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Nova, Ms. Marvel, and Miles Morales/Spider-Man pose in a shadowy boardroom full of incapacitated guards. The room is littered with posters that say “NO TEEN VIGILANTES.” Ms. Marvel is tearing one in half. From the cover of Outlawed #1, Marvel Comics (2020). Image: Pepe Larraz, David Curiel/Marvel Comics

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Marvel’s Outlawed #1 is a Civil War for the OK boomer era

The zoomer heroes are on the run

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Marvel Comics kicks off the first crossover of 2020 this week with Outlawed. Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, and a whole army of other teenage superheroes are the targets of the US government, after a new law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to be a superhero.

You might say to yourself, “That sounds a lot like Marvel’s Civil War crossover,” And you wouldn’t be wrong. But the folks behind Outlawed have taken a familiar — and successful! — framework and built a fresh topicality into it.

Who’s working on Marvel’s Outlawed?

The Outlawed event kicks off with an Outlawed #1 one-shot, written by Eve L. Ewing and drawn by Kim Jacinto. Jacinto is a veteran of series like Sentry and Avengers: No Surrender, while Ewing is a comics writer, artist, and lead writer on Marvel’s Ironheart series. She’s also a former middle school teacher with a doctorate in education — so it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about teens and their place in society.

What is Outlawed about?

Outlawed #1 sets up the basic rules of the crossover, explaining the tragic events that lead the US congress to pass a law against teenage superheroes. It also reveals why it’s called “Kamala’s Law” even though you’d think Ms. Marvel would be pretty in favor of teen superheroes.

It also sets up the ethical stakes of it all. Are politicians really concerned with teens who choose to use their powers for good? Or are they just interested in silencing and dismissing youth voices? Are teenage superheroes flippantly putting themselves in danger because of indoctrination or poor decision-making, or are they freely choosing to help others?

Outlawed seems like it’s taking on a lot

I haven’t even mentioned the Greta Thunberg-allegory Ewing and Jacinto invented for this issue.

Young activists Ailana Kabua speaks on how teenage climate activists are dismissed, while Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel watches, in Outlawed #1, Marvel Comics (2020). Image: Eve Ewing, Kim Jacinto/Marvel Comics

Is there any required reading?

Not if you’re generally familiar with who Miles Morales and Kamala Khan are — but Outlawed might be required reading if you’re reading any of Marvel’s teen superhero books these days, like Miles Morales: Spider-Man, The Magnificent Ms. Marvel, or Ghost-Spider.

Is Outlawed #1 good?

Outlawed #1 taps directly into the same dissatisfaction that sent the phrase “OK, Boomer” viral, but the way it applies that energy to the rules of a superhero setting feels fresh. There are as many treatises arguing that Robin shouldn’t exist as there are arguing that the teen superhero is as foundational an superhero story element as flight and super strength. Connecting that idea up to teen gun-control and climate activists is a bold idea.

Outside the walls of congress, Outlawed sets that more meta concept alongside a standard punchy-kicky crossover kickoff. Maybe a little too standard for my tastes, but your mileage may vary.

Ewing and Jacinto thread a tricky line of showing a bunch of teens doing their best in an impossible situation, while also showing that they maybe bit off more than they can chew. Comparisons to the original Civil War have abounded since the crossover’s announcement, but that crossover’s inciting event — the New Warriors accidentally nuking an entire school — Outlawed puts its chess pieces on the board with a bit more nuance.

One panel that popped

Nova accused congress of “fake concern” when they seek to pass a law against teen superheroes in Outlawed #1, Marvel Comics (2020). Image: Eve Ewing, Kim Jacinto/Marvel Comics

Nova, have you considered taking some time off from superheroing to join a high school debate team? Because you’re not wrong.