A Skitch In Time – Spider-Man And Nova

Skitch In Time

The Secret Origin of A Comic Geek

Amazing Spider-Man #351 I’ve been a comic geek for about twenty years now.   Before then, I was much more interested in the arcade games in my local comic shop than the brightly colored men and women with strange names like Silver Surfer and Green Arrow.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t living in a completely comic-free bubble. My mom used to pick me up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures at our local newsstand.  And I knew who Spider-Man was.  I had Secret Wars action figures and liked Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Sad but true: I knew who Iceman and Firestar were long before I even knew who Captain America was.

So it was pretty natural that Amazing Spider-Man was pretty much the first superhero comic that I ever read. This week’s column is about Amazing Spider-Man 351 and 352, a two part story guest starring….

A Man Called Nova.

When I started working on this week’s column, something occurred to me.  The last few years, thanks to Annihilation, Nova has become one of Marvel’s major characters.  But back when I started reading comics, Nova was pretty much the most redundant member of the early days of the New Warriors.

He wasn’t the leader he would become later (that was Night Thrasher), he wasn’t the comic relief (that was Speedball), and Namorita was pretty close to him in terms of speed and strength.   He didn’t even have the great out of costume drama that we saw from Marvel Boy or Silhouette.  Despite all this, Nova was definitely my favorite member of the New Warriors (other than Darkhawk, who joined much later).

Long before New Warriors or this guest appearance in Amazing Spider-Man, Nova had his own series way back in 1976.  It ran for 25 issues, and ended so abruptly that most of its storylines had to be resolved in Fantastic Four and ROM, Spaceknight.  In a lot of ways, Nova was originally a bit of a bootleg Green Lantern.  He acquired his powers from an alien on death’s door and was part of a larger Nova Corps.  The whole series can be read in Essential Nova Volume 1, and I’d recommend it for any fan of the character’s current incarnation, as it has a lot more in common with Nova now than from his New Warriors days.

Just like last time, I got a little carried away talking about the guest star, sorry about that.  I suspect that trend will continue a lot in this column.  On to the issues in question.

A Sentinel with three faces?
Amazing Spider-Man #352

These two issues of Amazing Spider-Man feature the return of the Tri-Sentinel.  Now remember, this was one of my first comics.  I had no idea what Acts of Vengeance was, and my knowledge of the X-Men was pretty limited.  To me, the Tri-Sentinel was just a really cool looking robot with three faces and six arms.

When you think about it, this is one of the most bizarre plans to have ever taken place in comics. Loki takes three Sentinels, jams them together in one body and sets them after Spider-Man. Wouldn’t he have been better off keeping them as three separate Sentinels and powering them up magically? Nothing beats comic book villain logic.

Sadly, when I went back to reread this comic 19 years later, it was no where near as good as I remembered it.  Mark Bagley’s art is great as always, and David Micheline tells a fun story, but there are odd continuity errors (like Nova being trapped in unbreakable cables one panel, and next time we see him, he’s free with no real explanation), and the story is fairly forgettable: a group of survivalists are having the Tri-Sentinel rebuilt to help protect them, but of course, it goes rogue, and Spider-Man and Nova are forced to team up to stop it.

That said, the story does have a lot of great character moments between Spider-Man and Nova.  I love how they play up the idea of Spider-Man as a more veteran hero, and Nova’s reluctance to learn from him begrudgingly turning into respect by the end of the two issues.   Nova would end up sticking around for 6 more issues (along with Darkhawk, Night Thrasher, Punisher, and Moon Knight), but more on that another time.

As I said, this book was a lot better when I read it as a twelve year old 20 years ago, but it’s still a fun and worthwhile read.

Other Thoughts

Before I shut it down for the week, huge thanks to Grey Scherl and John Babos for the column’s new banner. That is one of my favorite images in comics, and the poster hangs in my living room. Framed and signed by Grey’s archnemesis, Alex Ross.

That about wraps it up for this week.   Next time, I will be covering some of my favorite short-lived DC team books, like Jurgen’s Teen Titans, Power Company, and Sovereign Seven.

As always, I love hearing from the readers. Please drop me a line with any comments, criticisms, or suggestions for other books you’d like to see me take on. See you in two weeks!

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