Written by Eve Ewing
Art by Kim Jacinto and Espen Grundetjern
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
A tragedy befitting a crossover befalls the Champions in Outlawed #1. Kicking off the teen-centered event, Outlawed #1 details a few very bad days for the Champions and the rest of Marvel’s current teen hero populace. Written with a keen drive and occasional charm by author Eve Ewing and aided by the bombastic art of Kim Jacinto and Espen Grundetjern, we’re given a front-row seat to a Champions mission gone disastrously awry, while also witnessing testimony unfurl as the government rolls out its own response to the incident - forcibly collecting superheroes under 21 for training.
It is a lot of exposition and narrative track to lay, but Eve Ewing’s canny use of flash-forwards in the opening and the subsequent backtracking set piece sells the stakes and moral groundings of the event, as she carefully builds up her house of cards before knocking them down in a dramatic fashion. Jacinto and Grundetjern also help quite a bit, giving this debut issue a flashy, anime-inspired look dotted with splashy panel layouts and expansive action, like the team’s fight against a literal dragon from Roxxon. Armed with rich moralistic themes and frenetic action, Outlawed #1 is a solid start for Marvel’s latest teen-centric crossover.
Of course, there are going to be some comparisons that are inevitable — teenage heroes causing tragedy was of course the flashpoint that kicked off Civil War, Marvel’s ur-crossover for the past decade and a half. But Marvel’s teen heroes have proliferated since the glory days of 2006, and so too has Ewing’s take on this demographic evolved. For starters, this story is viewed squarely from the perspective of the Champions, rather than having Marvel’s adult heroes suddenly taking over — but as we see more exposition and testimony from characters like Miles Morales, Ironheart and Nova, Ewing even goes as far to show that the heroes may even be in the wrong. It’s that kind of thoughtfulness that elevates this event, providing a moral quandary that will leave readers thinking long after they put this book down.
And just as excitingly, Ewing doesn’t skimp on the action, either. Separated from their usual leader Ms. Marvel, the young heroes are forced to make a choice to put down the Roxxon dragon — given an appropriately hectic tone by Ewing, the script leans into the chaos and reactive kind of heroism the young heroes are known for, especially as Viv Vision and Power Man veer dangerously away from the team dynamic, as their combined powers result in some massive unintended consequences. Not only does this up the tension of the sequence, but it gives the fallout of the action a real weight as the actions of the Champions could absolutely be read and seen as reckless and in dire need of direction.
Meanwhile, Outlawed’s art team Kim Jacinto and Espen Grundetjern pack so much wallop that it might as well be considered criminal. Opening with heroes testifying in front of Congress, the pair show early that they can handle character emoting. And as the action and stakes of the issue ramp up, Jacinto and Grundetjean ramp up some highly kinetic action sequences, culminating in a fantastic double-page splash of all our teen heroes holding the line against the forces of Roxxon. The whole sequence calls to mind Jacinto’s recent Hawkeye covers in that the whole scene is in motion, but never at the cost of clarity for each of his characters. Some awesome highlights include Viv Vision and Power Man’s version of a “fastball special” in which Viv makes a portal and Power Man throws a goon through it clear across the page, as well as how Nova and Ironheart zoom across the battlefield, arcing their flight paths across the whole page. It’s a packed scene, but Jacinto makes sure all the smaller movement and character details are clear to the naked eye, standing as a neat cross between the works of Humberto Ramos and Eric Canete.
Surprisingly layered and armed with dynamic artwork, Outlawed #1 is a novel kickoff to Marvel’s pre-summer event. Though echoing shades of Civil War, Ewing and company sidestep the more gristly impetus of that event and instead focus on a more complicated, personal stake for this one. (Especially for Kamala Khan, who unexpectedly stands at the crossroads of what is quickly becoming the diciest of political propositions.) While I worry about the sustainability of the main story across the variety of titles, Outlawed #1 sets up a new, complex threat for the Champions and the rest of Marvel’s teenage heroes.