Best Shots Advance Review: NOVA #1

 

Nova #1

Written by Jeph Loeb

Art by Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines and Marte Gracia

Lettering by Albert Deschesne

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Despite what you may think, Nova isn't so much a book about swashbuckling and space opera. And despite the bright, energetic artwork from Ed McGuinness, Nova isn't a book that you could quite classify as "optimistic." No, this is a book about the relationship between a parent and his children — something Jeph Loeb has written about at length, albeit not with this level of turmoil — and while jaded readers might say they've seen much of this before, Nova is a dynamic entree for those looking to cruise Marvel's spaceways.

Those who have met Sam Alexander through Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, you might be a little bit surprised by this comics incarnation — Loeb brings a surprisingly dark edge here as he dives into the dynamic between Sam and his father Jesse. In a lot of ways, the Southwestern locale, the space angle and the focus on family reminds me a bit of Keith Giffen's Blue Beetle, but the laughs don't quite make it over here. Unlike the happy-go-lucky character on the TV show, Sam seethes with resentment—both for covering for his father's alcoholism, and for enduring his larger-than-life tales as a member of the Nova Corps.

 

If you can see where this is going, you're not alone—while we don't actually get to see Sam in the Nova suit just yet (thanks to some pacing that's straight out of Brian Michael Bendis's Ultimate Spider-Man), Loeb also dutifully ties in plenty of references to that other Marvel space book, Guardians of the Galaxy. This story looks to be straight-up, no-frills hero's journey for Sam, which you've probably seen in any movie ranging from The Last Starfighter to Back to the Future (which Ed McGuinness lovingly swipes from on several occasions).

McGuinness's lush, cartoony style is what fuels the relaunch of Marvel's Human Rocket, with every character coming off expressive and compelling to watch. It says a lot about McGuinness as a brand as much as one man, because while his designwork is superb, there are some hiccups in the actual panel-to-panel storytelling. McGuinness's big characters almost demand a widescreen treatment—particularly in the action sequences in space — so cramming in seven panels into one page winds up diminishing the power and scale of this interstellar conflict. But the smaller, more human scenes on Earth get plenty of room to breathe, which ultimately is more important — we need to care about Sam more than we need to care about Nova, and McGuinness will go a long way towards making that happen.

With some uncomplicated storytelling and some gorgeous artwork, I imagine Nova will find a pretty large audience, especially on the heels of Sam's appearances on Ultimate Spider-Man. There is plenty of room for this series to grow, but I think much of this might have to do with the target audience — while the subtext of alcoholism might prove a bit dark for the Saturday morning cartoons crowd and the cichés might prove too much for diehard fans (particularly of Richard Rider, may he rest in peace), fresh readers will probably be overjoyed to follow Sam to the stars. 

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