Monday, November 10, 2008

Nova #18

If it's not one interstellar invasion, it's another. Mere months after helping the Kree fight off the invading Phalanx in Annihilation, current Nova Corps representative Richard Rider has fallen face-first into the Skrull's sudden assault on Earth. When the green skins target Project PEGASUS, the government research facility that just so happens to employ Richard's intellectual brother Robbie, Nova's battleground seems to have been chosen for him. And, as fate would have it, he's got some help – Darkhawk and Quasar have already taken a stand in that very same facility. But wait… didn't Quasar bite the bullet years ago? Well, you know what they say about death in comics.

This month's issue feels like it's out of place with the identity that the series had worked to define in its seventeen previous issues. Much of that can probably be attributed to Nova's demotion to secondary status in favor of an ensemble cast. To an extent that's understandable, as there isn't a lot of appeal to a giant battle scene with what must be a thousand villains and just one hero, but the writers' unfamiliarity with the new faces is patently obvious. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have worked hard to turn Nova himself into a well-rounded, likeable, intelligent lead character but they've had no such luxury with Darkhawk and Quasar. By comparison, the new faces are mere caricatures and don't add anything to the book beyond their additional muscle. Their dialog is thin and generic, and I just couldn't connect emotionally with them. Here's hoping their presence in the series is short-lived.

Wellinton Alves and Geraldo Borges deliver solid visuals throughout this month, despite the complexity of their mission. It's no easy task to illustrate a large-scale battle scene, particularly one with two specific points of narration, but the Nova duo manages to do so in style. Darkhawk and Nova's ongoing brawl with a platoon of Super Skrulls, the focus of the majority of this issue, manages to remain legible while also dealing out a considerable amount of detail. It carries the impressive magnitude that such a large-scale battlefield demands, while also retaining the simplicity and character that typifies the art team's combined efforts. George Perez, take note: you may finally have company in this regard.

Despite the influx of new faces, Nova can still be an entertaining read. While the entirety of this issue is spent in battle, that doesn't come at the expense of characterization or dialog. In fact, more the opposite; the heroes spend almost ever moment they're engaged with the enemy yakking it up with each other, catching up on old times. To an extent, that marginalizes the importance of their situation, but the Skrull threat is so constantly upgraded that it manages to balance out in the end. While Darkhawk and Quasar didn't do much for me as focal points this month, their presence and subsequent stumbling under the spotlight emphasizes just how strong a character Nova himself has become of late. And if he can ever escape from this endless string of crossovers, maybe he'll get a chance to let the rest of the Marvel Universe in on that secret. Flip through it – this month's issue is far from essential reading for dedicated readers, but if you've missed the boat on Nova so far, it provides a fine opportunity to jump on board against a familiar backdrop.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5

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