Or – “So You Like Nova? Let’s See If Marvel NOW! Can Fix That!”
There has been a lot of buzz about the new Nova, and a high-profile appearance (though a small one) in Avengers Vs. X-Men to get people excited. On the one hand, I like me some Nova. On the other hand, Jeph Loeb has, of late, been WILDLY, even maddeningly inconsistent as a creator. Can this new Human Rocket fly as high as the old one? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Previously, in Nova: Richard Rider was an Earthling, chosen by alien Nova Centurion Rhomann Dey to take his place in Xandar’s Nova Corps, an intergalactic force of peacekeepers with spiffy helmets and mighty powers. He lost his powers, gained them back, and was the last survivor of the Corps at least twice in his career before seemingly sacrificing himself alongside Star-Lord to save the entire universe from incursion from a horrifying dimension known as The Cancerverse. Somehow, though, there is a new Centurion in town, one who arrived on Earth just in time to warn of the coming of the Phoenix Force during AvX. So, what’s his deal?
SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO?
The issue opens in the past, in deep space, as a special team of “Black Novas” (who refer to the regular gold-helmeted Centurions with some derision) undertake a secret rescue plan to recover Gamora and Rocket Raccoon of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Part of me wants to just gloss over the timeframe (especially since what we’re reading is a story being told to the main character by his dad) but I keep trying to figure out where this fits in Gamora’s backstory, how old she is/was, and when the hell the GOTG would have to have been founded for this story to make sense. We quickly discover the truth: The tale we’re reading is being told by one of the Centurions in question to his son, Sam. Or rather, was being told, as we cut to the present day to find the former Centurion vomiting up his guts while Sam watches with scorn. I am surprised to find the premise of this issue, as Sam is revealed to be a fifteen-year-old boy who is desperately trying to cover for his drunken dad, the school janitor, by doing his job for him when the old man is in his cups. There’s a lot of teenage angst, a cute girl, some nasty bullies and a lot of skateboarding involved in Sam’s life, but mostly he’s haunted by a drunken father who swears that he used to be an intergalactic superhero.
TIME BECOMES AN ISSUE ONCE AGAIN…
There is clearly a lot of regard for this character (who is, I believe, named after Loeb’s late son, who passed away a few years ago) and I can see what they’re going for in the issue, but a couple of major problems keep it from being a fully realized experience. First, the pacing makes this whole issue feel like nothing more than a preview, showing us the high-level view of Sam’s life in Carefree, AZ (including the uber-cliche of the hot alterna-girl who seems to have an inexplicable crush on him) and the ending (during which Gamora and Rocket arrive on Earth) has them wearing the exact same clothing and looking precisely the same age as the flashback from two decades ago shown earlier in the book. Artistically, I’m very happy with this issue, as McGuinness shows a lot of restraint in his depictions of the characters in this book. Based on his recent over-the-top work on Red Hulk, I was worried that everyone would be a muscle-bound and/or super-endowed freak, but Sam’s depiction is consistent throughout. The space battle sequences are nicely handled, and I can’t really find a lot to complain about in the art department. Nothing much actually occurs in the issue, but Loeb manages to deliver some blisteringly teenage sarcastic quips in the journey, though.
BOTTOM LINE: THERE’S SOME INTERESTING STUFF HERE…
All in all, the new Nova’s debut is good but not spectacular, explaining the change in uniform that was troubling some older fans (admittedly, myself included) but meandering quite a bit in the story being told. Had they not pinned down the past timeframe so precisely (or had Marvel NOW! been a traditional relaunch where the entire continuity is revealed to have shifted/changed) I think the issue would have been much more successful for me, but even taking that out of the equation, I’d have been more satisfied with some actual storytelling “meat” in this first issue. All in all, though, Nova #1 gets you interested in the protagonist (even if he seems pretty harsh and snippy right now), looks good artistically and doesn’t leave me feeling angry like the last couple of projects Jeph has written, earning an above-average 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!