Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Ed McGuiness
Inks by Dexter Vines
Colors by Marte Gracia
Published by Marvel Comics
Nova has always had kind of a bad rap. Even in the opening of A v X last year, Nova’s job was to fly to Earth, warn us about the Phoenix force and get knocked out. Given how the character is, unjustly, viewed as a thinly veiled Green Lantern-alike, that hardly seems fair. Now, I’m pretty sure a bum rap for their space cop is not the reason why Marvel are relaunching their science fiction titles. I suspect that has a lot more to do with the moderately imminent Guardians of the Galaxy movie (PLEASE LET THE RUMOURS ABOUT JASON STATHAM BEING THE VOICE OF ROCKET RACCOON BE TRUE! PLEEEEEEZ). Marvel have stated that their cosmic books are going to get a lot more important, soon, and the existence of Nova, the relaunch of Guardians of the Galaxy itself and the fact the Fantastic Four are currently on a year-long space roadtrip, all serve to bear that out.
But Nova, we’re told, is going to be very important to the immediate future of the Marvel Universe. This is where everything starts, to misquote Jack Harkness, and you’ve got to be ready. And that’s the beauty of it because whilst you most definitely are, Sam Alexander, the new Nova, absolutely is NOT. Sam is a student at the Carefree High School in the Mid-West. Sam is also the janitor, because his father, Jesse, is constantly late and frequently drunk. Sam is furious at his Dad, at his Mom for defending him, at the school and his fellow students, at the miserable little town in the middle of nowhere and most all at his father’s stories. Because when he’s sober, Jesse tells stories about being a Black Nova, part of an elite strikeforce in the Nova Corps, the Galaxy’s police…
Loeb turns in one of the scripts of his career with the first issue. From the opening, wonderfully cheeky ‘Previously’ against the backdrop of space to the closing moments where Sam finds out just how little he knows his father, the issue crackles along with real energy. Sam in particular is both instantly likeable and very sympathetic, a smart, good young man seething with rage at his life. He’s old enough to know better and, worse, old enough to wish he didn’t, meaning Jesse’s stories have lost their magic for him. However, he’s not so wrapped up in himself that he can’t see the good they still do Kaelynn. In fact, one of the book’s best moments is when Sam finds his sister worried about what will happen if their father is ever called back into service. Sam’s response is impossibly sweet, and kind, and clearly hurts like hell but that’s what good big brothers, and heroes, do.
Loeb deftly balances these small little character moments with huge, literally, action. Jesse and his Black Nova unit weren’t shy about property damage and you can almost see Loeb and artist Ed Mcguinness reveling in the opportunity to cut loose. The action here is fast, fluid and nasty, exactly as it should be. Plus, the revelation of the Black Novas' existence, and their rivalry with the ‘Gold Domes’ is a neat way of expanding and refocusing the characters’ universe without contradicting what’s gone before.
Except of course, that might be the point. The book closes with a reveal I won’t spoil and the very realistic possibility that Jesse may not have been lying but he might not have been entirely truthful either…It’s a smart, subtle hook to end a first issue on and it made me want to read the next issue straight away. I honestly can’t think of a better recommendation.
This is the best Marvel Now! Title I’ve read since Hawkeye and Captain Marvel. Loeb’s script is smart, grounded, humane and has moments of real wonder scattered through it whilst Mcguinness, Vines, and Gracia on art, colors and inks give the book a rich, vibrant but lived in palette that suits its location perfectly. Gripping, epic and funny, Nova has relaunched with a hell of a first issue. If you’re old enough to remember The Last Starfighter, you’ll love this. If you’re not old enough to remember The Last Starfighter, buy it anyway, this is better. Highly recommended.