Saturday, August 26, 2017

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Ultimate Collection by Warren Ellis

In the self-titled comic from Marvel, Nextwave is a rag-tag group of superheroes that make the Guardians of the Galaxy look like well-behaved pros.  There's the leader, Monica Rambeau, who can't seem to get over her days fighting with the Avengers, the monster hunter, Elsa Bloodstone, Tabitha Smith, who was on the X-Force, Aaron Stack, a robot with a sore spot for humans, and the Captain (though captain of what...?).

The overarching plot of the graphic novel is that these guys have stolen an airship from HATE, a
national security syndicate gone bad, and are working to stop them from testing exotic weapons on the American public.  These weapons include giant lizards in boxers, vegetable people and zombies.  Given the nature of Next Wave as a super group, hilarity and graphic violence ensues.

Despite the tongue-in-cheek nature of the series, the character and story development are pretty solid.  By the end it gives you the feeling that it's a bit more than a mere parody of superhero tropes.

As tends to be the case with most of Ellis' work, the humor is dark more often than not and I definitely wouldn't recommend Next Wave for anyone but mature readers.

The Facts

Author: Warren Ellis
Genre: Graphic Novel
Sub-Genres: Fantasy/Sci-fi, Superhero
Length: 304 Pages
Publisher: Marvel
Date of Publication: March, 2010

My Opinion

I have had limited exposure to Ellis' work, having read Transmetropolitan (holy crap, read it!), Planetary, and Nextwave, but I generally love his writing.  It's got a weird combination of witty, dry humor and diarrhea jokes that works really well for me, like a naughty Terry Pratchett. 

If Terry Pratchett is the kindly grandfather with a story to tell and a candy in his pocket, Warren Ellis is the grandfather who lets you try liquor for the first time and tells raunchy stories when your parents aren't in the room.

Anyway, I would probably rate Nextwave as third in that list of Ellis experiences, simply because it is pretty shallow compared to the other stuff I've read from him.  This series is pretty much just straight up fun.  I'm not saying there's no substance here, because it's satire as much as it's parody, but sometimes, it's just a little too ridiculous. 

Kind of felt like Planetary had a better balance between dissecting tropes with humor and actual plot development.

The Good

Holy crap, this stuff is funny.  The group is totally dysfunctional, in a completely believable way.  Monica Rambeau, the leader, can't stop bragging about her time with the Avengers, despite flashbacks showing she played a minor, pitiful role there.  Tabitha Smith is a complete airhead, and everyone hates Elsa the monster hunter, because she kicks so much ass.  The Captain is an original character created for the series.  Given the ability to fly and take massive amounts of abuse by aliens one night when he was drunk, the man is a complete screw-up whose best story is that Captain America beat the crap out of him one time.  Aaron Stack is a robot who hates all humans and never lets them forget it.  He also makes boner jokes.  And at one point, wears a bra.

The story plays on so many superhero tropes it is going to be hard to list them all at the end of this article.  It's pretty much a case of the genre mocking itself, really hard.

Beyond the humor, there are some good character arcs and developments.  The second-to-last chapter is a doozey when it comes to getting into the characters' heads, but I'm not going to spoil it here.

The Not So Good

It's definitely not the deepest comic you're ever going to read, and if you're not in the mood for Ellis' particular brand of dark humor, you'll probably have trouble getting into it.

It actually took me a while to read the collected edition, possibly because each chapter stands alone so well.  There's not a whole lot of drive to get to the end and watch these guys suck at saving the world.

I think the only other thing that bugged me was Dirk Anger, a parody of Nick Fury.  Dude is purely psychotic, mother-obsessed, and disturbing.  Ellis pushes him so far over the edge that it kind of stopped being fun and started being super creepy.  Do I think it would have worked if the character had been toned down?  No, probably not, but I'm still definitely not a fan.

Should You Read This Book?

God, yes.  Even if you're not a Marvel follower, it's pretty impossible to have avoided exposure to the genre, particularly given the movie boom recently.  Plus, Ellis' writing is pretty much genius.

Other Useful Information:

Bechdel Test: Pass
Helpful Tropes: Affectionate Parody, Affirmative Action Girl, the Caligulla, Captain Ersatz, Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, Gag Censor, Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot, "Second Law," My Ass, Serial Escalation, Stay in the Kitchen, Writer On Board
Wikipedia, TV Tropes, Warren Ellis' Blog, Warren Ellis' Wikipedia



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