WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Champions #24 by Jim Zub, Sean Izaakse, Marcio Menyz, Erick Arciniega and VC's Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
It's not uncommon to pick up a superhero comic book and find innocent civilians in harm's way. While our favorite superheroes do their best to save every life, not every bystander makes it out alive. The same can be said for superhero movies, with more attention being given to casualties and property damage following Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Avengers: Age of Ultron, for example.
In the real world, we're sadly seeing an increase in violent acts in very public environments, with churches, concert venues, nightclubs and schools no longer being safe spaces. Obviously, people dying at any of these locations and even the ones not mentioned is something to be concerned with, but kids dying in school because of mass shootings is a deadly trend that doesn't seem to be decreasing anytime soon.
Writer Jim Zub and artist Sean Izaakse tackled the touchy subject of school gun violence in Champions #24 when a mass shooting hits the high school of Spider-Man's alter ego, Miles Morales. Mainstream comics blending real-world events with the fantasy world of superheroes can be a mixed bag. Anyone remember Marvel characters reacting to the September 11 attacks? Fans have grown accustomed to their heroes saving the day and overcoming any obstacles, so the thought is they should be able to stop a terrorist attack or school shooting -- especially when they go up against the likes of Thanos or Darkseid.
Champions #24 has every team member address these concerns, and it only makes sense for each character to have a different reaction and solution: Viv, being a synthezoid, dives into numbers and statistics to try and find a pattern to the shootings; Amadeus is one of the smartest characters in the Marvel Universe, so he tackles the problem using math; Snowguard is the newest member of the Champions and just wants everyone to not be sad anymore; and Ironheart, being from Chicago, has lived through seeing her friends die at a young age and is the most cynical of the group.
As for Miles and Ms. Marvel, they both share the same feelings of guilt after this horrific event. To quote the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility," and these two young legacy heroes definitely feel the weight of responsibility. Miles goes to see his high school counselor to talk through his issues, which come down to feeling like he could have done something to stop the shooting from happening. When the counselor mentions that Miles couldn't have done anything since he's not a superhero, he quickly makes an exit.
Ms. Marvel's high school undergoes an active shooter drill, giving readers a glimpse of what students in the United States have to mentally process on a daily basis. It may seem cheesy, but its a good reminder of how our society has changed, for better or worse. However, always the optimist, Ms. Marvel realizes superheroes can't save everybody. Once you've accepted your limitations, you have two options: despair or hope. "Give up or stand up," she tells Miles, which is just the pep talk he needed to move past the trauma.
Taking a break from the monthly grind of heroes versus villains for an important topic like gun violence is the perfect use for a title like Champions. The young superheroes of the Marvel Universe formed the team with the sole purpose of tackling issues too small for the Avengers, and a school shooting would classify as one of these topics. Plus, kids picking up the issue will appreciate seeing their stories told through the lens of their favorite comic.