Nextwave: This Is What They Want

Nextwave: Agents of HATE Volume 1: This Is What They Want collects the first six issues of the superhero satire.

Third-rate characters from the outskirts of superherodom assemble into a team dedicated to, as one of the taglines puts it, “healing America by beating people up.” Elsa Bloodstone is a violence-loving English Buffy type, a gorgeous fighting machine. Tabitha, PMS made flesh, is a California party girl formerly known as “Boom Boom” because she blows things up. The team’s Captain Marvel is the black female one whose presence is now inconvenient to the regular Marvel universe; she’s in charge of a group of misfits who resent her authority while secretly craving it.

Nextwave: This Is What They Want cover
Nextwave:
This Is What They Want
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The robot Machine Man doesn’t always respect the “fleshy ones” he hangs around with. He’s the contributor who will always be overlooked and ignored, Marvin’s symbolic grandson. And the Captain, previously known as Captain (Four-Letter Word), is the new character, an anti-social loser with the usual invulnerability and super-strength whose origin is a brutal parody of Green Lantern’s. His story is based on 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.

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. The team doesn’t have missions so much as last-ditch protective actions, whether they’re saving a town from Fin Fang Foom (the dragon in purple underwear) or trying to stop a police officer who’s been taken over by a sort of virus that’s turning him into a Transformer.

Writer Warren Ellis parodies some of the elements he’s best known for. There’s the foul-mouthed jerk who doesn’t take superheroes seriously; an attractive anti-American Brit who drinks lots of tea; a tough guy who complains to newbies about how old he is and how good his drugs are; a telephone receiver given a fancy acronymic pseudo-technological name; and a super-spaceship named after a famous cyberpunk novel. No one takes anything seriously, least of all the creators, and the characters are all in love with themselves and their powers.

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. Everybody lies, and everyone’s a smart aleck. 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. They still manage to do their jobs, though, stopping the bad and worse guys.

The art, penciled by Stuart Immonen and inked by Wade Von Grawbadger, is in a hard-edged classic superhero style perfect for over-the-top action comedy. Everyone looks vaguely annoyed most of the time, as though fighting outrageous creatures and coping with explosions were simply an unwelcome distraction. It’s better than drugs in its ludicrous imagery. It’s all — whether War Gardens, broccoli-men grown as interchangeable fighters, pterodactyl suits, or samurai robots — just an excuse to have fights in ever more outrageous ways. The visuals more than keep up with the ideas, especially when it comes to the killer koalas, all noses and fangs. Cuddly yet dangerous.

The well-crafted one-liners stitch the scenes together, summing up the characters and situations in sardonic epigrams. This book is a hilarious, refreshing take on superheroes, perfect for those with a sense of humor and perspective about the genre, a lot of deranged fun.


9 Responses to “Nextwave: This Is What They Want”

  1. Mostly Muppet Dot Com Says:

    More Nextwave!

    While I’m upset that Nextwave will only run 12 issues and then sporadically as smaller mini-series or one-shots, I’m happy that Stuart Immonen shares his talents with the world via Flickr.
    Just look at these covers:

    nextwavemural

  2. David Oakes Says:

    “Hilarious” and “sense of humour” are subjectives I am not about to be sucked into. But “refreshing take on superheroes”? Doesn’t the fact that one of the characters is “a hard-drinking faux-Brit” pretty much prove this is merely the latest (well, before “The Boys”) in a growing line of “piss takes”, where unlikeable people do rediculous things, and then wink at the reader to show that they don’t care?

    Maybe the quality brings it up to “refreshing”, if you are into that sort of thing. But the idea itself is pretty stale. Jaded hipness is so last season.

  3. Johanna Says:

    “Unlikeable people doing ridiculous things” describes most superhero comics, doesn’t it?

    This isn’t your typical “piss take”, in my opinion, because it’s not self-awarely pleased with itself the whole time. It’s very entertaining.

  4. Patrick Dunn Says:

    Yeah, you gotta love the Nextwave. Even if you don’t read the comic, the theme song is hilarious.

  5. Alan Coil Says:

    And…

    There is nothing else like it being published by the Big Two today—or ever.

  6. J. Kevin Carrier Says:

    I find the NextWave characters very likeable. And for all its sarcastic humor, the stories never seem to question the need for (and usefulness of) heroes, which right away distinguishes it from most of the “piss take” books.

    If you think about it, The Captain is actually a pretty inspiring character. After an abusive childhood and a misspent youth, he seems to be genuinely trying to do something useful with his life. He doesn’t have much going for him (aside from his randomly-bestowed powers), but he’s still in there swinging. His big showdown with the Dormammu-lookalike is a great cathartic moment (as well as being hilarious).

  7. Journalista » Blog Archive » Dec. 7, 2006: Any fanatic can kill him for God’s sake Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson reviews the first volume of Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger’s superhero satire, Nextwave: Agents of HATE. [...]

  8. markus Says:

    @David Oakes
    There is nothing jaded about Nextwave. On the contrary it’s quite hectic. It’s also not a “piss take”, the characters are very loveable despite having massive and obvious faults.
    Oddly enough, in term of reading experience Nextwave is a very old school thrill ride that doesn’t make a lot of sense and certainly doesn’t stand up to serious scholarly analysis. The plot – such as it is – is mostly an excuse for explosions. How Ellis and Immonen manage to deliver this reading experience using (post)modern trappings I have no idea. But it’s certainly one of Marvel’s best five at the moment.

  9. *Moving Pictures — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Reasons to Stop Sketching at Conventions, although darker, than Stuart’s more highly polished superhero work.) Immonen is a master of chiaroscuro, and the high contrast suits a wartime story, where [...]

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