nextwave: agents of H.A.T.E. #10

by

Or – “You’ll Never Have This Much Fun With A Liefeld Character Again…”

nw9.jpgreviewbubble.jpgOne of the great things about the Marvel Universe is that everybody has a story. Even someone who’s appeared as seldom as the Texas Twister or Stingray has backstory, family, friends and continuity. The cast of this book, f’rinstance, has ties to The X-Men, X-Force, The Avengers, The Defenders, Spider-Man, the awesome but completely forgotten “Lost Generation” miniseries, and, if this issue is to be taken literally, The frickin’ Micronauts. Last issue, the nextwave five were faced with no fewer than three different evil superteams bent on their utter destruction… With temporary cancellation looming, can our heroes pull it together long enough to fight somebody OTHER than their teammates?

As F. Stone Cold Austin put it, in his timeless classic ‘The Great Gatsby Gets Hisself A Stunner,’ “Awww, hell yeah!” The members of NextWave (yes, I know I change the capitalization a lot… So does the book), by bickering, whining, wheedling and threatening each other, have pretty much shrouded the fact that they are, almost to a man, ungawdly powerful. So, when the members of evil supergroup “The Vestry” attack, they face not the whole NextWave squad, but merely one angry man. Well, not so much man… one angry robot. Once upon a time, he ordered us to call him “Mister Machine,” but these days, his friends call him Aaron. His ferocity is astonishing, so much so that team leader Monica feels compelled to remind her mechanized majordomo of her one rule: “I said no killing!”

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Turns out they’re not people at all, but more of the Beyond Corporation’s patented broccoli hybrid soldiers. The mighty forces of Number None are nothing but smoke and mirrors (coming soon from Image Comics!) and Monica is highly peeved. She and The Captain make quick work of five more veggie villains, as Number None calls out his secret weapon: FORBUSH MAN.

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Before their very eyes, the NextWavers lives as Jailbait, Has-been, Clockwork, Doofus, and Not-Lara-Croft are negated, and whole new worlds put in their place… Monica finds herself in San Francisco, 1967 (or at least she thinks she does), as Kree Warrior Pluskommander Geheneris Halason Mahr Vehl, in a very strange old-school Marvel freakout, that probably would have been drawn by Gene Colan and written by Steve Gerber and quaaludes. Not that I’m implying that Steve Gerber ever took illegal substances, mind you… I just want you to look at Howard The Duck, and consider. Aaron Stack, Machine Man, finds his personal hell to be even more personal. When he originally began masquerading as a human, Aaron worked (in a rubber mask!) as an insurance adjustor for Delmar Insurance in Central City, USA. This experience seems to have shaped his theories on Gehenna…

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I think I’ve seen that in an animated .gif. Having worked for two years in the Medicare call center, it’s painful to realize how well I understand Aaron’s feelings here. What’s most painful about the next delusion is how I didn’t see it coming. This is, of course, assuming that you can take things at face value when you’re dealing with a dream-state written by Warren Ellis. And quaaludes. But, in any case, for those of you who wonder why The Captain has standard issue FIST (Flying Invulnerability Strength Toughness) powers? Because that’s what the Unipower does…

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…again, assuming that it’s actually the unipower we’re dealing with. After all, it does give people super-powers, with a stylized starfield motif, which describes The Captain perfectly. It’d also fit with this titles use of less-popular characters from Marvel history, since everybody else in the book (except Dirk Anger, who’s just Nick Fury on ritalin) is one of Marvel’s many lost children. Heck, if it weren’t for this book, they’d probably just get murdered in the next issue of Civil War to prove that there are consquences in a universe where Bucky is back from the dead, and rumors of Captain Marvel’s resurrection are in the air. The Captain’s torment is depressing (the last real human in a world of superhumans), but not nearly as much so as Elsa Bloodstone’s. She dreams of a world overrun with monsters, and herself symbolically standing on the battlements, a last bastion of humanity.

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The ‘wavers are so depressed that their bodies are slowly shutting down, minds dying at the horror of Forbush Man’s existential malaise. All of them, it seems, except one. Tabitha Smith originated in Secret Wars II, and spent most of her tenure at Marvel under the pen of Rob “I Never Met A Good Idea I Didn’t Swipe” Liefeld. Some would argue that no hell could compare. Forby is stunned to see her still standing. “Maybe you’re just not good with girls,” needles Tabby the jailbait mutant who may have performed carnal favors for the Beyonder. Replies Pot-Head, “I am MIGHTY with girls! They make the right noises and ruin my bed linens and everything!” Heh. I love Warren Ellis. Irving turns on the Total Perspective Vortex again, but finds no better results…

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I think I worked with that girl. At the Delmar Insurance agency, no less. And does anybody else find it hard not to make a joke about “big bangs,” given their dialogue a moment ago? Anyway, with her mind back, Monica is officially livid. Transforming into a beam of pure energy, she blows nearly a third of Number None’s inverted citadel to ashes, then allows them to retreat. She returns to her squad, the Avenger within her awakened and mightily angry.

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I do NOT want to be Number None next issue… or ever, for that matter. The Doctor Doom mask isn’t a fashion statement I can carry. I enjoyed the flights of fancy this issue, especially Aaron’s insurance hell and Monica’s pseudo-Starlin 60’s relevant claptrap. The art, as always, is stellar, though stylized, as seen by Monica’s final panel. Artist Stuart Immonen manages to convey tons of emotion through simple body-language and linework. I’m looking forward to him on Ultimate Spider-Man. And, as always, Ellis cuts straight to the heroic heart of characters without going the Claremont introspective route. All of the NextWaver’s personal torments fit perfectly with their established personalities, and we even got a cameo by none other than Stan and Jack themselves. This issue was exactly what I love about nextwave, and gets a full four stars in anticipation of next issue’s throwdown with the forces of Beyond. (I kinda hope that Dirk Anger gets set on fire…)

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