Nextwave #1

Written by Warren Ellis
Pencilled by Stuart Immonen
Inked by Wade von Grawbadger
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Every now and then, I buy something on little more than a whim. Something about it just catches my eye, and the next thing I know I’m pulling out my wallet and wondering if I’ll be excited or disappointed when I get home. In the case of Nextwave #1, soon after I got home I was calling the comic book store back up to make sure they knew exactly what they had on their hands.

Dirk Anger, the director of H.A.T.E. (Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort), is angry. His elite anti-terrorism squad, Nextwave, has stolen their top-secret Shockwave Rider craft and left H.A.T.E. to strike out on their own to stop the evil machinations of the Beyond Corporation , a terrorist cell now disguising itself as a legitimate big business. But can five former superheroes stop not only the Beyond Corporation but the gigantic lizard monster known as Fin Fang Foom? And say, why does a gigantic dragon wear purple underpants, anyway?

Nextwave is, at its core, an unapologetic out-and-out comedy. Warren Ellis’s script takes everything goofy and silly about the Marvel Universe, from bizarre acronymed organizations to monsters that wear underpants, and revels in them. There’s no other way to really describe it. The narration is sharp and lends just the right level of silliness to the story to try and let the readers in on the joke that it’s not to be taken seriously. It’s how you end up with captions like, “Tabitha Smith possess the mutant powers of blowing things up and stealing all your stuff,” or “Monica Rambeau is a veteran super hero, previously known as Captain Marvel, whose mother always wanted her to get a proper job. So she joined H.A.T.E. When her mother died, she went to Hell, and is used as a bucket by giant weasels dressed as cheerleaders. And that’s what happens when you tell your kids to get a proper job.”

It’s a fine line that has to be walked, but I think Ellis’s writing hits just the right balance. On the one hand, it’s got all the goofiness full on display and isn’t denying just how strange some of these concepts are. At the same time, it still gives the ideas just the right about of respect. Fin Fang Foom may be utterly ludicrous, but it’s still a gigantic monster that’s about to destroy all of Abcess, North Dakota, and is going to take all of Nextwave’s power to stop. It helps that Ellis keeps the action fast-paced and moving fairly quickly; this is a big action book with all of the trimmings, and that’s just what is delivered. Ellie Bloodstone’s fight with the Beyond Corporation warriors delivers important information even as it also serves to entertain (although the “running away song” is something that probably worked better in concept than execution), and the next issue promises to be a no-holds knock-down drag-out fight galore with Fin Fang Foom.

The art is unsurprisingly great looking, thanks to Stuart Immonen. He’s an artist whose style and abilities as an artist continue to evolve and refine, and his work on Nextwave is further proof of his dedication to craft. There’s a lot of energy on the page here; I love the scene of Ellie Bloodstone knocking her foe through the air with a guitar because can see in just a single panel exactly what’s happening, not only in that solitary moment but five seconds before and after the event. He and inker Wade von Grawbadger work really well together, providing a smooth line on all of the characters, and some of the funniest facial expressions I’ve seen in a very long time. (One does have to wonder how many times Ellis used the word “perturbed” in the script, but based on how well Immonen draws that look on their faces, I hope Ellis doesn’t stop any time soon.) Add in some sharp colors by Dave McCaig and this is one beautiful book.

“Nextwave is a super hero comic about five people who have just minutes to prevent a town from being eaten by a giant lizard monster. In purple underpants.” Humor is tricky in any art form, but Nextwave #1 perfectly hit the mark for me. It’s wonderfully over the top in all the right places, and I’m really thrilled that Marvel green-lighted the book. It’s got just the right sense of humor, and if Ellis, Immonen, and Von Grawbadger can keep this up I’m definitely sticking around. The cover states that Nextwave is “healing America by beating people up” and that line both perfectly describes the story as well as its sense of humor. If this sounds even remotely fun to you, definitely check it out because the reality of the book is even better.

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