The early 90s was an interesting time to be reading comics. Writers were attempting to tap into cultural changes like MTV while also evolving their characters for an audience that was looking for something a bit more mature. The New Warriors offered a slice of superhero life from the perspective of youths who were old enough to move out from their parents’ houses, but young enough to still be figuring out their personal issues. Fabian Nicieza lead the way writing this series (he also wrote most of the stories in this collection) and did a bang-up job capturing that 90s era.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
As the Infinity War begins, Speedball and Rage take on their doppelgangers! But when the Warriors head to the Middle East to fight a whole different kind of war, they must face harsh truths – and make impossible decisions! Night Thrasher steps out of the Warriors’ shadow to take care of business – learning the four key steps to control his own destiny! But when the Darkforce, source of Silhouette’s powers, threatens to engulf New York City in eternal shadow, the Warriors – along with Spider-Man and Doctor Strange – must face the darkness within! Plus: Will Cloak and Dagger join the team? Who is (or are?) Turbo? And the imprisoned Marvel Boy begins his journey to justice!
Can I jump in easily?
Relatively you can, though you might want to Google who these characters are. It starts with issue #27 so the main team members are established. This book collects the Night Thrasher: For Control which does a good job establishing who Night Thrasher is, although funnily enough, he doesn’t appear after his miniseries beyond a Christmas special.
Reason 1: Continues to add new superheroes and villains.
In the 90s it seemed like every other issue of any given comic had some new look for a character or an entirely new character to dig into. In fact, the lineup of this team changes a few times over the 10 issues and one Annual collected here. Right on the cover, you’ll see Turbo, who is a new addition to the team who pops in at the opening and closing of the story. There’s also Cardinal, a new villain who is tied to Turbo’s stories as well as Darkling who is a brand new villain introduced here. At one point we get to see Firestar get a new costume too. This book captures the 90s era so well in the aspect of costume changes and character creation (even if neither stuck).
Reason 2: Captures the anxiety and anguish of heroes who come from poor backgrounds.
Multiple characters must deal with the fact that they’re poor or at least grew up poor. This is accomplished by having them reflect on their current state or reflecting on how it was when they grew up. In the Christmas Special, for instance, Night Thrasher only gets one present for a loved one because that’s how he’s always done it. He never had enough money to do more than just one. In another scene, Nova aka Richard Rider has to bemoan the fact he can’t pay for dinner with his girlfriend Laura. He’s got the power to fly and shoot energy beams but the poor guy can’t foot the bill for a dinner.
In an overt show of growing up with the world crashing down on you, Nicieza uses a villain called Darkling who literally spread his fear and anguish around New York. It’s captured in a multi-part story arc involving Spider-Man, Thing, and many other characters. Customary of a story that has a meaningful purpose, it ends in a sentimental and thought-provoking way.
Reason 3: References galore to 90s culture.
A little under halfway through this collection with issue #29 of The New Warriors readers are introduced to the latest conflict via a show called “What We Share”. It’s a talk show with young people dressed in “cool” looking clothing getting to the bottom of the truth of an international issue involving the Middle Eastern country of Trans-Sabal. This is a good example of how Nicieza attempted to tap into something younger readers would understand and be familiar with. It also helps remind readers this team is filled with young people who are just as confused by world events as the rest of us. They are directly involved in a conflict with this country, but they’re bent out of shape over it and attempting to understand what is happening. Namorita goes through a hell of an arc in this story, gritting her teeth and attempting to do whatever it takes to bring peace to this country. Unfortunately for her, she learns the hard way conflicts on a governmental scale are anything but simple.
Other references pop up in subtle ways like panels of characters drinking the latest soda (though the names are subtly changed to avoid lawsuits) or, in another example, the craze of getting pizzas to a location in under 30 minutes. Night Thrasher’s ability to pop a skateboard off his back to chase down bad guys is about as 90s as it comes. Nicieza did a good job reminding us these characters live in the real world at the time.
Reasons to be wary?
Being a product of its time also comes with some negatives. A lot of the villains save for Darkling have more development in their costume design than their personalities. In the Night Thrasher miniseries, for instance, Thrasher fights multiple characters who look cool but add little substance. They’re just bruisers for him to beat on and aren’t interesting in the slightest. There is an attempt to make one villain some kind of message about drug addiction aptly named Tantrum, but again he’s mostly fists and lunacy.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
This is a lot of fun to read especially if you grew up in the 90s reading these comics. They hold up pretty well because they focus in on the characters on the team and the drama of their lives as young heroes. This book also has a slice of 90s culture to go with it which should bring back some nostalgic vibes too.