero has a group mentality and it is disappointing to see the trope rehashed here.
Frost: Yeah. I mean, there was some a couple beats Mark Waid threw in which were good for a chuckle. The interaction between the Champions was enjoyable; they have good reparteé. It is nice there is a bit of goofiness thrown around, and the characters attempt to bring down each other’s egos. That’s nice to see. But was it enough to get me to invest in the team dynamic fully? Can’t say it was.
But even with that said, it was a pleasant read. Humberto Ramos, who I believe we’ve talked about before, is a great artist–natural too. The aesthetics of the issue are good for a mainstream outing.
Jones: I can’t speak on Humberto Ramos’ art with authority because it is simply not to my taste. Ramos’ art is really exaggerated (as usual) and his storytelling and interiors are just so loose it becomes difficult for me to connect with any issue featuring his interiors. If this was a creator-owned comic and his work defined the visual language of the book, I think the title would have a stronger chance at holding my interest. I believe that this issue merits some further discussion because of the way this roster intersects so many important current Marvel teen heroes. Some of these characters are less than a couple years old, making this a fascinating experiment for Marvel. This ongoing in particular could be the best representative of what Marvel is currently interested in publishing or at least a signifier of this era.
Frost: Would you care to expand on your thoughts? Why do you think this comic is the best representative of Marvel’s current line? You mean in terms of character choices? Or in storytelling terms?
Jones: I was speaking specifically in terms of the existing roster. Over the past few years, Marvel has pushed younger and teen heroes to the forefront of the line. In the next couple years, I do not believe every character making up the roster is going stick around for the long haul. Will the new Falcon and Red Locust be here to stay? What about Viv Vision (or Viv as she exists currently in her flesh and blood form)? These are all interesting aspects of the book which intrigue me no matter what the quality.
Frost: Interesting indeed. I mean, this team is not old, all things considered. And you’ve really honed in on the meta-arc of the run, which is more about developing new concepts and character beats that are familiar within the Marvel universe while also expanding the potential for commentary on the vitality of Marvel to be a mirror for who makes up (or normatively make up) their prime readership. Am I following your line of thought on this?
Jones: That is entirely what I am trying to say. But even in that regard, I don’t think the issue succeeds. The pieces of this title are all interesting, but the characters are so similar in their dialogue that they start to drown each other out, making this an even bigger disappointment than it would have been otherwise.
If any of these heroes are going to stick around, they are like going to need to be fleshed in solo titles or future team books.
Frost: I think there were pockets of the book which stood out, but as an overall package, it was underwhelming for sure. Waid stashes little nuggets of goodness around, but the spark making this an exceptional story needs to be tended to with a little more care. I chuckled more than once at Spider-Man’s “Girlfriend from another universe” scene.
Jones: I thought Kamala’s reaction to the scene was really over-the-top and it left a bad taste in my mouth at the end of the day. I also have no idea why Spider-Gwen is on the cover here. AJ, do you have any final thoughts on the title or the state of Marvel’s teen heroes?
Frost: Can’t say I was thrilled by it all. There were some things in here to keep me amused, but it’s all stuff I could probably find in tons of books out there now, anyway.
Alexander Jones: I’m going with a SKIP, what say you?
Frost: I’ll be a tad more generous and say WEAK BROWSE. The Vision stuff is the most interesting bit here, but the team itself is just… meh.
Final Verdict: AJ says WEAK BROWSE, Alexander says SKIP.
Written by Al Ewing, Mark Waid and Jim Zub
Illustrated by Pepe Larraz
Colored by David Curiel
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Avengers: No Surrender started to take a much stronger shape and structure more closely mirroring huge, bombastic Avengers stories such as the Heroes Return arc of Avengers by Kurt Busiek and George Perez.
The comic essentially lugs a huge cast of Avengers in one room together and starts to set up a huge mystery, pitting two different teams of villains together. It is amazing just how much Al Ewing, Mark Waid and Jim Zub get done in Avengers #676. The installment even offers a much better look at Voyager calling out Marvel history into the narrative in a meta, but endearing fashion. More than anything, this chapter finally brings the energy and big ideas the debut should have carried in the first place. Marvel and the full creative team have really stirred the pot to bring in some new and different Avengers heroes readers don’t get to see very often. New heroes like Iron Patriot and Red Hulk get a chance at some additional characterization–not every member of the roster is used to their full potential but having such an odd makeup of the team is an exciting prospect.
Also, seeing the new squads of villains the publisher began to roll out is a fantastic change of pace I wasn’t expecting. The comic also offers a few clues and hints towards future issues and where everything could be leading in the next couple weeks. Also, Pepe Larraz’s art is vibrant, beautiful and detailed. With his second week in a row, the artist is proving he can smash deadlines and turn in exceptional work. With Avengers: No Surrender‘s scripts already finished I also have no doubt the narrative will retain a high quality until the inevitable conclusion of the tale. I never expected to like this story so much or to see the work go through such an incredible improvement from one week to the next.
Final Verdict: Buy. Avengers #676 through a ton of plot into the ether and took some big changes–don’t miss this one!
Thanks for asking, Thor #703 was fantastic! Also, Donny Cates scripts on Doctor Strange seem to be finding a better groove and there’s Gabriel Hernandez Walta art. Next week Legion #1 will be dominating this space!