[WARNING: Contains SPOILERS for Nova #1.]
The name "Nova" means different things to different people. For the old schoolers, the Nova Corps is the home of renowned hero Richard Rider, who lost his life saving the galaxy from the Cancerverse and Mad Titan Thanos. To the younger set, it’s Sam Alexander, who discovered his father’s helmet and began his own cosmic adventures in Rider's stead. No matter which character fans prefer, everyone can agree that Nova has a long tradition as one of the Marvel Cosmic's finest heroes.
In Nova #1, old and new merge at long last, as the diminished Corps, once thousands strong, finally became more than an army of one. Richard Rider’s curious emergence from an uncertain fate and ‘escape’ from the Xandarian hive mind (find out more here) certainly kick things off in an interesting fashion. For Richard, adjusting to life on Earth and the “resurrection thing,” is almost as challenging as taking on a horde of interstellar fiends.
A Strange Journey Home
Arriving home after more than half a decade away may take some getting used to, but at least Richard Rider has his mother to console him. Unfortunately, his father recently passed away, so despite the joy usually reserved for a homecoming, his terrestrial return is tempered with the tang of loss. Then, there’s the small matter of his mom’s freaky-looking reflection in the mirror. Is it merely his eyes playing tricks on him or is something very wrong with his world?
As thrilled as he is to be alive, there are still a number of questions nagging at Richard and dragging his new-found life into a strange place. His vision of the world is overrun with death, his father has passed, and his helmet was, oddly enough, waiting for him at home. Of course there’s also the small issue of how he managed to emerge from being filed away within, what is essentially the Nova Corps’ version of the afterlife, the Xandarian world mind – something which he may or may not know the answer to himself.
As for Earth’s other established cosmic defender, Sam Alexander, life is just business as usual: taking down bad guys, breaking up with the Avengers, joining the Champions,and cleaning up intergalactic pests…
Ego Has a Problem
What do you do when you’re a sentient world infested with unpleasant critters? Well, you could call a cosmic exterminator, but it seems Ego has already burned those bridges, because everyone is too afraid of him. So he calls in a favor from Sam Alexander, who arrives to remove the massive, space-ray looking Sidri from the “planet with a goatee”. Eventually, using some extinction-level event thinking, he defeats the creatures, before racing home, barely in time for school. That’s when, the real challenge begins.
It doesn’t help that he starts his day practically naked, and does so in front of the new girl, who he kind of likes. It also doesn’t help that when he awkwardly tries to talk to her, his helmet starts blaring an alarm. Deeply embarrassed, he races out of school to find out what's causing the piercing racket. Apparently, the indicator was set-off by the proximity of another Nova on Earth, which naturally, Sam hopes is his long-lost father. Rather, it's someone who could pass for a father figure.
Nova Prime Takes Flight
One of the gifts of Nova #1, which has very little classical ‘superhero’ action but still moves at a rapid pace, is the way it sets up the characters. Both Richard Rider and Sam Alexander are previously established heroes with their own runs of various length and their own era of prominence. What Jeff Loveness does so well – aided and abetted by Ramon Perez’s dynamic artwork and Ian Herring’s vivacious color palette – is draw us into both heroes and characterize them as real and human in spite of their intergalactic hero status.
One of the best sequences in the book actually happens entirely as Richard simply sits on his childhood swing set, reminiscing about his dream of flying as a child. As he thinks back to launching himself off the swings, his Nova helmet zips across the yard and into his hands. Much like his younger self, who broke a leg or two before he learned to fly, it’s clear that, for as much as he missed his home and his family (and being alive), most of all he yearns to soar again.
The only problem is, something is either very wrong with his abilities or his sense of reality. As he shoots across the water and high into the sky, pain shoots through his body and he sputters out, free-falling towards the surface.
The Nova Corp Expands
The first issue of Nova is heartfelt and amusing as both characters are reintroduced to fans young and old. Sam and Richard are marvelously drawn, in words and artwork, as wistful, a little foolhardy, and utterly likeable – as it should be. Jeff Loveness’ writing is spot-on for both heroes: Sam’s high school moments accurately embody the teenage mindset (yes, taking on supervillains would be trickier than talking to a crush, but this is superhero hyperbole here. Point taken), while Richard retains his boyish charm, now tempered by the madness he's 'lived' through.
The first issue also leaves a lot of questions, especially about Richard's return to action. While the visions he experiences may simply be related to his resurrection, the true bounds between his life and the great beyond are unknown at this point. Assuming he survives his nosedive (it would be a short series if he doesn't), Loveness will have a lot of interesting and potentially esoteric ground to explore, as Richard may still have one foot in another realm.
Speaking of other realms, the final moments hint at a trip to Knowhere, the peculiar realm on the edge of the cosmos constructed out of a decapitated Celestial. After Sam discovers Rider – who may not be his father but is still another comrade in arms – the younger Nova may feel some of his burden lift. Hopefully, L0veness and Perez's stellar artistry will drive this series forward at a breathy clip, and Knowhere will provide some of the answers Richard will need about going about the business of living. Again.
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Nova #1 is currently available in stores and online.