A Champions: Change the World Review – Social Justice League

TITLE: Champions, Vol. 1: Change the World
AUTHOR: Mark Waid
PENCILLER: Humberto Ramos
COLLECTS: Champions #1-5
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $15.99
RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Champions simultaneously is and is not a product of it’s time. Stories about the new generation rising up and righting the wrongs of the world have been around as long as storytelling itself. And of course, it’s a teenage superhero book. Not exactly a new concept.

At the same time, Mark Waid is going out of his way to be contemporary with Champions. You’ve got some standard teenage superhero stuff, sure. But the book also tackles Islamaphobia, Islamic Fundamentalism, feminism, and police brutality. This is very much a book for 21st century issues, as seen from one side of the political aisle.

In the aftermath of Civil War II, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Kham), Nova (Sam Alexander), and Spider-Man (Miles Morales) have left the Avengers. Determined to give the world heroes they can believe in again, they form a team of their own. A team that refuses to punch down or use unjust force, but instead win the day with wisdom and hope. With the addition of Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Viv Vision, and Cyclops, the Champions are born.

I feel like I owe Humberto Ramos an apology. HIs style is so exaggerated, cartoony even, that one can fall into the trap of underestimating just how good he is. I’ll admit it: That happened to me. But what makes Ramos so special is his versatility. Champions is a potpourri of what superhero comics can offer. It’s a teen dramedy. It’s a superhero action thriller. It’s a look at what it means to be a hero. It’s an inspiring look at what happens when seemingly ordinary people stand up for themselves. But Ramos’ work fits all of it, and ties everything together seamlessly. Visually, nothing feels awkward or out of place. I can only imagine the talent it takes to pull that off.

Mind you, there are some minor bumps in the road. Issue #2 give us a pretty pitiful case of panel duplication. There’s also a splash page where Hulk and Viv are making out that I still don’t get. Hulk is so much bigger than her. I just don’t get how their mouths would…match up? Nothing too intense. But it does briefly pluck you out of the story.

Both Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos have been outspoken regarding the Trump administration, and some of the moves they’ve made. Waid, along with other creators, has made efforts to create “safe spaces” at comic book conventions, and has generally been very public about his feelings toward bullies, hate-mongerers, etc. Ramos, on the other hand, has simply opted not to appear in states that voted for Trump.

Champions, issues #3 and #5 in particular, doesn’t hide that it’s a book written by people with those beliefs. The upside to that is we get some powerful material about standing up to hate, and not being afraid to put yourself at risk to do what’s right. The downside is that this isn’t what a lot of people want in their comics. Though I doubt Waid, Ramos, and the Champions team care who they piss off.

In this sense, the book can overplay it’s hand at times. Especially in issue #3, when we get to the Amal character. She’s a fierce young woman standing up against a militant extremist group committing gender apartheid. It’s pretty obvious how the reader is supposed to feel about her. But Waid makes a point of slipping in little lines about how she should be the leader of the Champions, and how she’s a bad ass. He’s coming from a good place, but that’s overkill.

Gwenpool pops up in issue #5 to join the team’s efforts against a crooked and racist sheriff turning a blind eye to hate crimes. Enraged when a mosque is set ablaze, Gwen and the Champions are tempted to respond with violence. They instead opt to take a more difficult, non-violent route. This has a little bit of a PSA feel to it, but it’s a good message, and an effective use of the Gwenpool character.

Champions has become arguably the most provocative and inviting book Marvel has on the stands right now. It’s not for everyone. But it doesn’t necessarily try to be. It’s also a tremendous example of how the superhero genre can be used for more than just popcorn fun. Change the World has that. But it’s clearly about much more.

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A Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11 Review – Lord Drakkon Revealed

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11, 2017, Jamal CampbellTITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11
AUTHORS: Kyle Higgins, Steve Orlando
PENCILLERS: Hendry Prasetya, Corin Howell. Jamal Campbell.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 18, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is more or less what I imagined we’d get from this follow-up to the big reveal in issue #9. They threw in a little extra garnish. But it’s essentially what I expected.

For the most part, that’s a good thing.

After the big battle in issue #9, Tommy and Billy have been transported elsewhere in time. A time when Earth has been decimated, and ruled by a mysterious White Ranger called Lord Drakkon. But who is Lord Drakkon? What’s become of our heroes? And how do Tommy and Billy get home?

Lord Drakkon is in fact an alternate version of Tommy (shown below). Though in all fairness, that’s a pretty easy prediction. The costume is clearly an amalgamation of the Green and White Ranger suits, with some extra stuff thrown in. It’s unclear how old Tommy is supposed to be. He’s got some gray in his hair, and some odd purple vasculature going on. But I assume this Tommy has been doing weird things with the Morphin Grid. So perhaps his body is feeling the effects.

Lord Drakkon, MMPR #11, Hendry PrasetyaTo create this alternate timeline, Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya are plucking things from subsequent seasons of the show. As our heroes make their way to the wrecked Command Center, we see the remains of the Thunderzords. Tommy eventually makes his way down to what would become the Power Chamber in Power Rangers Zeo. There he finds Saba, the White Ranger’s talking sword from seasons two and three.

Normally I don’t like when creators get cute like this. Having Tommy and Billy see things from their future taints the emotional intensity of what happens later in the show. But I’m holding off on judging too harshly until they’re done. Stories like this tend to come with mindwipes anyway.

As Billy alludes to, it’s unclear at this point whether this is an alternate timeline, or the timeline we know with an altered future. Given Tommy’s gray hair, it’s entirely possible this takes place decades in the future.

We get another tweaked costume here, in the form of the Mastadon Sentries (shown below), designed by Prasetya. According to Higgins, Drakkon has warped the Power Coins to create an army for himself. As such, we get this sort of Black Ranger S.W.A.T. team outfit. Note the lining on the gun barrel, which resembles the handle of the Power Axe. It’s a fun design. I can’t help but wonder if Drakkon has an elite guard that has the Red Ranger design. Sort of like Palpatine’s guards in Return of the Jedi.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #11, Hendry Prasetya, Mastadon SentiesThe capitol building in Angel Grove has some cool design elements from Rita’s castle, most notably the orb on top. What used to be Angel Grove high is now called the Finster Memorial Correction Facility, which is a riot.

I also love the Planet of the Apes homage cover by Jamal Campbell. We don’t see anything like that in the issue, but you get the idea.

We’ve got a little bit more parent drama in this issue, as Billy’s parents and Tommy’s mother talk to the police about their missing kids. I always appreciate that in my teenage superhero dramas.

“The Ongoing Adventures of Bulk and Skull” continue, as Steve Orlando and Corin Howell tell a tale about the boys controlling a two-headed monster. This still doesn’t do much for me. The highlight was Bulk calling Rita “that nice lady with the wicker rabbit hat.”

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers continues to be at or near the top of my stack each time it comes out. We’ve reached the point where Higgins, Prasetya, and the team are really sinking their teeth in, and starting to forge their own ground. For this ’90s kid, it makes for supremely interesting comics.

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