A Demon Lord, obviously being handled in a serious manner!
What is the Explodo?
How a Backlash Against “Grim and Gritty” is Changing Things…For the Better
Joe Soares - Saturday, December 8, 2007
Author: Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, and Dave Mccaig
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Website: Marvel Comics
Buy this book at Comic Book Store Locator
When someone who is somewhat familiar with comics is asked to name some, a large number of the responses will inevitably include the classics from the eighties. Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, and Sandman were all landmark books that spawned a trend towards the grim, drawn out storylines of the next fifteen years. Hell, even some of the creators involved in those seminal books have lamented the influence they had on some of the watered down, derivative shite that was flowing from the Big Two for too long. Post 2000, however, the comics’ world seems to have fully embraced a return to more varied stories, be it upbeat or darker than ever before (Wiki Sue Dibny for a gasp). It is here where we can find The Explodo.
It was the beginning of 2006, and writer Warren Ellis and artists Stuart Immonen (pencils/inks) and Dave McCaig (color) had just unleashed NEXTWAVE from Marvel Comics. It was unlike anything else the behemoth Marvel has printed, and likely will print, in decades-an overblown spectacle of ridiculousness. Ellis-who coined the explodo term-took C and D List characters with almost no potential and turned them into a bickering, morally questionable strike unit. Imagine crossing Aqua Teen Hunger Force and crazy anime with Jack Kirby era team comics, and you’re getting close. Their opposite number, who moved the plot by continually throwing the most insane things imaginable at the Nextwave team, was an Ellis original: Dirk Anger. When Marvel declined to let him use Nick Fury for fear of the sick humor and behavior in store, Dirk served as his mentally deficient replacement. In one sequence alone he deploys such items of dubious science as the Armageddon horn, “Drop Bears” (being some koala bear modified to be cute-and devour!), a platoon of soldiers who chew lizard boom sticks and wear combat pterodactyl suits, while firing quantum tunnel drill bits that exist in all states at once. Yes, that’s what this book is like.
And of course, at first, longtime comic nerds were pissed. Characters with long histories such as Fin Fang Foom and Aaron Stack, Machine Man were being treated with complete irreverence, and it was brilliant. To see these concepts, which are just accepted as normal in mainstream superhero comics, in the light of how laugh-your-ass-off funny they really are was too much for some. Machine Man, turned into a dick, who dislikes “the fleshy ones” and wants beer for his robot brain? Monica Rambeau, a former Captain Marvel, still clinging to the small time she was with the Avengers as if she were a slightly crazy ex-girlfriend? This is stuff never imagined when these guys were created and THAT WAS THE POINT. Complete and utter comic bookery. The second issue sums it up perfectly with a gigantic Michael Bay mocking explosion and the declaration: “NEXTWAVE! THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT!”
This was the total package, as Stuart Immonen and Dave McCaig were the perfect team to handle the art. Immonen, often known for his realistic style, turned the dial the complete opposite direction for the hyper-stylized and cartoonish art this book needed. McCaig used this (as well as a beautiful run on the sci-fi mini series ADAM STRANGE a year earlier) to showcase why some colorists bring a whole new level to some artists. NEXTWAVE is bright and shiny, but overflowing with black humor, smartassedness, and odd references.
Alas, the greatness of the first Explodo experiment was not long for this world, as the sales couldn’t warrant keeping an art team they had just signed to a lucrative exclusive deal on the book as far as Marvel was concerned. While Ellis stated that “I'm…exclusive too, but they just send me whisky and loose women and I'm fine”, he also did not want to continue the series without them, opting to end it with the possibility of some return to the stories later. For now, check out NEXTWAVE Volume One: THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT and NEXTWAVE Volume Two: I KICK YOUR FACE, which contain all twelve parts published up until now.
Next time we will look at CASANOVA from writer Matt Fraction with artists Gabrial Ba and Fabio Moon, published by Image Comics. Quite possibly the best single comic book being produced by people today.
Number 4 - Where they kick the hell out of a cop, seriously!