While Marvel’s first Civil War was their biggest event comic, many readers were left less than happy, but could Outlawed be Civil War done right?
Spoiler Warning for Champions #2 by Eve L. Ewing, Simone Di Meo, and Bob Quinn
Before the MCU made the Infinity Saga famous, Marvel’s most iconic event was easily Civil War. While the event was a sales juggernaut and is still impacting Marvel Comics fourteen years later, public opinion of the event has only worsened over time. The event was marketed as a conflict between two equally valid sides, but the result was far more skewed toward Captain America than Iron Man. Despite these failings, Civil War was such a good idea that Marvel has revisited it a number of times. The results were mostly mixed… until now. While it is not labeled Civil War, the Outlawed event taking place in Champions #2 shows how to do the concept justice.
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Marvel’s youngest group of superheroes, the Champions, have been feeling the aftershocks of a mission gone horribly wrong. After their battle with a dragon ended with Viv Vision exploding and Kamala Khan seriously wounded, the U.S. government outlawed heroes under the age of 21 who don’t have a mentor. This resulted in the creation of C.R.A.D.L.E. an organization focused on capturing and re-educating young heroes who don’t follow the new laws. While most Champions have been understandably upset, more than a few members have privately wondered whether it was time to quit. As the teens bicker amongst each other about what to do, they are ambushed by C.R.A.D.L.E. leaving only a handful of members left.
Though the superheroes have yet to start fighting each other, the same can’t be said for the public. In Chicago, Kamala, Miles, and Nova watch as a protest creeps toward violence. Two arguing teenagers represent both sides of the argument, with one teen worried about the law’s effect on young people, and the other shouting that young heroes are traumatized child soldiers. Tensions increase, forcing the watching Champions into action. Before they can do much though, the pro-C.R.A.D.L.E. protesters yell and throw cans at the heroes, forcing them to flee. Demoralized, they decide to check in on the one Champion who has been MIA throughout everything, Riri Williams.
The team asks her where she’s been, to which she explains that everything has been too much for her. More than that though, she worries about what being a hero might mean for her family. While most of the Champions have a secret identity, Riri is publicly known, making her more likely to be targeted. Not helping matters is when Kamala tells Riri that someone betrayed the group, leading Riri to assume Kamala is accusing her. Tensions between the Champions and their friend rise further when an alarm sounds in Riri’s house, signaling the arrival of C.R.A.D.L.E. The team prepares for battle as Riri suits up.
What makes all this work better than past Civil War events is the characters. While many of the heroes disagree with each other, they are still friends and don’t want to fight each other. Instead of two groups of heroes clashing, readers are given a much more grounded situation of having the major disagreement play out among the public. Even this debate has more nuance than past Marvel Civil Wars. The anti-C.R.A.D.L.E. side is not just worried about young heroes, but also the increased surveillance they’re under. Meanwhile, the other side might seem like obvious villains but the public supporting them have legitimate fears. Their criticism that teenage heroes are being traumatized feels particularly true given how many tragedies each of the Champions have endured. Of course, none of that justifies the re-education camps, but it does make the situation more complicated than it might seem.
Readers will have to wait and see whether any of the Champions will actually come to blows with each other. Either way though, Champions #2 reflects how political divisions can be particularly difficult for the young.
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