First Impressions – NEW WARRIORS #1

newwarriors_2014_1

Another new series for 2014 coming from Marvel, and it’s another revival of an old book with (some) new characters. NEW WARRIORS #1 introduces a new generation to an ensemble cast of young superheroes (and Kaine). Can these heroes, old and new, restore their group’s name to honor? Can they survive the machinations of the High Evolutionary?

The New Warriors, in so many words, were Marvel’s answer to DC’s Teen Titans during the nineties. A team of teenage heroes, mostly former sidekicks, joined together in jolly cooperation. And by jolly, I mean it was the nineties, so take from that what thou will. The original team had quite a few members, but here are the noteworthy ones: Night Thrasher, gadgeteer hero and team founder; Nova (Richard Rider), space cop endowed with an alien suit; Justice (formerly Marvel Boy), telekinetic mutant; Speedball, mutant with ability to control kinetic energy (mostly used for bouncing because the character and the writers couldn’t conceive of any other application); Namorita, distaff counterpart to her cousin Namor; and Firestar, mutant with microwave powers who got discovered by Emma Frost back when the latter was evil.

Oh, and the Scarlet Spider was a member for a while as well. Presumably the original Ben Reilly version; TV Tropes is vague on that point.

The team and book were pretty popular back in the bloated nineties, but waned when the speculator boom died. It finally ended in 1996. From there, numerous series ran over the years, before at one point having the team lose its funding and turn to reality television to fund their adventures.

And then Civil War happened.

Civil War, for those blessedly ignorant, kicked off what I like to call the “Hero Vs. Hero” period of yearly Marvel crossover events. A period which lasted from 2006 to 2013, when Marvel decided to produce Age of Ultron, an event that didn’t predominantly center around superheroes fighting each other instead of bad guys. Civil War itself was kicked off when the then-current lineup of the New Warriors instigated a fight with some villains who weren’t really doing anything particularly evil at the time, all for the sake of ratings. Then one of the villains, displaying hitherto unseen levels of power, exploded, killing all the New Warriors save Speedball, as well as roughly six hundred people, many of them elementary school children.

The results were threefold: 1) the US government passing a meta-human registration act that would form the backbone Civil War’s conflict; 2) tarnishing the name of the New Warriors; and 3) causing Speedball to gain a massive case of survivor’s guilt, culminating in his rechristening himself Penance (a name he basically stole from an existing Generation X character that I liked).

None of these resulted in good. Civil War was generally panned and involved lots of out-of-character behavior and status quos altered for the worse (many of which were reverted one by one over the years anyway). Speedball as Penance ended up just being embarrassing for everyone involved, what with his poorly written angst, and the fact that his powers were suddenly fulled by masochism. And of course, the New Warriors couldn’t exactly be a team anymore with any in-universe respect. There was apparently a series after that involving all-new characters using the name New Warriors, but Marvel seems to not care about that.

I say that because NEW WARRIORS #1 mentions the explosion incident, and basically nothing else about the intervening time. Which is good.

NEW WARRIORS #1 is split between four perspectives. The first is with Speedball and Justice, who have reformed the team for great justice (pun always intended). They hang out in some town with the children of the devil, and generally being not angsty. Speaking of, Speedball is back to not being a terrible character, and the comic quietly never mentions his Penance days.

Wait, does that mean Hollow can go back to being Penance again? Pretty please Marvel? No? Okay…

The second group is with Kaine and Aracely (alias Hummingbird), who pick up literally the second they got off from the recently ended Scarlet Spider. They are THE reason I picked up this book, because the promise of seeing the unresolved plotlines from that series covered here was too much to bear. Kaine is of course the Scarlet Spider these days, a clone of Spiderman with all the power and none of the responsibility. That his predecessor was on the team before is probably the reason he was included, and he brought Aracely along because they’re kind of attached at the hip, and our little illegal alien demigod with vaguely defined psycho-emotional powers is just coming into her own as a super-heroine.

Plus, she’s the bright spot there to balance out Kaine’s dark and broody personality. It’s going to be a bit off though, since the Scarlet Spider will easily be the oldest member of the team (in a sense, clone and all) once they get around to being a team and not just a bunch of heroes doing their own thing.

Before I forget, Kaine and Aracely meet an Atlantian chick who is probably Namorita’s successor.

The third “group” is Sun Girl, a gadgateer heroine operating out of New York City. I think there was an entire plot point from the current Nova series about how New York has so many superheroes that it needs exactly no new ones.

Although since Daredevil is moving to San Francisco for his new ongoing series, I guess that means there’ll be a spot opening up.

Whatever, I don’t know Sun Girl, so I have nothing to say about her. She investigates some weird stuff in the subway. Namely, a bunch of “Evolutionaries” attacking the Morlocks (mutants who live underground because their x-genes were very aesthetically unkind).

Which brings us to the last “group”, with the aforementioned Nova. He’s trying to fight a shape-shifting alien…when he’s assaulted and captured by the Evolutionaries and their master, the High Evolutionary. And his apparent goal this time? To kill as many deviants and half-breeds so that humanity will survive…whatever the High Evolutionary wants them to not be killed by. And these guys also get involved with Speedball and Justice’s group, so there’s that.

And thus we have our plot: a bunch of heroes, both old and new versions of previous member incarnations, must band together as a shiny new New Warriors to fight the High Evolutionary and his vaguely genocidal plans. Sounds like a good time.

Writing duties come to us courtesy of Christopher Yost, the writer of Scarlet Spider; hence why Kaine and Aracely have transitioned almost seamlessly from there to here. Other than Nova, I don’t think any of the other characters starred in any recent books, but thankfully they don’t get shortchanged. At least no more than the others. Therein lies, however, the major difficulty inherent in this book: it’s an ensemble, and a rather huge one if the cover is to be believed. Which means we’ve had to juggle quite a bit just to introduce our main cast. The primary conflict can only barely be introduced, though to Yost’s credit he does a good job at both that, and at character introductions. By the end I basically know all I need to understand these people. Nonetheless, it’s certainly recommended that readers check out more than just this issue if they need to decide on whether to follow it.

I mean seriously? Seven characters? Eight if the cover is to be believed, and that last guy didn’t even get introduced in the first issue. I hope you like ensembles!

This book is also decently amusing, though some of the direct attempts to be humorous…they fall a little flat. Not in that the jokes don’t work, but more like I’ve laughed at so much in my life that I’m decensitized to common gags. So maybe that’s just my problem. I never found myself hating a character or wishing they’d stop talking. Although I do think Speedball’s puns need work. I love puns more than any man should, but seriously dude. You can’t fire off four or five war puns within the span of two panels. Puns have a slow rate of re-usability, and you need to conserve them. Blowing them all in one shot just makes you look both trite and wasteful.

Remember kids, use wordplay responsibly. Our pun supply is precious.

Marcus To provides the art, and it is very good. He’s handled art duties on a few issues of The Flash, the recent Huntress miniseries, is the main artist on Batwing as of issue nine, did the art for the recent Cyborg 009 graphic novel, and I’m almost positive I saw him on some Marvel books as of late. Sadly I don’t remember, if it happened at all. Here the art is colorful and inviting, like any good superhero team book should be. The characters in particular run a broad spectrum of colors in their outfits. That’s something else I love: character designs in a team book that balance them against each other. I know there’s something to be said of a team sharing one common design sense (like the Fantastic Four’s blue, then white, now red costumes), but sometimes too much of one color is a bad thing.

One of the things that Justice brings up in this book is the very important question of whether, with the omni-group that is the Avengers, the world needs the New Warriors. In way, this is the meta-textual question of whether NEW WARRIORS is needed. The group (and the book) have had some rough times in recent years (including made into either pariahs or a joke in-universe and out, respectively). Does a teen group series from the nineties need to still exist in this day and age? I can’t answer whether the New Warriors deserved better than it got, but I certainly know that comics do need good teen or young adult books.

Because let’s face it. Remember DC, and how the New Warriors were created to compete with DC’s Teen Titans? Well DC has soiled the proverbial bed in recent years, and shows slow signs of even acknowledging its problems. That includes the Teen Titans, its premier teen group series. Just look at the past five years for that. Actually, just look at The Culling. That stuff is not only bad, but it’s dark bad, like the worst parts (ironically) of the nineties. While NEW WARRIORS #1 by contrast is not all sunshine and rainbows, it is a bright, fun little book. Being able to bring in younger readers is of paramount importance to the comics industry as a whole, and teenagers especially need bright, colorful characters to contrast the average teenager’s tumultuous, emotionally confusing, difficult life.

Not a lame ripoff of Battle Royale. Okay, enough about The Culling. NEW WARRIORS #1 doesn’t suck, so go read it instead. And Nova, while you’re at it. I’ve only read a couple issues, but found them enjoyable.

Oh, and hey. Look who just post their 300th column to the site?

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