In Outlawed #1 (on sale March 18, from Marvel Comics), writer Eve L. Ewing offers a heavy-hitting story that questions the ethics of teenage heroes. By the end of the riveting issue, Ewing sends shock waves that will continue to ripple throughout the Marvel Universe for the foreseeable future.
Writer: Eve L. Ewing
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Color Artist: Espen Grundetjern
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
“Did the teen heroes end the destruction– or cause it?” a news reporter asks in the wake of another superhero-related disaster. As Miles Morales quickly points out, that’s a fair question. Ironheart (Riri Williams) has fallen to her knees, overcome with grief and guilt after she’s forced to subdue one of her teammates who’s become a danger to the public. The chaos results in the destruction of multiple buildings and the bad press generated by a near-death experience for Ailana Kabua, a Greta Thunberg stand-in who represents the countless civilians harmed by the Champions’ attempt to save the day. Plus, one of the group’s leading members is critically wounded. So it’s only natural to question how much the teenage heroes helped.
But the questioning quickly spirals into another matter entirely. Ewing plays with the chronological flow of the story to show how one disaster leads to a governmental investigation that criticizes the minimal supervision of teenage superheroes. The issue starts in media res, which allows Ewing to build the suspense by delaying the dramatic reveal of the inquiry. The first few pages show an off-page character interrogating various members of the superhero community; by the time the proverbial camera pans to reveal the congressional setting, Ewing has captured us hook, line and sinker.
While the scene of the aforementioned chaos is noteworthy, the most compelling parts of the issue occur in this hearing. Snippets from interviews with various heroes paint a complex picture of the issue at hand. Champions like Nova (Sam Alexander) Spider-Man (Miles Morales) and Ironheart defend themselves while icons like Captain America and Captain Marvel try to help, too. Steve Rogers’ words are particularly powerful. “Kids like me,” says Rogers, “We were young and fearless. We believed in laying our lives on the line for freedom. And for that, they called us the greatest generation. I don’t see how this is any different.” Of course, some heroes don’t share this sentiment. A senator brings up the then-mysterious tragedy centered around Viv Vision and, in response, her “father,” the Vision stands there silently, unable or unwilling to defend the teen heroes.
The art team excellently captures the wide-ranging tones of the story, from the heated hearing to the destructive rampage of a dragon throughout downtown Chicago. Artist Kim Jacinto shows Rogers’ passion as he makes his case for the Champions; with a resolute face, he firmly points his finger at the centers. This depiction stands in stark contrast to that of the Vision, who looks utterly heartbroken with his sorrowful eyes. Color Artist: Espen Grundetjern augments this juxtaposition; he uses a fiery red/orange in the background for Rogers’ panel and a cold blue for the Vision’s. Letterer Clayton Cowles also complements the story; at the climax of the dragon’s attack, he makes Ironheart’s speech bubble squiggly to show how her agony makes her voice waver. The art and the script are in perfect harmony, which makes Outlawed #1 a dynamic reading experience.
With Outlawed #1, Ewing launches Marvel’s heroes into a new ethical crisis that could be as big as the famous Civil War conflict. Plus, the story serves as an exciting catalyst for the new Champions series; after reading this issue, Ewing leaves the reader no choice but to anxiously await that book, on sale April 8. At the end of the day, that’s a flawless execution of what every comic should hope to do.