One of the great things about comics is how they telegraph everything they’re about to do so as no one is surprised. Did I say great? Because I meant vomit gargling. Not only has Marvel been judiciously ruining any surprise about Nova and the homecoming with his father with adverts and promotional blurbs, but the book has been talking about Sam Alexander’s father so frequently that cello players were coming around to play with every issue I read. I suppose it’s not a new thing, comic book companies have been spoiling their own content so much you’d think they were a fridge somebody forgot to plug in. But enough lamenting the companies, onto the actual book.
BU-DUT-DUH-DA! It’s mediocre. Yeah, I know, shocker. Not only have I been banging on about this book since Jeph Loeb left, but I’ve heaped so much praise you’d think the book was responsible for bringing Jack Kirby back from the dead. And now that it officially branches into a company cross over I start to smell a stink. I know one of my key characteristics is my uncompromising disgust with crossovers, so perhaps I have a bias. But one of the things I like to highlight is that one thing crossovers are really good at is making everything else more bland. It’s not the writer of the book’s fault—well, mostly not their fault. The problem is that crossovers demand a certain set of stringent parameters for every story and in order to follow these parameters writers often have to neutralize their current story arcs.
I know that there can be successful company-wide crossovers, but comics that are forced to integrate usually suffer. Nova has this problem because for two thirds of the issue nothing relevant happens. Most of the issue consists of Sam flying around the world not knowing what to do. It stands in quite a contrast to his development as a character throughout the series. Just because he is young doesn’t mean he has to act like a child. For the sake of character development it would make sense if he did go running to the Avengers because this entire time he’s seen himself as the big bad new hero, the guy who can blast in and save the day. How is he going to feel when he has to finally admit to himself that he still needs the grown-ups? Instead, he’s portrayed as an emotionally stunted infant that has absolutely no control over his reactions. It doesn’t help the one secret that is revealed to Sam is that his father may have been kind of a bastard. And if you thought he handled murder poorly, wait until he throws a fit about his absentee dad.
Not everything about Nova #18 disappointed me. First, it’s a fight heavy book—not Sam though! He has all of one and a half fights. But he is in the background of quite a few incredible fights, all the fantastic set pieces of “Original Sin” are par for the course. We get to be the spectator to Thor, The Thing, Captain America, and Daredevil. All of these guys have some truly epic throw downs in the middle of New York. Which brings me to my second point, the back and forth between these guys is truly the highlight. Gerry Duggan, if he did one thing perfectly, it was the dialogue. Because I couldn’t help but want to hang out with these guys as they joked and punched across the Burroughs of New York. Which is great for Duggan’s future with other Marvel books but I’m not very enthusiastic about reading a book that serves as Duggan’s application for another book.
It’s very easy to compare Nova to Invincible. For starters, both found out that their father’s aren’t the noble figures they envisioned them to be. Also? Both fathers scarpered and left the family to fend for itself. Where I think Invincible pulls ahead is it didn’t use the father as sensationalism, it was a tragic and life shattering event for Mark Grayson. What could have been something to dismantle Mark’s idea of super heroes further cemented his faith in the long tradition. Sam meanwhile has continuously been talking about his father, the legacy and mantle he was picking up. And now, a magic ball just gave him a flashback of his father murdering someone—I say murdering but the flashback is purposefully ambiguous. The sad part is that this in no way made Sam question where his life has taken him. Oh sure his father is in question but it in no way reflects character development.