Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Nova 8, originally released September 25th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Drew: Teenage superheroes are tricky. Part of what makes them appealing is their adult-like agency, but if you give them too much, they cease to resemble actual teens — writers must maintain a careful balance between escapism and realism. One of the most common tools used by writers to keep their teen heroes grounded is to surround them with other teen superheroes, and maybe even have them fight teen villains. This effectively scales their world back, giving them a comfortable niche between regular, mortal adolescence, and full-on adult superheroics. In Nova 8, writer Zeb Wells starts building that teen cast, giving Sam a stake in the events of Infinity that are fully unique.
As Thanos descends upon Earth, he’s made aware of the presence of what may be the last Nova in the universe. Still sore about being imprisoned in the cancerverse, Thanos wants to kill all the Novas, but has other business to attend to. In his stead, he sends Proxima Midnight’s daughter, Kaldera, a hyper-violent teen who likes to take naps inside the bellies of banthas. Meanwhile, Sam is being tailed by two mysterious teens as he does good deeds around his home town. Sam accidentally knocks himself out (in a scene that is somehow even more absurd than it sounds), and wakes up in the back of those mysterious teens’ truck. Turns out, the mystery kids are Speedball and Marvel Boy, looking to recruit Sam into the New Warriors — to replace their old Nova, Richard Rider. That last bit gets Sam’s attention, but at that exact moment, Kaldera has started the hunt for Sam at his house — where his mother and sister are virtually defenseless.
As much as my eyes started to roll at the prospect of a teenage villain (especially one with a gag-inducing she-devil design), it actually makes a lot of sense. As much as Thanos would like to see the Novas extinguished once and for all, he and his generals are a too busy at the moment to handle it themselves. Kaldera clearly has a reputation as a particularly violent killer, and seems like an appropriate choice for this task. Perhaps more importantly, the fact that Wells doesn’t need Thanos or any of the other key players of Infinity to tell his story frees him up immensely. Unlike much of the rest of Infinity, which often uses the Avengers more or less interchangeably (sure, Shang-Chi can pilot a starship), the events here are quite specific to Sam (or at least the Nova force).
That focus on Sam has long been this series’ strongest suit. It reflects the natural egotism of adolescence, but refocuses it on Sam’s journey to learn more about his father. The fact that the New Warriors have familiarity with the Nova force is the perfect bargaining chip — their own history gives them all of the information that Sam so desperately wants. The thought that that single-minded interest might imperil his own family is a great beat for a teen-centered title, a teaching moment that reflects some of the natural selfishness of being a kid.
Of course, not all of the beats come off so naturally. Here’s the reason Sam was knocked unconscious.
I appreciate that Sam realizes it was dumb, but that acknowledgement is way too little, way too late. It’s not just leave-your-briefcase-on-the-roof-of-your-car dumb, or even pour-your-coffee-on-yourself-as-you-look-at-your-watch dumb, it’s impossibly, unforgivably dumb. Has there even been the suggestion that the helmet responds better when you’re looking at it in the face? Not that it matters — this is too dumb to excuse.
It does look great, though. Ed McGuinnes set the bar high for pencilling on this series, but Paco Medina more than lives up to that precedent. Everything is crisp and detailed, but I’m particularly impressed by the acting. All of his characters — including the aliens on Thanos’ ship — are remarkably expressive. Part of it is Medina’s comfort veering into the cartoony, but I think as much has to do with his careful attention to posture. Look at how effectively he sells Kaelynn’s surprise at seeing Kaldera:
Something about the awkward pigeon-toedness of her stance tells you that she’s standing perfectly still — a rare feat when so much of comic art is focused on implying motion.
I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed this issue. We dropped this series after its first arc, and so many of the Infinity crossovers have simply been reenactments of the main action from slightly different perspectives — suffice it to say, I didn’t have high hopes for this issue. This manages to sidestep most of my problems with Infinity while also serving as a charming (albeit not entirely problem-free) ambassador for this series. At the very least, I’m excited to see how these crossover issues play out. Were you as pleasantly surprised as I was, Shelby?
Shelby: I was, actually. I don’t remember if I even finished that first arc of this series, I was so unimpressed with it. As the near 30-year-old curmudgeon that I am, I tend to hate teenagers (especially when they ride my train in the morning and talk so loud), so it’s a hard sell to develop a teen-aged voice that is both appropriate and doesn’t make me roll my eyes. The first couple issues of Nova did not leave me convinced, and since I’m not reading anything else Infinity (with the exception of that one Thunderbolts issue), I did not have high hopes for this one. So, yes, color me pleasantly surprised.
The biggest surprise for me is Kaldera. I kind of like her. Maybe it’s not actually that surprising, considering my penchant for bad-ass warrior women, of which she is most certainly one.
Honestly, the whole she-devil thing didn’t really bug me. I figured we’re dealing with the daughter of a character named Proxima Midnight, who takes her leisure on the Slaughterdeck; to me, this part of the story reads like Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, but in space. It’s over the top and a little dumb, and I accept that.
I appreciate Wells’ decision to use a teen villain to go against Sam, but I’m a little concerned with how Sam is going to do in a fight against Kaldera. She’s clearly a heartless psychopath. Actually, that might be an insult to the heartless psychopath community. Sam’s biggest claim to fame so far seems to have been building a skate park, which he partially destroyed by deactivating his costume mid-flight. The kid is both inexperienced and a little dumb, I can’t imagine this going well. That’s why I think it’s smart to have Sam fight this battle on his home turf, literally his home. If he were defending the town, or even on a much bigger scale the Earth, I don’t know that he would be able to pull it together. But when it’s his family being threatened, that’s motivation enough to really push him beyond his limits. Just like he’s scaled down a villain to fight our pint-sized Nova, Wells has scaled down the Infinity event to match. Sure, Thanos is working on destroying everything and all the Avengers are off god-knows where doing god-knows what. But this is about a young hero defending his family from a young, terrible villain; that small scope is what makes this a successful Infinity tie-in as well as a successful Nova arc.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?