Best Shots Review: NOVA #1 Fun & Contagious (9/10)

"Nova #1" preview
Credit: Ramon Perez/Ian Herring (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Ramon Perez/Ian Herring (Marvel Comics)

Nova #1
Written by Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez
Art by Ramon Perez and Ian Herring
Lettering by Albert Duchesne
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Do you ever wonder what it would feel like to fly?

Credit: Ramon Perez/Ian Herring (Marvel Comics)

Forget heat vision, forget super-strength or Darkforce energy. If you asked a group of people what superpower they’d want the most, you’d almost overwhelmingly hear that people would want to fly. And it’s that sense of wonder and fun that buoys Nova #1, an uncomplicated but altogether joyous new debut from Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez that heralds the return of a classic superhero while giving some much-needed love to his contemporary counterpart.

In an era of civil wars and clone conspiracies, it’d be easy to believe that superpowers equates to angst, but Loveness and Perez take a refreshing turn with their opening issue, introducing Richard Ryder and Sam Alexander with a sureness of tone that makes this #1 an accessible and welcoming read. Perhaps it’s because of the lightness they bring to their lead characters - even Richard, who has returned to Earth to find his father dead (as well as struggling with flashbacks from his own brush with oblivion), still has a smile on his face when he picks up his Nova helmet and takes off into New York City skies.

Credit: Ramon Perez/Ian Herring (Marvel Comics)

And this character drama doesn’t end there - since his first issues back in 2012, Sam Alexander’s been a tough nut to crack, but I think Loveness and Perez have finally done it here. While Sam’s character had previously been defined by his search for his missing father, Loveness and Perez take a new tack here, instead focusing on the sheer fun a kid would have as he fights evil space monsters and teams up with insane aliens like Ego the Living Planet. (“Screw this! I’m not dying on a planet with a goatee!” Sam quips.) It’s that sense of humor - Sam’s ever-present smile as he literally flies home to have a drive-by breakfast with his mom and sister - that makes Loveness and Perez’s take on the character more engaging than we’ve ever seen it before.

Credit: Ramon Perez/Ian Herring (Marvel Comics)

While the story is front-loaded with characterization designed to engage the reader, Perez and colorist Ian Herring also do great work with the art. Nova’s uniform allows Perez to strike just the right balance between expressiveness and sheer superhero action, while Herring’s colors gives the book an otherworldly energy. Perez also deserves a lot of credit for being a real actor’s artist - his characters have so much life to them thanks to their body language, from big moments like Sam flying away from Ego after a job well done, or Richard sitting forlornly on a backyard swing. Even some of the storytelling choices that don’t work, like Perez drawing a cartoony fantasy of Sam fighting the biggest bad guys of the Marvel Universe, still feels like an ambitious swing and a miss.

For longtime readers of our reviews, you’ll know I wasn’t typically a big fan of the previous run on Nova, but I have to say that this first issue has already earned the property another look. Loveless and Perez do a great job at setting up this soon-to-be odd couple by first establishing them as relatable and endearing individuals. There’s a certain sense of joy that comes from the idea of flight, and perhaps Nova’s greatest success as that we clearly see this in both Richard Ryder and Sam Alexander’s faces. When they’re having this much fun, it’s hard for it not to be contagious.

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