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Nova #2 – Review

NOVA #2

By: Jeph Loeb (Writer), Ed McGuiness (Penciler), Dexter Vines (Inker), Marte Gracia (Colorist), Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne (Letterer)

Review: Space: The Final Frontier. This is the origin of Nova Corps member Sam Alexander. His mission: to beat up a talking Raccoon, to act like a bit of a dunderhead, to boldly go where several hundred heroes have gone before…

Such is the plot of Nova #2, where one young lad plays with his helmet in order to experience pleasures hitherto unknown. We’ve all been there, but it’s not often that the results saw us flying through space headed to the moon (unless you’re some kind of medical anomaly). Yet this is the next stage of Sam’s journey: a seat-of-the-pants induction into the Nova Corps and a crash course in supersonic flight. There’s a surprising amount of charm in Loeb’s story, with Sam Alexander further settling into his role as a likeable, wide-eyed ingénue thrust into an intergalactic Soap Opera. It might not have achieved ‘spellbinding’ status just yet, but it’s definitely on the right path. Bewilderingly, as a self-proclaimed Loeb-denier, I find much about it highly enjoyable.

A lot of this, it has to be said, is down to McGuinness, Vines and Gracia. Your retinas are likely unprepared to handle this much awesome. It’s achingly pretty; bold and colourful and filled with splash-pages that drop more jaws than the latest Kate Upton gif. So vivid is it that it almost feels more at home on an iPad or LCD monitor than the pseudo-glossed drudgery of the printed page. That’s key to a certain feel the book has of if not an all-ages story, then certainly a ‘young adult’ one; it presents a warm, friendly welcome that’s perfect for a younger audience, one so sincere that even the most jaded of comic fans should find its boundless visual enthusiasm contagious. You may think this par for the course for a McGuinness joint, but think again – this is exceptionally strong work.

Does Loeb’s story keep pace? Just about. Following on from his hospitalisation for a bump-on the head at the end of Nova #1, Sam wakes up to find Rocket Racoon and Gamora (of the recently re-launched Guardians Of The Galaxy) at the end of his bed. This is understandably a bit of a surprise and Sam lashes out instinctively, a move which dramatically irks Rocket and proves the old adage that it’s never wise to bring a pillowcase to a Plasma-gun fight. Or to call Rocket a ‘Raccoon’, incidentally. In the ensuing confusion the two Guardians seemingly disappear, leaving only Sam’s Dad’s Nova helmet behind to verify it was anything more than a bad Morphine trip. That’s when the real fun starts.

But claiming his heritage is a bittersweet process too. There’s a strong element of guilt and loss that Sam shows towards his father. It’s unclear whether he’s dead or just in trouble, but either way… he’s gone. You can’t help but feel for the kid. This plays out in an emotional (and hologramatic) father-son moment and then –BOOM! In a triumphant splash page of Sam donning the Nova suit he’s off, flying/crashing around his hometown and then into the stratosphere and beyond.  There’s comedy mixed with thrills and they’re depicted brilliantly, carrying the reader along Nova’s careening flight-path with ease. It all ends with a trip to the moon and a cliffhanger meeting with a classic Marvel entity. It’ll be cool to see how that turns out next month.

I suppose there are some minor problems. For one the comic has a bit of a stop-start nature to it in the middle which seemed a little odd, and I was kinda screaming at Sam when he wondered how to make the Nova helmet ‘work’ – hint: it’s a hat kid, you put it ON YOUR HEAD – but I can’t begrudge how much fun Sam’s having and the joy of being along for the ride. It’s really good stuff, and damn the jaded haters who might say otherwise.

And again – not that I’m trying to surgically attach my nose to their bum-apertures or anything – but the art team is really blowing my mind on this one. To my eye McGuinness and Vine’s work has rarely looked better. Vibrant costume and character designs, a great dimensionality to the mise-en-scène (that’s ‘buildings and junk’ to all you non-pretentious cats out there) and splash pages that may have you mistaking the comic for a poster book. Really, really magnificent colours from Gracia too, especially during the nighttime/space scenes where things get deliciously inky and velvetine. If I can throw one gripe-wrench into the praise-machine it’s that the special guest star at the end of the issue looks way too alien, and, really, is messing with a Kirby classic more than I’m comfortable with. But whatever, this book’s taken my eyes for dinner and a movie and it’s definitely gettin’ some at the end of the night.

Conclusion: I may have had my fair share of problems the quality of Loeb/McGuinness collaborations in the past but I can’t deny the youthful, optimistic force of nature that is Nova. It’s a book where the hero, the audience and the creative team are all invited to share in the same levels of unbridled fun, and as such it inhabits its own particular niche on the stands. It may be too light and frothy for some, but anyone who’s still a kid at heart will find much to  like. Keep it comin’ Ed and Jeph…keep it comin’.

Grade: A

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