I Only Like Marvel Now: Nextwave, Young Avengers, X-Factor

Marvel is the only reason I’m still reading superhero comics. That’s a very strange thing for someone who was always a DC fan to say, but all I feel for that particular publisher these days is apathy. Marvel, while just as fixated on the crossover dollar and the variant cover, at least does some titles that are a little bit different, for those of us who don’t need or want 20 changes on the same theme.

NextWave: Agents of HATE #6

And how convenient, that Marvel puts out all my favorite titles in the same week! Now I don’t have to bother shopping for another month.

I started off with NextWave: Agents of HATE #6 (by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen). I’m still achy from working with a retailer friend at Heroes Con this year, so ridiculous characters doing violent things was just the ticket for distraction.

I love that this team is so thoroughly modern that they spend all their time insulting each other. When it comes time to save the day, everyone splits up and does whatever they do with little or no concern for the others. It’s the ultimate group of individuals, and it’s very of the moment, now that news is out that our society is more isolated than ever. No Care Bear Stares saving the day here; put in a room and told to act on their core emotions, this bunch would end up eating each other.

Let’s look at those individuals, shall we? Bloodstone is who Buffy and Creepy No-Mouth Batgirl dream of being, a gorgeous female fighting machine, the epitome of fanboy nightmares (because she’s also every woman who rejected them). Tabitha blows things up, PMS made flesh. Monica says lovely phrases like “ultraviolet nova”, and the result is destruction of entire species. Her character is defined by an absence of anything but being the authority figure, a provocative choice given her skin color.

Dirk Anger, Bad Guy, is what happens when the authority figure actually wants the power given: a twisted mass of neuroses proving every rumor about every perversion possessed by every leader through history true. Poor Aaron Stack is the contributor who will always be overlooked and ignored, the robot cog in the group wheel, Marvin’s grandson. The Captain is an unbelievable assumption that drinking and cursing and generally being a wastrel will be rewarded. Boys used to dream that their internal Superman would get them a girl; now the fantasy has degraded to being a hard-drinking faux-Brit.

Every issue results in fans going “eh, it’s not as good as last time”, but every issue makes me both laugh and think in unusual directions. Every issue keeps changing direction, creativity on demand. Sure, it’s easy to get distracted by the random concepts (homicide crabs) flying by and the explosions that usually end the stories, but there’s some really subtle stuff going on here that rewards actual thinking.

Young Avengers #12

Or I’m bored and wanted to put my popular culture graduate degree to use, you decide.

I’d like Young Avengers (written by Allen Heinberg) more if it wasn’t so fascinated with long-ago Marvel continuity. The characters are strong and the team synergistic, but behind that, there’s not enough there there for me to recommend it without reservations.

Also, no one ever feels like they’re in real danger. Scary big events happen and someone says something determined, showing the team pulling together, but I don’t get a sense of how the characters individually feel, only how I’m supposed to believe they feel. It can be too surface.

God bless penciller Jim Cheung, because this double-sized final issue (for now; the series is planned to return after a Civil War tie-in minseries) is full of battle scenes featuring lots of Avengers, Young Avengers, and Skrulls. The resulting compositions are chaotic, without much depth and as confusing as a battle might really be.

Problems are also resolved much too quickly. A page or less of solution — whether Teddy’s kidnapping or Eli’s drug issues or the Vision’s autonomy — and on to the next thing doesn’t satisfy me. Each issue is like a summary of a much more in-depth Platonic ideal of a comic somewhere else. I still like the characters, though, or at least what I envision them to be.

X-Factor #8

I think Peter David’s a genius, because he kept my interest even though X-Factor #8 (art by Dennis Calero) is a Civil War tie-in. Layla is weirder than usual, and her quiet confusion is a much scarier indicator of looming disaster than any more showy disruption could be. With her living Nail-ness (you know, for want of a nail, the shoe was lost, and so on), the book rewards attention, knitting together various happenings clearly but without plot hammers (bang! let’s hit the reader over the head to make sure it’s obvious!).

The art’s got some lovely individual images, but looked at as a whole, the panel-to-panel flow sometimes is lacking, and it can be clear that Calero likes his copy machine. The characters don’t appear to be caught at just the right moment, as with the best artists; instead, they seem to be posing, as though modeling for a slow painter. Like I said, though, pretty on a panel basis.

Some of the events discussed herein illustrate why I don’t bother much with crossovers. Siryn does a good job of summing up why the characters in this title should care about the Hero Registration Act driving Civil War, but she’s also still trying to figure out what happened behind of the scenes of the Decimation, which was last crossover (House of M). Meanwhile, Spider-Man makes a guest swing-through, but it’s set before the unmasking that several other titles covered this week.

David addresses that topic in the letter column, briefly, saying that he reads the other comics when we do and has to figure out how to work key events into his schedule. I’m impressed he can do as much as he does here, and given his classic run on the title, I see Quicksilver’s impending presence as suggesting good things for the book. (Plus, also in the letter column, David reveals that #13 will be similar to the well-remembered psychiatry issue from that run.)

In Layla, I’m beginning to sense echoes of David’s previous godlike child, the boy with the baseball bat in his issues of Supergirl back when. I think I’ll have to keep her philosophy in mind:

“You look so serious, like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
“I do.”
“How do you deal with that?”
“I shrug.”


24 Responses to “I Only Like Marvel Now: Nextwave, Young Avengers, X-Factor”

  1. James Schee Says:

    So, Next Wave worth getting when it come out in TPB? (HC was last monght, but SC should be soon)

  2. Greg McElhatton Says:

    I can’t help but wonder if some of the problems with YA #11-12 was when the storyline was suddenly compacted from a 6-part story to a 4-part story, myself…

  3. John Says:

    Layla’s philosophy is Randian…by which I mean it comes directly from the book, Atlas Shrugged, from which she was reading the entire issue. Here’s the quote from the novel:

    “Mr. Rearden,” said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, “if you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of this strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulers–what would you tell him to do?”
    “I . . . don’t know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?”
    “To shrug.”

    I think a lot of people would be shocked to discover Ayn Rand is being referenced in a comic book.

  4. Bronn Says:

    I can’t disagree with any of your thoughts on Marvel. As someone who has just re-entered the comic world after years addiction-free, there are few titles that I think are worth getting. I haven’t picked up Nextwave, but might get the trade, based on mostly positive reviews. And I’ve read YA, but haven’t got the trades yet. However, I’m a big PAD fan, so X-Factor’s relaunch was on the top of my pull list, and it hasn’t disappointed.
    The other Marvel titles on my pull list include one I thought you would include, and that is Runaways. Its constantly good, and certainly a book that deserves the buzz its getting, IMO.
    I also get Astonishing X-Men (girlfriend is a Whedon-aholic, but its quite good), Squadron Supreme (better as a MAX title, but still solid) and Moon Knight (which has been good but slow to get rolling), so there are a couple of other gems out there in Marvel-land.

    Bronn

  5. Paul O'Brien Says:

    It does seem fairly remarkable that neither the writer nor editor of X-FACTOR knew that one of their lead character’s parents was going to die until the issue hit the stands. Whether or not there’s a formal system in place, wouldn’t you expect the editor of DEADLY GENESIS to find thirty seconds to wander down the corridor and say “Oh, by the way…”? That strikes me as the sort of ultra-basic co-ordination between titles that has unfortunately been tossed out of the window as part of the backlash against excessively tight continuity.

  6. JD Says:

    Er, that’s X-Factor #8, isn’t it ?

  7. Johanna Says:

    James, this is one of the few titles I like best in chapters. If I had a collection, I’d probably read too much of it at once, which would dull the fun.

    Greg, yeah, that would do it.

    John, I don’t know that it’s all that shocking, since many readers know that that’s what informed Ditko’s work. But thank you for elaborating on that — I haven’t read Rand myself, so what I know about her theories comes from Action Philosophers.

    Bronn, thanks for recommending some others, although those titles don’t work for me consistently. Squadron Supreme, in particular, seems to me to wallow in depravity too often.

    Paul, it seemed to me that one of the key elements in that situation wasn’t that he was dead, but whether he was going to stay dead. Which is one of the silly things about superheroes that makes this all so confusing and fun.

    JD, yep! Thank you very much. I’ve made the correction — I got confused because Marvel labeled that cover #9, even though it appeared on #8. I appreciate the help!

  8. Paul O'Brien Says:

    “Paul, it seemed to me that one of the key elements in that situation wasn’t that he was dead, but whether he was going to stay dead.”

    No, not really. DEADLY GENESIS just kills the character, plain and simple. The only reason Peter David was in any doubt about it was because they hadn’t told him in advance, and the death happens halfway through the story (leaving the obvious possibility that it might be reversed later on – but it isn’t).

  9. James Schee Says:

    Cool.. I’m working so many hours these days that most of the time all I have is enough time to read a chapter (or 1 issue) of a comic though. So I might still consider getting it in TPB form.

    On the DC versus Marvel thing. There are a couple of DC titles I’m sort of looking at right now for various reasons. (Ion, Wonder Woman and Flash) And I did preorder the first few months of 52 because they were so cheap online.

    Though the only stuff really getting me from DC are their collections of past stuff. Showcase Elongated Man out this week, and the JSA and Huntress trades they have coming. I’d love to see some reviews of American Virgin from Vertigo, since they have a collection of it solicited now.

    Marvel has the series I like though, in X-Factor, She Hulk (though not as much previously) Runaways (though only in digest) and Moon Knight.

    I wanted to try PAD’s Spider-man but it seems, from the outside looking in anyway, too caught up in crossover stuff.

  10. Alan Coil Says:

    Next Wave definitely works as a monthly, but might be too much in a trade.

    Atlas Shrugged is a long novel, but I think that everybody should read it, because the ideas presented in it should be understood by everybody. Ayn Rand was a controversial writer and human being.

    I read 4 Marvel comics. Next Wave, X-Factor, Daredevil, and Astonishing X-Men.

    Paul said: “That strikes me as the sort of ultra-basic co-ordination between titles that has unfortunately been tossed out of the window as part of the backlash against excessively tight continuity.”

    I think it’s also showing a lack of editorial control. Daredevil is in prison, but he is in Civil War (although, maybe he isn’t…?), Banshee is dead, but not everyone knows it, Spider-Man is unmasked, but that hasn’t happened yet in X-Factor. Continuity doesn’t have to be so tight that the story get strangled, but there should be some kind of roadmap to guide the creators along their way.

  11. Johanna Says:

    James, good reminder — I’m looking forward to that Showcase, too. I just read American Virgin last night, so I hope to have some thoughts on that shortly.

    For me, Spider-Man as a character has been too negatively affected by writers like JMS who didn’t understand the concept. Peter David is writing the issue of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man that’s offered in the latest Previews, though, so I think I’ll try that.

    Alan, unfortunately, no one ever seems to think that they have time to create and communicate a road map.

  12. jabolo Says:

    Oh please. It isn’t like the lack of a reference from recent events from other titles is anything that really detracts from the story’s major themes.

    That is, if you are taking the comic in question as a bit of pulp entertainment and not the all encompassing escapism that only a fanboy would so crave. Superhero comics (atleast the good ones) don’t require that level of consistency. If they were intended to be that literal, then the large number of genre conventions and plot contrivances (superpowers) would have already made all a failure on that count.

    The sooner you forget about the ‘shared world’ b.s. the sooner the publishers will dump the stupid gimmick.

  13. franklin Says:

    “, but looked at as a whole, the panel-to-panel flow sometimes is lacking, and it can be clear that Calero likes his copy machine. ”

    This is strange since Calero is almost universely lauded, even by those who don’t care for his style, as a great storyteller, and I agree. Some comic fans seem to want everything to look like a cartoon and freak out (ala Byran Hitch) when anything looks like it was drawn from referece. I dig it.

  14. Johanna Says:

    I don’t recall seeing any analyses of Calero’s work one way or another, myself, so I can’t speak to what other people think. All I can do is give my opinions based on what I read — and there were a few times where I had to reread a sequence to see exactly what happened. It’s not a huge problem, but I do see an area of potential improvement.

    As I said above, though, his figure work is very nice.

  15. franklin Says:

    “I don’t recall seeing any analyses of Calero’s work one way or another, myself, ”

    Try comixfan.com for a start.

  16. Johanna Says:

    Thanks, but no. I’m not looking for any additional reading about comics these days — I’m quite happy with the 80 or so feeds I check regularly.

  17. franklin Says:

    I see. Well that’s certainly fair minded.

  18. Johanna Says:

    What’s unfair about being comfortable in my opinion? I believe you that others say differently, but that’s usually the case. :)

  19. franklin Says:

    “What’s unfair about being comfortable in my opinion?” An interesting way of putting it.

  20. Johanna Says:

    Do you want to have an actual conversation, or do you want to play word games? Cause I suspect, given that I wield absolute power here, that I’m going to win the latter. :)

    My job is to have and express opinions. A bunch of message boarders disagreeing isn’t going to alter what I saw in the comic. If you want to change my mind, we need to talk about why you disagree instead of you just pointing somewhere else and saying “they think so too”.

  21. franklin Says:

    “Do you want to have an actual conversation,”

    With all due respect, you’ve not only made it clear that you see no reason to change your mind, you wont even deign to look at material that may. I certainly don’t see any way to change your mind if you won’t read or refer to material that doesn’t support your viewpoint.

    So it wasn’t really my intention to prolong a ‘conversation” but I do find your responses extremely telling, and I suspect that YOU may suspect that your terse and snappy answers say something about your mindset that may not be exactly positive.

    Why else would you refer to your “godlike” power as a guarantee you will “win”. I can’t even begin to get to your way of thinking. But don’t worry, I won’t bother to read you anymore or try to offer anything positive.

    Since you’re not looking for any additional reading (and yet you seem to think that what YOU’RE writing is somehow worth cramming onto my list.)

  22. Johanna Says:

    If I changed my mind as soon as someone said “other people over there disagree”, I wouldn’t have lasted this long. You haven’t given me any other reason to consider. And no, I don’t have time to waste rummaging through a comic board site in order to find information that *may* be more in-depth than “Calero rocks!”

    If you want me to change my mind, why don’t *you* tell me what I’m missing in the art instead of saying that other people like it and throwing in an irrelevant reference to Bryan Hitch? That’s what I meant by “having a conversation”. Possible, totally hypothetical example: “Did you notice the subtle and effective use of panel viewpoint changes on page 6? FakeFanName goes into more detail about it at this link (FakeURL).” That’s a lot more effective than simply saying “MessageBoard loves it” when I have no reason to believe I’d agree with MessageBoard on anything else, either. Instead, it gives me specifics and tells me what additional information is out there.

    “Terse and snappy”, by the way, is more entertaining to readers than “long and self-indulgent”, and I’m here to provide value to the audience. The wisecracks may not work for you, but they’re intended to keep things light-hearted. If you’re not enjoying the reading, then you’re right, it’s better to go elsewhere. I hate to lose a reader over a misunderstanding, but if you’re not going to be happy until I say “you’re right, the art is stunning and perfect”, then you’re not going to be happy.

  23. markus Says:

    @franklin
    I’d be the first to agree that our host’s response leaves a lot to be desired, but she’s right in that you need to provide a counter-argument. She has argued her position above and you have merely waved in the general direction of a potential source of counterarguments. That’s a bit like saying “someone at my university would disagree”.
    So please, find that analysis you mentioned, link to it and perhaps summarise it here. I’m sure, once you’ve done that Johanna will be willing to address that.
    At any rate, there’s no need to respond with petulance to her bragging about her mod powers. I agree it is bad style and she could have explained what she expects of you instead of simply assuming you’re being aggressive. Still, by not bringing concrete arguments _here_ (where the discussion is happening for the time being) you have violated a rather fundamental requirement for any discussion. If you do that, you have to expect people making uncharitable asumptions and getting a tad aggressive.
    In short, relax, drop the bitchin-contest and bring some arguments from whatever well is most convenient to you ;-)

  24. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for the third-party opinion, Markus — I’m sorry my little joke came off as bragging. I admit, I can be too quick on the trigger in trying to head off pointless “are not/are too” arguments. I blame too many years of them for showing me too much of the bad side of online behavior.

    Since I know more about analyzing writing than I do analyzing art, I’m happy to see thoughtful pieces on how to read and dissect panels and pages.




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