By Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), Sean Chen, Scott Hanna & Brian Denham (artists)

The Marvel universe (by which I mean that vast expanse of space in which Silver Surfer, Galactus, and Ego run around in as opposed to the Marvel Universe, the corporate umbrella that we gather all of the company’s intellectual properties under when we talk about them) has never been an especially interesting setting to tell stories in.  Weird, right?  I mean, this is space we’re talking about, the final frontier.  An endless, ethereal, expanse of limitless potential and imagination where anything can happen.  And yet, despite the wealth of stories that can be told here, Marvel writers have seemed reluctant to do anything with it.  The last time I ever got excited about a Marvel space story was when “The Infinity Gauntlet” came out, and that was eighteen years ago.

Fast forward to 2006 when I began reading  positive fan feedback and critical praise for “Annihilation” a storyline designed to revitalize Marvel’s cosmic franchise.  The story certainly sounded worthwhile, but I wasn’t quite convinced to invest the time and money to collect it.

And then I found out Dan Abnett was involved with the story.

I’d known and been a huge fan of Abnett’s work through his involvement with Black Library’s series of Warhammer 40,000 books (any Gaunt’s Ghosts fans out there?) and it was on the strength of his writing there that I was willing to take another chance on Marvel’s final frontier.  I’m glad I did, because there is new life and abundant imagination to be found here, and nowhere is that more apparent than on Marvel’s flagship space title, Nova.

This inaugral volume collects the first seven issues of the title and spins directly out of the events of Annihilation: Conquest, the sequel to the 2006 crossover.  Following the devastation of the Annihilation Wave, the galaxy has been torn asunder and left in a broken, fragile, and highly volatile state.  There was a time when the Nova Corps was around to maintain law and order, but that time has come and gone and the Nova Corps is all but dead, with only Richard Rider left standing as their sole representative, one man to protect an entire galaxy.  It’s a burden no one person should have to carry, and yet Rider does because he knows it’s the right thing to do and that he’s the only one capable of doing it.

Against this backdrop of one man pushing himself to the limit in order to do the right thing, Abnett and Lanning craft a series of explosive, entertaining stories that are deeply rooted in the continuity established by the Annihilation crossovers, and yet immediately accessible to new readers.  What I most like about this volume, and about the new landscape of Marvel’s universe, is that it is such a fully-realized continuity and fully divorced from mainstream Marvel.

For those of you who, like me, have had enough of mediocre crossovers like ‘Dark Reign’, you have here the opportunity to get your Marvel fix with an excellent comic that has absolutely nothing to do with Norman Osborn for a change.  Abnett imbues this graphic novel with a skilled blend of action, imagination, and pathos that frankly shames anything being turned in by Marvel’s ‘terrestrial’ writers, and if you’re looking for a change of pace in your comics then I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you.  This is damn good stuff to read, and I have a feeling it’ll just keep getting better.

Grade:  A

-Tony Rakittke