Monday, 12 May 2014

Nova, Volume 2: Rookie Season Review (Zeb Wells, Paco Medina)


Hmm… I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Jeph Loeb (nose starts bleeding).

Sam Alexander, a 14 year old high schooler, is the new Nova, having activated his drunken old dad’s Nova helmet when his pop went AWOL. In this volume, Sam’s figuring out how to be a superhero in the Marvel Universe, going to NYC and meeting the Superior Spider-Man, before getting drawn into the latest Marvel Event: Infinity. Think Nova’s got the goods to can carry his own title solo? Think again, as Sam’s joined by a pair of obscure characters who draw him into a cosmic teen superhero group, the New Warriors!

I’m not sure if its Zeb Wells’s writing or whether the story Loeb set up just didn’t have enough steam to go the distance, but this second Nova volume is flagging pretty bad. It’s just really, really boring! I kinda like the concept: that they’ve got a cosmic character and have completely grounded him, and Wells is putting in the effort to make sure Sam’s ascent as a hero isn’t too rapid and is semi-believable, so we see him make a lot of mistakes (hence the subtitle “Rookie Season”); it’s just reading it the way Wells has written it is so dull. I think grounding Nova was an interesting angle for the character – I just don’t think that it’s worked.

Part of that is that Sam’s not an interesting protagonist; he’s your average kid reacting to fantastical life changes as you’d expect, and his supporting cast of put-upon single mom, generic lil sis, the impossibly hot emo chick who fancies him because they’re both “outcasts”, and the goofy new buddies, never really light up the page. This is all stuff we’ve seen before, especially that scene where the school bully picks on Sam, a scene that apparently every superhero has to experience to understand why they have to protect the innocent and powerless.

The Infinity stuff was pointless and predictable. Thanos makes a brief appearance before despatching one of his crap death metal band members to send an even lowlier runt to fight Nova. The runt coincidentally also happens to be a teenager like Nova and their fight scenes mirror the earlier one where Sam got beat by the school bully so that Sam can show how he’s “grown” as a character since then.

No part of the book is offensively stupid so I can’t say I hated it, and I do appreciate that Wells is going for a real character arc with Sam, but I wasn’t remotely interested in what was happening any point in the book. I want to like Nova/Sam but I think he’s too constrained by his age and all that it represents. Nova needs to be out in space having intergalactic adventures, not worrying about making it back in time to go to school, do his homework and work his part-time after-school job.

Maybe younger readers will enjoy Nova more but Ms Marvel is another teen superhero and her series is really something, so I think it’s just Nova’s character, or Wells’ rendering of him, that’s lacking. In taking a more grounded approach to Nova, the second volume has failed to take off.

Nova Volume 2: Rookie Season

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