Teenage superheroes have always seemed like a weird concept. They've been around for almost as long as comic books themselves. Now, whenever a new reader wants to jump into comics one of the first things they're asked to do is take the concept at face value and not ask too many questions. Authors and readers alike have responded to the trope in numerous ways—you can poke fun at it (Batman lets a 12-year-old fight crime with him!), you can shrug it off and continue with the story, or you can think about the potentially drastic psychological effects life as a superhero would have on a young person.
Outlawed—the new Marvel event centering around teen superheroes from comics like The Champions, The New Warriors, Power Pack, Ms. Marvel, and Miles Morales: Spider-Man—looks to be tackling the concept and the various arguments that are both for and against it. The event kicks off this week in the pages of Outlawed #1, a one-shot by Eve Ewing and Kim Jacinto. And while the book itself is never jaw-dropping, it does plant the seeds for some genuinely compelling arguments that future tie-ins, crossovers, and other related comics will hopefully tackle.
The story sees The Champions attempting to protect a teenage activist (think Malala Yousafzai or Greta Thunberg), only for the Roxxon Corporation to launch a surprise attack that causes a horrific accident with Viv Vision. The government then swoops in and passes a new law banning anyone under the age of 21 from operating as a superhero, complete with a new cleverly-titled task force named C.R.A.D.L.E..
Again, nothing too shocking in the way of plot twists or character moments, but the sheer number of ideas and debates proposed in this one issue will leave you salivating. Here's a brief sampling:
- Young activists
- The Greatest Generation's usage of youth during World War II
- Unwillingly becoming the mascot for a movement
- Childhood trauma
- The age when the brain is fully developed
- The morality of having sidekicks
- Child soldiers
- A dragon (just to see if you're paying attention, but there is one in here)
- Gun control
- Climate change
As for the art, Kim Jacinto's style leans more on the cartoonish side with certain expressions and movements possessing an overemphasized quality at times. If you're a fan of that anime-esque style you'll feel right at home.
If there's anything genuinely missing from the story it's that we don't get to hear from the older counterparts of many of the heroes. Vision and Captains America and Marvel all show up for a panel each, but we hear nothing from Peter Parker, Tony Stark, Hank Pym, Janet Van Dyne, Luke Cage, etc. Given how much of a voice they've had in previous situations where a law dictating how superheroes work is suddenly passed (they started a civil war once!), their absence feels oddly lacking. All of that could be addressed in the four series that are on the way, though.
The Outlawed event feels like it's going to be something special once events get rolling in April. While I can't say that Outlawed #1 is a must-read, instant-classic one-shot, it does feel like you should pick it up to mentally prepare for what's coming.
Published by Marvel Comics
On March 18, 2020
Written by Eve L. Ewing
Art by Kim Jacinto
Colors by Espen Grundetjern
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Pepe Larraz and David Curiel