Champions #8 review: That one time Sam Washington saved the team


The Freelancers may be physically beaten, yet their reach is felt. Against corporate power and social media, is Sam Washington their only savior?

Champions #8

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Humberto Ramos

Inker: Victor Olazaba

Colorists: Edgar Delgado & Nolan Woodard

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Watching a creation become corrupted by corporate interests is something those in the arts know well. It’s also something the Champions had yet to learn until now. Founded out of wanting to help others in ways older superhero teams didn’t, they sparked a social movement. Unfortunately, they’ve lost their symbol and brand itself to the companies that hired the Freelancers. Now their logo is being used to sell overpriced goods, not to rally for social or economic justice.

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As a result, the entire team is in the doldrums. None more so than Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel. Since she is the heart and unofficial leader of the team, it seems like she feels the worst about their state. Miles Morales (Spider-Man) has to use webbing to get her to not beg Nova (Sam Washington) not to fly her to California for another brawl against the Freelancers. Yet this is one battle that can’t be won with rubber fists. Once their image as sell-outs is set, it’s tough to break.

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Not Even Superheroes Can Punch the Internet!

While Sam Washington has enough of the “boo-hoo stuff,” the rest of the team copes in their own ways. Cyclops fears an inevitable dressing down from their elders, the Avengers, and plans for it in the only way he knows how. That is, have Viv Vision create holographic doubles of them so he can rehearse, “Danger Room”-style. Due to taking up space in Amadeus Cho’s home, however, the pair find themselves getting a Hulk as a big green third wheel. Yet this time, Cho isn’t all about his ego.

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Because of the kiss they shared during their Champions cook out, Cho has some things on his chest. They all regard Viv, whose exploration of emotions has the robot girl at the center of his attention. While the hormones of normal teenagers are often extreme, it becomes doubly so when gamma radiation or circuits are involved. Yet when Viv reveals that after some careful thought that she doesn’t “swing” that way, Cho is both relieved and happy for her.

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In fact, it seems the Hulk gets more to do in this issue. He’s easily pigeon-holed as both the muscle and the egomaniac, but Waid shows some depth to Cho here. Despite the fact that Cyclops has a habit of blasting him, Cho sees him as a genuine friend. The pair resolve whatever lingering issues they had with each other. In the meanwhile, the Vision continues to prove to be a creepier dad than even Mr. Fantastic was. He ignores Viv’s boundaries, and has stern punishments for her.

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Seems Like Nova and Hulk Aren’t So Bad after All!

Yet between the lot of them, none of them can figure a way to solve the crisis. Kamala reacts with her heart on her sleeve, and all Miles can do is reign her in. Cho can’t sort it out with his “hyper-mind,” nor can Viv or Cyclops come up with an answer with logic or training. Compared to the lot of them, Sam Washington often comes off as the “average” kid. He isn’t as passionate as Kamala nor as smart or experienced as the others. He usually says the wrong thing and gets people angry.

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Therefore, it’s a pleasant surprise when Nova turns out to have saved the day. While the rest of the Champions assumed defeat and sulked, Sam Washington turned their foe into an ally. Producing his own social media message, Nova has done wonders to repair their image. The Champions may not be able to stop tycoons from earning cheap bucks off their logo, but they can make it clear where they stand, and what they’re about. The “average” kid scored an “A” this time.

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Once more, Mark Waid turns in a riveting script which takes full advantage of his cast. Despite being a superhero team, they only seem to fight physical threats half the time. The rest of the time is spent on characterization. Waid bounces their personalities off of each other and the latest situation he has crafted for them. Most of them entail more than simply punching a villain out. Each issue feels like more time spent with characters you know interact, which is how it should be.

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In Conclusion, Good Writing Doesn’t Need a Crossover!

Humberto Ramos continues his incredible run as solo penciler as well. He’s now gone eight issues without needing a break—an almost unheard of streak these days. While there are two colorists credited—usually a sign of deadline crunch—it doesn’t effect the art he and inker Victor Olazaba lay down. As always, Ramos excels with emotion and more inhuman-looking characters more than anatomy. So stuff like Kamala’s stretching, Hulk’s physique, or the Visions’ antics are his strengths.

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While Sam Washington’s feat is a key detail, the rest of the team shine as well. Viv coming out about her orientation was interesting stuff, considering she’s also an android. She and Cyclops continue to have an interesting dynamic, and revealing he and Cho as pals was interesting. Considering how often the pair argue, it was hilarious seeing Kamala gush about Nova after he pulls off the online save. Miles continues to be lost in the shuffle, as the straight man at best.

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Next: See Round Two against the Freelancers in #7!

In conclusion, Champions remains the one Marvel superhero team book doing things awesomely. While I wouldn’t mind a little more villain stomping, the impact of the Freelancers has been felt. As the series nears its first year, it really has picked up the torch left from the New Warriors. They’re a team of teens rebelling from adult heroes, yet aren’t cynical about things as the X-Men or Runaways were. Every issue with them is an adventure in quality, and is always worth reading!