Nova #1: Loeb Surprises In A Good Way
Outside of his work on Batman, I am not a Jeph Loeb fan. I despised his work so much on Wolverine that I dropped the title after nearly twenty years of consistently collecting it. Then we all had to sit through his Red Hulk story arc, which was almost as awful. When I see the name Jeph Loeb under the title of “Writer,” I instantly get wary. Nova #1 was no exception. I figured this reboot of the character, which has a lot to do with the upcoming Guardians Of The Galaxy movie I’m sure, would be another disappointing ride from Loeb.
Surprisingly, I found Nova to be an interesting and compelling new look at the hero. For those who read Avengers vs. X-Men, you’ll remember current Nova Sam Alexander as the space hero who went one on one with Phoenix possessed Cyclops and lost. In Nova #1, we step back and see how Sam Alexander became who he is. Sam’s father, Jesse Alexander, is an old school Nova whose return home has left him a shell of a man, an alcoholic who tries to relive his past glories by spinning adventure yarns to his two children. His young daughter believes every word, while his son is disgusted by his drunken, irresponsible father.
Two things work well here. First, Loeb keeps the story focused on the son. Instead of instantly trying to throw his whole story at us, Loeb lets the story breathe by using these early years. There’s a set up for the home life, plus a look back at the Nova adventures via Jesse’s stories. We feel bad for Sam, and even worse for Jesse because we know he’s telling the truth. Sam’s disdain for his father is impactful simply because we are outside the third wall and have seen it all unfold. The ending splash page brings that together and starts Sam on his journey towards becoming a Nova.
I also like that Loeb is writing a story anyone can get involved with. Nova is an old school character, one tied to a long and rich history. Instead of forcing new fans to dig through all the backstory, Loeb hands us a new Nova, one that is part of that history but you don’t need to be initiated into the series. There’s also a nice element of mystery with Nova #1, enough to push you into reading the next issue.
Veteran Ed McGuiness handles art duties on Nova, but scales back his standard penciling style. The giant, overdeveloped-muscle bodies are gone, giving McGuiness’s work a leaner look. His eye for faces and detail in bigger action scenes is still front center, as is his flawless ability to ramp up action so that it leaps off the page. Dexter Vines inking is strong but doesn’t overpower McGuiness’ pencils. The only real problem I had was the coloring from Marte Garcia. It’s far too muted and basic. The space scenes are too dark and the whole issue is muddy overall.
Nova #1 is a solid jump off point to bring a peripheral hero into full frame.