Written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Humberto Ramos, the series is a bit of a throwback, though not so much to the 41-year-old Marvel title whose name it shares as to the Wolfman/Perez-era “New Teen Titans.” That’s not a criticism.
Formed by five young legacy heroes (Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales/Spider-Man, Sam Alexander/Nova, Amadeus Cho/Hulk and Viv Vision), three of whom bristled under the supervision of their mentors the Avengers, the fledgling team sets out to do good, starting with defeating a human trafficker and freeing his captives. After Kamala delivers an inspirational speech that spreads rapidly on social media, they do what any young heroes might do: In the newly released “Champions” #2, they go camping.
It makes a certain amount of sense, from both a character and a story perspective, as it permits the new teammates to become acquainted with each other’s abilities (that’s Kamala’s reasoning, at least), and allows readers to better familiarize themselves with the heroes. In that regard, it’s reminiscent of DC Comics’ “Tales of the New Teen Titans,” the 1982 miniseries in which the team goes camping, providing a venue for Cyborg, Raven, Changeling and Starfire to share their origin stories. Although the obvious similarities end there, it probably wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to view Kamala in the Robin role, with the annoying, green Amadeus as Changeling, and Viv as the alien Starfire, only with a more tragic backstory (if that’s possible; hey, it’s not a competition).
The android daughter of The Vision, Viv was created along with her mother Virginia and her twin brother Vin to fulfill the Avenger’s desire for a family. As you may have read, that experiment didn’t go well, as Virginia beat to death the criminal Grim Reaper to protect her children, setting off a chain of events that led to the deaths of Viv’s lab partner (and would-be romantic interest), her “uncle” Victor Mancha, her brother Vin, her dog Sparky (at least temporarily), and, ultimately, Virginia herself. In her relatively brief existence, Viv has experienced enough tragedy for several lifetimes.
Like Starfire during her first years on Earth, Viv struggles to understand human nature and emotions. Yet even as her family began to unravel in “The Vision,” Liv mourned her lab partner Chris Kinzky (“He said I was cool”), searching for deeper meaning in his yearbook quote “It’s all about the love,” and visiting his grave site. And when her brother died, she prayed for his soul to be at rest, but conceded he may not have a soul and there probably isn’t a God. If the young android has a heart, it’s been broken many times over.
So it was a relief when Viv, who in the closing pages of “The Vision” concluded “I am not normal,” seemingly answering a question that so vexed her brother, found community in a group of teens who also aren’t “normal.” Gathered with them around a campfire in “Champions” #2, she experiences not-quite-typical teen interactions as they roast hot dogs and marshmallows, demonstrate their abilities and participate in trust falls. Viv even reveals matter-of-factly that she’s never been kissed romantically, but is “curious as to how it might affect me biochemically.” It doesn’t get much more normal than that. Still, when Kamala suggests they tell ghost stories, Viv is once again perplexed, detecting a “microaggression” where none was intended.
However, Viv earns the admiration, or at least gratitude, of her newfound peers when they learn that, along with an impressive array of powers, she possesses internal servers with Wi-Fi, which for a group of teens in the wilderness is akin to discovering water in the desert. Yet, that otherwise-comical sequence masks a moment of minor heartbreak as Viv reveals her password: “EvenAnAndro1dCanCry.”
It’s of course a reference to the title of 1968’s “Avengers” #58, the classic story by Roy Thomas and John Buscema in which the newly introduced Vision seeks to join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and is put to the test by the heroes (and in the process reveals his backstory). Accepted into their ranks, The Vision briefly excuses himself, resulting in one the most iconic images in superhero comics, as a tear trickles down the cheek of the android.
Without asking Waid, it’s difficult to say whether he intended Viv’s password to be anything more than a throwaway nod to that classic tale, but it’s virtually impossible not to think of her crushing experiences — one piled atop another — in the pages of Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s “The Vision.” In the final issue of that series, as Viv tries to make sense of the senseless, she tells the Scarlet Witch, “Parents sacrifice their lives for their children. Then children become parents and sacrifice their own lives. And so all is sacrificed and nothing is gained. Life then becomes the pursuit of an unobtainable purpose by an absurd means.”
It’s a bleak, if perhaps not entirely inaccurate, assessment of the cycle of life, and far too long to serve as a yearbook quote. Despite the glimmers of hope in the closing moments of “The Vision,” there lingered a threat that Viv might be doomed to hopelessness. Then along comes the Champions.
After the young Cyclops, who’d been lurking in secret near their campsite, opens fire, believing they’re under attack by the Hulk, he asks to join the team, explaining he was inspired by Kamala’s viral speech. While the others are suspicious of the mutant and his motives, it’s Viv who steps forward as his advocate. “I believe this discussion around destiny and fate and possibilities tells us little about Cyclops,” she says. “What speaks volumes is that, without a second thought and without knowing us, he stepped in to protect us from a threat eight times his size.”
The girl — or, rather, “teenage synthezoid being,” as she once described herself — who has lost so much and been betrayed by those closest to her, ends up not being the voice of reason but the voice of compassion. She demonstrates that life isn’t simply, and depressingly, “the pursuit of an unobtainable purpose by an absurd means.”
Sometimes life is instead about those moments of understanding — those little human moments. Even when they come from an android.
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