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Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #7

Written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Stuart Immonen
Marvel Comics
32-page comic book, $2.99


This image and below from Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #7, ©2007 Marvel Characters Inc.


Here's the set-up: asparagus robot thing summons dark lord of some netherworld or other and rents a seemingly endless supply of mud creatures with deathray faces for a hundred bucks and a couple of Suicide Girls, and sets said mud creatures loose on a small American town. Here to save the town from this threat is Nextwave, a group of B-list superheroes on the run from their former employers, General Dirk Anger and his Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort organization, after discovering that said employers are actually on the payroll of bad guys who want to test unusual weapons of mass destruction -- monsters, mostly.

I generally don't have much interest in superheroes. These days, most such comics take themselves way too seriously, which only reminds me of how ludicrous are the form's amalgamated tropes and cliches. The modern funnybook fan's earnest belief in the universal appeal of superheroes to thinking grown-ups has resulted largely in leaden, ponderous soap operas that practically beg for condescension and mockery. Superheroes are a genre built for children from the ground up, and grafting an after-the-fact adult sensibility onto them almost always does them harm.

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. sidesteps these pitfalls by refusing to be anything other than a clever, action-packed diversion for readers seeking cheap kicks and entertaining escapism. In theory, it's a "comedy," or a "parody" or some such. In practice, it's a punch-em-up comic with lots of jokes on the side, maintaining just enough plot and character interaction to bridge the gap between bits of over-the-top violence. It's also an idiosyncratic book — replace either of its creators, and the results would cease to be entertaining. Ellis could plainly write books like this in his sleep, and in this case it only proves that he should sleep more. Immonen has a cartoony, clean-line style that maintains enough fidelity to the real world to satisfy the book's dual laughs-and-action functions with seemingly effortless dexterity. The result is a fun read for people looking to turn their brains off for a few minutes and watch people hit each other, exchange witty banter and blow things up.



If more superhero comics succeeded in reaching for these simple goals, I'd probably read more superhero comics.


This essay appeared on the then-website of The Comics Journal sometime between 2006 and 2008.


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