Nova (2016) #1 Review

Written by Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez
Art by Ramon Perez
Colours by Ian Herring

Nova has always been a minor league title in the grand scheme of things. Even putting Richard Rider at the centre of the Cosmic Marvel side of things and developing him into a more mature and gritty character didn’t make him a big mainstream hit. And using Sam Alexander to tell typical teen stories didn’t do that in a climate where Ms. Marvel has a more unique approach to teenage superheroes. Not only that, but the fanbase is decidedly split on Sam Alexander’s replacing of Richard Rider after his death, a death that didn’t seem like it was going to be undone any time soon. But since DC brought back a fan-favourite who was replaced in their Rebirth relaunch, I guess bringing Richard back is Marvel’s attempt to do something similar. And it works! Jeff Loveness (Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy, Groot) — a writer who really deserves more work — and Ramon Perez clearly understand both Novas and what makes them different from each other, and write both very well while setting up stories down the line.

Straight out the gate, we see what makes these Novas different. Richard Rider’s return from death has clearly shaken him, and, like after Annihilation, he’s come home to a planet that’s clearly changed without him. Not anything as drastic as Richard ranting against Civil War to Iron Man, but something quieter and more restrained, which is also how Richard’s scenes as a whole are written. The only other person in Richard’s scenes is his mother, and the dialogue is much more subdued. He clearly has other things on his mind, with a foreboding presence threatening to pull him away again. Whether this presence actually exists or is a form of PTSD I’m not sure (I haven’t finished Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s entire Cosmic Marvel run yet), but I hope it’s the latter, because with all Richard’s been through, it would make sense for his character and would be a more original idea.

A return too late, an opportunity missed…

Loveness and Perez contrast Richard’s scenes with the Sam Alexander’s. His scenes are filled with dialogue and jokes, as he continues to struggle with finding time for both superheroics and teenage life. While I’m a bit confused regarding his status quo (who knows his secret identity and why some others might not), it’s nothing major in the long run. Loveness also shows off his comedic side with Sam’s scenes, and all the jokes land, while at the same time touching on teenage awkwardness and hormones. It really works, showing not only Sam’s personality, but also while establishing his supporting cast to new readers. Everything Sam does is cartoony, loud and has the trappings of a typical teenage character, but the writers does a good job showing how Sam probably needs some guidance. Say, from a certain returned Nova? And maybe that Nova could use some normal human problems as a means to ground him? None of this is clearly shown, by the way, and Loveness and Perez show great restraint.

Now some goofy teen hijinks!

Ramon Perez’s pencils do a great job illustrating all of this. The Richard Rider scenes are more subdued, with more normal looking people, while Sam’s scenes are filled with exaggerated and cartoony facial expressions and body movements where appropriate. He also has some fun channelling Mike Allred and Skottie Young in imaginary stories, producing some great cartoony pages. Ian Herring’s colouring is the same degree of versatile, with a nice neon colouring to everything (think the current Doom Patrol run). But he clearly understands mood, with warmer colours for Richard’s scenes at home, and darker colours where required. While I have some problems with some characters looking older than they seem to be, it’s fairly minor, all things considered. Both artists are very versatile, from huge space battles to sombre contemplation and horror, from awkward teenagers to eldritch space monsters, Ramon and Herring can do it all in style.

I had high hopes for Nova #1. While I’ve never gotten into Sam Alexander, Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez clearly get his appeal and can recreate it, the same way they can with Richard Rider. They even one-up the duo’s previous writers in some regards, with restraint in their writing, while not afraid to just have fun. Regardless of your experience with the cult classic franchise, Nova #1 is a great comic starring two very different characters, and hopefully only the first of many amazing issues.

4.5/5 – Great!

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