Or “Warren Ellis Is Either A Genius or Bug*#&@ Crazy. Possibly Both.”

reviewbubble.jpgnext2.jpgIt is with an uncharacteristic sense of foreboding (for both me and for NextWave) that I start reviewing this book. Reports out of Marvel indicate that issue 12 will be the last regular issue of NextWave, but that it may continue as a series of miniseries in the future. That’s too bad, because this book is the most all-out fun I’ve had with a Marvel title since they cancelled the first volume of New Warriors, waaay back in the late 90’s. (And we’ve all seen how well THAT book is regarded these days…)

next1.jpgAs we toil in the trenches of the almighty Civil War, fun Marvel Comics are awfully hard to come by. Even “Cable & Deadpool” has become a treatise on betrayal, friendship, and being shot in the head by your nearest and dearest. It would seem there isn’t a lot of room for a title that revels in mocking comic conventions and excesses, making fun of it’s own protagonists, and just flat blowing $#!+ up. Previous issues of this comic have established the NextWave squad as former super-employees of the Beyond Corporation, an evil coalition with unclean fingers in more evil pies that Doctor Doom, Doctor Sivana, and Doctor Evil combined. Having jumped ship from Beyond with the company’s evil master plan, Monica Rambeau (aka Captain Marvel II, Photon, and Pulsar) has led her team to smash Beyond’s plans wherever they rear their shrouded head in agony… or something.

This inside information on Beyond’s nastiness has led to most of the team’s successes thus far. Unfortunately, that intelligence is getting old, and when they arrive at the next hotspot, the squad finds only a completely abandoned city. This bothers the team for about a minute and a half, until (as usual) an interpersonal fight breaks out. It seems Monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone (daughter of the late Ulysses Bloodstone, walking proof that everything Marvel did in the 1970’s will be revived before the end of the decade) is wearing a t-shirt bearing the symbol of the European union on her chest. Tabby Smith (aka “Boom Boom” from Secret Wars II and X-Force fame) takes umbrage. “That shirt makes Europe look like a really sucky country!” Elsa takes offense at Tabby’s lack of cultural savvy, and a perfect example of “Why I Love NextWave” ensues.

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“ZOMG!” Heh. Tabitha’s dumb-girl dialogue is one of the best things about this title. In recent a issue she actually misspelled her own name, though one has to ask, if she spells it wrong, is it really wrong? Add to that things like the facial expressions in panel three. Immonen’s animation-inspired style is another huge draw for me, though I find it’s also the most-quoted reason why people dislike the book. All Canadian melodrama aside, it seems that the Beyond corporation is SO evil and SO paranoid, they built a Trojan Horse in their own marketing plan to defend against betrayals like NextWave’s. Just as our heroes smell a trap and move to bug out, they are confronted by the mastermind behind the it all: the mysterious Number None. As for why the city is abandoned, it would seem Number None keeps his feathers numbered for just such an emergency…

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And THAT, my friends, is capital E-V-I-L. Let’s see Ernst Stavro Blofeld top THAT! Number None and his fellow ludicrous loons have prepared to destroy the NextWave team by preparing not one, not two, not THREE, but four separate teams of superhumans. And moreoever, each team is an obvious parody of the “wide-screen” brand of superheroics pioneered by Ellis’s own “The Authority,” and continued by The Monarchy, The Establishment, et al, including an all-gay superteam (“Who will be here! As soon as the pride parade in San Francisco is over!”) But the piece de resistance is still to come, as Number None puts all the cards on the table (coincidentally supporting my theory that everything old is new again) by showing Monica the inspiration for his greatest weapons of all…

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For those not in the know, “Not Brand Ecch” was Marvel’s in-house answer to Mad Magazine, and was (at its best) absolutely hysterical. Giant Sam! The Inedible Bulk! Charlie America! Forbush Man! Number None’s secret weapons also bear a striking resemblance to the Mark-Millar-penned “Ultimates,” right down to the their logo and poses. As the “New Paramounts” attack, the NextWave team looks to their leader for her battle plan.

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Very few writers do tough guy dialogue better than Ellis. Every issue of NextWave has been a gas, chock full of pop-culture references, broccoli people, bizarre characterization, profanity, and swift & blinding violence. I’m reminded of George Carlin’s routines, in that some people gravitate solely to the dirty words and attitude, while some break down the the thinking behind it and process it all as a commentary on something else. Likewise, NextWave’s fistfights are really about more than just “good guys and bad guys.” It’s a commentary on superheroes as a concept, the superteam as an micorcosm, and the comic book industry in general. All that subtext could be boring and high-falutin’, but thankfully, NextWave also works as “just plain ol’ comics,” like the kick-butt cliffhanger, a BMF moment for Ellie combined with another shot at Mark Millar and his Ultimates.

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NextWave is a blast, literally. Ellis has taken castoff characters, adrift in the Marvel continuity, and given them a new lease on life. Monica Rambeau hasn’t really been relevant since the introduction of Genis-Vell, Tabitha’s resume lists some of the most gawdawful comics ever written, and Elsa Bloodstone has done little-to-nothing since her limited series. Even the best known NextWave-r, Aaron Stack, the mighty Machine Man, has been languishing for years. Warren Ellis gives us an entirely new and ridiculous take on the character (“My robot brain needs BEER!”) while simultaneously restoring some of what made him fascinating in the first place. This is a character whose pedigree starts with the mind of Jack Kirby, and contains notable runs by Steve Ditko and Barry Windsor-Smith! Yet, nobody before Warren could find anything to DO with him?

If you’re looking to be entertained by a comic book, I urge you to go out and buy the next three issues. Heck, pick up the trades of the first issues and buy any limited series that show up, as well. This book is a treasure, and every single page is chock-full of easter eggs, brilliant dialogue and a bit of the old ultra-violence. It may be years before Marvel comes up with something this fun and entertaining again, so this issue earns a wide-screen, French-hating, Mark-Millar-baiting 4 1/2 stars. (Though I admit that the presence of Forbush Man earned half a star all by itself.)

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I’m also gonna steal Stephen’s gimmick for a moment and give you a Parting Shot, this one a snippet from the Official NextWave Theme Song.

NEXTWAVE! Give us a NextWave roll-call!

MONICA! Is gonna microwave your @$$!
TABBY! Is gonna steal all your stuff!
AARON! Is going to organize your sock drawer!
ELSA! Is gonna speak with an accent!
THE CAPTAIN! His name is The Captain!

NEXTWAVE!
NEXTWAVE! Somebody please, please call…
NEXTWAVE! – – For Gawd’s sake, somebody call NextWave!

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. November 7, 2006 at 4:11 pm — Reply

    “Heck, pick up the trades of the first issues and buy any limited series that show up, as well.”

    Naah. It’s much easier just to borrow them from my buddy when I see him at Thanksgiving. :-)

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