Saturday, July 7, 2018

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. (2007)

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. (2007): written by Warren Ellis; illustrated by Stuart Immonen and Wade Grawbadger: Warren Ellis' brilliant, fractured satire of all things superhero somehow got 12 issues from Marvel in 2007, possibly because Ellis was and is such a popular, ostensibly sort-of mainstream writer of superheroes.

With Stuart Immonen on art, best known for fine work on Superman and other DC characters, Ellis crafts a Marvel book that feels more like a revisionist DC book -- Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol most specifically, from the late 1980's and early 1990's. Nextwave is a bit more Juvenalian in its satire, though -- the heroes are pissier and the metacommentary doesn't show much love for the weirdness of the characters it lampoons.

A lot of those weird characters -- Machine Man, Fin Fang Foom, Devil Dinosaur -- are oddballs from one of Jack Kirby's stints at Marvel. Some are riffs on 'real' Marvel characters from the pages of Dr. Strange. H.A.T.E. parodies S.H.I.E.L.D.. Ellis even brings characters previously seen only in the pages of Marvel's short-lived superhero parody comic Not Brand Ecch! on stage, with ridiculous results.

The Nextwave team itself consists of has-beens and never-weres, most prominently Monica Rambeau, Marvel's second Captain Marvel, then Photon, now just going by her real name. Machine Man also now goes by his civilian name. The Captain is one or another or possibly all of those lesser-known characters who used 'Captain' in their superhero monikers. There's a minor X-Men/X-Force superheroine with a major shop-lifting habit and the ability to make things explode by pointing at them. And there's Lady Bloodstone, daughter of a really minor 1970's Marvel monster-hunter and Doc Savage knock off.

It's funny and nasty if you know all the characters and situations Ellis chooses to pummel. It's hilarious if you don't. As Ellis pummels many of his own superhero writing tics, it all seems fair among the figurative and literal blood-letting. Immonen is an able collaborator, looser and more cartoony than I remember him, shining especially in stretches that parody the art styles of others and in a series of two-page action spreads that are both dynamic and completely ridiculous. Tik tik tik BOOM! Highly recommended.

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