Essential Nova Volume 1 TPB Paperback – Mar 29 2006
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One: The costume. This is one of the most dynamic superhero costumes of all time. It screams spaceman, it screams power, it screams raw brash energy. I love the colours, I love the whole get-up. I would wear that. I would fly around in that.
Two: Nova discovering his powers. He gets these awesome powers without really even knowing how to use them. It's neat seeing him try and fly straight, discovering he's bullet-proof (in the grand tradition of Ralph Hinkley) and the instant adrenalin-rush from that, etc.--all those scenes from the early issues.
Three: The Sphinx...he being Nova's arch-foe. Nova doesn't have a fraction of the Sphinx's power; our poor hero is out of his league. But! The Sphinx is clearly caught in some kind of time-loop--living his life over endlessly or something? I mean that's what he's always hinting at, right?--and he needs to pluck something from Nova's brain, some extraterrestrial knowledge that was downloaded in to Nova's head when he got his powers from that weird alien. And well, Sphinx can't just kill Nova or the knowledge is lost, and Sphinx's horrible destiny will just keep repeating...and well, I mean, it's all a big mess.
Four: Nova #11 (included here). Nova's huge fight with the Sphinx, which caps off the first story-arc of the series. In order to pull the precious knowledge from Nova's head, Sphinx has to break Nova's mental defenses first, and that means he has to whale the tar out of our hero, until Nova is willing to submit his mind to the Sphinx. Folks--this is one of the most heroic one-sided battles ever, in a comic book! I've never seen someone look so brave as they get thoroughly clobbered ten times over. High point of the series.
Five: Villain named Powerhouse and his little secret. Powerhouse is muscle for a criminal mastermind named the Condor, but it slowly becomes clear that there's more to this energy-absorbing tough-guy than meets the eye. I mean, the guy clearly doesn't want to kill Nova, and he's got some kind of amnesia problem, and would you rely on info from a creep like the Condor, concerning your origins? Who on Earth IS Powerhouse, I ask you! (Hint: "Who on Earth?"?; a visitor, actually! AACK, I've said too much!)
Six: The middle-going (Nova #'s 13-18). Okay, so Nova gets recruited by Nick Fury as some kind of super-powered spy to prevent New York's destruction by--um--am I allowed to say?--okay, uh, an old Captain America villain. Prior to that, Nova has an amazing fight with an old Spidey foe--and I will say who that is, cause he's a movie star now--the Sandman. The fight with the Sandman is another great event in the series.
Seven: The Inner Circle. Okay, weird, Nova's father gets into financial trouble and practically sells his soul to a group called the Inner Circle who get him committing crimes for them. The head of this group turns out to be--well I probably shouldn't say--an old Nova foe, one I didn't mention yet. So that could be, like, Diamondhead, or Blackout, or Firefly, or Photon, or maybe even someone else who I could maybe not mention.
Eight: The final story-arc. Issues #21-25. See: Nova reveal his identity to his family, in a wonderfully done scene. And sure, Nova, take your mother flying, while out on a picnic to celebrate the big news. Then, See: Nova blast off into space, with some cool allies you've never heard of (Crimebuster, The Comet, The Sphinx, and Diamondhead...hey, waitaminute! The Sphinx and Diamondhead?!!?! They're evil!), on his way to the planet his powers originally come from. True, the Sphinx is in control at this point, and just wants to go to planet Xandar so he can suck knowledge from the Xandarian Worldmind computer there, and that's probably not good. But it's a free trip to outer space to a planet that was thought destroyed, and we could all use a vacation now and then, even if it puts the universe in jeopardy.
Nine: The cross-over that fell apart when Nova's comic got cancelled. Nova was supposed to meet up with the Fantastic Four and get his Sphinx problems resolved that way, while helping the Fantastic Four with their Skrull Empire and accelerated-ageing problems at the same time. But the series-crossover was scuttled with Nova's cancellation and all sorts of plotlines had to be jammed into Fantastic Four #s 204-214 (not part of Essential Nova, Volume 1). In fact...uh well, two things: (a) You'll also need to read Fantastic Four #217 if you wanna see what happened to Doctor Sun after he disappeared off Nova's ship, AND, I hate to say it, but (b), if you REALLY want to find out whatever happened to Nova--I mean the actual real truthful final destiny of Nova after he was hung out to dry in the Fantastic Four series, you have to read--wait for it--Rom #24. That's right. Rom #24. You heard me. That's right...Rom. It was comics. It was also a toy. Anyway, whatever, just--Rom #24. Nova's on the cover (thank goodness, or I would never have known...! Sometimes, when you're a kid, you just gotta keep you're eyes open...)
Ten: Okay, so Rom #24 lied. It wasn't all over. Nova came back! But Essential Nova, Volume 1 gives you the golden era. Where it all began and petered out. Temporarily. Just remember, Rom #24. I'm not kidding you. Dude, I'm telling you, Rom #24, final destiny of Nova, um, sort of--NOVA'S ON THE COVER, IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME! Geez Louise. Okay, this review is over. I mean it. I'm--
And that is the start of these fun adventures from 1976-1979 - covering Nova #1-25, Two-in-One Annual #3 and The Amazing Spider-Man #171 - as Rider/Nova tackles evil-doers who sometimes appear to have trudged in from a late-night TV gig on a Sci-Fi B-movie.
With the help of guests like Spider-Man and Thing, Rider/Nova life lessons while saving the world (what a concept for a senior project!). The 512 pages provide a solid look into the very unique angles used to find this cool teen a desk, chair and supplies in the Marvel Universe.
The first thing I must mention about Nova is that he is one unabashedly old-fashioned comic book star. Richard Rider is an average high school student with an alliterative name who is chosen at random to receive the incredible powers of a dying alien warrior (super strength, speed, and flight) and thus decides to kick criminals around in his spare time. His girlfriend, Ginger Jaye, is sweet, compassionate, and understanding although she's mostly just window dressing for the majority of her appearances. She also has an alliterative name. Richard's younger brother Robert is scrappy, curious, and enough of a scientific prodigy to be able to build an autonomous robotic Sherlock Holmes (complete with deerstalker cap, pipe, and a propensity for calling people "Watson") using household items and a fourteen-year-old's allowance. His first and last names start with the same consonant sound. If you think that you've read this before in other comic books, you're probably right. Still I have to give Nova points for having an Orthodox Jewish (in the Woody Allen vein) friend, a schoolyard tormentor who's surprisingly scholarly, and allowing Ginger to somehow in some way make it the entire book without being kidnapped once. I'm dead serious about that last part; you just have to see it to believe it!
A hero's only as good as his villains and Nova's foes are pretty much average as well. There are some promising new antagonists like the Corruptor, whose mere touch can warp the minds of humans and super-humans alike toward irredeemable evil, and Blackout, who can shape myriad constructs from black light (although he needs to lose that jagged triangular mask). There are also some baddies of the totally forgettable variety like Condor, the hot-tempered inventor with wings on his back, and Diamondhead, a lowly thug who was fried by a diamond-focused laser and therefore became a walking diamond (Ha ha, whatever you say, magic comic book). Nova hosts a fair number of guest foes as well; subterranean tyrant Tyrannus comes crashing to the surface during our hero's admittedly funny business trip to the Marvel Comics offices. Later, Nick Fury stops by (it's always good to see the colonel put in an Essential visit) to request Nova's help against Yellow Claw and Dr. Sun (What a shame the Mandarin wasn't in town that day or Rider could have went for the hat trick of Chinese megalomaniacs). Finally, the Sphinx, the entity who was clearly intended to be Nova's arch-nemesis, is an immortal ancient Egyptian wizard who is out to conquer the Earth through a Byzantine array of technological and mystical means. He's not exactly original or anything, but I did feel a fair amount of pathos when I realized that Apocalypse showed up ten years later and thoroughly stole this guy's thunder.
By the time I was halfway through this book, I came across two repeating elements that just started to bug me. First: how every cover declared that Nova was "the Ultimate Super-Hero". Since none of the material really broke any new ground for the genre and seemed perfectly satisfied with that, I felt that "the Middle-of-the-Road Super-Hero" would have been more appropriate. Oh, you could say that the Fantastic Four calling itself "the World's Greatest Comic Magazine" from the fourth issue on was an equally preening hyperbole, but I think you'll agree that, forty-five years later, hindsight is clearly 20/20 on this matter. Second: with a spacesuit and powers taken from a star-spanning peacemaker, why is Nova so often earthbound fighting street-level crime? There's even a mention that the suit can only maintain its own life support for a crummy fifteen minutes. How exactly is that plausible? I think the stories could have really benefited by leaving the bank robbers to someone else and sending the teenage star on more interstellar adventures, presaging a faster-than-light speed return from the far end of the Milky Way just in time to take his algebra final. I would have rather seen that then yet another drawn-out slugfest with the Sandman.
The final disappointment came from the ending which, frankly, was no ending at all. The last story arc gave me something to hope for; Nova was heading back to his progenitor's devastated homeworld along with a motley collection of allies and enemies, all captives of the Sphinx. The enigmatic arch-fiend is out to seize a treasure trove of alien knowledge and his unwilling crew is along for the ride, they survive a sudden skirmish from the scurrilous Skrulls, and then the book ends, because that's where the series was cancelled. A caption says that the story concludes in the FF's magazine, and it sure would have been peachy if some of those mags were in this book (like how Omega the Unknown's wrap-up in the Defenders was in that collection), but they're not. It does have Nova's OHOTMU entry so you can read about what happened, but why couldn't we see it? The book only has 512 pages, so there's room for about five more issues! Sigh.
This collection gets three stars from me simply by being the most completely average Essential that I have yet read. I liked the team-up with the Thing against an alien invasion, I liked the decent murder mystery that guest-starred Spider-Man, I liked the introduction of the Comet (a `50's era hero and potential mentor to Nova), but I still didn't find any story or idea that was particularly memorable or that hadn't been tried a dozen times already. It was nice to see the character before he "came out to play-ayed" with the New Warriors (Yikes, that pun is kind of a stretch. If you don't get it, that's fine), but it still proved that he just doesn't have the chutzpah to carry a series by himself. My final verdict is that the most diehard comic collectors might enjoy it, but otherwise the Man called Nova is as bland and unexciting as the Chevy called Nova.
Nova is an interesting look at one of those random series from the 70's, the stories are engaging enough but not the height of comic storytelling. The abrupt ending (when the series ended) is annoying, I believe that the Fantatic four essential where it's continued is out but haven't picked it up yet.
Not the more essential Essential out there, but a good read for one of the surviving New Warriors.
Nova also suffers from a very dull rogue's gallery. I wasn't expecting the next Doctor Doom or Magneto to come from this book but the effort in villains like Condor and Powerhouse make Rhino seem complex in comparison. Diamondhead has a laughably bad origin even for a comic book character. When I read his story I wondered if it was as corny as it was when it first printed. I suppose it was because Nova only had this twenty five issued series for decades. The guest stars from Thor to Spider-Man were far more interesting than the title character himself. The one exception to this is Sphinx grew to fight The Fantastic Four. I can't say much for Nova's new series (the one done by Jeph Loeb or during Annihilation) but not much effort would needed to put in to have it surpass this attempt to make a quick buck by Marvel.