Review: Nova #3 – Loeb and McGuiness

nova3Sam Alexander’s first flight after putting on the Nova helmet lands him on the moon, but not alone. He looks up from the moon’s surface, and towering over him is a giant bald man dressed in a Romanesque toga. He is known as The Watcher. He stands silent as stone refusing to respond to Sam’s rapid fire succession of questions. Instead he only raises a hand to point ominously out into space. Sam’s gaze follows The Watcher’s indicating finger to see a vast fleet of alien spaceships. This does little to clear things up for him – quite to the contrary Sam fires off another salvo of questions. These too go unanswered by The Watcher. Realising that further inquiries would be futile, Sam bids farewell to The Watcher and rockets toward Earth. Re-entry proves tricky as the immense build-up of heat turns Sam into a veritable fireball. However he is unharmed by the incredibly high temperature much to his surprise and delight. He touches down safely in his own backyard.

Sam makes his way into the kitchen where he finds his mother waiting up for him. She has a thousand questions of her own for him but Sam understands very few of them as she is speaking Spanish. However he understands enough to ascertain that she is mad. He calms her enough to sit down and have a conversation about his father. She tells him that his dad used to disappear like this from time to time but that after Sam was born he tried very hard to be a good father. Although he appreciates his mother’s willingness to talk about his father, Sam senses that she is not being entirely forthcoming. To her credit as a mother she likewise senses that Sam may be keeping something from her. She leaves her son alone with his thoughts.

Sam places his father’s helmet upon a shelf, where he begins to speak to it as though he were able to question his father through it. But it is the green skinned Guardian of the Galaxy Gamora who answers. She and fellow Guardian, Rocket Raccoon appear in Sam’s house. They have come to explain exactly who Sam’s father was and the importance of the helmet and what it means to his future. It is immediately apparent that Rocket Raccoon, who holds Sam’s father in the highest esteem, has feelings of an entirely opposite nature for Sam himself. Gamora is somewhat less critical of young Sam Alexander but still tells him that his behavior is an insult to Richard Rider also from Earth. He and the rest of the members of Nova Corps made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause. She and Rocket Raccoon tell him to suit up for training.

His performance in the training session is less than spectacular. Sam is not especially pleased about being fired upon by Rocket Raccoon, who is even less pleased to lose his favorite laser pistol when Sam blasts it to pieces. Gamora enters the training at this time, swinging her broad sword at Sam’s head – from this point on it’s Sam being relentlessly pummeled by the two superior combatants. Beaten and defeated, Sam surrenders at the point of Gamora’s blade. She informs him that actual enemies will not be as forgiving as she. The two Guardians begin an impromptu lesson on the various warring alien species, focusing on the Chitauri who have gained control of a weapon called The Ultimate Nullifier. They plan to use the weapon on Earth as its test case. This prompts Sam to recount his encounter on the moon with The Watcher and the glimpse of the Chitauri armada he was shown. Rocket Raccoon surmises that it was the Nova helmet that allowed Sam to see the alien warships. The helmet logged the coordinates which would allow Sam to return, mark their position in the quadrant and allow them to make arrangements for reinforcements. However in order to do this Sam will have to “Space Jump” to get there. This involves reaching a certain velocity to complete the jump. Sam is more than willing to do this, so he leaves Earth and begins building up speed until the proper velocity is reached. The “Space Jump” is successfully executed. He finds himself right in the line of fire of the Chitauri armada, who waste no time blasting him.

Sam Alexander is not a reluctant hero. He has the courage to save the world but lacks the training and discipline. Not unlike Luke Skywalker, Sam’s father casts a long shadow over his life. One must learn the ways of the Force, the other the ways of the Nova Corps. The fate of many hangs in the balance for both of these young men. Jeph Loeb’s Sam Alexander is very human, his father is very human complete with frailties and flaws, but it is in overcoming these frailties that Sam becomes heroic. The more Loeb reveals about Sam’s father the more we see those heroic attributes come to light in Sam. Jeph Loeb is taking us on a journey of discovery – we are learning about Sam Alexander and the Nova Corps as the character learns. We make these discoveries page by page with Sam. Incredibly well paced, the story unfolds quickly and moves of its own volition but still leaves us wanting more. I read this issue three times – admittedly one of them was to more fully appreciate the excellent artwork.

Expertly rendered by Ed McGuinness this book is gorgeous to look at. The pages of Sam’s encounter with The Watcher are amazing. Without a single word McGuinness gives The Watcher a complete and undeniable personality. His facial expressions speak volumes. The training session is so cinematic that you can almost hear the 80’s rock as the montage plays out. His Gamora and Rocket Raccoon are superbly rendered. This book is beautifully executed from start to finish. It is exciting, fast-paced, action packed and visually stunning – everything a good comic book should be. We are only three issues into this series, so if you have been on the fence about this one, I suggest you make room on your pull list for Nova.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.