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|
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!|
|Swiss Army Aaron|
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!"
Tabby: "She must be unconcious."
|Tabby versus Robocop.|
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.|
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.|
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 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.|
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.|
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.|
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.|
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.|