Or – “My Refutation Of Marvel’s Obvious Embarassment…”

A great disappointment for me comes in the fact that while Marvel is willing to revamp Venom, Carnage, and frickin’ X-Force every ten minutes, someone in editorial seemingly sees the New Warriors as an embarassment.  Of all the awful drek and flotsam that the House of Ideas vomited up during the Great Speculation Wasteland of the 90s, the first fifty or so issues of New Warriors have to stand among the most re-readable.  As part of my Major Spoilers Anniversary celebration, it’s time to once and for all put a nail in the coffin of New Warriors mockery.

(Much like a Gallagher show, I recommend that the front rows get a plastic sheet in case of splashback…)

New Warriors #13
Script: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Larry Mahlstedt
Colors: Andy Yanchus
Letters: Joe Rosen
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Previously, on New Warriors:  Dwayne Taylor was a child of privelege, growing up with rich parents who left him wanting nothing.  But that all changed when his parents were murdered, sending him down the Bruce Wayne path to redemption, training himself for years to become a living weapon against evildoers and badness and such.  His path was somewhat less solitary than Bruce’s though, as he quickly teamed up with two other nocturnals, Midnight’s Fire and Silhouette to fight gang violence in the streets of New York.  When that situation (as well as Midnight’s Fire) went bad, leaving Silhouette paralyzed from the waist down, Dwayne set out to build a full-fledged hero team.  Recruiting the 70’s hero known as Nova, the mutant mistress of microwaves, Firestar, and the telekinetic Marvel Boy (and picking up Namorita and Speedball the Masked Marvel in the process) Dwayne founded The New Warriors, heroes for the ’90s!  Their adventures thrust them quickly into harm’s way, and things got even more complicated when one of Nova’s old villains, The Sphinx, returned and changed the nature of reality around them!  In a world where the Sphinx rules supreme, only the Avenger known as Nova has any idea that anything is awry, but can he find an answer to the questions that plague them all?

Yes, so long as you assume that “Puncheminnaface!” is an answer…

Having teamed up with the Mutant LIberation Front (led by Magneto and the White Queen, long before her Heel Face Turn), Nova has turned on his pals in the government-supported Avengers and become a rebel against everything he knows and believes.  The depth of characterization and world-building in this arc have to be seen to be believed, as we are given a world wherein reality was changed back in days of biblical yore and everything else in the entire world trickled down accordingly.  All the heroes of the Marvel U. are represented in this reality, but their lives and backstories (and in some cases, their ethnicity) have changed due to the new timestream.  Nova’s revolting against his pals was a difficult decision for the Human Rocket, but one that he KNOWS to be correct, thanks to the timely intervention of a strange man in a sheet…

This Sphinx, it turns out, is NOT the man whom Nova fought in our reality so many years ago, but a woman who loved him from afar and eventually took on his power after unrequited love drove her mad.  Once again, the depth of the creators’ thought process is clear, as writer Fabian Nicieza figured out how the Spinx(es) could have lived through several centuries to get to where they are.  Three of the six New Warriors are center-stage in the battle between mutant and Spinx-supported-superhero, but their founder, Night Thrasher is not.  In this alternate world, his father was never murdered, and Dwayne lived the life of luxury in his dad’s high-rise.  One of Papa Taylors subordinates was none other than Reed Richards himself, though, and Reed was workin with the underground, leading to both men being assainated by agents of the Sphinx.  With his entire world in shards, Dwayne is forced to take unprecedented steps…

The boy who would be Night Thrasher breaks into The Sphinx’s communications hub, only to find that the entire world has seemingly gone mad, as the battle in Manhattan (Maqaman in this reality) is only a symptom of the world’s ills.  Wars are breaking out across the planet to overthrow the Sphinx, and the Atlanteans (with cameo appearance by New Warrior Namorita) have attacked to support the mutants’ cause.  Dwayne isn’t sure how to proceed, until he finds the immortal cat that represents the Sphinx’s love for her lost immortal pal.  It’s fascinating to watch the usually dark and brooding, self-assured Thrash as an uncertain newbie, while remaining recognizably the man we know.  Nicieza does really well with all the main characters (and even the cameos) staying within recognizable parameters, even in this new world.  Most wonderfully, he avoids the pitfall that so many Marvel stories fall into recently, idolizing the old-school Marvel stars at the expense of all others.  I love Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and Stan & Jack (& Steve & Don & all the rest) created some long-lasting characters, but sometimes you have to push your mid-card heroes or the whole world falls apart.  Due to the pecular nature of this reality, it falls to Nova and his friends to save the day…

And there’s the name!  YAY!  Somewhere Rodrigo is cheering, even if he doesn’t realize why…  As for the Sphinx, the threat to her last bastion of humanity causes her to abandon the battle and return to her skyscraper home to find the intruder, leading Vance, Angelica and Rich to follow her.  With four of the heroes in play, and a fifth briefly making an appearance, that leaves only one New Warrior unaccounted for.  Problem is, Speedball only got his powers because of a scientific experiment gone wrong, the kind of thing that wouldn’t happen in the changed reality, as the Sphinx rigidly controls all scientific pursuits with an iron fist.  Of course, a battle as big as the one in Manhattan has to have some sort of collateral damage, right?

“Wish *I* could bounce like that!”  Heh.  It’s a nice way to complete the circle without undermining the reality that has been created.  Ironically enough, back in issue #1 of the series, it’s revealed that Night Thrasher only set out to recruit Firestar, Nova and Marvel Boy, and that the participaton of Speedball and Namorita was due to pure chance.  Thrash really only WANTED his surrogate superhero family to have four members, since the only other hero family he had to work with has four as well.  It’s a nice little continuity touch, if you’re looking for it.  The New Warrior quartet meets for the first time in the Sphinx’s quarters, realizing that her poor little kitty is the key to everything, the key to beating the Sphinx and returning things to the way they SHOULD be.  (Interestingly, several of their individual lives are actually BETTER in this alternate timesphere…)

As the Sphinx wavers, Sayge (the guy in the white sheet) arrives and reminds her that her life, her entire WORLD, is built on nothing but lies and no matter how she tries, she’ll never get what she really wants:  The love of a dead man.  She collapses, begging for the one thing that she still loves.  Nova gives her the cat, and she undoes the alternate world.  The horrible upshot comes when her beloved pet crumbles to dust in her hands, as even it is part of the lie she told to comfort herself.  The Sphinx screams and teleports away, swearing revenge on the New Warriors for stealing her love from her.  Having made one of the most powerful enemies there is to make and nearly getting themselves killed in the process, the New Warriors realize exactly what it is they’ve gotten themselves into.

The “My God, What Have I Done?” speech is pretty good, and Night Thrasher remembering his much happier alternate life really informs his character throughout.  Mark Bagley first came to my attention working on Strikeforce: Morituri back in the late 80’s, but this time frame of New Warriors (teamed with inker Larry Mahlstedt) are what made me a fan of his work.  His alternate character designs are better than many of Marvel’s actual hero costumes at the time, and the all-out battle with the Sphinx is the kind of multi-character madness that is hard to find from anyone not named Perez.  Fabian Nicieza’s writing on this title was like Mark Waid on The Flash for me, a perfect melding of writer and characters at a time when the writer had something to say and the perfect space to do it in.

Let me state this unequivocally:  The New Warriors are nothing to be ashamed of.  Even Speedball has moments of greatness in this series, and without this arc, I don’t think we’d be reading a Nova revival today.  Yes, it’s tied into 90’s culture (Iron Man with an armored high-top fade helmet has to be seen to be believed) but no more so than Power Man and Iron Fist are to the 70’s, or the Legion to the dawn of the Silver Age in 1961.  I firmly believe that years from now, we’ll be reading about these characters as the stalwarts of a new Marvel vanguard, much as the 70’s characters are finally doing today, and remember New Warriors #13 as one of the most affecting issues of my college-age comic reading days, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  If you only know the Warriors from Civil War, then you’re missing out on some wonderful comics reading, Faithful Spoilerite…

Rating: ★★★★½

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  What mocked or reviled stories or characters are near and dear to your heart?  (After all, even Combat of Youngblood is SOMEBODY’S favorite…)

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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13 Comments

  1. arcee
    October 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm — Reply

    Totally, totally agree with you. This was that a rare Camelot-like time where Marvel actually OUT – Titan-ed – the Teen Titans. What a great run.

  2. October 12, 2010 at 5:28 pm — Reply

    100% AGREED.

    As I’ve said before, in the comments and in the forums, the New Warriors were some good reading. And what they did to poor Speedball afterward was a travesty.

  3. October 12, 2010 at 6:42 pm — Reply

    It was a sham of a mockery of a travesty, if y’ask me.

  4. Slappy
    October 12, 2010 at 7:20 pm — Reply

    Freat run. Fabian Niceza was a swell dude.

    • Rome
      October 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm — Reply

      I still follow his stuff pretty religiously. His Cable/Deadpool was ridiculous (deadpool hasn’t been done well since) and Nicieza’s the only reason I picked up Red Robin, and I’m digging that too (even though I follow no other Bat-titles.)

  5. October 13, 2010 at 4:44 am — Reply

    What mocked or reviled stories or characters are near and dear to your heart?

    Sigh… Team Titans. Those first 12 or so issues that Wolfman did, even if they started in a crazy crossover, were some cool old-school heroics with interesting characters & lots of possibilities. But they handed it over to Jimenez & I-forget-the-other-guy, who were a little TOO ambitious for their own good, and then Zero Hour hit, so they were turned into mindless goons. To this day, I’m still steamed that bubbly girl-next-door Redwing was turned into a giant bloodthirsty chicken just because it was “kewler”. Loads of possibility, all wasted.

    This once again convinces me that I need to check out the New Warriors. Are there any trades of this run?

    • markw
      October 13, 2010 at 8:52 am — Reply

      Yes, there’s been a couple of trades of Vol 1. New Warriors released in the last year or so.

  6. Brother129
    October 13, 2010 at 11:52 am — Reply

    THIS IS MY FAVORITE RETRO REVIEW OF ALL TIME!!!!! Okay, hyperbole aside, I am always so thankful when the real New Warriors of the’90’s are given their just due. During a decade, when a LOT of crappy stuff came out, the New Warriors stuff that Nicieza and Bagley came up with still holds up. I’m in total agreement, if Marvel can dust off ’70’s heroes and concepts, I don’t understand why they can’t make a New Warriors title work. Every new premise they’ve come up with the past 10 years has been horrible. Jeez, bring Nicieza back on board if you have to. Then resurrect, Namorita and Night Thrasher from the dead and let’s get it going…..

  7. Robbie
    October 13, 2010 at 7:26 pm — Reply

    This was MY book in the 90s. It was the best new idea to come out of the the Marvel bullpen back then. The treatment of the Warriors since then has been horrible. Fabian did a great job of making each character one who defied his/her exterior, just like the New Teen Titans! This was a book that was not afraid to take teenage characters and make them vibrant. There is not a static main character in the whole run.

    The Speedball moments are all awesome–and that scene mid-run where Vance uses his TK to freeze the fake gun’s smoke–if you have read it, you know just how powerful those panels are.

    If you havent, get ye to a comic shop :)

  8. Jim
    October 13, 2010 at 10:33 pm — Reply

    I totally agree with Matthew and many others here – this series was one of the best things Marvel did in the 90s. It was way fresher than the Avengers and had a dynamic where every character was crucial (something a lot of team books then AND now lack). I even liked it when they brought in Rage.

    I got doped into reading the shoddy “reboot” Marvel did a little while ago which was essentially de-powered X-Men. I stopped reading after three issues. This Retro Review brought back fond memories and makes me want to go get my NW issues out of storage and read ’em again.

  9. Armaan
    October 14, 2010 at 10:26 am — Reply

    The only New Warriors I knew of was when I read this Avengers crossover and hearing their legend when Spidergirl in a future alternate timeline formed her own group of new warriors.

    Sigh.

    I miss Spidergirl.

  10. Snap Wilson
    October 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm — Reply

    Atari Force. The 1983 version by Gerry Conway and Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez. The first 13 issues (The “Dark Destroyer” arc) could be adapted into one heck of a movie. A host of terrific characters, especially Dart, who remains one of my favorite female comic book characters, period (and she looked so damned cool). After that, the plot meandered and fizzled out, but those first 13 issues were terrific.

    • October 16, 2010 at 10:26 pm — Reply

      Atari Force. The 1983 version by Gerry Conway and Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez. The first 13 issues (The “Dark Destroyer” arc) could be adapted into one heck of a movie. A host of terrific characters, especially Dart, who remains one of my favorite female comic book characters, period (and she looked so damned cool). After that, the plot meandered and fizzled out, but those first 13 issues were terrific.

      Now there’s a Hero History I could do!

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