Sunday, February 18, 2007

Nextwave: Agents of Hate #12

Nextwave: Agents of Hate #12, March 2007, Marvel Comics
writer: Warren Ellis
penciller: Stuart Immonen
inker: Wade von Grawbadger
colorist: Dave McCaig
letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
assistant editor: Sean Ryan
editor: Nick Lowe
EIC: Joe Quesada

When A Comic A Day began, I frequently lamented my draw to “number ones,” although these first issues were usually ascribed to defunct series that were inarguably more accessible than titles that had achieved triple-digit status and decades’ worth of continuity. Fortunately, long-running series don’t have to last hundred of issues, evidenced by yesterday’s review of The Rocketeer Adventure Magazine #3 – and today’s review of Nextwave #12, the last issue in Marvel’s year-long team book of B-listers. By today’s standards, a year is a long time for any creative team to remain dedicated to a series, let alone produce consistently entertaining results.

Indeed, from its first raucous issue, the Ellis/Immonen/von Grawbadger collaboration via Nextwave has been the superhero id unleashed, exploiting the obscurities of the Marvel Universe and twisting them into a modern romp of energy-dispersing, robot vs. monster secret-agent adventure. Recruiting a quintet of obscure characters from the various Marvel teams, Nextwave was a special ops outfit funded by the Highest Ant-Terrorism Effort, until they discovered that H.A.T.E. and its parent organization the Beyond Corp were ironically funded by a mysterious terrorist outfit. Until this final arc, I assumed that Ellis used this concept as a means to tell these seemingly stream of consciousness stories, as the Nextwave group leapfrogged from bouts with “Broccoli Men” to alien spores and back again, but for this last issue, he reveals some method to his madness and still saves room for a few Marvel oddities – all just to prove he actually knew what he was doing. Turns out, the Beyond Corporation was facilitated by a baby M.O.D.O.K., who was in turn a henchman for the original Devil Dinosaur. Yes. Dust off your Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe for that one.

In short, Warren Ellis is a master of the obscure one-liner, and of the unnecessarily melodramatic, and while his loyal fanbase will thoroughly enjoy the gems riddled throughout this issue, I insist that Immonen and von Grawbadger’s art have maintained the integrity of this series from beginning to end. They’ve managed to ground all of Ellis’s crazy ideas into a standard sequential format while still retaining that distinctiveness that sets this series apart from the rest. With its pseudo-sciences of cosmic proportions, and its idiosyncratic team dynamic, Nextwave best resembles Grant Morrison’s JLA on acid, but the artists kept the material terrestrial, easy on the eyes to behold and understand. Although I’ll miss the strange subject material, I’ll miss looking at it a bit more.

I always admired The Dick Van Dyke Show for its move to end before its rating faltered, capitalizing on that old entertainment adage to “leave them wanting more.” While many comic books outstay their welcome on the stands, some series remember this strategy; most of the Vertigo books I’ve loved, like Preacher and Ellis’s Transmetropolitan, wrapped at under 100 issues, and the critically acclaimed Y: The Last Man is set to do the same. Nextwave barely waded into double-digit status, but a solid year’s worth of entertainment is commendable, especially with a finale that adds a touch of closure like this one. Nextwave has been a consistently unique, entertaining product that is appropriately ending before its quirkiness becomes cliché. After all, this series couldn’t be a next wave is it became old, right?

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