Reviews – Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E Ultimate Collection
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E Ultimate Collection
Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Dave McCaig, Paul Monts
‘It’s like Shakespeare but with lots more Punching‘
This is what’s claimed in the opening line of the theme song of this series (penned by Ellis under the pseudonym ‘Thunder Thighs – allegedly a band) and it’s not that far off. This series is possibly the most fun I’ve had reading a re-imagining of a run since I read Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers.
The concept is a very simple idea- five B and C-list characters, thrown together to make a team, versus a big bad corporation. Make the corporation an analogy for the arms dealers and urge for governments to arm their people (set not too far after 9/11 and the Iraq war), mix with a fantastic writer in Warren Ellis and some zany, dynamic and eye popping art from Stuart Immonen and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success!
Ellis is on top form with the kind of passion, cynicism and dark humour that people who have read Transmetropolitan know him for. His characters are ridiculous but quick witted, strongly developed and he takes ideas that were established in previous runs with those characters (such as Monica Rambeau formerly leading The Avengers) and expands on them without the need to develop full character-specific issues which may have slowed down the pace. He wants to tell his high-octane, action-packed adventure, and just gives you enough about the characters to understand their motivation and to suit where the story is going.
If ever there was a case of writing a creator-owned story within an established universe, this is it. All of the characters aren’t that well known, so Ellis gets to do what he wants to and with them, his story tone doesn’t fit in with what’s happening at the time in the Marvel Universe (this came out around the same time as Civil War) so Ellis has a self contained story, without outside characters, crossovers or shoe horning in to events.
He even personalises the recap pages at the start of every issue, creating a conversation with subtle little jokes for anybody who takes the time to read them- everything about this series is Ellis with full creative freedom and a full plan from when the series begins to the twelfth issue. It is a full limited series with a beginning, middle and end that Ellis has fully mapped out.
Helping him with this map is one of my favourite artist – Stuart Immonen – and he delivers some of the best stuff I’ve seen from him in this.
He is given full breathing room by Ellis to be creative and draw some of the most ridiculous concepts – like ideas you’d expect to see in a Deadpool or a parody book, some of which include:
A giant suicide cannon shaped like a revolver
Religion themed supervillain organisation known as The Vestry (that includes a robot)
A cop that gets transformed into a giant Japanese style Mech robot
Cuddly Bears of Death
I would love to have seen the email threads between Ellis, Immonen and editor Nick Lowe that must have heavily featured the phrase ‘You’re getting me to draw WHAT?’
Immonen still rises to the challenge and gives these multi-panelled, angular and expressionistic pages of absolute delight. Each page is a pleasure to look at and you find yourself scanning your eyes over it again after reading the dialogue, just to enjoy what Immonen has delivered.
Enhancing those beautiful pencils are the veterans of their fields Von Grawbadger and McCaig who are long time collaborators of Immonen and really get a sense of what the artist is trying to achieve and enhance the visuals. Von Grawbadger really understands shading and delivers as needed, then it gets a full colour work up by McCaig who clearly wants to emphasise the powerful range of expressions that Immonen delivers.
Overall this is one of the best series I’ve read in a long time; it was un-put-down-able at times. Each issue delivers a new range of concepts and artwork to have you drooling! The writing is quick, smart and the characters are just the right kind of cynical. I would recommend it to anybody who is a fan of Ellis’ work and of tongue-in-cheek parodies of the high tech superhero concept.