Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

16 July 2006

Essential Nova, v. 1

Collects: Nova #1-25, Amazing Spider-Man #171, and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #3 (1976-9)

Released: March 2006 (Marvel)

The character of Nova has been described — or derided — as “Peter Parker as Green Lantern.” That’s not exactly fair: Nova actually does very little in outer space, as Green Lantern does, and he’s not as likeable as Peter Parker.

That being said, his origin is the Green Lantern’s, with an alien policeman giving high-school student Richard Rider his powers as he dies. And just like Peter Parker, Richard has to balance school, family, a social life, and his new heroic life as Nova. Unfortunately for Richard, he’s a dud at school, his family is mostly uninteresting (although nowhere near as annoying as Aunt May in early Spider-Man), his friends are weird, and his girlfriend is no Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane. (Or even Betty Brant, as far as that goes.)

Nova is typical Marvel ‘70s output — solid superhero stories. Although these feel right to me, many readers who do not get the warm fuzzies while contemplating post-Stan Lee and pre-Jim Shooter Marvel may find this book dull. Writer Marv Wolfman does all he can, twisting and turning the plot with as many behind-the-scenes masterminds as he thinks he can get away with: the Sphinx, the Corruptor and the Inner Circle, the Yellow Claw, Dr. Sun. The Sphinx is the only one that can be used without laughter or disgust today (although I like Dr. Sun, a villain of the brain-in-a-jar variety).

But it’s the other villains and heroes that Nova runs into that make this book for me. I have no idea why, but villains like Diamondhead and heroes like the Crimebuster, the Comet, and Powerhouse just seem right. They’re lightweights, sure, but they seem of the Marvel Universe without needing to intrude into other titles. You can well imagine a Crimebuster in Marvel New York without Spider-Man ever having run into him. I suppose what I’m saying is that Wolfman and his artists invented the perfect superpowered second stringers for what ended up as a dead-end book.

The switch from artist John Buscema to Carmen Infantino after #14 was disappointing. Buscema has a lighter pencil and a much cleaner line that works better than Infantino’s work in black and white. Also, the Buscema brothers’ work seems to exemplify ‘70s Marvel to me.

It’s also disappointing that Marvel couldn’t include Fantastic Four #206 and #208-9, an outer-space epic against the Skrulls that wrapped up the stories of Nova and the Sphinx. It’s understandable, given that there isn’t room for those stories; the book is already crammed full, with 26 regular-sized issues and an annual. However, given my druthers, I would rather have had a scaled-down Fantastic Four #206 that had the Nova-related story and #208-9. I’m not sure that would have fit, but it would have been a more satisfying inclusion than the Marvel Two-in-One Annual that featured Nova and the Thing fighting generic outer-space despots.

Overall, though, this was mostly fun, even if it is mediocre. Wolfman manages to wring a good deal of fun out of a character whose origins aren't the most creative.

Grade: C

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nova was fun, but not essential.

I only have the issues he crossed over with Spider-Man.

2:05 AM  

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