Champions #24 Review

by Charles Martin on September 12, 2018

Champions #24 Review
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Sean Izaakse
Colourists: Marcio Menyz & Erick Arciniega
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Strap in, folks. It's time for a Very Special Issue. Our topic today: school shootings.

I'm gonna get philosophical and possibly maudlin further on, so let me hit the qualitative points up front. This issue has a superb script. Powerful characterization is the order of the day. Jim Zub portrays his key characters in ways that will surely make G. Willow Wilson and Brian Michael Bendis proud. The visuals provide tremendous support, retaining a high level of polish while also lavishing very appropriate attention on very emotional faces.

A standard-issue Champions community service project falls apart in the first scene because Miles gets a special alert on his phone. There was a shooting at his school, and Spider-Man arrives too late to do anything about it.

The meat of the comic is Miles processing what's happened and how it makes him feel and what he should do next. 

I have all the respect in the world for how the creators tackle this topic. They don't reduce a critical real-world problem to something punch-able. They have confidence in the enormity of their subject and refrain from counter-productively undercutting it with added melodrama. You won't find anything so cheesy as tearful supervillains declaring school shootings to be a special sort of evil. The creators don't, thank the Lord, make policy suggestions. 

They present a vast, unanswerable, despair-inducing problem in all its bleakness. They let Miles stare straight into the abyss.

They don't shirk away from the extra complications created by fitting this very real-world problem into the Marvel universe, either. That's an impressive bit of courage, and it adds genuine torment to this problem. They make it hurt for Miles. The counsellor trying to help him process feelings of guilt tells him, "You couldn't have stopped it … you're not a superhero." 

Ouch, yeah?

This story is all about Miles, but I appreciate the spaces left for some of the other team members. Riri gets a chance to express a little extra bitterness about gun violence, subtly reminding us that her upbringing was more dangerous than her teammates' and that guns are a serious problem outside schools, too.

Kamala gets a scene with her own supporting cast as the kids at Coles Academic go through an active shooter drill. It's deeply disturbing, exactly as it should be. Nakia can't stop crying, despite knowing it's a drill. It pulls no punches in depicting the reality of growing up in 21st-century America. 

It's Marvel giving us "the world outside our window," but with the added challenge of confronting a part of that world that's profoundly broken.

Kamala also tackles the job of lifting Miles up and inspiring him when he needs it the most. Their final-act conversation is a thing of real beauty, discussing despair and hope in concrete terms that apply not just to superheroes but to everyone. Including teens. Including even teens that might reach for a gun. 

It portrays despair as an infection that spreads through every tragedy, hurting supposedly-uninjured survivors along with other victims. It subtly hints that that same infection is there before a disaster and that this is something we can all fight. It admits that total victory might not be possible.

But it reminds us emphatically that the fight will always be worth fighting.

The Champions (Miles in particular) live up to their title when challenged with a school shooting issue. This is a frank look at an ugly problem. It does not trivialize or over-dramatize. It does not prescribe facile or fantastic remedies. It reminds us of the wounds to which we're all susceptible and it inspires us to take action on our own. It is powerful and it is good. It is a potent reminder that in the wake of tragedy, stories about heroes only grow more important.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
I admire the fact that this comic is (I fervently hope) inspirational regardless of your political views.