20 Feb 2013

Cover To Cover: NOVA #1

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Art: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines & Marte Gracia
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Marvel have put their cosmic characters on the back burner of late due to flagging sales and diminishing interest following a relatively successful reinvigoration of the galactic corner (corners?) of the 616 Universe by the likes of Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (particularly the latter two) in the late Noughties. Various space-based minis, a Nova series and a rejigged Guardians Of The Galaxy title helped make the cosmos one of the most exciting places to be in superhero comics for a time, until a vast selection of characters were essentially benched to appear in cameo roles only for the last couple of years.

That's all changed now that Marvel Studios have announced their next franchise is Guardians Of The Galaxy (the first movie due in 2014). Marvel Comics have never been known to miss an opportunity to capitalise on film adaptations of their characters, and we're seeing a new Guardians series (launching with far more fanfare than the previous volume) released shortly. First though, it's a new Nova comic, although this time around it may not be the Nova you're familiar with (unless you're a fan of the Ultimate Spider-Man TV show).

If you're expecting to see Richard Rider, he's nowhere to be found (apparently hes currently missing, presumed dead) and instead we have 15 year-old Sam Alexander preparing to don the helmet. If you're like me you may we'll find that slightly off-putting, especially if you've enjoyed Rider's adventures in the past. Do we really want to see some kid zooming around the galaxy instead of the Nova we know and love? Well, after initially being wary of how the story would shape up I have to say that yeah, maybe we do.

It follows the rather hackneyed plotline of a youngster not buying into his washed-out father's outlandish tales of adventure and heroism (with a sprinkling of Peter Parkeresque high school escapades) but it rises above cliché thanks to some deft character work on the part of Loeb. And that's refreshing in itself as it's been an awfully long time since I've read something from the writer I really engaged with (just don't remind me of Ultimates 3, please!). Loeb is more concerned with relationships at this point, particularly the father/son dynamic, and that resonates really well. It doesn't hurt that there's some thrilling space action or that the likes of Rocket Raccoon and Gamora turn for a brief appearance.

Talking of action, it's exceedingly well rendered by Ed McGuinness, and if you think of him as someone who only excels when drawing slightly cartoonish musclemen with exaggerated anatomy then his work here may prompt a rethink. There's a lot of definition to the art and some really effective facial expressions that get across the intended emotional content of the narrative. The dependable Dexter Vines no doubt needs to take a big chunk of credit for this, as does Marte Gracia, whose flashy colouring amplifies the intensity and excitement when required. Lets just say in summary that there's a lot of visual pizazz on display and it's a lovely book to look at.

I wasn't particularly enamoured by the prospect of this series (heck, I only really decided that I'd pick it up a couple of days ago), and there are issues I have with the chronology of the thing (the Guardians operating as a unit 17 years ago?!) but it's a surprisingly promising debut that suggests this may develop into an enormously fun comic book series. No guarantees at this stage of course, but I'll definitely be back for the next issue at the very least. 7/10

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