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New Warriors: A Title that was Among the Very Best of the 90s

I often write about old comics to lay out how they’ve played out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Alas, there has been no indication that the New Warriors are coming to the MCU (yet).

So, I’m writing about the New Warriors for the sole reason that I love the comic and want to share that love.

New Warriors: A New Superhero Team for the 90s

Let’s frame it up. Editor Tom DeFalco pulled together the existing Marvel characters Nova, Firestar, Marvel Boy, Namorita, and Speedball, with newcomer Night Thrasher. They first appeared in Thor #411-412 (1989).

But that’s just pretext. Writer Fabian Nicieza is the New Warriors. In 1990 the New Warriors received their own title written by Nicieza and drawn by the underrated Mark Bagley. The series ran for 75 issues, with Nicieza authoring the first 53.

It had been a while since an important new superhero team had been established. Some had, but they were primarily on the X-Men side–New Mutants and Excalibur come to mind. But the Avengers were marked by rotating casts during that time.

Yet, here came the New Warriors. Here are 4 reasons why the first 25 issues in particular is among the very best runs in superhero comics.

First, it was darned enjoyable. Remember when comics were fun? Sometimes I barely do. But the first 25 issues of New Warriors was enjoyable throughout.

And I don’t mean it was zany or swashbuckling, although I certainly have no problem with pulpy things. No, it’s that New Warriors was grounded, for lack of a more exact way to express it.

Plot points were understandable, characters were likable, motivations and complications were clear. Those things added together make for an enjoyable time reading a comic, one where you are eager to turn the page to find out what happens next.

Second, the story worked. New Warriors wouldn’t have been a page turner without having a strong story. Nicieza, quite frankly, was masterful.

New villainous teams were introduced, serious teenage themes were examined, and nefarious plots were teased. Immediately out of the gate, Nicieza & Bagley create a character-based drama with these teen superheroes who take on the threats that they see the more senior superhero teams overlooking. 

Seeds that were planted in New Warriors #1 bore fruit in New Warriors #25. In between wove character growth and interaction, plus the type of action we read comic books for. Fabian Nicieza has long been well-regarded, but I’d venture to say that New Warriors 1-25 is his absolute best work.

A nod as well for Mark Bagley. He built a career on drawing quality, identifiable characters and exciting, followable action. New Warriors 1-25 is also among his best work.

Third, 1990 was a pivotal time in comics. Power was shifting hard from writers to artists, which upended the types of comics being produced. New Warriors 1-25 avoided the excesses of this.

The holo-foil “x-treme” of 90s comics was often anything but. New Warriors struck an exact mark between the big-gunned, shoulderpadded silliness of many 90s comics and the dark and grim seriousness that plagued others. In my opinion, New Warriors is in many ways the very best of superhero comics tonally.

Finally, the sum of the parts elevated New Warriors to a wonderful whole. “Enjoyable,” “worked,” “likable.” Those types of words might seem like faint praise but I don’t want to allow that to undersell how great a comic New Warriors is.

If you enjoy superhero comics even slightly and you’ve never read New Warriors 1-25, consider it. Here is a big fat omnibus you can get from Amazon and it’s available via Marvel Unlimited as well. Very few superhero comics will be a more thoughtful reflection of the 90s.

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