J.G. Keely's Reviews > Nextwave, Agents of H.A.T.E., Vol. 1: This is What They Want

Nextwave, Agents of H.A.T.E., Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis
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Feb 16, 2009

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bookshelves: comics, reviewed, humor, capes

Most of the time, comics do not benefit from deep and patient consideration. The vast majority owe their popularity to a world of powerless men trapped in a work-a-day world that provides them little pride and less edification. Readers of history often fantasize about living in another age, readers of travelogues imagine impossibly pricey vacations, and fans of Romance want an 'unbound pillar of desire', which I think is a piece by Rodin.

Likewise, many comic readers have been happy for little more than sexy, fast-paced excitement. This demand has been met by a bevy of innumerable authors over the years, but usually with the same old band of familiar heroes. This preponderance has lead to a wealth of stories and histories for each character, often contradictory ones. However, none of that mattered until some of the more leisure-gifted fans tried to make sense of it.

The ever-blossoming result of these hundred thousand monkeys can be at turns humbling, nonsensical, horrifying, and depressing. If you are the sort who teases tigers at the zoo, then perhaps you'll enjoy the effect of whispering the word 'continuity' amongst a band of the faithful. You'll have to be careful, of course, as breathing the word at ComicCon is liable to end in broken marriages, sundered friendships, oceans of tears, and rivers of blood.

It was not always so dire. Alan Moore carelessly sauntered over from England and after writing two or three things, made it okay to take comic books seriously. His dangerous artistry spawned a generation of new writers, who all, to one degree or another, have come to consider comics to be Art.

These writers have been trying to 'fix' continuity since about when I was born. They write year-long series called "Secret Countdown to Final Infinite Earth Civil War Crisis: Zombie Zero Hour", just so you know that they mean business and once they're done, you can finally get along with the escapist power fantasies in peace.

Warren Ellis is one of those literary writer guys inspired by Moore to use things like 'tropes' and 'metaphors' in his 'tales of existential exploration'. It's all quite serious. In this particular philosophical exegesis, Ellis takes on a common theme of artsy writers, namely: what would the lives of superheroes really be like, if they were real people.

He chooses a group of heroes to represent, each chosen for being forgotten and mishandled by the 'continuity gestapo'. He then imagines what it would be like to live in a world where giant dragons in purple underwear threaten the peace of the world on a daily basis. His exploration (exploitation?) of the contradictions inherent to heroism in a world where battles often level cities is particularly poignant.

Like Watchmen, Nextwave holds a wink and a nod up to the genre, stomping thoughtlessly on the already blurry line between the ideals of right and wrong, the point of inescapable gray where the serious cannot escape the ludicrous, and the ludicrous cannot escape Warren Ellis. But unlike Watchmen, this is a satire which attempts to maintain the absurdity of its genre. In the end, however, Ellis must bow respectfully to the men who came before him, and he duly admits that he could not be as ridiculous on purpose as they were by happy accident.

My Suggested Reading In Comics
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