Champions #5 presents a distinct departure from the regular heroes fighting heroes programming that Marvel has been dishing out for months. The series takes a bunch of inexperienced, super-powered teenagers who are tired of the drama involved in with the A-List teams, and throws them into real-life dilemmas. This issue places the team in a small Texas town after an explosion, where what starts as a standard search and rescue turns into a boiling pot of racism and corruption.
The shocking thing about an issue featuring Gwenpool on the cover is that there’s a significant lack of the cornball craziness that you’d expect from that character. Sure, it’s there but the struggle to balance being a superhero and helping those in need outshines her antics.
Champions #5 transcends simple comic fantasy because Waid dares to take on reality. Racism is a real issue. The way he deftly crafts each character’s response to the situation makes this issue hard to ignore. At one point, Gwenpool tries to establish a reason for the corruption and racism. She pleads that if a cop is bad, a super villain has to be behind it. Waid turns to Viv to counter that racism and intolerance aren’t tangible like a spell or a toxin with a clear antidote. In this one quick exchange, Waid diminishes the fantasy aspect of the medium and emphasizes the reality that social and culture injustice cannot be super-powered away.
The artwork by Ramos, Olazaba, and Delgado places an exclamation point on Waid’s well-plotted message. Toward the end of the issue, the team sits on top of the police station, clearly disheartened by their inability to handle the situation. Ramos’ pencils bring out Gwenpool’s annoyance at the lack of punching, Nova’s feelings of helplessness, and Ms. Marvel’s need to make a difference.
Simply put, Champions #5 has a clear purpose — one that Waid set forth in the very first issue when Ms. Marvel stated, “Help us win the hard way — the right way — not with hate, not with retribution, but with wisdom and hope.” By creating a story pitting the extraordinary against intolerance and corruption, Waid and his artistic team triumph at providing a story that meets its purpose.