Review: Nova #29 (Marvel Comics)
Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Artist: Kevin Sharpe
Colorist: Bruno Hang
Cover Artist: Brandon Peterson
Warning: Contains Spoilers
I was thoroughly pleased with last month’s issue of Nova. This month’s issue is a mixed bag. Some things I liked quite a bit and some things I didn’t like at all. I’ll explain in some detail what I liked and didn’t like. So, this review is going to be longer than usual. As always, let’s begin with a recap of this month’s story.
At the end of last month’s issue, the reformed Corps was faced with their first major mystery: A ship looking remarkably like Rhomann Dey’s starship from The Man Called Nova #1 (1976) was found within The Fault. In Issue #29, we learn that the ship is actually an Upholder Class ship of the line, named the Resolute Duty, lost some 35 years ago. The Worldmind detects life signs aboard the ship and Rich and a few of his crew of Corps recruits (now reduced to Denarian rank, issued red uniforms, and referred to as Probationers) rush over to board it and investigate. The team splits up and begins to investigate each section of the ship, finding it in disrepair and with no obvious inhabitants. Meanwhile, a mysterious cloaked figure seeks to stop The Worldmind’s scans of the ship by attacking The Worldmind with nanotechnology. The nanotechnology attack takes The Worldmind offline, causing the Probationers left on Nu-Xandar to briefly consider disobeying orders and rushing out to help Rich. Rich is then attacked by the sole surviving member of the Resolute Duty crew, Centurion Zan Philo, who has reportedly been carrying out his duty as a Corpsman for the past 35 years even though he was way outside of his jurisdiction in an alternate universe. Philo quickly realizes that Rich is the Nova Prime and joins forces with the Corps against The Worldmind’s attacker, revealed as the bounty hunter Monark Starstalker (from Marvel Premiere #32, published in 1976). Starstalker fights the Corps to a standstill and then demands that Philo release one the prisoners held in the Resolute Duty’s brig so Starstalker can collect the prisoner’s bounty. The Worldmind comes back online, but in The Worldmind’s absence, Ego has come back to life and is in the process of evicting the Corps from its surface. The issue ends on a cliffhanger with “Mindless Ones” (yeah – just like the ones from Dr. Strange) attacking the Resolute Duty to free the mysterious prisoner that is Starstalker’s quarry.
I think Issue #29 is best understood as a transitional issue, marking a turning point in the series from a single-character-focused book to an ensemble-focused book. As such, many old plot points/devices had to be efficiently wrapped, new plot points/devices had to be introduced, and new character development had to be undertaken. That’s a full plate for any one issue of any comic; and few writers would be able to succeed in pulling off such a feat with any measure of coherency. I am happy to say that the immensely skilled DnA did succeed in accomplishing this Herculean task; but purely as a result of being transitional, #29 ended up being one of the more mediocre issues of the series thus far.
That being said, there were many things I liked about #29. I especially liked the (apparent) addition of the Resolute Duty starship to the cast. I refer to it as an addition to the “cast” both because it’s onboard sentient PRIME quantum computer, if still active or repairable, would qualify it as having a personality; and because there is a long tradition in popular SF series (e.g., Battlestar Galactica; all the Star Trek franchises) of treating starships (even non-sentient ones) as “cast” members. As a 33 year Nova fan, I really appreciate DnA’s obvious respect and affection for the Nova mythos in resurrecting a version of the iconic starship that helped capture the imagination of so many of us long term fans when it was originally depicted on the cover and first pages of The Man Called Nova #1 (1976). I’ve always maintained that one of the many lost opportunities of the first Nova series and every subsequent series featuring Nova was the under-utilization of the starship (whose name is unknown; though most fans simply refer to it as “The Nova Prime Starship” or “Rhomann Dey’s Starship”) that brought Rhomann Dey to Earth. DeFalco seemed to grasp the iconic stature of the ship; making it MC2 Nova’s base of operations in Spider-Girl and various other MC2 titles where MC2 Nova appeared; but otherwise, after the events of Rom #24, the 616 Marvel Universe was not (until recently) again graced with an appearance of this lovely ship which so elegantly balances the retro stylization of times gone by with the typical technical functionality we’ve come to expect from SF portrayals of military starships of the future. The original “Rhomann Dey Starship” was at first described as a unique experimental craft that was larger than several of the gas giant planets in our solar system combined; then immediately ret-conned by Marv Wolfman himself in the letters pages of The Man Called Nova as being vastly smaller (later referred to as more than a mile long). It has always been assumed by fans that the “Rhomann Dey” starship perished with the Champions of Xandar during Nebula’s attack on Xandar which precipitated both the Second Fall of Xandar (Avengers #260; 1985) and the re-activation of Rich Rider’s dormant Nova powers (New Warriors #1; 1990). I really liked it that DnA made the effort to establish some specific parameters for the Resolute Duty (e.g., 3 miles long; designated by a keel number; identified as an “Upholder Class Nova Corps Patrol Cruiser”). To me, the class and cruiser designations imply that the Upholder Class Patrol Cruisers were fairly commonplace ships of the line which saw action near the time of the First Fall of Xandar (as described in The Man Called Nova #1; 1976 and Fantastic Four #’s 204-214); but not during Xandar’s earlier Imperial Era (as seen in Uncanny Origins #4; 1996), as Xandar’s ships of the line during the Imperial Era bore no resemblance to Upholder Class Starships. Likewise, after the Second Fall of Xandar (Avengers #260) and up to the near present (Annihilation Prologue); Xandar’s ships of the line bore no resemblance to Upholder Class Starships. How are we continuity slaves to reconcile the apparent commonplace status of Upholder Class Starships with the original portrayal of Dey’s ship as unique? Was Dey’s ship perhaps an experimental refit of an older starship (shades of Star Trek’s Enterprise NCC-1701 being refitted and re-designated NCC-1701-A)? Was Dey’s ship perhaps merely a smaller, newer, unique version of a tried and true design? The answer remains to be seen; but – enough of my geek fest surrounding the starship.
Moving on, I also liked it that the Corps will (apparently) soon be abandoning Ego. I just never liked the Corps being headquartered on The Living Planet; so Ego evicting them is fine by me. Hopefully, they’ll move into The Resolute Duty and make it their new HQ for awhile.
I really like the new ensemble cast of characters. A recurring cast is exactly what this series needed. For the Lone Ranger adherents; don’t fret – there’s still room for reasons to be contrived to send Rich Rider off for solo adventures.
I was happy to see the return of Monark Starstalker. DnA are to be commended for resurrecting Marvel cosmic characters from times past who have lain dormant for far too long.
The Philo character was intriguing; but some questions are nagging at me. Why didn’t The Worldmind recognize him? Is he who he says he is? What happened to his crewmates? Finally, does he really have to over-use the “ultra” qualifier? I realize a catch-phrase is being established; but come on – it doesn’t have near the charm and potential of say – “I am Groot” – and it actually could become ultra-annoying after awhile (see – now he’s got me doing it).
Now for some things I didn’t like. First up – art nit-picks. As to the red uniforms and glowing chest stars for the probationers, I have only two words: design flaw. Bright red things (e.g., Stop signs, fire trucks, fire alarm switches, etc.) and glowing things are designed to grab attention by standing out from the background. What military issues red uniforms to their troops these days? I think the British dropped the red coats a loooong time ago for good reason. Also, why are standard uniforms’ chests stars suddenly starting to glow? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Irani’s glowing boobs as much as the next man; but the chest stars on a standard uniform have never glowed before – and it’s another bad idea in that it’s akin to painting a target on one’s chest before entering battle. No military is going to design uniforms to make troops easier visual targets. Speaking of easier visual targets, what’s with all the billowy clouds and contrails surrounding the lower torso’s of every Corpsman in flight? What could possibly be forming clouds and contrails in the vacuum of space? All these things are annoying artistic flourishes that really need to go. What should replace them you say? Well, for a start, what’s wrong with merely making the probationers lower ranking Corpsmen (e.g., Denarians or Millennians) in the appropriately rank designated standard Navy-Gold uniform? These red-shirted (and don’t think for even a moment that the SF symbolism of red-shirtedness was lost on me) probationers have Denarian chest stars and Centurion helmet stars. Is that intentional or an artistic mistake? I really wish Marvel would print a copy of the rank designations for the uniforms from the Novaprimepage database and issue it to all the artists for the book so these distracting ranking mistakes on the uniforms will cease. Also, these are flying soldiers – essentially living weapons designed by an advanced civilization. They are not 21st Century jet planes. I would think an advanced science would work to eliminate clouds and contrails while their living weapons are in flight in atmosphere (and there should be no clouds/contrails in the vacuum of space anyway).
Other than those nit-picks about the art described above, I was fairly satisfied with Sharpe’s work on this issue. Of course, Hang continues to do an outstanding job as colorist.
The loss of quantum radio contact with The Worldmind is starting to be an overused plot device. I use the term “quantum radio” because I know of no other method than quantum entanglement to allow instantaneous communication between The Worldmind and Corpsmen separated by many light years. Disrupting a quantum radio communication would not be impossible; but it wouldn’t be easy. This is a plot device that needs re-thinking.
The most annoying thing about this issue was once again having the Corps reduced to being a bunch of push-overs in a fight. I know that the point was to establish Starstalker as a bad-ass; but let’s not forget the Corps went toe-to-toe with The Imperial Guard last issue and gave an admirable accounting of themselves. I’m just having a hard time believing that a blind guy with a Seeing Eye robot bird could best Rich and four other Corpsmen at the same time.
Likewise, I was disappointed that The Worldmind went down so easily. No or inadequate defense against nano-tech? What!? I would surmise that the Nova Corps uniforms are nano-tech based given their morphing and self-repair functions. Besides, what advanced civilization would be totally buffaloed by nano-tech? I mean, our own civilization is beginning rudimentary use of nano-tech; so I would expect that a civilization many thousands of years advanced from us would have mastered it by now.
Speaking of The Worldmind, I’m still on the fence about the Ko-Rel personality imprint. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Ko-Rel during the Conquest arc. She worked wonderfully as an actual Corpsman. As the embodiment of The Worldmind though – well, she’s just not working for me so far. I’m just not feelin’ her smart-assy, bitchy, informal Worldmind personality. I’ll give it a few more issues to make sure; but if she doesn’t start to warm up, I’m going to start hoping for a reboot. Hey Ko fans, she can always be resurrected in the flesh via cloning once Xandar is rebuilt. In the meantime, maybe the Resolute Duty has a back-up copy of the original Worldmind personality stored in its PRIME computer.
So, in summary, #29 is not the best issue of Nova to date; but it is far from the worst. I expect once #29 is read in the context of what I expect to happen in #30, it’s ranking on my Nova favorites scale will move up a few notches. In the meantime, this series is still very safe on my pull list. As far as I’m concerned, even a mediocre transitional issue of Nova beats everything the competition has to offer. Quite simply, Nova is comicdom’s undisputed King of military science-fiction epic adventure.
Article by: Bill Meneese