Monday, June 24, 2013

Review # 16: "Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E."

If I ever sat down and tried to write a comic series, I'm 99 percent certain it would end up being like Nextwave.

People who have been around my attempts at humour will probably notice two things: the strong sense that I'm just throwing crap at the wall to see what sticks and that an unexpected left-turn can happen at any time. I feel a kind of instant connection with Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's work, looking at their concepts and jokes thinking "this is something I might have come up with if I was talented." Referential parodies, incredibly obscure jokes, running gags getting beaten into the ground, small shots at Canada and pure anarchy. That last word is really what it's about: anarchy. In Ellis' own words, Nextwave is about people getting kicked in the face and then exploding. If you like those two things, you get a lot of it.

Broken up into a series of two-issue story arcs, Nextwave stars a bunch of heroes you've likely never heard of but may recognize if you're a fan. And if you DO recognize them, they're acting a little out of step. There's Monica Rambeau, the second Captain Marvel and brief leader of The Avengers. She reminds people of the latter fact constantly. There's Tabitha "Boom Boom/Boomer/Meltdown" Smith of X-Force "fame," whose power has been retooled to cause explosions as she sees fit. She also talks using "internet speak" a lot. Rounding out the cast are British monster-hunter Elsa Bloodstone, "Machine Man" Aaron Stack and the generic "Captain" whose full name offended Captain America.

Before the series began, they learned the organization they were working for - "H.A.T.E." or the "Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort" - was a terrorist group itself. From there they try to stop the evil parody of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s plans which include unleashing the dragon Fin Fang Foom, creating a murderous sub-species and crushing a town under the foot of monsters from another dimension.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Fin Fang Foom is now sporting purple underpants because he has no genitals? Or that the murderous sub-species is grown from broccoli? Or that the monsters are parodies of mindless American culture unleashed by "Rorkannu" (in lieu of Dormammu,) leader of the "Dank Dimension" (in lieu of the "Dark Dimension") after a deal that was cut outside toilet stalls?

That's the kind of bizarre crap you're dealing with here. The team flies around in a TARDIS-like aircraft and fights enemies like a giant Power Rangers-style robot and killer koala bears of death. Towards the end of the series there's a set of splash pages where - under Rambeau's orders to "fight everything" - they go through a set of villains that gets progressively more ridiculous. I'm talking Elvis MODOKS, several Steven Hawkings with laser eyes and Wolverine apes.

But the show stealer may be the villain(?) Dirk Anger, a clear parody of Nick Fury, who steals nearly every issue with his insane rants and suicide attempts. How his version of the helicarrier is stopped by Aaron Stack is something else.

I'm also compelled to mention H.A.T.E.Mail, the letters page which tells a separate story of a letter-answering robot with identity issues who ends up in therapy. It's really funny stuff, especially an aside where the robot writes a page-long analysis of Toto's "Africa" which I couldn't possibly do justice by summarizing here.

Nextwave is a surreal experience to be sure. If you know me and find me funny, I think you'll like it. It you know me and DON'T find me funny, then STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM NEXTWAVE AT ALL COSTS.

Rating: 8/10

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