The issue starts off with a black page bearing only the words “We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you the following Special Bulletin” in white typeface. Clearly, the story that follows is going to be something different from the last few issues of Champions that we have had.
After a title page – sans a Previously On section – we see the Champions in Brooklyn, helping to put rebuild a community center that the team had helped raise funds for. Ms. Marvel is away at her classes while the others help with the rebuilding – school doesn’t start for Snowguard and Viv for another week, and Spider-Man didn’t go to school because everyone's choosing electives, and superheroics is his main elective. While discussing Spidey’s non-existent popularity at his high school, he gets an emergency alert and takes off, leaving the others behind.
We soon find out that Spidey’s high school – Brooklyn Visions Academy – has been the site of a school shooting. The other Champions, who found out about the shooting right after Spidey left, follow him to the school and tell him that they’re there to help. Unfortunately, because it’s a crime scene, the police won’t allow Spidey to enter the premises, so he does the only thing he can do – change into plainclothes and go to Mount Sinai Hospital.
There, he meets his friends, Ganke Lee and Barbara Rodriguez, both of whom are fine, though Fabio Medina – the mutant known as Goldballs and also a classmate and friend – is in surgery because he was hit twice. Miles asks why Fabio didn’t use his powers, and Barbara explains that there wasn’t any time – everything happened too quickly. Miles starts to blame himself for not being there, but Ganke tells him not to fall into that sort of mindset. Maria, Fabio’s aunt, then arrives and asks if they’re friends of Fabio’s. Finding out that they are, she asks if they will pray with her family, which they do.
Later that night, the Champions go their separate ways after a long day. Ironheart and Brawn have a brief conversation, with Ironheart saying that she’s lived through this sort of thing too many times – people getting shot, people getting angry, and then getting over it until people get shot again. Brawn asks what they’re going to do about it, and Ironheart flies away, saying that there’s nothing they can do if people don’t want to change.
Twelve days later, Fabio is still in the hospital, fighting for his life. He’s one of the eighteen people injured during the school shooting – there were also seven deaths. Wracked with grief and guilt, Miles has been avoiding the Champions, but Kamala tries to keep on reaching out to him, just so that they can talk. Life has changed for all of them after the recent school shooting, as is shown when Kamala’s trying to get a hold of Miles is interrupted by an impromptu school shooting drill that manages to fill Kamala and her classmates with fear and sorrow.
Miles goes to meet with a grief counselor who he cannot really connect with, most of all because there are certain truths he can never tell her in order to really have a breakthrough. He tries opening up about his guilt, but the counselor tells him that there was nothing he could have done to stop the shooting, he’s not a superhero. The words only serve to further Miles’ guilt and he leaves the session and goes web swinging across town, only to be found by Kamala, who followed blogger Danika Hart’s posts to where he was. They have a short, meaningful talk about their situation, and Kamala tells Miles that the most important thing is that they understand their limitations in the world – superheroes or not, superpowers or not, great responsibility or not, they can’t save everyone, bleak a thought as that might be. The most important thing for them to do is to hope, to stand up, instead of giving up or despairing.
The next morning, as he mulls over Kamala’s words, accepting that they were words he needed to hear, he meets his friends at the park for a rally. Fabio, who is healing and currently in a wheelchair, is also there. Together, they head into the park, where a sign optimistically claims “We will prevail.”
Though this might be the comics version of a Very Special Episode, the writing is far more poignant, and far less hackneyed than the usual sort of very special anything. Jim Zub carefully and artfully crafts a realistic, emotional story that takes contends with a difficult, real-world-based issue, and he pulls it off with aplomb. Under any lesser writer, the focus of the story may not have landed as well as what Zub manages to do here. After all, the comics community is currently going through something of a divisive phase, and this issue may well prove to be divisive as well. As such, Zub smartly veers away from things like talking about gun rights issues and instead focuses on the emotional impact that something as traumatic as a school shooting can have on teenagers – even superheroic ones.
The issue mostly focuses on Kamala and Miles’ viewpoints on the subject and tragedy at hand, which makes a great deal of sense, considering their high school lives are the most fleshed out of anyone’s, with the exception of perhaps Sam Alexander, who is absent from this story due to issues related to his no longer being Nova. While Miles withdraws from everything and mires himself down in guilt and pity – the way that Spider-Men tend to do – Kamala (as great a symbol of hope and perseverance as any that Marvel has ever had) – makes sure that she’s there to knock a little bit of sense into him and give him some perspective on the whole thing. Sure, they’re heroes, sure, they have saved the world many times over, but saving everyone is an impossibility. Even if Miles had been there, there’s a chance he couldn’t have done much to help his classmates – even Fabio wasn’t fast enough to jump into action to try and save the day, and he’s trained with the X-Men.
It’s commendable that Zub didn’t fill this book with superhero supporting characters like Doc Samson, who has acted as a therapist to many heroes, though one hopes that Miles will eventually reach out and seek further counseling from someone who can truly understand his predicament if he needs it. The same goes for the other heroes as well. It lends a sense of realism to the proceedings – we aren’t always given counselors and therapists that can understand exactly what we’re going through, though they may mean well.
This is a quieter, more somber issue than the ones that Sean Izaakse has drawn for before, but he turns in some of his most beautiful work here, and Marcio Menyz and Erick Arciniega’s palette adds a lot of depth, warmth, and emotion to the wonderfully emotive, emotional pencils that have been turned in here. Izaakse’s characters are expressive as ever – everything from the sorrow on Maria’s face to the anger on Ironheart’s to all of the emotions that play through Miles’ face during his counseling session – it’s some beautifully stunning work. This is an issue that is full of heart and the art does not disappoint.
A beautiful, poignant issue full of heart and difficult conversations, this is a timely, important story that ought to be shared with everyone.
Champions #24: We Will Prevail
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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