Book Of The Week – NOVA #33 (Marvel Comics)
While this series is usually always good enough to warrant a full issue review with a picture near every month, it has been a while since it took the week’s top spot – since August, in fact (when this column was just starting). While this was actually a very good week overall for Marvel Comics quality wise, one scene in particular bumps NOVA back up to the week’s top prize position. This is part of the “REALM OF KINGS” banner that unites Marvel’s space books lately, including GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and two mini series. While the uniting topic is the Fault, a tear in space/time that is making all sorts of problems come up, each book is also deep into it’s own stories as well. NOVA’s tale, continued from last issue (www.aerochug.com/x-19829-Brooklyn-Comic-Books-Examiner~y2009m12d3-Picks-Of-Comic-Book-Day–December-3rd-2009), Richard Rider/Nova, as well as Chris Powel/Darkhawk, and stuck in “The Riddle of the Sphinx”, a bizarre magical planet laid out like ancient Egypt in which they not only are goaded to fight by Nova’s old enemy, but paired with other heroes plucked from various time periods – Black Bolt, Mr. Fantastic, and as revealed last issue, Namorita. Last issue, Reed expressed the point of not upsetting the “time/space continuum” (in so many words) with loose lips, since both Nova and Darkhawk are from “present” time, while everyone else is from the past; Black Bolt and Namorita are both dead in the present. As a “space cop” in so many words, Rider knows that his duty is to not mangle the time-stream even if it is to avert tragedy (DC’s Booster Gold has gotten into all sorts of trouble trying to bend time to save personal allies), but the major drama of the mission is Namorita (cloned niece of Namor), his former New Warriors teammate and his first love, who he knows was killed at the start of 2006’s CIVIL WAR event. Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, as always, make the issue shine with a mixture of comic book sci fi, action, and genuine emotion from the characters. Nova’s heart-strings are tugged every moment he has to see and fight alongside this “past” Namorita, having to stifle the horrible future he knows for her, as well as his own regrets for breaking up with her. This drama reaches a height when he (as well as most of the other heroes) are tempted with visions of how their lives might play out if they used their knowledge of time to their advantage. Coming from the present, as well as being the titular character, Nova’s temptation is the greatest of all, and it becomes very hard to imagine rejecting it. The Marvel Universe really could be a better place if he gave in, right? The reader knows he can’t, which is what makes it all the more tragic. Of course, it also helps prove Nova’s heroism that so far, he resists that temptation.
Darkhawk actually plays a very vital role in the story; springing from the revelations from his WAR OF KINGS: ASCENSION series, his “raptor” armor is immune to much of Sphinx’s machinations, and he becomes handy in getting the heroes to the crux of the riddle; Sphinx trying to starve off a form of “time traveler cancer” that has ravaged his body. In trying to prevent it, he is now waging a war with his younger self (sort of like when Immortus would fight Kang), who wants to kill his own future half to possess twice his power. Inside the Fault, where the rules of time/space are all but meaningless, Young Sphinx actually is close to that reality. Old Sphinx has bet creation that the assembled heroes can turn the tide, but Young Sphinx appears able to bring in time-flung recruits of his own. Kang used to do that in AVENGERS comics all the time in the 70’s and 80’s, and in their own way Abnett & Lanning are using many angles to make Sphinx, who has ranged from a vague to generic threat in 70’s comics, into a modern threat with great new designs by artist Andrea DiVito. Bruno Hang’s colors are also exceptional, especially for the energy effects. The issue doesn’t have much action, but the point of it is to move the plot as well as put the star through the emotional ringer, while revamping a 1970’s villain to boot, and it accomplishes this on all fronts.
It also reinforces the idea that if you every get access to time travel, trying to convince your younger self of anything almost always backfires. Even “Old Biff” had to all but trick his younger self in “BACK TO THE FUTURE 2”. Kang and Immortus always fight. It simply leads to having to kick your own rear in the end. That has to be all kinds of awkward.
In December 2009, NOVA’s sales continued to dwindle, and it was literally #100 of the Top 100 list; not the most ideal place for a book to be, sales wise. However, Joe Quesada stressed that the space line would become more vital at the NYC “PLANET HULK” Screening on 1/14/10 (www.aerochug.com/x-19829-Brooklyn-Comic-Books-Examiner~y2010m1d16-Banner-Doesnt-Smash–Coverage-of-the-NYCCs-PLANET-HULK-Screening–the-Paley-Center-SPOILERS), and issue #36 for April has already been solicited, so one can expect NOVA to continue delivering on quality comics for the near future. The comic book shelf wouldn’t be the same without this volume of the human rocket.
Honorable Mentions (Marvel Comics):
Two of these three aren’t actually shown inside!
Incredible Hercules #140 – What would a comic book month be like without the reliably excellent issue of this series, written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente? It would be a less satisfying month as a reasonable comic book fan, that’s what. Picking up from last month’s issue, which came out just before Christmas Eve Day (www.aerochug.com/x-19829-Brooklyn-Comic-Books-Examiner~y2009m12d24-Ho-Ho-Ho-Picks-of-Comic-Book-Day-for-122309–Happy-Holidays-Edition-with-SPOILERS), Hercules and Amadeus Cho, alongside a squad of Avengers, are trying to prevent the goddess Hera from rewriting reality with her “Continuum” device. At the end of the last issue, Hera and her Titan lover Typhon kidnapped Zeus (her husband who is now a kid with relative amnesia) and Athena was turned to stone. in this issue, Hera and Typhon still have Zeus, and Athena is still stone. The main focus of the issue is having Hercules and Cho directly team up for 22 pages of adventure again, which Pak and Van Lente made rare once again after a few months of the two being split up (at least beyond MIGHTY AVENGERS, which is written by Dan Slott). This issue leads the pair deep into the god Hephaestus’ cavern workshop to try to save Athena. As with many revelations about the gods, Pak and Van Lente work with the actual mythology as well as realizing that Marvel takes narrative leeway with them, and so thus make a go of Hephaestus being secretly in love with Athena (since his “wife”, Aphrodite, frequently cheats on him with Ares) and organizing for the Gorgon Delphyne (who is the closest thing Cho has to a girlfriend, albeit an estranged one) to turn Athena to stone so he can use her as the mold for his robot army. But the major delight of the issue is watching Herc and Cho take on robots and other traps with their trademark wit and humor, with that sort of thing seeming new again. The artwork by Rodney Buchemi is, as always, excellent with the pencils; the colors by Guillem Mari are great, too. Also, look out for the twist ending! The back-up strip (which Marvel also calls “second feature” like DC does these days) is another installment of Jeff Parker and Gabe Hardman drawing the Agents of Atlas’ fighting in Hera’s basement, where they finally run into Venus. It’s not a bad strip and it cleverly ties well in with the Incredible Herc main story, but it isn’t the best Agents material out there this week. They as well as the creative team are all over the place. Which leads us nicely to…
First the X-Men, now the Avengers! The Agents sure get around!
Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas #1 – The cover just says, “Avengers vs. Atlas”, but it was solicited as the former, so there it is. This is on the heels of the last Atlas mini series, X-MEN VS. AGENTS OF ATLAS which wrapped in November (www.aerochug.com/x-19829-Brooklyn-Comic-Books-Examiner~y2009m11d4-Picks-Of-Comic-Book-Day–November-4th-2009), and naturally the Agents have been seen as a back-up strip in INCREDIBLE HERCULES for months now. With Marvel pushing the franchise in 2010, the Agents are going to be everywhere. Marvel Boy has a mini that started two weeks ago (www.aerochug.com/x-19829-Brooklyn-Comic-Books-Examiner~y2010m1d6-Comic-Book-Reviews-for-1610-The-FIRST-Reviews-for-the-New-Decade), Jeff Parker is currently writing THE THUNDERBOLTS and brought the Agents in for his first arc, and now have another mini alongside a better selling team. The Avengers franchise actually sells better than the X-Men these days (and have for at least four years), so hopefully this adds some readership for the Agents franchise. This also allows Jeff Parker writing the “New Avengers” for a bit, and he often does so better than Brian Bendis. Example? The New Avengers squad fight the Growing Man, one of the “old time Avengers” enemies, and Spider-Man is the first of the heroes to figure out the robot’s power gimmick. Spider-Man? Experienced? In an Avengers adventure? It happens in here! This story takes place on the heels of a story from the canceled AGENTS OF ATLAS mini where the Agents fought the New Avengers as part of their plan to try to undermine Norman Osborn by pretending to be an actual criminal empire (they do run the empire, but have been spending their time cleaning it up). This time, while stopping assorted threats, the Agents stumble across the Avengers and want to make amends. One issue highlight is Wolverine’s line when Namora calls him on why he never relates handy information to his allies from his ten comic appearances a month. The threat du jour is some bizarre thing that is able to twist time, and somehow transforms the New Avengers into the original Avengers from the 60’s. Gabe Hardman draws the regular story as well, so between this and the back-up for Herc’s book, he and his colorist can really hit a stride in their schedule. Most mini series are priced at $3.99 just because, but this one at least adds content; Parker writes an eight page back up strip with Namora defending some whales, with art by Takeshi Miyazawa (of RUNAWAYS and SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE fame). The story is simple, but well put together. For extra AGENTS bits this week, one could also recommend THUNDERBOLTS #140.
Also Good Reads: Captain America #602, Incredible Hulk #606, Mighty Avengers #33, & Realm Of Kings: Inhumans #3 (Marvel Comics) – all seriously good reads; this Examiner was just too lazy for more than three reviews this week.
For more info: Images from Midtown Comics – www.midtowncomics.com
Marvel – www.marvel.com
Last week’s reviews – www.aerochug.com/x-19829-Brooklyn-Comic-Books-Examiner~y2010m1d13-Picks-of-Comic-Book-Day–11310