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Saturday, 19 June 2010

nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E vol 1: This Is What They Want

Writer: Warren Ellis
Penciller: Stuart Immonen
Colourist: Dave McCaig
Inker: Wade von Grawbadger
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos and Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel 

What's it about?
nextwave is a collection of five superpowered (and odd) people working for H.A.T.E - the Highest Anti Terrorism Effort.  From the blurb:
Monica is gonna microwave your shit!
Tabby is gonna steal your stuff!
Aaron is gonna organise your sock drawer!
Elsa is gonna speak with an accent!
The Captain! His name is the Captain!

This is not a serious superhero book.  Tabby stole some blueprints and discovered that HATE is funded by a terrorist organisation, the Beyond Corporation.  So nextwave steal an expensive plane and decide to blow up the Corporation.

What follows is many more explosions and various kickings of objectionable people (or demon teddy bears).  This is not about character arcs, learning or hugs.  It's an action movie without any of the Hollywood soul searching and moralising - it has a robot who refers to humans as fleshy ones and a socialite who's catchphrase is Tick Tick Boom.  It's irreverent, cocky and fun. 

What's good about it?
The first page gives us this rationale for being a superhero:
'(The mask means that)..I could hit people in the face really really hard and runaway, and no one would know it was me'.

Concerns and arguments over right and wrong are not to be found here.  This is good as there is plenty of room for mocking common superhero tropes in this world.  This book does this and yet still manages to not take itself too seriously as it also supplies silly comic book enemies such as a giant lizard in purple underpants or savage teethed teddy bears.  These sorts of things are ridiculous and should be enjoyed for what they are.

So, the book knows it's own absurdities but doesn't make the characters into parodies.  It puts the plot first and the jokes second.

The team is comprised of 3 women, one of whom is black (Monica Rambeau).  In a medium which is dominated by white men this is a refreshing change, and is bolstered by the fact that all 3 women are tough and are portrayed as their own distinct characters in their own right.  This book more than passes the Bechdel Test.

What's bad about it?
It's a simple read.  It's not intended to be a clever indictment of the superhero genre and it's not particularly sophisticated in it's humour, although it has been cleverly put together.  Depending on your taste you may find this too simple and you may desire more.  It won't change your world view so if you are looking to be challenged you should look elsewhere.

What's the art like?
Unlike Mr Ellis's last book that we reviewed, nextwave's art is not full, or lurid or busy.  It's cartoony in style where the men tend towards the classic superhero chin and the women have waspish waists (although not huge breasts, gratifyingly enough - this may be why the art doesn't read as objectifying).

The pencil lines are clear and clean, the colours are bright and enticing.  There are lots of speed lines used to convey movement which brings detail to an otherwise plain background.

Other information
Price: £9.99
ISBN: 9780785119098

There is a second volume out titled I Kick Your Face.

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