Written By: Dan Abnett
Artist: Andrea DiVito
Colorist: Bruno Hang
Cover Artist: Daniel Acuna
Warning: Contains Spoilers
A Nova landmark was reached today. With the publication of issue #26, the current ongoing Nova series holds the distinction of being the longest running Nova series in the character’s 33 year history. It is a proud day for all Nova fans; and one I daresay many of us probably thought we might never see given the publication history of the previous three ongoing series, the longest running of which was The Man Called Nova which ran for 25 issues. I am happy to report that #26 is a satisfying issue that does the Nova legend proud.
Issue #26 begins with a Corps cohort surrounded, under Shi’ar fire, and desperately requesting emergency extraction. To the Cohort’s surprise, Nova Prime Rider shows up and saves the day by killing the attacking Imperial Guardsmen and destroying the attacking Shi’ar battleship. The cohort returns to Nu-Xandar where Rich announces that they are to be debriefed, de-powered, and discharged home. Some protest and Rich allows them to remain in the Corps – at least temporarily. Rich’s brother, Robbie, is MIA and his locator system has been disabled. Rich, accompanied by Irani and Morrow, leaves Nu-Xandar for Nil-Rast as Nil-Rast was Robbie’s last known location. Worldmind Ko-Rel reminds Rich that Nil-Rast was where she was murdered. Upon landing, Rich and company are attacked by the Inhuman Elite led by Triton. Ra-Venn is fighting along side the Inhumans, and, recognizing Rich, orders the Inhumans to stand down. Rich is taken to a gravely injured Qubit who cannot tell him Robbie’s fate. Triton then shows Rich thousands of Nova Corpsmen helmets – the evidence of Strontian’s war crimes. The story then shifts to the throne room of the besieged planet, Kree-Lar, where Ravenous is conferring with his Chancellor as the Shi’ar attack. The Annihilation forces are holding their own against the Shi’ar and are confident of a victory. Without warning, Strontian appears on a mission to kill Ravenous. She nearly completes her mission before she is pinned to the ground by gravimetric force. Robbie Rider has arrived to arrest Strontian for committing war crimes.
There’s a lot to like about #26. The first sequence where Rich rescues the Corps is my favorite sequence from this issue. In a matter of seconds he kills the attacking Imperial Guard and, almost as an afterthought, destroys a Shi’ar battleship – dramatically re-establishing himself as The Nova Prime through physical action as he says, “Hello you Shi’ar sons of schlags. Do I have your attention? Good. I am Richard Rider, The Nova Prime, and you have killed far, far too many of my Centurions.” When I read that sequence, I was jubilant – thinking to myself: It’s about damn time. Finally, the Rich Rider from Annihilation is back! In this sequence we saw Rich Rider calm, confident, mature, effective – a clear-headed, battle-hardened battlefield leader and warrior. This is the Annihilation Nova characterization that gained a new generation of fans and re-inspired us old geezers who’ve been fans since the original series began 33 years ago. This style of characterization of Nova has been seen only intermittently since Annihilation; and I fervently hope that we continue to see more of it.
The Nu-Xandar sequences were entertaining; but I was left with lots of questions. Why is Rich so determined to dismantle the Corps? Soldiers do die on the battlefield – but that’s no reason not to have an army. I agree that everyone who was unwillingly conscripted should be allowed to return to their home if they so desire; but what about those who continue to want to serve? It seems to me that they could be of tremendous help to Rich in terms of re-establishing order in the local group – especially in the aftermath of War of Kings. I also found it difficult to believe that the Worldmind couldn’t track down Robbie Rider. Finally, there’s Ko-Rel’s attitude. I mentioned in the review of #25 that, while the addition of Ko-Rel’s personality template for the Worldmind was a brilliant dramatic idea, it was unrealistic and perhaps even a dangerous solution given her mixed loyalties. In this issue she came across as….well….uh….bitchy. I’ll reserve judgment for now, but I’m hoping this is a plot device lifted from any Hugh Grant romantic comedy you care to name where the girl doesn’t like the guy at first but eventually discovers he’s not so bad and becomes more cordially disposed toward him. I don’t want to pay to see Rich become involved in the equivalent of a bad marriage. That just wouldn’t be fun or entertaining – and it would ruin the “buddy” adventure relationship with the Worldmind that has worked so well up to this point. I do derive some small comfort knowing that at least if the series embarks on a bad marriage sub-plot; Rich has an advantage the rest of us don’t have. When he’s had enough, he can just hit the re-boot button and select a new Worldmind personality while staying in the “relationship!”
The Nil-Rast sequence was really well done – but it did seem to me that there were perhaps some possible inconsistencies that need resolving. For instance, how is it that Centurions’ shields can stand up to Echo Weapons but not to Shi’ar battleship weapons? I would think the Echo Weapons would be more powerful. Rich’s growing cosmic reputation really paid off for him in this sequence, causing the Inhumans to stand down once they realized with whom they were dealing. Seeing the inner workings of Qubit was a highlight of this sequence as was Rich’s reaction when he learned of the atrocity committed against his Centurions by Strontian.
The final sequence with Strontian and Ravenous was entertaining; but again I thought there were some possible inconsistencies. I thought Ravenous was supposed to be as powerful as a Herald. If so, it seems to me he would have been able to hold his own against Strontian. I also want to see the last scene better explained. Did Robbie pin or capture Strontian with some sort of gravity trap? Is it like I’ve always said – he who controls gravitons wins? Will Strontian merely stand up and hand Robbie his ass next issue? How did Robbie get to Kree-Lar in the first place given that the Centurions at the beginning of this sequence could not generate stargates by themselves? For that matter, if it was that easy to pin Strontian, why didn’t Tarcel use the same technique on Gladiator?
Turning to art, Acuna’s cover art was enjoyable in that it expressed the spirit of this issue though it did not reflect the content of this issue. That is, Rich didn’t get to punch out Gladiator. I enjoyed this cover more than most of Acuna’s recent efforts. The 80’s “Dirty Dancing” variant cover was more pleasing artistically; though it neither reflected the content or the spirit of issue #26. DeVito’s interior art is magnificent as usual. The helmet stars are still not consistent though – with the Worlmind being portrayed with a six-point star; and Morrow with an 8 point star in one panel. Hang’s colors are outstanding as usual.
In short, #26 is record setting in Nova history; and it begins a new arc with Rich Rider hopefully re-gaining some of his Annihilation characterization for good. It is a fun read that ties in to War of Kings. Next issue, #27, looks to be gearing up for show down between Rich and Strontian. Now that’s a fight I don’t want to miss! If you’ve not read #26 yet, rush out and buy it. You’ll be glad you did.