Sunday, March 7, 2010

Essentials Extra: New Warriors Must Reads Pt. 2

Last time, I covered some of the most essential reading from Fabian Nicieza’s first 25 issues on New Warriors. This go-around, let’s take a look at the latter half of that run, the bulk of which was illustrated by Darick Robertson, who remembers those days so fondly that he did not think me a psycho fan when I was working at Wizard and practically assaulted him at a bar in L.A. expressing my fandom and later did a very nice Nova sketch for me.

(Again, in a perfect world I really do recommend reading all of New Warriors from start to finish, but these are just a few of the stories that stand out for me)

“The Next Step” (New Warriors #26)
In Robertson’s very first issue, he’s clearly still in his growing stages as an artist, but Nicieza gives him a doozy to start with, as it’s the epilogue to “Nothing But the Truth” as well as a bon voyage for Marvel Boy, who has been convicted of manslaughter and is headed to prison. It’s a real tug at the heartstrings, as Firestar, Namorita and Nova attempt to spring their teammate en route to The Vault, and he ends up surprising them with his response. My favorite part of the issue is the emotional farewell between Marvel Boy and Firestar, as well as his incredibly mature and beautifully-expressed reassurance of her in regards to taking a major step in their relationship for the wrong reasons. While I was more of a Nova-Namorita fanboy when it came to Warriors couples (for obvious reasons if you know me), I always have and still and a soft spot for the “aw shucks” feel good nature of the Vance-Angel romance, and this issue reminds me why.

“Forces of Darkness, Forces of Light” (New Warriors #32-34, New Warriors Annual #3)
There’s definitely a different feel to this arc than most of the others on this list as it’s probably the only time Nicieza really deviated from putting the Warriors and their personal conflicts front and center, instead placing them at the center of a big ol’ action epic guest-starring half the Marvel Universe. Because of that feeling of separation for the overarching New Warriors saga, I’d never place “Forces of Darkness, Forces of Light” at the very top of my must-reads, but at the same time it certainly warrants some place as it’s cool to see Spider-Man, the Avengers, etc. taking their cue from the Warriors, because the idea of a villain who can turn the heroes into bad guys by flooding them with darkness with the visual expression being that they turn charcoal is one of those great high concepts that appeals to your inner kid ala evil twins, and because Robertson starts to come into his own on this one.

“Poison Memories” (New Warriors #37-38, Night Thrasher #1)
Despite having an interesting twist on the Shazam concept being an inner city kid in an adult hero’s body, Rage was mostly a blank slate during his tenures with the Avengers as well as the New Warriors, but in this story, Nicieza really cracked him open and found the unique character within the shell. It was a different kind of conflict for the Warriors from the start and yet very fitting with the world they existed in, as they’re targeted not by a true super villain, but by a street gang whose leader actually did his homework, seducing Namorita—the only Warrior with a publicly known identity—in a nightclub and then stealing her address book to learn her teammates’ IDs and target their loved ones. While most of the team surrenders to Kimeiko Ashu and his Poison Memories lest Nova’s brother or Speedball’s father be harmed, Rage lashes out following the murder of his grandmother, living up to his name. Night Thrasher’s return to the team to save them from Ashu, who began as his enemy, is dramatic, but nowhere near as tense as when Rage has the villain in a chokehold and callously snaps his neck over his allies’ pleas not to. Also, once again, Robertson takes his work to the next level, aided by a seemingly renewed energy as well from Larry Mahlstedt on inks and Joe Rosas on colors.

“Family Viewing” (New Warriors #39)
The epilogue to the Poison Memories saga deserves its own entry as it’s a “downtime” issue where Nicieza really opens things up and gives readers their money’s worth. You’ve got Nova’s brother, who just lost his pinky finger two issues back, giving an awesome pep talk to his moping super hero sibling about how he’ll lose all four limbs if it means his bro saves the planet again. You’ve got a nice moment where Firestar refuses to leave the bedside of her comatose father and leaves Marvel Boy dangling on the other line of the payphone when he wakes up. You’ve got Rage trying to take responsibility for his actions by turning himself in to the authorities and Night Thrasher making it clear he answers to a harsher jury: him. And of course, you have the Nova-Namorita hook-up that took 39 issues, but was well worth it.

“Time and Time Again” (New Warriors #47-50, Night Thrasher #11-12, Nova #6-7)
The first (and last) real crossover between the suddenly burgeoning New Warriors family of titles that emerged at the height of 90’s excess was somewhat hit or miss by its very nature. The Sphinx scattered the team throughout time, meaning you got eight different stories by eight different artists (all written by Nicieza) as well as a ninth set in the present where Warriors mascot Hindsight Lad, the former female Sphinx and Night Thrasher’s half-brother Bandit attempt to organize a new team to rescue the originals; some of the stories were good, some not so much, some totally forgettable (I don’t even remember what happened with Rage and know that Namorita was in ancient Atlantis while Firestar was in the Salem Witch Trials, but couldn’t tell you much more than that). Personally, I liked Nova’s trip to a parallel world where his brother got his powers, Justice traveling to his abusive father’s childhood and learning that he was a repressed homosexual, and Silhouette being put in the “would you kill baby Hitler?” position with her evil grandmother, Tai. Regardless, it’s Robertson’s final issue as well as Nicieza’s last sweeping epic, and both go all out in the landmark, over-sized fiftieth issue which features some of the most vibrant art I’ve seen to this day, incredible wall-to-wall Warriors vs Sphinx action, and appropriately touching resolution to the whole thing.

“Another Think Coming” (New Warriors #51)
Though he’d hand on a couple issues longer, to me the coda to “Time and Time Again” was really Fabian Nicieza’s well-earned farewell to New Warriors, and a perfect note to end on. He brings back one of the Warriors’ very first villains, The Mad Thinker, not to battle our heroes, but to remind them of the purpose they seemed to have misplaced and galvanize them to remain as a team. For Nicieza, it’s a chance to sum up for us what those first 50 issues were all about as well as demonstrate how much these characters have grown since they got together. It’s got some neat art by Richard Pace (who only stuck around about four issues and I have not really seen since, which is a shame) and puts a nice cherry on top of Fabian Nicieza’s New Warriors sundae.


demoncat said...

the next step showed Marvel boy proving that even heros have to face the results of their actions. posion memories fabian showed what the family members of heros could go through being related to them and how rage pushed to the edge wound up deciding to take the law into his own hands. the epiloque to it had rage become night thrasters ward. the rest of the run did not care for . and hated to see new warriors end.

KP said...

Even though I'd read New Warriors #1 and 2 from my brother's collection and therefore understood the general group dynamic, for some reason the only other issue I had as a kid was #37 which was kind of crazy in retrospect. I never got who Rage was or that he was supposed to be more childlike or whatever (is that how it goes?), but I thought it was crazy bananas coco beans that they were killing old grandma's in that book.

kidbespin said...

Oh my. Richard Pace? he could not have disapppeared fast enough.Losing fabian was one thing, but having Pace visually ruin the characters didn't help folks warm to Evan Skolnick. Thank goodness for Patrick Zircher.