Before the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, there was the cosmic Nova Corps, working across space as galactic peacekeepers. But in 1976, New York high school student Richard Rider was plucked from obscurity and into superhero greatness, becoming the last survivor of Marvel's famous force.
Entrusted with the responsibility of carrying on the legacy of the mighty Nova Centurions, Richard is blessed with their incredible superpowers and traditional costume... bringing the one and only Nova to Marvel's Universe. And as those 'in the know' are counting the days until Richard Rider joins the MCU, let's take a moment to fill fans in on the origins, powers, and fate of Nova.
The Origins of Richard Rider AKA Nova
After being thrown into the deep end with little warning, Richard Rider did grow into the role--and its superpowers. All of Nova/Rider’s powers originate from the Nova Force (later officers being granted access via their iconic Nova helmets). His abilities include flight, super strength, speed, and durability. He can also absorb energy used against him in battle and release it as gravimetric pulses and beams (picture Green Lantern minus the ring, and you've got a good sense of Marvel's brand of space cops).
With these newfound abilities Rider ventures to the planet Xandar, home of the Nova Corps. With help from Doctor Sun and Rom the Space Knight, Nova is recruited into several cosmic battles, before he ends the war on the planet Xandar, and decides to head home. Rider returns to Earth and therefore loses his connection to the Nova Force. But this would, of course, not truly be his last time functioning as an intergalactic hero.
Nova Makes His Name in Annihilation
Sure enough, Rider regains his powers and joins a team of heroes in 1990's New Warriors #1. Later in this same series, Rider travels back to Xandar, and is eventually given a new rank as Centurion Prime. After this the Nova Corps is re-established, leaving Rider splitting time between his two choice heroic teams: the New Warriors and Nova Corps (the very group that made him super in the first place). But Rider’s most significant plot came in Annihilation: Prologue #1 when the entire Nova Corps is summoned to Xandar to respond to the Annihilation Wave. But when the leader of the attacks, Annihilus, destroys all of Xandar... Rider is once again left as the only survivor.
After he makes contact with the Xandarian Worldmind (essentially the planet’s supercomputer of Nova information), Rider’s powers are enhanced to new, even greater levels. His strength and durability are the primary enhancements, but he also obtains seemingly infinite energy. Eventually the two agreed to share one form to take on Annihilus, and Nova's gift for leadership--uniting heroes of all worlds and species to stand against the Annihilation Wave--establishes him as a cosmic heavyweight in Marvel's Universe. It's also this event which sees the formation of Marvel's modern Guardians of the Galaxy, which the MCU version is directly modeled after. In fact, after defeating Annihilus Rider helps Star-Lord to assemble his team to begin with.
The Rebirth of The Nova Corps (and Death of Rider)
The final twist in Richard Rider's story comes when he learns that Worldmind he shares his body with has been acting in secret. It's only when recruits for a brand new Nova Corps assemble that Richard realizes the Worldmind has been using him when he sleeps--classic Fight Club--to begin the Corps anew. No longer the last Nova (but still the greatest) Richard joins forces with Star-Lord to face Thanos, before all three wind up trapped inside of Marvel's strange Cancerverse. A reality where one can not be killed, leaving the trio fighting over a Cosmic Cube for... well, who knows how long. After using his abilities to help Star-Lord escape the Cancerverse in attempt to defeat Thanos, Rider is trapped, but remains in connection with the Worldmind. He is ultimately rescued by the new Nova, Sam Alexander, and is able to continue his life as a hero.
In the years since he rose as one of Marvel's most important cosmic superheroes, Richard Rider has predominantly been seen in video games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and animated series like Marvel Superhero Squad Show. The character has yet to see a live-action iteration, but fans of Nova know that it's only a matter of time, as the next phase of the MCU goes cosmic in an even bigger way than before.