The Champions concluding chapter more than sticks the landing, it presents a tremendously solid wrap-up to the overarching plotlines of the book while never wavering from the character-focused heart that made the series soar. This creative team proved that teen-focused books can and do work still, creating one of the best books around, and Marvel should get them on something else together sooner rather than later.
Superhero comics have a long history of threats that can be taken down with the right application of superpowers and often a solid punch. At the same time, they have just as much of a history of stories where the characters were confronted by a threat that couldn’t be taken down by that punch or other violence-based means.
The Champions met that threat recently and their story arc has come to an end, for the time being at least.
All through this arc, titled ‘Killer App,‘ Danny Lore, Luciano Vecchio, Federico Blee, and Clayton Cowles strove to put the teenage heroes in a position that put them face to face with a different level of villainy. The corporate/capitalistic/systemic type of villainy. This is the foe that can’t be defeated easily and sometimes one must take the small wins in this fight even if they cannot win the overall war.
Watching the teens infiltrate and try to take Roxxon down from the inside while dealing with their own traumas and struggles was exceedingly engaging. One of the greatest strengths of this series, and it should be this way for all books, was just how much it focused on the characters and allowed them to be themselves and be teenagers and feel real with such depth. Every issue made sure to save space for the characters to breathe and interact in ways that were true to them, even this final one.
Lore is just truly fantastic at capturing these characters’ voices, writing teenage voices especially when one is not a teenager anymore can be quite difficult, and makes it look easy. This was their first longer work and team book for Marvel, but it absolutely should not be the last. It would be awesome to see the book maybe get relaunched and get another go with this team intact, or even get them on an Avengers or bigger team book to bring their styles to something of that level.
While the robot fight was really nice as a threat for the teens to try and work their way out of (and made for some fun scenes of slang and trying too hard to be teen-like), the overall message resonated so much here. I am 100% glad that the choice was made to not make this a situation where the teens were fully victorious and walk away with Roxxon gone and Mirriam Blakemore in prison or something else of that usual nature. Instead, they learned the hard lesson that these systems and institutions cannot just be taken down simply, much like the real world, and even other hero teams like the Avengers have struggled to end these threats.
Watching heroes win everything is a nice thing, a very cathartic thing often, but seeing them learn and struggle and sometimes just must take the wins they can is just as appealing. It makes these stories feel more real and makes us feel like if the heroes can’t just knock this down and will keep on fighting well then so can we.
Vecchio and Blee continue to be a stellar duo in bringing this world to such vivid life. Vecchio has a very dynamic and just inherently fun and light but detailed style with such depth, it screams comic books/superheroes in the best ways possible. On the other end, Blee comes in with a very bright and colorful palate for this series that isn’t afraid to mix and match the very bright and the shadowed or darker tones where needed. While the subject matter might be slightly heavier, their styles just remind us how beautiful and fun these stories are and has the right youthful energy for this story.
This is helped by the way that the pages are laid out as well. Like a great number of other fantastic books on the shelves, the paneling stretches the boundaries of standard paneling and allows for a great variety within the pages. There are great headshots alongside uses of more rectangular stacked panels and the always fantastic ability of characters to transcend the panels and exist across multiple panels as if they are breaking through the fourth wall and any other such barriers.
Cowles gets in on the action with all the bright and fun SFX that match the overall tone and bring a lot of that fun aspect that was mentioned. What is really nice is how much detail is put into the dialogue bubbles, to make sure that they fit the various characters and aren’t all just routine. Instantly without looking anywhere but the dialogue bubble one knows when Viv Vision is speaking or when Iron Heart is speaking. Even the characters that don’t have colorful bubbles have ones that are distinct enough with their flavors of dialogue that they are easy to point out.
All good things must come to an end, but it is hard to say goodbye to those things that we come to greatly enjoy. Champions is most assuredly one of those things. While the journey might be over, the fact that we got to have this story by this team featuring these characters is truly a thing worth celebrating always.
Champions #10 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.