Review: Nova #1 by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness

Nova #1

Written by: Jeph Loeb
Pencilled by: Ed McGuinness
Art by: Dexter Vines
Colored by: Marte Gracia
Lettering by: Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from Marvel on Comixology.

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

I am a huge fan of Richard Rider…he actually appeared in the first Marvel comic I ever read (Amazing Spider-Man 351), and I was a huge New Warriors fan. So, I have to admit, I wasn’t all that thrilled to find out that there was a new Nova in town. Sam Alexander has popped up here and there (and I actually like him quite a bit in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon), but we never really got to know much about the character in the comics.

I had to admit, I actually didn’t even buy this first issue until my editor said to check it out.  I had been checking out a lot of Marvel NOW, but 4 buck books tend to scare me off.  I’m glad that I took his advice and bought it!

Summary (contains spoilers): This series starts seventeen years ago. We are introduced to a small group of Nova Corpsmen, all of whom are wearing black helmets and calling themselves the Blacknovas or Supernovas. They actually seem to have a lot of disdain for the gold helmeted Nova Corps we usually have seen in comics, referring to them as gold domes. It’s definitely implied these guys are some kind of black ops Nova Corps.

The Supernovas are on a mission to rescue Gamora and Rocket Raccoon from the Badoon. One of them, a human named Jesse, seems particularly willing to sacrifice himself in order to make sure the mission succeeds, though his team is able to save him. In the end, one of his teammates injects him with something.

We switch to modern day (about six months before the current Marvel universe), where Jesse is a janitor on Earth, and he’s throwing up in a school bathroom in Carefree, Arizona. His son Sam seems pretty disgusted by his father, who constantly talks about wanting to “get back out there.” Sam gets his father back home, where his father’s Nova helmet sits on a shelf.

At school, Sam is having a difficult time. The other kids mock him because his father is the janitor, and Sam’s father seems to be a drunk. Many days Sam ends up finishing Jesse’s work just to help him keep his job.

Later on, Jesse is telling Sam and his younger sister, Kaelynn, stories about his time in space. Sam thinks his father is delusional and just making these stories up. Jesse says that he left the Supernovas just in time to see Sam’s birth. Sam takes a walk to get away from his father’s delusions. While out, he sees a shooting star.

He returns home to find Kaelynn up late, worrying about her dad. She is afraid that one day the Novas will need him again, and he would be in danger. Sam wants to tell Kaelynn the truth about their father, but he can’t bring himself to crush her dreams:

The next day, Sam gets suspended from school because of a fight he gets in trying to defend his family’s name. He returns home to confront his father, only to find his Nova helmet missing. Sam thinks his father ran out on the family. He skateboards off to find his father, but hits a rock, and wipes out. When he wakes up, in the hospital, he finds Gamora and Rocket Raccoon standing over him saying “We gotta talk about your dad.” Gamora is holding his father’s Nova helmet.

Review: When you think about it, this story just shouldn’t work anywhere near as well as it did. We already know Sam becomes Nova, and the stories Jesse tells are perfectly plausible in the Marvel universe. But somehow, Loeb manages to find just the right emotional pressure points to make this story work so well. Even knowing where it was likely to go, I really found myself caring for Sam, Jesse, Kaelynn, and Mom. When Gamora and Rocket Raccoon showed up in the end, I felt a real strong vindication for Jesse.

I also loved the little flashes we got of the Supernovas. As much as I like Richard Rider, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Nova Corps. It always just felt like a second rate Green Lantern Corps to me, and I’ve always preferred Nova stories that were a little more grounded on Earth. But, I immediately felt a strong sense of the camaraderie of this team and wanted more. I really hope we get to see much more of them, and more flashbacks to Jesse’s past adventures.

I have heard some people say that the issue was a little slow paced, but I thought that worked in this issue’s favor. We already have seen this Nova in action, so stepping back and taking the time to develop him and the characters around him just feels like the perfect way to establish this series.

I have also heard people say that this felt similar to DC’s newest version Blue Beetle. That probably is a legitimate concern, but I definitely thought this issue had much more to offer the reader than the New 52’s version of Jaime Reyes. I have always felt that Jaime was much more interesting in cartoons (Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and The Bold) than he has ever been written in the comics. While I just can’t get into the comics version of Jaime, Jeph Loeb immediately made me feel a strong attachment to Sam and his story.

I’ve been a fan of Ed McGuinness for a long time. His work really compliments Loeb’s work. I especially loved the unique designs on the Supernovas.

Principal Strickland??

But he was also able to draw the more “grounded” Earth scenes too. Some of the characters seemed to be stereotypes borrowed from various movies or similar comics, but I actually thought this created a strong way for readers to immediately identify who all the characters were. Strict principal, potential love interest, bully and his gang. Check!

Nova is off to a real strong start. Beautiful art and strong characterizations that set the stage nicely on whatever this series has to offer us.  Plus, I am a sucker for any comic with Gamora, so that automatically earns this book some extra points. Jeph Loeb is definitely back in full form on this terrific first issue!  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Final Score: 8.5: This series is much more than just a Blue Beetle knock off. Really strong first issue, definitely one of the strongest launches from Marvel Now!

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