Nova #2

by

Or – “Turns Out You CAN Go Home Again, But Iron Man Will Probably Have It Bugged.”

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Annihilation was a huge punch-’em-up cosmic-scale war in space, where valiant heroes fought against unbeatable odds, and pulled out a victory in the nick of time. Civil War was a huge punch-’em-up personal scale war in America, where valiant heroes fought against… um… other heroes and nobody really won except Iron Man. (Doctor Doom nuked Cleveland during the endless fighting, and remarked to the New York Post “It was easy! Nobody even NOTICED!”) Both battles took place relatively concurrently, and never the twain shall meet… until now. The winning generals of the two battles are about to have a little tête-à-tête (or perhaps helmête-à-helmête) with a result that surprised even me.

Nova1.jpgPreviously, on Nova: Richard Rider was just a kid from Long Island until Rhomann Dey chose him to be his successor as Nova centurion. He fought a bunch of losers, returned to Xandar and saved their world. He was depowered, Xandar was destroyed, then he was later re-powered, returned to Xandar and saved their world. New Warriors was cancelled, his own title was cancelled, Rich lost his powers, Xandar was destroyed and the third time, as they say, was the charm. The Xandarian worldmind, repository of the planet’s entire knowledge base was implanted in Richard’s mind, the power of EVERY SINGLE Nova Centurion housed in his body, and thus, Mega-Damage Nova spearheaded the routing of Annihilus and his Annihilation wave. Now, months later, he’s found that months of combat followed by emergency after emergency are wearing on his nerves, and Richard Rider has returned home to Long Island, in the hopes that the old aphorism I referenced above isn’t true. The doorknob melts in his hand (heat from his reentry) as he opens the door to greet his mother and father…

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“I am Darth Vader! I am an extraterrestrial from the Planet Vulcan!” *guitar solo* Oh, wait, nevermind… With the prodigal son back from space, Mom and Pop Rider do what everyone does when the kid comes home from college/abroad/deep space: have dinner. Rich wolfs down home cooking for the first time in months, as his mother spills the beans on what has happened in his absence. She mentions that they thought he was dead, and suddenly Dad flips out. “For God’s sake, Gloria! They called themselves the New Warriors! … Your so-called FRIENDS were chasing ratings for some reality-TV filth. Six hundred and twelve people died. Most of them schoolkids. Not tragic. OBSCENE!” Rich’s jaw hits the table as the true scope of the Civil War is explained to him, when suddenly, it’s all brought home in a chilling fashion. Searchlights bathe the Rider house, and helicopters can be heard in the streets.

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Ten minutes later, we’ve gone from “PRODUCE YOUR PAPERS UND PREPARE FOR SEARCH UND SEIZURE!” to “Oh, RICHARD, it’s so good to have you home.” Rich is taken to the helicarrier as a guest, and he very strongly tells Iron Man the new status quo. “You don’t bring a strike team to my parents’ door. EVER? Are we CLEAR?” I don’t know if he’s just being ingratiating, or if he’s honestly intimidated (probably a little of both) but Iron Man immediately apologizes, explaining that they were tracking him as an incalculably powerful incoming extraterrestrial and wanted to know the score. When Rich tells Tony that he was granted the powers of the entire Nova Corps during the war, Tony looks puzzled. “Which war are we talking about, Richard?” Notice how he’s all first-namey and buddy-buddy with those an unregistered superhuman that can actually overpower him, but with everyone else he’s Bulldozer Man? That is a classic indicator of sociopathic behavior, folks. Just as an aside… Rich and Tony have a sit-down, and Nova tells Iron Man the whole story.

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Nova does have a point, here. It says something pretty unflattering about Marvel’s heroes that they couldn’t even be bothered to CHECK INTO a galactic Civil War that threatened billions and wiped out two entire interstellar civilizations. Tony backs away from this unpleasant realization, instead telling Rich that he would like him to register, to be “responsible, properly trained, qualified… and ultimately, accountable.” Nova doesn’t flinch for a second, replying, “I’m a Nova Corps centurion, Mr. Stark. Properly trained, qualified, accountable… I think I check all your boxes already.” Nice. It’s really gratifying to see Iron Man a little bit cowed by someone whose power is completely out of his league. Tony mentions the theory that ‘With great power, comes great responsibility’ and attributes it to Peter Parker. Nova corrects him, and says that Spider-Man said that. Iron Man breaks the news to him, since Marvel’s publicity department doesn’t reach Kree space…

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Nova is amazed that his old pal ‘Toothpick’ survived, but even more so that Speedball is the most hated man alive. (You and me both, Rider.) As the two old friends reminisce sadly, I feel like I’m watching my kids graduating high school. I remember when Marvel Boy was just a shy young telekinetic, when Nova was just a punk wearing a red wife-beater, with only super-strength and flight as his powers. It’s sad, yet exhilarating, especially since they could both be dead. Vance backs up Tony’s pitch, but also commiserates about their lost family…

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That’s the Vance I remember. He was always the emotional core of the team, a natural leader who understands the pressures on people. It’s why I’m sure he’ll excel in his Initiative role as counselor, once Gyrich is done executing teenagers and letting Nazis defile their remains. Most importantly, Vance gives Nova more than the party line, or a rote repetition of “The Initiative protects citizens. The Inititive protects citizens. Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!” Vance gives him personal perspective, and gives the reader a nice touch of continuity on why he finally decided to switch sides.

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Heh. Perils of space travel, eh? Rich heads home again, and falls flat asleep on the couch, now exhausted mentally as well as physically. Worldmind tells him that it will wake him if he is needed, but unfortunately, the nature of their meld is a little unique. While Rich sleeps, Worldmind takes control of Nova’s body, and turns on the television to absorb as much information as he can. I’m sure it’s perfectly normal if you’re the last Nova Centurion, and I’m sure that Peter Quill never had a problem with it. Of course, the difference in experience between Star-Lord and a suburban dad from Long Island is a vast gulf indeed.

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Papa Rider (not without good reason) flips out at this development, and essentially throws Richie out of the house, screaming “I don’t know what you ARE anymore!” He’s your kid, isn’t that worth something? Nova leaves and wanders aimlessly all morning, looking at all the things that didn’t used to be there, showing Worldmind the “sights,” which consist mostly of abandoned storefronts. Worldmind can’t find any record of Rich’s friends (Remember, Hindsight Lad outed most of the Warriors in a recent issue of She-Hulk. They may be trying to hide from Nova, or from the hordes of villagers with torches and pitchforks.) but he can tell that they’re being followed. Rich assumes it’s an agent of SHIELD, and walks right up to him to talk…

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Oh, the goofy Marvel villains of yesteryear. Diamondhead dates back to the original 1976 run of Nova (Issue #3, I think), and he’s a five-time loser whose shtick is just a diamond hard body and an empty jeweled head. Nova is actually kind of happy to have had this happen, and he quickly engages himself in fighting DH. Noting that it’s good to see that Diamondhead is as stupid as ever, Nova uses a gravimetric pulse to isolate a flaw in his body, and blow DH’s hand off! He then takes him to the local police station, but finds his reception somewhat cold. When he explains that he has a criminals hand in a bag, the officer first accuses him of murdering and chopping the villain up, then asks for his registration papers. Nova is unhappy, and stalks out the door, only to find that there ARE people eager to meet him…

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…but they have a tendency to shatter the spines of the people they meet. The stage is set for another reunion, though I’m not sure this one will be as nice as seeing Vance again. Speedball/Penance has gone through a lot and is a little bit… um… I believe the term is ‘bug%^&# crazy’ since Rich saw him last. Their camaraderie in early issues (including Rich’s affectionate nickname “Toothpick”) was one of the highlights of New Warriors, but now that they’ve grown into the superhero equivalents of George Patton and Trent Reznor, those days are probably gone. That said, Moonstone better have brought a sack lunch, because Nova is more than capable of busting those four Thunderbolts in two and stacking them like cordwood.

I’m really enjoying the look at the new and improved Nova, with some very impressive art by Sean Chen and Scott Hanna. They’ve handled the Rider living room as clearly and interestingly as they drew alien battle stations last issue, and their work on facial structures reminds me of Darick Robertson in some places. Nova always looks superb, and Abnett and Lanning have done some good work delineating his mental state, as well. I’m very much enjoying this book, and find Nova #2 to be a 3.5 star effort once again, even though I’m a little disappointed to not get the Iron Man/Nova smackdown hinted at by the cover.

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