Warren Ellis is one of the most disturbed, bizarre, hilarious, and utterly brilliant writers in the history of mainstream comics. His works are always on the precipice of insanity, but somehow he always pulls it together to make not only a coherent story but what are frequently the most well written and forward thinking comics on the market. His work on such titles as Planetary, Transmetropolitan and the Authority have completely captured the essence of what makes the medium of comics such an incredible experience, but today I’d like to highlight a work of his that was frequently missed because of its place as something in-between straight up superhero comics and the gonzo writing style he employees within Transmet.
That title is Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., and they’ve been blatantly stealing your money since 2006.
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. follows a team of C-list “heroes” who were hired to be the superhero team of H.A.T.E., a spoof of S.H.I.E.L.D. that is fronted by an absolutely insane man named Dirk Anger (clearly mocking Nick Fury). Nextwave is led by Monica Rambeau, the former Avenger (as she will let everyone know…at great lengths), and also featuring Tabitha “Boom-Boom” Smith from the X-books, Aaron Stack/Machine Man, Elsa Bloodstone — monster hunter extraordinaire, and brand new character the Captain (also known as Captain ****, with **** representing a word so bad that it once led Captain America to allegedly “beat seven shades of it out of [him]” and leave him in a dumpster with a bar of soap in his mouth).
When the story starts, it has Nextwave on the run from H.A.T.E., as they found out that their benefactors were fronted by the evil mega-conglomerate the Beyond Corporation, and the whole series is about them trying to destroy Beyond Corp. using Beyond’s marketing plan to their advantage.
As you can likely tell, this series often verges on the absurd, as the whole series is split into two issue arcs that tasks the team with taking down a different aspect of Beyond’s marketing plan. The team confronts a hilarious group of villains, from the always spectacular Fin Fang Foom, the horrifying Drop Bears (which are effectively Koalas dropped out of a helicarrier for the sole purpose of eating faces), ridiculous demon creatures the Mindless Ones, a horrible cop turned robot warrior named “Ultra Samurai” , and the vastly overpowered Forbush Man. Over the 12 issues, the band of Nextwavers have to deal with the dredges of C-List Marvel villains in a massively entertaining fashion, as no fight is remotely ordinary. I mean come on — Fin Fang Foom tries to put Tabby Smith in his pants. Come on now.
Ellis himself says this about the series:
I took The Authority and I stripped out all the plots, logic, character and sanity. It’s an absolute distillation of the superhero genre. No plot lines, characters, emotions, nothing whatsoever. It’s people posing in the street for no good reason. It is people getting kicked, and then exploding. It is a pure comic book, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. And afterwards, they will explode.
That pretty much covers exactly what he does within this series, as the entire premise is set up to bring the laughs and bring the ridiculously awesome violence. Ellis is really at his best here, sending up the entire superhero genre while making it a rollicking superhero affair in its own right. One of Ellis’ greatest gifts as a writer is to simultaneously subvert while perfecting a genre. That is on full display here.
The fact that he has Stuart Immonen paired with him on this series escalates it to an even higher level, as Immonen’s ability to mimic almost every artistic style and to fill the page with visual hilarity in all of the nooks and crannies is paramount to the success of this book. There is one issue within the series where Immonen depicts Forbush Man sending each of our heroes into their own personal hell, with each character earning their own artistic style depicted, with Bloodstone the monster hunter receiving Mignola-like treatment, Aaron Stack getting a dreamy rendition of Allred-esque style, and more.Continued below
In the last arc of the series as Nextwave attacks the Beyond Corp.’s floating island of destruction, Ellis tasks him with filling the pages with our Nextwavers battling huge groups of enemies that completely take Marvel character designs to pieces. They battle dinosaurs with Cyclops like powers, Elvis-headed MODOKS, monkeys with wolverine claws and goofy masks, and much, much more. No character designs are spared as Ellis and Immonen effectively mock and recreate the superhero genre, while entertaining us throughout.
That is really the point of this series though. It is not necessarily about technical expertise, which is shown at great lengths throughout, or about adventures. Really, it’s about entertaining the readers. Whether it’s Aaron Stack getting dressed down by the godlike Celestials or calling anyone and everyone “fleshy ones,” or Dirk Anger’s rapid journey into the toilet of life and death, or Monica Rambeau’s secret past with the Avengers (official sandwich maker for Captain America, Iron Man and Thor), or Boom Boom’s apparent lack of a brain, or Elsa Bloodstone’s monstrous and hilarious childhood, or the complete and utter brilliance that is the Captain, or the insane and intensely hilarious renditions of classic villains, this book is wall to wall entertaining.
The first trade of this series is called Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.: This is What They Want. I’m not sure why Ellis or Marvel or whoever named it so, but I can tell you one thing — this is what you want. If you’re a comic fan and have not read this book, well, I hope Aaron Stack calls you a fleshy one and Fin Fang Foom puts you in his pants. Seriously.