Posted by:
Matt McGloin

The Cosmic Triune: Nova



It’s hard thinking about your favorite hero, who might be on a path leading upwards, when his title explodes into oblivion – even for one ironically named Nova.

After taking the lead position in Annihilation and becoming the flagship title for the cosmic line afterwards, Nova is in a precarious spot right now. With his book “on hiatus” and The Thanos Imperative quickly coming to its conclusion, what does the future of Nova hold?

Based on comments from Marvel, Nova won’t be back right away after The Thanos Imperative is over. Of course, with the sell-out success of Thanos, it’s possible that Marvel will green-light his book’s return. I certainly hope so, but I’m only cautiously optimistic right now.

Matt McGloin, Editor of Cosmic Book News, and I talked on Skype for over three hours a couple of weeks ago. We both agree that the decision makers at Marvel don’t seem to have a good grasp on what cosmic is to those of us who read it. To emphasize the point, I look to this quote from Marvel VP Executive Editor Tom Brevoort in response to questions from Matt:

“I think one of the reasons that we don’t do more to connect our Cosmic storylines to Earth is that it’s often difficult to make those kinds of storylines relevant to a wider mainstream audience without losing the appeal that they hold for the dedicated Cosmic fans.

We love the fans of our Cosmic titles, don’t get us wrong—but once you’re operating on such a scale and at such a remove from the day-to-day concerns of humanity, it becomes difficult to find those touch-points of relevance that really distinguish a Marvel story from what everybody else does.”

Now, it’s completely possible that I’m misinterpreting Tom’s meaning, but it sounds as if Marvel believes that what brings cosmic readers to the books are only the settings and scale -- that “cosmic” means somewhere other than Earth and the threat has to be universal oblivion. At least to me personally, that’s only part of the attraction; however, just like the “Earth-based” series published by Marvel, what truly appeals to me are the characters and how they face the threat – big or small.

Annihilation succeeded for me because I was following a hero’s journey and evolution as a character. It’s Richard Rider’s very humanity that drew me in, not the fact that they were fighting Annihilus and a huge group of bugs (which was extremely cool – don’t get me wrong). Keith Giffen (along with DnA in Annihilation: Nova) made me care about the young man and how the United Front was going to turn back the threat. Isn’t basic survival the foundation of what Tom called “the day-to-day concerns of humanity?”

However, by thinking the setting is the key to cosmic, Marvel appears to be going down a bad highway. Instead of continuing what works with Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel is attempting to marry the “mainstream audience” with us cosmic readers by taking perhaps better known characters such as Thor and Hercules and throwing them into a “cosmic” setting via Chaos War -- and since it’s in a non-Earth setting and has Galactus, then all of us cosmic readers will automatically buy and love it, right?

Um…, no. Not for me, anyways. I have no interest in the characters in the series so I won’t be picking it up. To those who feel that we cosmic readers need to pick it up to show Marvel there’s interest in cosmic titles, and we’ll get Nova back as a result, I believe it actually sends the opposite message. If we buy it for just that reason, it says that we’ll drink whatever Kool-Aid Marvel gives us as long as it’s not on Earth and that they don’t need to bring Nova back because they can just plop Thor into a new book.

It has been shown that “cosmic” can do Earth bound stories very well. All of the issues of Nova where he came to Earth were excellent. The reason they were that good wasn’t so much where the stories took place, it was because of the character and how the stories were written. Abnett and Lanning are in the top-tier of writers around and they understand the importance of character.

Nova was able to maintain respectable and steady sales numbers because of the quality of the work and the attention to the characters in the book. The setting and threat were important, of course, but only because we cared about the people that threat was aimed at.

Just so it doesn’t seem like I’m Marvel-bashing, and to those who spew stuff about how Marvel hates cosmic and wants it to fail (although why anyone would think a business would want a property - something it has invested a lot into - to fail is beyond me), I do want to give Marvel credit along with a big thank you for what we have been given over the last four years.

It’s public knowledge that Joe Quesada isn’t necessarily the biggest fan of cosmic stories. However, he recognized that there is a market for it and saw an opportunity in what Andy Schmidt presented in Annihilation. When that series succeeded, instead of saying “that was great, thanks for the ride and good night,” he gave the green light for Nova’s title under Marvel Editor Bill Rosemann’s solid leadership.

With Nova leading the charge, Marvel allowed Bill and DnA to expand the cosmic line and grow it to a point we haven’t seen since the Infinity books of the 1990s. The quality of the work was so high that other writers now want to use Nova (Marvel Adventures Super Heroes and Secret Avengers to name two).

In Secret Avengers, Ed Brubaker has shown that you can be in a space/cosmic setting and sell a ton of issues if you make the story about the characters. Personally, I don’t think Nova was handled the best in #4. I believe Brubaker used the ‘Saving Private Rider’ arc of Secret Avengers to show the power of the Nova Force. While that was great and truly appreciated, it was also used as a tool to boost the greatness of his favorite character Steve Rogers and in return made Rich himself look like a tool at the end of the issue. I’m hopeful we will see Bru revisit the storyline in a later arc and show that he is truly a fan of Nova as he has stated. A solid showing of Nova as a character in a hugely popular series like Secret Avengers would go a long way to ensuring that he will be around for the long-term future. Plus, Nova is to be featured in the second season of Super Hero Squad this fall and will appear in next year’s Spider-Man animated series. Along with his role in Marvel Adventures Super Heroes and Secret Avengers, Nova’s future appears to be really bright.

However, my worry is the lack of any sort of news or teases of Nova’s title in the future. The convention season was extremely light on cosmic news outside of Chaos War -- and absolutely nothing in regards to the fate of Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy as a whole. I’m hoping we will finally hear more at the New York Comic Con next month. On the one hand, I understand the need to generate drama and interest in the finale of The Thanos Imperative. It has been frustrating not to know if your favorite character is coming back either in a continuation of his series or in a relaunch. Some will say that happens all the time with the big name Marvel characters in an event. The big difference is: Nova is not considered by Marvel to be one of their big guns. Despite having everything that a publisher wants in a licensable character (power, personality, great costume, etc.), Nova has a history of being shelved after spiking in popularity. That difference is what worries me.

I easily can see Marvel deciding that the cosmic titles “need a break” and put them away for some years until a great pitch comes along or a new regime that is a big supporter of cosmic characters. On the flip side of that, I can see a genuine desire to wait until Thanos is closer to completion to make a decision and announcement based on sales of the series. It’s the internal conflict of it all that causes me consternation (I know that’s a big word for me [laughs]).

Bottom line is: I can’t imagine Marvel will blow up Nova while the character is burning so brightly.