Friday, November 30, 2007

Home Truths (Marvel comics)
Nova #3 When: August 2007
Why: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning How: Sean Chen

The story so far...
Now the last of the legendary intergalactic corps of Xandarian Nova Centurions; an exhausted Richard Rider embarks on a journey to return to Earth, acting on the advice of the artificial intelligence, the Worldmind.

Seasoned by his adventures in space, Rider returns a more mature hero than he once was as member of the New Warriors. Having led thousands to their deaths in the war against the Annihilation Wave, Nova finds the self-interested squabbles that have transpired in his absence easily dwarfed by the intergalactic threats to reality he has faced.

Confronted upon his return by Director of SHIELD, Iron Man; Nova is asked to join the Registration Initiative to turn his newly acquired cosmic powers and leadership to the training of a new generation of heroes. Given time to ponder the offer, Nova may find himself ultimately swayed by the intervention of his former teammate Speedball, and his new colleagues, the Thunderbolts!

Previous Form:
Thunderbolts [#6]: This incarnation holds a narrow victory over Jack Flag.
Nova (#73): A single victory over the villain Diamondhead.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Moonstone 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Radioactive Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Nova 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: Moonstone 6 (Generator)
Agility: Penance 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Nova 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Radioactive Man 6 (Mass Destruction)

- The Thunderbolts are: Moonstone, Penance, Radioactive Man, and Venom.

Assembled under the leadership of an exonerated Norman Osborn; this version of the Thunderbolts are part of a US government division operating seperate, but in conjunction with, SHIELD's superhero registration agenda.

The team is exclusively comprised of reformed super-villains, with the exception of Penance, who, as Speedball, was a member of the New Warriors; the team responsible for the Stamford tragedy that killed hundreds of school children.

Moonstone and Songbird are the only two remaining members from Baron Zemo's original assemblage of diguised Masters of Evil. Their status as senior members, coupled with a divergence of acceptance for Osborn's direction, has led to friction between the two. Despite their familiarities, the frictions have been shown to interfere in their field competence, particularly in dealing with unfamiliar factors like Venom and the brooding, but massively powerful, Penance.

Lurking in the shadows is a contingency for the Thunderbolts in the form of the mass murdering assassin, Bullseye. Though effectively the team's trump card, Bullseye is kept from public eye, allowing for the delicately balanced charade of heroism to be maintained.

- As a teen; Long Island native, Richard Rider, was selected by the dying alien, Rhomann Dey, to assume the mantle of the Nova-Prime.
Swept into a world of intergalactic war and peace keeping, Rider eventually leaves behind his superheroing deeds to join other members of the Nova Corps on the reconstructed home world of Dey - Xandar.

Homesick, Rider relinquished his powers in exchange for the right to return home, but an encounter with the armored hero Night Thrasher would reveal that his powers merely lay dormant within him. Together the two would be prominent members of the teen superteam, the New Warriors.

Rider would revisit his role as a space cop in the battle against the Annihilation Wave. It is here that the Nova Corps of Xandar are once again exterminated, thus leaving Nova to inheret the entirety of their power matrix, the Worldmind.
With infinitely increased powers, Nova becomes the leader of the intergalactic resistence against Annihilus and his armies, and matures into a universal force for justice capable of generating energy blasts, tapping into a reality spanning encyclopaedia of knowledge, and travelling through time and space at fantastic speeds.

The Math: Nova (Average) Thunderbolts (Total) The Pick: Nova

What went down...
Having utilized his massive powers in the defense and arrest of his waiting arch-nemesis, Diamondhead [Nova #2]; Rider finds himself in the unfamiliar scenario of being attacked by the Thunderbolts under the jurisdiction of the Superhuman Registration Act.

Venom is the first to attack, triggering a distanced analysis by the Worldmind. Despite having learnt much from the AI system, it is Nova who this time informs his on-board advisory of the nature of the beast. The Nova Corpsman makes a late leap into the air, avoiding Venom's diving attack to leave him to eat pavement.

Nova chastises the team for attacking in a populated urban street; foibles that don't tend to bother the likes of Moonstone and Radioactive Man, who each launch an energy based attack on Nova. Combining their abilities, they incapacitate his control over self-gravity, resulting in a harsh descent.

Moonstone summons Penance, apparently unaware of his history with Nova as the light-hearted New Warrior, Speedball. She also notes Nova's status as a cosmically powered hero who is not to be underestimated.

Nova emerges from the hole his body made in the street, now having donned his helmet. He summons an energy blast to incapacitate the salivating Venom, while using more specific means for Moonstone, a "phased pulse" doing the trick.

Penance simmers with kinetic energy, but remains flat footed, while Radioactive Man picks up the slack. The radiation of the electromagnetic blast proves inconsequential thanks to the defensive capabilities of the Nova Centurion armor, but the blast is sufficient enough to send the hero hurtling through a stationary truck, into a building.

In a pile of rubble and reeling from the attack, Nova is unable to defend himself as Venom leaps in for a second lick. The burly symbiote pins Nova on his stomach, wrapping his taloned fingers around the floored hero's neck.

Radioactive Man summons Penance from his pause, hoping to utilize his awesome power to put an end to Nova's resistence.
Though reluctant, Robbie Baldwin turns his guilt inward to summon a massive burst of his other-dimensional kinetic energies, reminiscent of his first outing with the Thunderbolts [Thunderbolts #111].

So guilty is the former SPEEDBALL, that he detonates a building in main street, utilizing his powers for destruction parallel to the Stamford disaster. Good thing he's seeing DOC SAMSON!The massively destructive power of Penance's kinetic energy quite literally brings an entire building down atop his former ally. Robbie's current leader, Moonstone, descends on the wreckage with the Radioactive Man with an order to summon their mobile imprisonment "T-Wagon".

To the shock of all, Nova saves them the trouble of finding a body, emerging from the wreckage with a blast of firey, rocketeering energy. The frustrated hero turns the tables on the Thunderbolts by reading them their rights on the basis of the Nova Corps "Pan-Worlds Jurisdiction Treaty."

The clash of law enforcement powers is interrupted by a third party: SHIELD!
Descending with a support team of field agents, the director himself, Iron Man, makes his presence known. Chastising Moonstone for her team's tactics in a densly populated public area, Iron Man does his best to pull rank and calm the situation, as the Thunderbolts leader tries to use Stark's own Registrated Act as justification against him.

Having previously offered Nova a senior position with his Initiative; Tony Stark accompanies him to a more private meeting place to discuss Nova's decision. Though tempted by the support network, the cosmic hero bows to his own responsibilities, and returns to the stars to rekindle the flame of the Nova Corps.

The hammer...
Well, as we close November with a crawl, I give you a draw!
Though both sides got their licks in, I think we can all agree IM pacified the situation before it could really reach any kind of definitive sway.

Adi Granov's covers have a way of demanding the attention of a reader with their futuristic render, typically dwarfing pencils any less than superb. This was entirely true of the fairly mediocre sequentials of Nova, but their plain presentation masks an exercise in super-mundanity that is, at the very least, worthy of acknowledging applause.

Baring the bittersweet branding of Civil War: Initiative after only one issue; the new series, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning in unknown portions, spins out of the cosmic sleeper crossover, Annihilation.
The book connects with Annihilation's sequel, Conquest, as of issue four, and yet somehow it manages to earn that marketting without the negative conotations washing over your brain as you read this. This is truly a marvellous feat, but once you get past the obvious, it's even more amazing!

In a post-Civil War world where most pro-registrants are predictably concerned with anything but unregistered heroes; the Thunderbolts represent the most proactive element remaining, essentially dedicated to nothing but tracking that element. While Warren Ellis has meandered his way through a combination of light politics and thick character interactions, he's largely failed to deliver on the action in this monster-filled revamp of the Thunderbolts. My point?

It's titles like Nova that have picked up the slack on the street level, illustrating the expected prevelance of the Thunderbolts team. So not only are Abnett and Lanning graciously bowing to editorial mash-ups in their own job, but they're also picking up the slack of other jobs. All that: plus they manage to interweave tonnes of reference to days of Nova past by revisiting vague references with the same fluid flow that facilitated all this other content.

This isn't a great book. To be honest, having bagged all of the first four issues in one-hit, I haven't even the desire to read on, but that simply doesn't change the fact that the craft here is some of the finest Marvel superhero writing to be published in 2007 -- or maybe even years prior!
This book really does it all, without any of the advantageous pretentions or disillusions of being closed off to the rest of the Marvel world. These issues cram in as much character, story, and reality as any issue of Daredevil, but does so without ever feeling like a lazy conceptual hiding behind "style."

So, why aren't I reading on? I guess in a world of hiking prices and shrinking budgets, the reader becomes increasingly selective. As strong a read as this is, it does ultimately lead into a crossover I'm not sure I'm willing to indulge in, and shifts away from the settings that make the first three issues so enjoyable.

And before we wrap up, just to go back to Thunderbolts, I couldn't help but think to the recent issue featuring sessions with Doc Samson, while reading promotional interviews for Jeph Loeb's upcoming work on the "Red Hulk".

Apparently Samson is set to join the investigation surrounding the identity of this new Hulk, with Loeb adopting a deliberate conceit of an FBI profiler, that is interesting, but described in a way that leaves one ever so slightly disappointed.
Of the new Samson, Loeb says, "Leonard Samson, eager to prove himself beyond being just a psychiatrist with green hair, takes the lead."
Pursuing the Hulk in the field is hardly new for Doc Samson, but one can't help but feel that the character's portrayal in the pages of Ellis' Thunderbolts remains a glaringly unexplored facet of the Marvel Universe. It might not quite be necessary to go Dr. Katz with it, but with many heroes tied up in government funded operations, it would've been nice to see Samson employing his psychiatric expertise in more conventional manners.

Oh well, punch on, Doc!
In the meantime, I should probably admit that this one was a standby issue. We've been running a little slow lately, but hopefully December plans will serve up some satisfactory seasons readings for your Infinite Wars needs. Stay tuned for the Punch-Up for more of those Earth-spanning shennanigans!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5

Fans of solid superhero writing may just find this book a great way to explore a character they may otherwise be unfamiliar with. As described in the bulk of the review, these early issues of Nova manage to touch upon much of the Initiative, while also providing entry points for the cosmic reneissance occuring with the various Annihilation events. A great stocking-stuffer if you're doing some last minute Christmas shopping on Amazon!


Pedro Cruz said...

How the heck can that Penance character see...?

Mike Haseloff said...

Hah! In the Iron Man panel, he does look a little out of sorts.

Discussing how ridiculous Penance is/looks narrowly missed out because of time. I'm not diametrically opposed to it, but that costume, and the whole broody mcbroody attitude just reminds us of the horrors of the Image era.

Maybe we should just forego character examinations like Ellis' Samson issue of Thunderbolts, and just give him a BIG ASS gun and start calling him BLOODPENANCE!