The New Warriors, Part 3: The Post Fabian Nicieza EraA column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Kyle Garret
For many, Fabian Nicieza is the New Warriors. If it weren't for the great work done by Darick Robertson, I think fans would have felt the same way about Mark Bagley. But while the book thrived after Bagley left, the same could not be said after Nicieza moved on.
The Skolnik/Zircher Years
Let's be honest here: Evan Skolnik was facing an uphill battle. Nicieza had taken the core team through their paces. I would imagine that, in Skolnik's eyes, there wasn't much he could do with the same group of characters. So he decided to change it.
The most obvious way to do that was to create a rift within the team, and the most obvious rift use was the one that had been there from the very beginning, the one between Night Thrasher and Nova. If it came down to picking sides, there was really only one character in the New Warriors who would go with Night Thrasher, and that was Rage. This was unfortunate for two reasons: 1) it broke up the, at this point, essential pairing of Rage and Speedball and 2) Skolnik's first major act as writer was to get rid of the two black guys. Needless to say, there was some outcry over this, and more than a few people called Skolnik a racist.
I don't believe that. I realize that what I'm about to say is tantamount to "I'm not a homophobe because I have gay friends," but Skolnik made Turbo (who is Asian) a regular member of the team, and later added Timeslip, who is Indian. Like I said, he was looking to shake up the team, and he took the most obvious route to do it, which is a problem in and of itself.
Skonik's initial stories didn't help his cause, and the art by new regular artist Patrick Zircher was pretty rough -- Zircher has gotten leaps and bounds better since. The fine line that the Warriors walked between being self-contained and being a part of the larger Marvel universe fell apart. It became an either/or situation. Either they were insulated or they were forced into an event. The New Warriors fell victim to "Marvelution," the decision by Marvel to divide up their comics into five groups and assign each group its own editor-in-chief. Where do you put a team like the New Warriors? With the X-books? With the Avengers? With "the Edge?" For some reason or another (possibly because it was the only line without a team book), New Warriors became a part of the Spider-Man family of books. To make this connection real, the Scarlet Spider was forced on Skolnik.
The Scarlet Spider joining the New Warriors didn't have to be a bad thing, but it was, both for internal and external reasons. Skolnik had spent a lot of time trying to create tension in the relationship between Justice and Firestar, mostly by making Justice act like an ass. Adding the Scarlet Spider, who saw the red-headed Firestar as a version of Mary Jane, only caused Justice to act like more of an ass. It was obnoxious. The external factor was that the book was now saddled with crossovers that broke up any kind of momentum that Skolnik and Zircher could create.
The series ended with issue #75. The main team was quickly pulled back together, while the second generation (Turbo, Powerhouse, and Timeslip) wondered if they were really cut out for this. At the very least, Skolnik left the book how he found it.
There have been three previous attempts at relaunching the New Warriors. The fact that this week marks the release of volume 5 either speaks highly of the title or poorly of the industry. It's probably both.
I can't find it online and I really wish I still had it, but there's a drawing somewhere out there by New Warriors Volume Two artist Steve Scott that features a pretty big cast. Rage was in the shot, that much I remember for sure. I think it was basically everyone who'd ever been a New Warrior up to that point, plus a couple of new characters that Scott and writer Jay Faerber planned on introducing.
This was not the team that was going to be used in the series, though. Editorial decided that the cast was too large and that a smaller group would work better.
They were wrong.
What we got was a team of six characters, two of which were (more or less) brand new. Turbo was a second generation New Warrior, which meant there was only space left for three original members. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing, although giving Nova yet another new costume was pretty stupid. For the life of me, I can't figure out why they kept trying to get him out of his classic uniform. Namorita and Speedball were the other two founders on the team -- no Rage in sight.
Volume Two suffered from a lack of a regular art team and a company that was still recovering from bankruptcy. Marvel didn't exactly have the trust of the fans back then. I would hazard to guess that a lot of fans of the original New Warriors no longer even read comics anymore.
But, ultimately, volume Two's biggest problem is that it just wasn't very good. The characters were uninspiring, the villains mostly b-listers, and the stories just weren't compelling. There was no reason to come back every month. The type of character-driven action stories that filled the first volume were no where to be found in this one. And, again, the lack of a consistent art team was a big blow.
The series lasted ten issues and, towards the end, introduced a new look Night Thrasher (it was awful) who became involved in a storyline with Iron Fist, that eventually spun out into a limited series featuring Wolverine (because, hey, it's Wolverine).
It's not that I'm against the concept of the third volume of the New Warriors, it's that it made no sense at all when applied to these characters. It's awful. It is the worst kind of relaunch.
Sorry, Zeb Wells and Skottie Young, but no.
The fourth iteration of the New Warriors lasted the longest, which isn't saying much. It lasted as long as it did because, I would imagine, it was tied so heavily to current events in the larger Marvel universe. That said, it was a fantastic concept that was poorly executed at almost every turn.
A group of characters fighting the establishment -- in this case, the Tony Stark run SHIELD -- after the events of Civil War and calling themselves the New Warriors is fantastic. It's exactly what an anti-establishment group would call themselves. Even better, the team is made up of people without superpowers, so they aren't even forced to register. Throw in a founder who goes by the name and costume of Night Thrasher, and you've got a cool concept for a series.
The problems start right off the bat, though. The cast that writer Kevin Grevioux and artist Paco Medina introduce is way too large. I realize I longed for a larger cast for volume two, but that was a larger cast of characters that were already known. These were a bunch of ostensibly new characters, all of whom were using special equipment to fight, so it's not like they even had specific powers to define them. Their code names were nondescript, particularly given that all of them used to be superheroes of one form or another and had previous code names -- this meant that each of them ultimately had three sets of names.
There are two mysteries at play in the series that are supposed to keep us reading. The first is how it is that the New Warriors are getting the money to do what they do. The second is the identity of the guy in the Night Thrasher costume. Sadly, neither mystery warrants a great deal of interest. Choosing Bandit to fill in for his half-brother is a bit of a stretch given the last time we saw the character. The main advantage is that Bandit has ties to Silhouette, who has ties to Midnight's Fire.
But therein lies the problem with any relaunch of the New Warriors: how do you acknowledge the past without being beholden to it? Volume Four didn't really need any connections to the original New Warriors because the concept was good enough on its own (although it was a nice touch). Volume Three had absolutely no connection to the characters or their history, but used them anyway. Volume Two tried to walk that fine line and failed.
This brings us to the latest relaunch of a decade-specific super team. Christopher Yost and Marcus To have their work cut out for them.
The problem with the New Warriors, aside from their glory days being tied to a very specific period of time, is the fact that you can't make them a group of "teenagers" again if you want to use any of the original members. They've all been through a lot since the Warriors disbanded, which, I suppose, is a credit to how appealing they were to other writers. But these aren't rookies anymore. Heck, Justice was an Avenger.
At the same time, creating a brand new team of teenage superheroes begs the question as to why you'd call them the New Warriors. There has to be at least some connection.
So instead of focusing on their ages, Yost and To appear to be putting together a team using a theme from the New Warriors very first appearance: characters from every corner of the Marvel Universe. This isn't an Avengers book or an X-book. This is a book that touches every Marvel brand.
There are only two original members on this new team: Justice and Speedball. It makes some kind of sense that they would be the two to reform the team, as they're the most enthusiastic about being superheroes. It does take some of the edge away from the team, though.
There's a Nova on the team, but this is a new character. There's also a Scarlet Spider, but he's also not the guy who was on the old team. Still, they're nice nods to what came before, even if I think the new Nova skews too young for the others.
The rest of the team is filled out by new or relatively new characters: Sun Girl, Haechi (an Inhuman), Water Snake (an Atlantean), and Aracely, who Yost says is a demigod. That's a pretty big cast of mostly unknown characters.
I'm a long time fan, so I'll admit I'm disappointed in the line-up. The New Warriors expanded quite a bit throughout their existence (adding characters like Ultra Girl and Slapstick, who both seemed to join somewhere other than in New Warriors comics) and I think an amazing team could be formed with former members.
Personally, I think any team that doesn't have the Speedball/Rage combo at its core is flawed.
But this is the way forward. There's a reason for this new team, one which we'll learn in the first issue -- and it's not just nostalgia.
Welcome back, New Warriors. Perhaps the fifth time is the charm.