If you’ve known me for any length of time, then you all might be aware of my obsession–passion for a little comic from 2006 called Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Now that it’s supposedly the comic’s tenth birthday (according to Marvel.com, but I was late by two days because I’m an idiot. It’s supposedly the 25th of January), I think a few words might be in order.
THEY KICK YOUR FACE
For the uninitiated, Nextwave is a 12-issue comic from Marvel written by Warren Ellis, pencilled by Stuart Immonen, inked by Wade von Grawbadger, colored by Dave McCaig, and lettered by Chris Eliopoulos. Nextwave’s main concept is basically obscure superheroes fight their terrorist-funded former employers. Awesomely.
Former Avengers chair (if you didn’t know, she’ll tell you) Monica Rambeau, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Avengers reservist Aaron Stack the Machine Man, Buffy-alike British badass Elsa Bloodstone, nineties fashion victim and ex-X-Forcer Tabitha Smith, and brand new Ellis creation The Captain make up the Nextwave Anti-Terrorism Squad, a team ironically created by the terrorist-funded H.A.T.E. led by cut-rate Nick Fury and Bruce Campbell-lookalike Dirk Anger. Together they fight whatever crazy weapon H.A.T.E. comes up with, from hiring Dormammu’s idiot cousin to summon Mindless Ones, rabid koalas dropped from the skies, to weaponized broccoli.
Why do I love Nextwave, you ask? I’ll let these speak for themselves.
Nextwave is the very definition of a pure superhero popcorn comic. It’s like a Michael Bay movie turned into a comic, only with better dialogue and memorable characters. Nextwave is wall-to-wall awesome moment after awesome moment, sprinkled with wittily witty banter and at times deep Character Moments. Which are subsequently played for laughs and promised never to happen again. While some may argue that Nextwave changes the personalities of their cast drastically, this only seems to revitalize these characters from obscurity, most of them (The Captain excluded) going on to star and be in supporting roles in future comics with their Nextwave looks and personalities.
Nextwave commits to page some of the weirdest baddies ever seen in a Marvel book by the amazing hands of Immonen, von Grawbadger, and McCaig, including but not limited to: Giant ape dressed as Wolverine, Stephen Hawking clones with eye lasers riding Spartan wheelchairs, and Siamese twin samurais. To string them together, Ellis has crafted a plotline that works in two-issue stretches, forming six story arcs during the 12-issue run. Each arc drops the team in increasingly crazy situations and never stops being crazy from the first page.
Don’t expect serious superheroics in Nextwave, as Warren Ellis’ writing leaves no room for seriousness. But he does have more than enough room for crazy superhero antics, over-the-top characters bantering with each other, and side-splittingly inane dialogue. Every corner of the Marvel Universe is mined for a gag, from the Celestials to the Mindless Ones.
Celestials: Actual teenage giant space creatures
The art in this book is simply amazing. Immonen, von Grawbadger, and McCaig work perfectly to create one of the best-looking comics ever published. The slightly cartoony style fits its less-than-serious tone and at one point, Immonen even apes some other artists’ styles for one of the best sequences in the comic. And the very next issue is loaded with splash pages that is easily the high point of Nextwave. Chris Eliopoulos provides the lettering and also invented the now-legendary ‘☠☠☠☠’censors.
That couldn’t have been family-friendly uncensored.
Not just the comic proper, things that in other books seem like an afterthought are also mined for comedic value. The letters column, manned by Letter-Matic® 7053 is easily the best letters column I’ve ever read in comics. Featuring letters from various historical figures and Lettermatic’s musings about Toto’s 1982 hit song Africa, how could it not be? Besides that, the recap pages for each issue feature humorous Q&A sessions, a format that made its triumphant return in AvX: VS and A+X. But hands-down, the best thing about Nextwave is that it has its own theme song by editor Nick Lowe’s band Thunder Thighs.
Seriously. Here it is.
Bottom line, Nextwave is one of the most fun comics to ever hit the stands. No need to know anything about anyone or read up on decades of continuity, everyone can jump straight in and have fun. The cover of issue 11 is right, they really do need more love.
It’s true. They need love.
I wouldn’t mind a Nextwave adaptation in any shape or form, Marvel. And neither would a lot of people.