Thursday, 21 November 2013

Nova, Volume 1: Origin Review (Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness)

I never thought I’d say this, but:
I really enjoyed this comic written by Jeph Loeb.
Sam Alexander is a high school kid in a dead-end American Mid-West town called Carefree. His drunk dad is the janitor of his school and is often so wasted Sam has to stay behind after the school day is done and do his dad’s job for him before helping to walk him home to pass out in his shed.  But in his more conscious moments, Sam’s father tells him and his little sister fantastic cosmic stories of a time when he was part of an intergalactic superhero group called the Nova Corps, stories Sam believes are just drunken delusions or stories for little kids. Then one day his dad disappears and a talking raccoon with a gun and a green lady with a sword show up. Sam’s about to realise his dad wasn’t telling stories, the Nova Corps are real, and he’s about to become the latest – and greatest – of all the Novas! The fight for the universe and the search for his dad begins!

There isn’t much to say about Nova because it’s not a layered story, it’s not overly complex, it’s straightforward and simply a cool story. That said, stories that are just cool aren’t necessarily bad and Nova works just fine for what it is, which is a pretty straightforward superhero origin story.
It’s the setup though that really gets me – the dad telling stories of his past life as an intergalactic superhero, a time now long past leaving him with all the memories of the wider world out there and the disappointment that he’d never see it again. That’s a great angle, then factor in his son, the protagonist, and his journey of discovery, and it’s a really sweet, surprisingly really well put-together story.
I should say that I’ve never read a Nova book before – I have no idea who Nova is, who the Nova Corps are, so my reaction to this book is purely visceral, it’s not at all based on comparisons to what’s gone before, though I understand some long-time readers of the series dislike the direction Loeb’s taken it. From my standpoint as a reader completely new to the character, I found it fresh and enjoyable with Sam reacting like a teenager would to the crazy new things happening in comparison to his previously dull, go-nowhere life.
Which isn’t to say it’s not without its flaws – I’m still not entirely sure why Sam’s dad gave up being a Nova, especially as it was killing him not to be one. Was his wife that much of a bitch that she’d rather see her husband destroy himself than be a hero? Or maybe it was because he wanted to be with his kids or something, right? Or the Nova Corps went bad…? I never quite got this point in the story. And I’m not really sure what Nova’s powers are. At first he’s like a cosmic Rocketeer and then he can shoot beams from his hands like Iron Man’s repulsor blasts? And it’s all the helmet, right? Uh…ok.
I really liked the cameos from Rocket Raccoon and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy, and Uatu the Watcher too (though Ed McGuinness makes him look a bit too Grey Alien-y around the eyes), as they introduce Sam to this strange new world he finds himself in. They’re fun, familiar characters and the trigger-happy, salty Rocket has some great moments with Sam as his new instructor.
The book’s appearance looks very cinematic, not least because it features the Chitauri and their giant whale ships from The Avengers movie . Ed McGuinness’s art is as polished and sleek as you’d expect and is wonderfully suited to the sparkling beauty of the cosmos where most of the book is set. McGuinness’ art on Earth isn’t bad but where he really shines is when the action takes off into outer space as Nova battles his dad’s old “buddies” and strafes enemy ships.

Nova is a really solid book, with some fun storytelling, wonderful art, and a likeable protagonist. I honestly picked this up thinking I’d be putting it back down after the first issue or two but read it straight through and kept turning back to the cover to see the writer’s credit: Jeph Loeb. Well, I’ll be! This is gonna sound weird but… good job, Mr Loeb? (goes out to see if the world has ended)

Nova - Volume 1: Origin

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