It's like Shakespeare. But with lots more punching.
"I took The Authority and I stripped out all the plots, logic, character and sanity. (...) It's an absolute distillation of the superhero genre. No plot lines, characters, emotions, nothing whatsoever. It's people posing in the street for no good reason. It is people getting kicked, and then exploding. It is a pure comic book, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. And afterwards, they will explode."
Monica Rambeau (Formerly known as Captain Marvel and Photon): The leader of the group. She used to lead The Avengers, and reminds her teammates of this fact at every available opportunity.
Tabitha "Tabby" Smith (formerly known as Time Bomb, Boom-Boom, Boomer, Meltdown, Firecracker, and Mutate #35): A trailer-trash klepto with the "mutant powers of blowing things up and stealing all your stuff" (actual description). Her theft of the Beyond Corporation's Marketing Plan provided the impetus for the team to leave the employ of H.A.T.E.
The series ran for twelve issues, with each story arc being two issues long (although a case can be made for the final arc actually being four issues long). Plot wasn't a high priority, and served mostly as an excuse for the team to beat things up and cause things to explode.
This series provided examples of:
Action Girl: Elsa Bloodstone is capable of kicking anything's ass. Anything. Even if it doesn't have an ass. Monica and Tabby also apply.
Affirmative Action Girl: Ellis deliberately wanted obscure heroes for his team, and he wanted it weighted to women (hence why it's not Two Girls to a Team, but two guys), and he made the leader a woman of color, something that is almost unheard of in comics. To his credit, they are written as characters first and genders second.
Alternate Continuity: Started out as one, but afterwards many references to it were made in the main titles, and the characters involved started displaying their personalities and costumes from the series in all their other appearances.
Dan Slott's She-Hulk seemed to suggest that the series did take place, but that the Monica Rambeau present is actually from an alternate universe (explaining Captain America's Jerk Ass behavior and why Monica's mother is stated to be dead when a far as we know, 616!Monica's mother is still alive).
Officially in continuity, as of 2013 - Marvel's in-house document detailing the changes that would occur if Hank Pym died before he created Ultron makes reference to the events of Nextwave. See it here.
Asshole Victim: Officer Mac Mangel, a cop one week from retirement... who beats up drug dealers (when he doesn't get his cut), threatens prostitutes (when he doesn't get his cut), and beat up a mugging victim upon learning he still has some money left. He is transformed into some kind of robotic monster when trying to sell what he thinks is a stray cat, said robot body is blown up, and then Tabby and Aaron kick him for being a cop. Monica ends up being unwittingly bad help when she hands him over to his "friends" — all the people he'd victimized in the beginning. They promptly haul him off into a back alley and perform a little vigilante charity via several rounds to the skull.
Ass Shove: The Captain swiftly got tired of dread Rorkannu's crap, and decided to reinsert it through the correct orifice. Via toilet brush. Like a real super hero.
Back from the Dead: Beyond brings back Dirk Anger as a zombie after he accidentally hanged himself.
The Inquisitor: Pay allegiance to God or get your robot face kicked in.
Aaron: My robot face is beautiful and will not be kicked by the likes of you fleshy ones. And I don't believe in your God. God is for fleshy ones. I am robot. And your God will throw up when he sees what I have done to you.
Badass Longcoat: The "Nextwave outfit" consists only of a Badass Longcoat thrown over whatever superhero costume/civilian duds the team members happen to be wearing.
Captain Ersatz: Dirk Anger, H.A.T.E., and S.I.L.E.N.T. are stand-ins for Nick Fury, SHIELD, and HYDRA, respectively. (Warren Ellis wanted to use the originals, but was shouted down. After seeing what he did with them, that's kind of a relief.)
Although Brian Bendis and John Hickman later recycled the idea, making both SHIELD and the goofier version of HYDRA sub-divisions of a larger HYDRA network; presumably, Marvel editors refused the earlier idea not because they were afraid of it... But afraid of Ellis.
Nearly every "Captain" character name mentioned really belonged to an obscure Marvel character, other than Captain Ron and Captain L. Ron. Yes, even Captain Kerosene is a minor Marvel UK character.
The New Paramounts are all characters from Marvel's 1960s parody comic Not Brand Ecch, though Forbush-Man managed to turn up elsewhere over the years.
General Zo is a reference to Zo, an illusory character who appeared in a few issues of the late 1960s Captain Marvel series. Aside from the military uniform, he looks exactly like the original.
Delmar Insurance, seen in Machine Man's hallucination, was indeed where he worked back when he still used the Secret Identity of Aaron Stack.
During the penultimate issue beatdown of the Beyond Corporation's army of genetic freaks, 1960's Marvel character Hidden Man can be seen fighting them. Also seen are copies of the Fantastic Four's one-time adversary, The Infant Terrible.
And yet Monica appears in Civil War in her Nextwave attire...
Most recent appearances of Monica, Tabitha, or Aaron had them display connections with Nextwave, suggesting the miniseries was loved enough to be put in continuity anyway.
Aaron's first appearance in the Marvel Zombies series has him getting over some of his cynicism and readopting his Machine Man title after dismissing it as silly in this series. He also retains his drunk jerkass persona afterwards as he teams up with Deadpool and Howard the Duck. Although later appearances seem to have reverted his to Pre-Nextwave personality with his appearances varying.
Discontinuity Nod: Possibly the fastest on record occurs when, one issue after we get clever origin cutaways for the New Paramounts, it turns out that all the other superhero squads there are just well-disguised Broccoli People, suggesting that the origins we see are false.
Flashback Cut: Mostly used to illustrate childhood trauma, and almost all totally at odds with established Marvel canon.
"...Special Bear?" "Special Bear's dead."
Flying Brick: The Captain's powers, which even he refers to as his "generic set of super-hero abilities".
Foreshadowing: Very subtle, and bordering on Fridge Brilliance, but in issue #9, Elsa notes that the team should be seeing "devil dinosaurs tearing up the landscape." Two issues later, we learn that Devil Dinosaur is the mastermind behind S.I.L.E.N.T.
Tabby: They shot their muck all over meee! Aaron: Like that's never happened before.
"The Hideous Felch-Monster of Bihar Province" - we know what most of those words mean. Don't look up "felch." Really. Don't.note You did, didn't you. Warren Ellis mailed you a straw, you schmuck.
The famous "Mark Millar Licks Goats" cover right here in the page picture. There's an urban legend that editors discouraged the use of the word "flick" in comics, because when written in capital letters, if the L and the I overlap, you get, well, "☠☠☠☠" Now notice that there's just enough space out of sight on Aaron's sign for the letter F and you get...
Guns VS Swords: Elsa uses both, but upon facing an army of samurai robots, she declares that swords beat guns, and faces them with a shovel.
Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Elsa Bloodstone. Her father forced her into a pit to fight an ancient monster. (Elsa was an infant at the time.) Later on, unbeknownst to her mother, he forced Elsa to study monsters under the tutelage of a robotic iron maiden named Hate Mother.
Humongous Mecha: Beyond Corporation's Ultra Samurai Seed turns people into one.
Leet Lingo: Tabby often uses Net acronyms when speaking out loud. "'Zomg'?"
The Captain: Beats the pus out of me.
Lethal Joke Character: Meet Forbush Man. He wears a pot on his head and red jammies, and is capable of shattering your mind by trapping it in a horrible alternate reality with a different art style.
Looks Like She Is Enjoying It: When Dirk Anger accidentally hanged himself in his private chamber on the H.A.T.E. Aeromarine, two female attendants listening to his strangled grunts thought he was looking at pornographic websites.
Narrator: The captions served mostly to hang a lampshade on the tropes being employed here. The captions also have No Fourth Wall — at one point, they pop up to indicate that the current panel showing the Shockwave Rider was inserted precisely so people could crop it out and use it as signature/avatar images on message boards. Ironically, it's remarkably difficult to find a scan of.
"Unless you stole it off the internet."
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The third story features such wonderful creations as the man-eating drop bears and samurai robots. Bloodstone destroys an army of the latter with a shovel.
The second-to-last issue's splash pages feature a cavalcade of nonsensical monstrosities, such as Elvis Impersonator MODOKs and chimpanzees dressed as Wolverine.
Plant Person: The Nextwave squad actually debate this about Beyond's Human Resources operatives, who are based on genetically-modified kelp, grown in gardens, and driven by software. Their level of sentience is left ambiguous.
Monica: But they're alive, right?
Aaron: Depends on your definition of alive. They have more in common with broccoli than they do with you. Or me.
Monica: I hate broccoli. Let's kill 'em.
Also, the superhero squads summoned by Number None turn out to be disguised broccoli people.
Power Walk: The Nextwave team does this at the end of one comic.
Reality Ensues: Lampshaded when Elsa runs out of bullets. Hollywood lies to you constantly.
Reconstruction: Ellis' earlier The Authority was basically the JLA without all that pesky Thou Shall Not Kill nonsense. As indicated by the page quote, Nextwave is pretty much that, except with lots more irreverent parodies of the Marvel universe and many more explosions.
"Biological systems are hideous. I can't believe they have all this garbage inside them and not want to kill themselves."
Secret Identity: Averted with a vengeance. Except for The Captain, none of Nextwave really use their code-names at all; in Monica's case, this is probably a blessing, since as they point out, there's been way too many Captain Marvels.
Keep in mind that the only reason The Captain uses his code name is that he can't remember his real name.
Spoofing a previous bit in The Ultimates by Mark Millar that insulted the French for being Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys, the British Elsa Bloodstone at one point yells "VICTIM? VICTIM?! DO YOU THINK THIS LETTERnote The Euro "€" symbol ON MY CHEST STANDS FOR AMERICA?!"
The art styles in the alternate realities are based on the art of Jim Starlin (Monica's), Daniel Clowes (Aaron's), Paul Pope (The Captain's) and Mike Mignola (Elsa's).
I'm pretty sure Monica's is based on Gene Colan, not Starlin.
A lot of Monica's alternate reality, especially "General Zo" and the odd spelling of "Qrii", evokes Marvel Boy.
The giant revolver that Dirk Anger is sitting on is directly based on a panel from Elektra: Assassin by Bill Sienkiewicz and Frank Miller where Nick Fury is doing target practice in a very similar weapon; the major difference is that Axe Crazy Anger's uber-revolver has its barrel bent back towards him so he can use in a very over-the-top game of Russian Roulette.
Stuff Blowing Up: This is the job description of the Nextwave squad, and they love it.
Elsa Bloodstone:"They explode! My life has taken on new meaning!"
This is exactly the author's description of the comic, too.
Warren Ellis: "It is people getting kicked, and then exploding. It is a pure comic book, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. And afterwards, they will explode."
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Dread Rorkannu, Lord of the Dank Dimension, is summoned by the Beyond Corporation to supply them with Mindless Ones. As opposed to Dread Dormammu, Lord of the Dark Dimension.
Training from Hell: Elsa Bloodstone's monster-hunter training, which includes being thrown into monster pits while she's an infant with only a spoon and an adorable pink hair ribbon to her name.
"Now, in honour of your newfound skills ... circumcise the Hideous Felch-Monster of Bihar Province."
The Undead: Dirk Anger's suicidal retirement is not accepted by H.A.T.E.
Unreliable Narrator: The characters have several flashbacks which totally violate everything we know about the characters (like Monica flash-frying an annoying yappy dog as a kid; she wasn't even supposed to have superpowers then) but they're all so funny we don't really care.
Writer Revolt: Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada declared Nextwave to be Canon Discontinuity, for obvious reasons. Only problem is, the other Marvel writers loved it as much as the fans did, so they went over Quesada's head and incorporated Nextwave into the main continuity anyway (although it's implied that the actual actions were slightly less silly). This goes as far as the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.