Where's the Love? (Spotlight on: New Warriors)

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New Warriors #1-3

Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Skottie Young

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Just a quickie this week; no overly lengthy pillorising of long-standing Marvel icons for me. I've learned my lesson. Instead, I'm just going to tell you to read a comic that, from a look at the sales figures, only six people and a dachshund named Colin are actually reading. I might make this a semi-regular feature, so I'm calling it "Where's the Love?" Catchy.

I'll admit that when I heard the concept behind the latest New Warriors relaunch, I was as sceptical as everyone else; the idea of heroes on a Road Rules style reality show didn't really seem like a winner to me, but it's actually turned out to be quite a good read. Instead of merely jumping on the reality TV bandwagon, Wells offers up a spot-on satire of the genre which he fits around the tropes of the superhero genre so brilliantly that you can't see the join; the third issue is a particularly fine attack on the way entertainment executives ruin everything that's good and holy about the world but also serves as one of those "conspirators meet in a darkened room to plot against our heroes" episodes complete with the initialisation of a plan to break the team up. Except of course, the goal isn't to defeat the heroes, but to provide a sense of conflict to draw the viewers in. In many ways, this is similar to Peter Milligan's X-Force/X-Statix; it both ridicules the concepts and clichés of the superhero genre, but can also be read straight as an example of the genre, as for example, the team actually does need some conflict to shake things up a bit. No, this isn't a work of satirical genius, but it's far from superficial, and there's plenty going on between the lines, making for a surprisingly involving read.

Wells also makes sure that the book never seems pretentious (although it could hardly seem pretentious with this art) by serving up fine humourous moments and genuine personalities and relationships. Night Thrasher's mysterious relationship with Microbe is another highlight of the third issue, and the creators deserve an award for using Speedball and not making him come across like an utter knob-end.

Part of the success of the characterisation is down to Skottie Young's artwork. I've heard some absolutely awful things said about his art in the past, but I've always liked it for its energy and dynamism, and it turns out that he's a fine character artist too; the body language and facial expressions used for Microbe and Night Thrasher make their relationship so touching, an effective introduction of an emotional core to the series that would not have come across so well with a less expressive art style. The action scenes work wonderfully, of course. I really don't understand why Young's art is so reviled. It's better than David bloody Finch's stuff.

The thing that I really like about this comic, above all else, is that it's a great reading experience. The individual issues are self-contained in terms of plot, and yet they still forward an ongoing story; perhaps the familiarity of the concept helps somewhat here, but a lot of it is down to Wells' writing. And no issue feels padded; there's a satisfying chunk of story in each issue, and yet the dialogue and characters seem as real as those of Bendis, without the endless pages of faffy dialogue. Everyone gets something to do, and there's a bit of character development in every issue. It's good value for money, and I didn't think I'd be saying that about a Marvel comic these days.

Yes, the New Warriors are rubbish characters. Yes, this is a comedy book. No, there aren't any big characters involved, and it doesn't cross over into House of M. And no, none of the characterisations or relationships will stick the next time this lot turn up in the Marvel Universe proper. But it's one of the best comics Marvel are publishing right now, so have a look.

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