Monday, April 03, 2006

Termite (Sequential) Art: Nextwave

Yeah, it's a film blog. Guess what: I like comics too.

Warren Ellis has written some excellent thoughtful comics in his day (Transmetropolitan, Planetary) but he's also the best scripter of his generation of a certain type of superhero: self-aware, smug, and absolutely hilarious. Ellis pioneered the form (we might call it the superherasshole) with The Authority, but with the Bryan Hitch art and widescreen storytelling and nemeses like God himself, The Authority felt a bit self-important; it felt weighty. Nextwave is just dumb. But good dumb. In an interview with Comicon.com, Ellis described Nextwave as "superhero-team-book as Attention Deficit Disorder Anime.” I'd describe it as an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie with much better jokes.

The book itself is its own best hype man; each issue has at least one breathless logline. Issue 3 ends with this text: "You have been reading Nextwave, a comic single about five pirate super heroes twisting the nipple of the military-industrial complex." That's a generous reading of twenty-two pages of dirty mutant cops, exploding cars, and wise-cracking robot armies. (You may notice two more tags on each of the covers I've included: "Nextwave: Healing America by beating people up." and "Nextwave: Gets their lovin' from your mama!")

Nextwave is, quite explicitly, just another group of superheroes. The roster is the dregs of the Marvel Universe: a forgotten female incarnation of Captain Marvel (such a minor character she had to change her name when another Captain Marvel swooped in and stole the monicker from her), a cybernetic hero with the embarassing name Machine Man (who, believe it or not, premiered in the comics adaptation of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey), a mutant from the glut of terrible '90s X-Men spinoffs, and a monster hunter who has appeared in maybe a dozen comics total in the last twenty years. They've been drafted together by a cartoonish Nick Fury analogue named Dirk Anger, who leads a cartoonish S.H.I.E.L.D. analogue named H.A.T.E. (Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort). Anger is prone to the sort of brilliant fit of illogical rage that only Ellis can write. In issue one, he's introduced reaming out new recruits with this rant:

"Every day I smoke 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars and drink a bottle of whisky and three bottles of wine with dinner. And dinner is meat. RAW meat. The cook serves me an entire animal and I fight it bare-handed and tear off what I want and eat it and have the rest buried. In NEW JERSEY! For H.A.T.E.!"


Each issue has made me laugh far more times than anything 22 picture-filled pages long should be able to. The sheer density of humor is staggering: this is silly, stupid fun, though, in the mold of Ellis' other current smash, Fell, it should be $1.99 an issue instead of $2.99.

Nextwave: it will make you poop delicious blueberry muffins or your money back. Buy it immediately. Then share it with people you love.

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2 Comments:

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