Critical Praise for Nextwave is Absurd

Bloggified by Jake on Friday, October 21, 2011

In light of Chris Sims's love letter to Nextwave not-so-cleverly disguised as an answer to a question about monster hunters in comics--in which he disqualifies one character from being comicdom's greatest monster hunter for not having been around long enough then hands the title to a character who's been in one 4-issue miniseries and a 12-issue team book that wasn't about monster hunting--I dug up my 2006 review of Nextwave #1.
I'd heard varied reports around Comicblogtopia. Some people said Warren Ellis's Nextwave was great; others took the stance it was terrific. A few bloggers have indicated Warren Ellis's semen has a rich buttery flavor and is delicious on a baked potato.

I've made no attempt to hide my utter contempt for Fell and Ellis's lame, forced pseudo-weirdness within. When I picked up Nextwave, it was with the promise from Chris that "even though [he knew I] didn't like Fell, [I] would really like Nextwave because it's completely different."

All I needed was one frame to tell me Chris is a dirty, dirty liar.

This is what passes for humor when you are Warren Ellis or when you are eleven years old. Absurdist humor is much more difficult than it looks, and sadly, as it looks extremely easy, it's quite inviting to people who think they are funnier than they actually are the world over.

All you need is to list a bunch of really bizarre images and you're a comedian! Right? A weasel is only mildly funny on its own, and a giant weasel is even funnier. Dress it as a cheerleader and you're getting somewhere. Have the giant weasel dressed like a cheerleader use a human as a bucket and pants everywhere are being wet with laughter.

The fact there is no art accompanying that caption tells me one of two things, possibly both. Either Ellis felt that caption was so funny on its own, no imagery Stuart Immonen could provide could possibly live up to the idea people would form on their own, or he hadn't quite decided exactly what he was going say there by the time Immonen started drawing it.

The follow up to that frame, which actually came earlier making it the "I'm pretty sure this book is going to suck but Chris promised me it was good so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and keep reading" frame:
Oh, no, you di-in't! New Jersey is so burned right now! Making fun of New Jersey is so not cliche! I also am proud of myself for recognizing that Dirk Anger is a parody of Nick Fury. Hang on... Fury... Anger... Those are synonyms! Damn, that's sweet!

Making jokes about New Jersey is on par with jokes about airline food being bad or how "black folks and white folks be different, y'all."

The greatest example of successful absurdism is Monty Python. Unfortunately, Monty Python tends to convince more people than any other source of the seeming simplicity of absurdism.
Just put together a singing trio of vikings in a diner that serves Spam with every dish and you have a classic sketch that will be quoted by teenaged boys for decades to come.

Nextwave has a very basic plot: a superhero team crosses paths with Fin Fang Foom. The absurdist moments should be garnish to that, but instead become blaring sirens and flashing neon signs announcing "Warren Ellis is SOOOOO fucking clever."

Why is Fin Fang Foom wearing purple underwear? So Ellis can refer to it repeatedly because it's SOOOOO fucking clever. Why was "The Captain" originally known as "Captain "? Because it's SOOOOO ing clever. Why are the Human Resources henchmen made of "slabs of genetically modified kelp"? Because as I learned when I was at the beach in 1986, "kelp" is a funny word.

I could go on and on, and in fact, I have. Instead, maybe I'd be better off discussing all the parts of Nextwave that didn't suck and/or were actually funny.

Dirk Anger's hightech, top secret communications device:
Admittedly, that's pretty fucking clever.

1 sarcastic replies:

Dobson said...

Just found this looking for funny Nextwave panels. The reason you're wrong is: Ellis' humor is filtered through the lens of Silver and early Bronze age Marvel comics, which were, in fact, absurd. It embraces the genre's inherent craziness but at the same time has characters with distinct voices, only one of which could be confused with Pete Wisdom/Spider Jerusalem/whoever. On one level it's silly slapstick but at the same time is a great tribute to Jack Kirby and his work, as its full of references to Kirby both visually and in plot. Immomen's art is tremendous, too. Nextwave is an energetic and fun read, even if it's not the greatest thing since sliced bread.

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