Monday, September 29, 2008
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Volume 1: This Is What They Want by Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger
Big budget action movie adaptations of super-hero comics tend to be (a) more focused than actual super-hero comics - the continuity is stripped down to its essentials - and (b) a lot less farther out than actual super-hero comics - there's not as much tolerance for the kinds of conceptual inconsistencies that super hero comics thrive on (i.e., the willy-nilly mixing of fantasy and sci-fi, the cosmic and the mundane that gives those Kirby/Lee their particular kick). Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., a slapstick variation on Ellis' Planetary, belongs to a (relatively) recent trend of super-hero comics that take the aesthetics and the focus of the big-budget Hollywood adaptations, but don't shy away from the farther out aspects of the genre.
In terms of execution of concept, Nextwave is just about perfect: Ellis' writing is sharp and the in-jokes - mostly at the expense of Marvel's bigger books - are pointed; Stuart Immonen knows how to handle action sequences and he can draw giant monsters AND giant robots; Wade von Grawbadger helps to give it a manga-esque flow. Despite all this, Nextwave is a book whose qualities I appreciate, rather than one that I really like. I think it's just as well made as The Immortal Iron Fist, but while that book really resonates with me, I'm not on Nextwave's wavelength.
Now, three or four years ago, I could see myself really enjoying a book like this: today, not so much. Not because I've somehow matured beyond it - the book is certainly no less mature than Iron Fist - but because I'm a little weary (and wary) of irreverent super-hero comics that nonetheless rely on you actually knowing quite a bit about super-hero comics in order to really grok. But that's a personal preference thing and not any kind of moral/aesthetic pronouncement.
Still, if I were going to expand on this point of personal preference, I'd say that Nextwave is too cynical for me to enjoy in the way I enjoy Iron Fist or early Ultimate Spider-Man, but not thoroughly cynical enough to take on the genre with real teeth like The Boys or Rick Veitch's super-hero books. (Is there some kind of cute name for The One, Maximortal, and Brat Pack? The Veitchverse? Please let me know.) Nextwave feels a little bit like Frank Miller-Lite.
All that said, I'm planning on tracking down the remaining issues. Ellis is funny, Immonen does know how to draw super-heroic spectacle, and, who knows, maybe I was just cranky this weekend.