Monday, 19 January 2015

Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E (#1-12)

"Monsters to beat up! Things to blow up!  It's the best job in America! Nextwave go!" - Monica Rambeau

It wasn't until a friend of mine pointed it out that I suddenly realised I have done no original Marvel US comics at all so far in this blog's lifetime.  This I assure you, was purely an oversight on my part helped along by the fact that of the Big Two, I mostly collect DC because DC was the company my favourite UK artists and writers moved on to from 2000AD and also the fact that my local newsagent only stocked DC comics when I was in my initial phase of reading anything comicwise I could get my hands on.  I do have Marvel US stuff in my bookcase but it's mostly pretty well known things like Grant Morrisons New X-Men which has already been discussed ad infinitum. But I feel there is a Marvel shaped gap I need to fill, so it's time to look at the greatest team in the Marvel Universe, no not The Avengers, pshaw, I'm talking about NextWave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

Nextwave in fact turned out to be the comicbook that rid me of my last vestiges of snobbery towards the superhero genre.  Linkara, of Atop The Fourth Wall fame gave it a glowing review and he's someone who's opinion I trust so I picked up the trade paperback and loved it.  It boils the superhero narrative down to it's very essence - superheroes locate threat, superheroes beat threat, lots of things explode, but thanks to Warren Ellis's hilarious script and Stuart Immonen's wonderful artwork this simple structure proves a sound base to hang lots of silliness from making the act of reading it a pure guilty pleasure.

The team is made up of five characters, four of whom are well established C-listers (Monica "Captain Marvel", "Photon" Rambeau, Elsa Bloodstone, Aaron "Machine Man" Stack and Tabitha "Boom Boom", "Boomer", "Meltdown" Smith) and one who was made up for the series (The Captain).  Inititally is seems that more Marvel faces were due to officially appear in the storyline, their former boss Dirk Anger and his organisation H.A.T.E are pretty obviously parodying Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D, while plenty of other minor Marvel villains get a parodic outing. Because I don't follow the Marvelverse as closely as the DCU I admit some jokes were lost on me, luckily the thing Ellis does best which is write witty, sharp dialogue and jokes carries me along instead while giving Immonen plenty of daft situations to bring to life so pleasingly.
Left to right: Elsa, Monica, Aaron, Dirk, Tabitha and The Captain
Interestingly, our heroes are actually renegade Agents of H.A.T.E (Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort).  The light fingered Tabby stole the "marketing plan" of the parent company the Beyond Corporation and found they had were actually part of a terrorist group who planned on using UWMD's (Unusual Weapons Of Mass Destruction) upon the general population to extort money from the government.  Using that Marketing Plan they steal a state of the art airship and go to where the UWMD's are being unleashed and fighting them.  The director of H.A.T.E Dirk Anger is dead set on stopping them, while also in the throes of a nervous breakdown.  Hilarity as they say, ensues. The Nextwave team are another one who prefer to use real names rather than codenames.  Monica, their leader is a little reluctant because they used codenames in The Avengers (who she led for a time, you know). 

Monica: "The Captain kept his codename."

Aaron: "The Captain can't remember his real name. Ellie Bloodstone never had a codename. Tabitha has had about nine."

Tabitha: "And they ALL sucked!"

The first two issues serve mainly to introduce the concept and show us what powers each of the team has.  A giant dinosaur monster called Fin Fang Foom is excavated in "Abcess, North Dakota" and because he was born with no genitals but the burning desire to mate, he starts destroying buildings and eating the crunchy and delicious inhabitants out of frustrated irritation.  Tabitha is first to attack with her ability to cause explosions, but Fin Fang Foom grabs her and goes to put her in his pants.  Luckily The Captain can fly and is super-strong and he rescues her.
Noooo not the pants!
On the ground, the super strong and invulnerable Elsa (who is also English) takes on the Beyond Coporation's attacking cloned broccoli henchmen (known as the Human Resources) by kicking their arses.  Monica, who can turn herself into any energy on the electromagnetic spectrum tries zapping Fin Fang Foom but he is too big and his hide can't be penetrated.  So she commands Aaron to jump inside him and use his array of robotic things to attack Fin Fang Foom from the inside.  Reluctantly he does so, and the first UWMD is destroyed.
Swiss Army Aaron
The next UWMD is to be found in "Sink City, Illinois".  A corrupt policeman who is due to retire does the rounds of the various people he is extorting money from, including drug dealers and a brothel.. He finds a black cat-like thing and it jumps at him and buries itself in his chest. Tabby out chatting on the phone comes across him hunched across a car which he throws at her.  She makes it explode, then she is attacked by Human Resources which she also makes explode.

When more attack the rest of the team come to her rescue. Elsa goes after the policeman and finds him heading for the "Sink City Very Small School With Lovely Children Inside" to feed his change.  She rams him with a car and it explodes but the smoke clears to reveal him, now part machine standing there.  The Captain arrives and punches him far away, but he lands on a scrap heap. We then get a brief flashback to how The Captain got his powers - he was drunk one night and aliens bestowed them upon him.

The policeman uses the scrap to grow into a large Transformers like being with a huge gun which he fires at The Captain who decides to wait this one out under the huge bullet he was hit with.  But the bullet explodes knocking Monica out.

Aaron: "She's not moving"

Tabby: "Monica! Quick! Captain America just called to invite you back to the Avengers!"

Aaron: "...nothing"

Tabby: "She must be unconcious."
Tabby versus Robocop.
Tabby then confronts the robot and uses her powers to set off several explosions on his body which causes it to come apart and reveal the original policeman and the cat like thing that "infected" him.  Tabby incinerates the cat thing and the Nextwave team leave the policeman in the care of the local community... which just so happens to include all the people he was ripping off.

Monica:  "You'll be fine with these people.  The nightmare is over officer."

Policeman: "pppplease, nnnnno."

The two-parter ends with a nearly naked Captain rejoining them, with Monica saying she should make him walk around like that all the time because he looks stupid and then she hears a gunshot coming from where they left the policeman.

The next two-parter sees our erstwhile heroes finally get into a scrap with Dirk Anger's ship when they travel to the fields the cloned broccoli "Human Resources" are being grown and start destroying them.

Tabby: "Sorry broccoli murder dudes. You grow up to be, like, too harsh you know."

Elsa: "I swear to God, nowhere on Earth do they talk the way you do, Tabby."
As you can tell, this is a very silly comic.
Then Dirk Anger's ship arrives and the rest of the two-parter is him releasing increasingly ludicrous forms of attacking monsters, starting with the "Drop Bears" or "widdle, cuddily  bears of death?" as Tabby puts it.  Next are the Combat Pterodactyls who take on Monica in the air, but she fries them with an electro-magnetic explosion when one of them injures her. Dirk then drops the "Samuroids" on the ground which the Elsa, Tabby and The Captain start fighting.

The Captain then blasts his way through the ships engines, which results in him falling unconcious to the ground.  Monica bathes the ship in low level radiation which she says next time will be strong enough to render everyone on board sterile. 

Monica: "Back Off Dirk"

Dirk: "Like Hell!  Homicide Crabs!"

Aaron meanwhile has figured out how to stop this battle, he sneaks aboard and steals a dress from Dirk Anger's quarters.  Hovering outside the ship he says he will set the dress on fire if Dirk doesn't stop attacking them.  Dirk, in great distress orders his crew to stand down.  He gets the dress back, but Aaron rejoins the rest of the team wearing a bra and bloomers which he also stole.  The two-parter ends with a full page shot of Dirk wearing the dress mumbling "It's all right mother. It's all right."
Dirk's dark secret.
The next issue begins with The Captain, somewhat despondant at being knocked out in the last two fights explaining to Aaron that the reason he is only called "The Captain" is that all the other Captains are taken.  Meanwhile Monica and Elsa try to figure out what the reference to "magic" means on the stolen Marketing Plan they have.  In fact one of the broccoli henchmen uses a dark magic ritual to summon Rorkannu, who unleashes his "Mindless Ones" minions on the town of Shotcreek Colarado.  The gang arrive to find the local police trying to fend them off. They start to get stuck in themselves.

Elsa: "Oh my God.  They explode!  My life has taken on new meaning".

Elsa, who in her normal existence is a monster hunter, recognises what they are and says there wil be a magic circle somewhere that if broken will get rid of them. The Mindless Ones overseen by Rorkannu keep coming through the magic circle.  Meanwhile on Dirk Anger's ship he is about to hang himself.  When he hears The Beyond Corporation want to call in "The New Paramounts" he changes his mind but falls off the stool and hangs himself.
Rorkannu is summoned.
The Captain finds Rorkannu and beats him into the ground with various implements he finds in the public toilets they are in, including a toilet brush.  He proudly states that he beat it like a regular hero to the others when they come looking for him. With the rest of the Mindless Ones defeated and the town cleared the team return to their ship.

The next issue kicks off a four parter that ends the series.  The Nextwave team following the Marketing Plan find themselves in a deserted city.  Meanwhile the issue keeps cutting to various characters being offered a chance to become superheroes by a mysterious off-screen voice.  Then an upside castle in the sky appears where our heroes are, and a being that looks like a broccoli henchmen declares himself The Chief Executive of the Beyond Coporation, Number None and that he has lured them into a trap.
Yes, they are meant to be upsidedown.
He then releases several super-teams at them, who also turn out to be broccoli.  But the four people he offered a chance to become heroes too aren't.  They are "The New Paramounts" - Charlie America, Giant Sam, Bulk and Forbush Man - all created to match the Marvel parodies in the comic Not Brand Ecch, which he has copies of.  Our heroes start battling all the weird and wonderful heroes attacking them, broccoli and human. 

Forbush Man turns out to be the most powerful one of the lot when he uses his mental powers to trap The Captain, Monica, Elsa and Aaron in nightmarish alternate existences.  Unfortunately for him, Tabby doesn't have much of a mind to work with and she blows him up freeing the others.

Monica: ".. the hell was that?"

Tabby: "The little guy did something to you heads.  I gave him the explodo because I am clever."

An enraged Monica blasts a good chunk out of the floating castle and when it starts to beat a hasty retreat, she tells the rest of the team they are going to follow it and take the fight to the heart of the Beyond Corporation.
Tabby saves the day.
They follow it to Nevada and find a huge floating mobile base.  Back with Dirk Anger who is now a zombie, he tries to ram their ship, but they fly it down a maintenance tunnel and escape, although their ship explodes in the process.  They find themselves in the bowels of the floating base and come under heavy attack which in a wonderfully cheeky way is rendered across seven wordless double page spreads!

Caption: "NEXTWAVE: Blatantly wasting your money since 2006"

But it's forgivable because the spreads are so well drawn and filled with such wonderful amounts of detail that you end up looking at them for as long as it would take to read a normal page anyway. The penultimate issue ends with Aaron being impaled by Number None.
Stuart Immonen is an amazing artist.
Aaron points out that you can't kill a robot by stabbing it through the chest and punches Number None's head off. Then they rip open it's chest to find a baby M.O.D.O.K (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) inside controlling the body.  The M.O.D.O.K squeaks that he was responsible for developing the Beyond Coporation and that he'll be noticed now.  before teleporting away.
MODOK revealed.
Aaron can read the trail it left and follow it into a large, spherical part of the ship.  The M.O.D.O.K is shot to death by a figure obscured by clouds, until he reveals himself as none other than Devil Dinosaur to the Nextwave Squad.  He goes into a long rant about restoring the world to how it was before humanity fouled it up, while our heroes subtley start to plan on how to take him down.  Monica steps up and asks the real reason he is so angry with humans. After strenuously denying it, he finally breaks down and shows her a comic with him in it being ridden by the monkey like Moon-Boy and how humiliated it made him feel in retrospect.

Devil Dinosaur: "Moon -Boy hated me.  Moon-Boy had to die. Moon-Boy tasted bad and gave me some considerable rectal distress. I do hope you and your friends aren't so hard on my guts."
The Mastermind behind it all.
But he is attacked in turn by each of the team after Aaron has checked the structure for weaknesses.  Monica lets out a blast of energy, Elsa shoots his gun hand.  Then they run outside while Tabby lays down a curtain of fire and The Captain  gives the sphere and almighty kick and it rolls off the floating base and plummets two miles before exploding with Devil Dinosaur still inside.  Triumphant, the team ponder their next move.

Monica: "What do you do with a vast invisible floating base full of God knows what technology and supplies?"

The Captain: "I give.  What do you do you do with a vast floating invisible base-thing"

Monica: "Anything we want."
Only fitting I end this with an explosion.
And on that note, Nextwave ends.  It was too beautiful to live.  Literally.  Although it sold decently and attracted a loyal fanbase, Marvel wanted artist Stuart Immonen on a higher profile book because his art is so good.  Rather than continue with another artist, Warren Ellis chose to end the book there.  And maybe that's a good thing, with comedy it's always a danger you can hammer a joke into the ground and perhaps twelve issues was enough to leave people wanting more without exhausting the concept.  Even though it's not official Marvel canon, many writers have incorporated elements of Nextwave's characterisations into their versions of the characters, most notably the beer fueled antics of "Machine Man" Aaron Stack. Even if you're not a dedicated Marvelite you can still enjoy this collection, speaking as a DC woman myself I absolutely love it even if I am aware of missing some of the jokes and references. It's daft, it's silly, it has it's tongue rammed firmly in it's cheek, but it's always nice to see a team with a majority of women in it and Monica manages to be portrayed as a smart, capable leader despite all the chaos going on around her.  If you have even the slightest interest in superhero comics, check it out. NOW.  Go on, off you go.  No excuses. Read it.


  1. yeah, nextwave! now your talking! I love this comic lol, but maybe your right that it was just a short series, more special that way.

  2. If only more series ended when they were still good. And others yet still allowed to carry on until they get good. At least Nextwave was great from issue #1.

  3. It would be cool if our ancestors had been dinosaurs rather than apes and the world were ruled by intelligent saurians, but I don't think it would have happened because brainpower and suchlike needs lots of energy, so it's better to be warm-blooded and carry an internal heat source.

    Life is much more fun if one thinks of one's attributes and 'flaws' as superpowers. Like being fat. It's like a special superpower that protects one from the cold, and if there was ever a famine due to some sort of climate change disaster one would be quids in.

    I don't know if dinosaurs are capable of obesity, though. On the other hand, I think people would look prettier with scales.

  4. Say what you will about Devil Dinosaur, he proves dinosaurs can have panache. Check out that smoking jacket and cravatte. Scales would be awesome, or those feathery scales they say raptors have now. I'd love them.

    I'm not sure I'd think of being bipolar as a superpower, but the psychosis has come in handy in the past, usually when defending girlfriends from men trying to bully them as I have no sense of fear. Or embarressment. Or guilt. Hmm, maybe that is a superpower :D

  5. Feathers are just a type of scale. Birds are dinosaurs. True story :-)

    If you can't get rid of it, might as well view it as a superpower. And that's what most people think being on the autistic spectrum is like, because they've been watching too much Sherlock.

    Imagine, we could have glittery rainbow scales...

  6. Yeah, fabulous dinosaur people, damn evolution for not making us look so cool.

    I didn't think Sherlock was autistic, if anything he's more of a psychopath. A none murdery type obviously but I think he passes the general threshold of psychopathy that I've seen elsewhere.

  7. Yes, he's not really autistic, because he can tell what people are thinking and feeling based on body language and stuff, which autistic people can't do. But people seem to associate him with autism - and Alan Turing, although there is no evidence that he was autistic.

  8. That's why I think he's more of a psychopath than a sociopath, he knows what empathy is and how to exploit it, but doesn't really feel it himself though he can fake it if required.

  9. Oh, I dunno. He seems to genuinely love Watson.

  10. I have to say I am basing my analysis on just series 1 and 2, and I guess prolonged exposure to another human being rather than isolation could cause some empathetic response. I know he got all moody over Irene Adler, but that was more self pity than sorrow. I should probably watch series 3.