Nova 11

nova 11

Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing Nova 11, originally released December 11th, 2013.

Patrick: When I was in Junior High School, I had to babysit for my little sister kind of a lot. It was fine – I think she’s one of the best people in the world, and we were friends even then. But it was something of a running joke with my friends: “Patrick can’t come to band practice because he’s got to babysit,” “Patrick can’t go roller skating because he’s got to babysit,” “Patrick can’t explore the starfield map in his brain because he has to babysit.” Oh, wait, that one’s not me. That one’s Nova.

This issue pretty evenly divides its time between Sam’s life as an Earth-bound teenager and that of a universe-cruising space adventurer. On Earth, Sam’s life mostly revolves around the absence of his father. He’s getting into trouble at school, but it’s mostly because he stands up for himself when he’s bullied. And what a bully! Moffet hits Sam with the double whammy “your dad’s a janitor” + “your dad’s missing,” which I like to think would send even the most-pacifist among us into a headbutty rage. Or some kind of rage at any rate. New series writer Gerry Duggan is demonstrating Sam’s impulse to act out violently — and without regard for his own safety — in the confines of Sam’s domestic, relatable life.

What’s so remarkable is how this characterization folds all the pieces of this story together. Sam has headaches and sees lights, meaning that he has a head injury. But he’s reckless, so he uses his head as a weapon. Then he’s punished by being made to join chess club – a game that forces player not to act impulsively. Naturally, the little fucker doesn’t learn anything from this and he launches himself head-first into space. Once he’s up there, there’s still danger-ahoy and plenty of warning signs indicating what he should watch out for, but we’ve already clearly established that Sam’s impulsive. By all accounts, he’s the only one surprised to find himself fighting a giant spider.

Nova doesn't know what spiders are

I’m not suggesting that everyone should just automatically assume that giant spider webs = giant spider nearby, but it’s obvious that Sam is making decisions first and asking questions later. Hilariously, Sam was just speculating about how little Spider-Man has to deal with his family holding him back, so he’s got spiders on the brain. My biggest beef with this series under Jeph Loeb’s pen was Sam’s impossible stupidity, but Duggan has mercifully contextualizes Sam’s lack of common sense. I don’t want to read “dumb,” but I’m more than happy to read “short-sighted and impulsive.” That’s a character trait I can get behind.

But it’s not like the issue is only concerned with justifying Sam’s character flaws: there’s a fair amount of story being set up here – both on Earth and among the stars. The scene at Chess Club may have been a scant two pages, but several small-scale mysteries pop up in that class room. First, there’s Mrs. Schaefer, the club’s coach, who has a standing date to play games of chess with her students before school starts. She also goes on about chess strategy for a little bit, which is usually a stuffy, awkward way to cram in some kind of labored analogy for what’s going on in the story. Mrs. Schaefer isn’t quite so obvious as she talks about controlling the middle of the board, how pawns are sacrificed, and the limited power of the king. Not only is it impossible to boil down her lecture to an individual, specific theme, none of the ideas she hits on apply to Sam’s adventure later on.

It’s almost like Duggan is requesting us to be patient: there’s a lot of information being quietly doled out. Whether its the mystery of “who is this dude collecting Nova corpses?” or the decidedly more mundane mystery of “what is Sam going to get out of chess club?” it’s clear that the answers aren’t going to come quickly. There are even two examples of time being misunderstood or manipulated in this issue: first is Mrs. Schaefer losing track of time and neglecting to play any chess before the club meeting was over; and the second is Sam stealthily pushing the clock’s hands forward to trick his sister into going to bed earlier. We have no such tricks, but the creative team might be suggesting that they’re aware that we might want them.

If there’s a greater connection to chess, it only comes about with that final page reveal. There are two players that both seem interested in the same thing – accessing dead Novas. One wants to collect trophies and the other… it’s not totally clear what Sam’s looking for. He’s looking for his place in the universe – and whether than means finding his place in Carefree or his place in the Nova Corps, I don’t it matters to Sam.

Ethan, I’m happy to consider this a new lease my my affections for this series, but I expected no less from Deadpool scribe Gerry Duggan. How are you feeling about a more-grounded Sam? Do you miss any of the outlandish cliches that Loeb introduced in issue 1? Or are you just happy to see Sam is still skateboarding? (You punk kids, you’re always skateboarding!)

Ethan: I do think the skateboarding is a great match for the character. It’s a natural fit for a reckless kid, and I like the connection it adds between his civilian life to his superpowered one. All of his powers stem from a helmet, and wearing a mundane helmet is obviously important when skateboarding.

Nova11_helmet

It’s a little bit like my favorite Green Lantern character, Larfleeze. Larfleeze starts out as an nonpowered thief, always looking to steal more and more, and then he happens to find the orange lantern which turns him into avarice incarnate. Even if Sam had never inherited the helmet, he’d always be doing something crazy that required some sort of major head protection.

It’s interesting that he’s not presented being dumb or incapable of learning; he’s just too restless and loves going off to do his own thing. It’s more that he’s got a pronounced lack of common sense, part of which comes from actually slowing down to think things through. I mean, I think you’re being too generous, Patrick, when you mention the giant spider-webs. In my book, giant spider webs means EXACTLY that there are giant spiders somewhere very close. And if they’ve all died off and the webs somehow managed to live on long afterward, at least being a smidgen cautions makes sure you don’t get eaten by a giant spider, which has to be one of the most viscerally terrifying ideas out there. I mean, it was just plain, stupid, knee-jerk impulsiveness a few issues ago when he just pulled off his helmet – which gives him the ability to fly – while he was in the process of flying, but hanging out in giant spider-webs, next to the body of someone that was CLEARLY KILLED BY SPIDERS has got to be a close second.

My favorite parts of this issue were definitely the ones showing him hanging out on Earth, sans helmet. He might not have many strong connections with his classmates or teachers, but he seems to get along great with his family.

Nova11_understanding

Superluminal galaxy exploration and fighting aliens is fine, but give me more dialogue like this and I wouldn’t care if we didn’t so much as see the helmet in the whole issue. He gripes about having to look after his sister – he’d rather by flying around space and shooting things – but he does love her. His ties to his sis and his mom are a great way to give him a little more depth than just a kid with an attitude at school and a high-tech helmet he’s probably not quite ready to be using.

Another fun moment was actually right there are the end, during the teaser introduction to the new villain. By all appearances, Cadivan is your standard, barbaric hunter who hunts for the thrill and the trophies. He’s even got a scantily clad slave-girl. Except that she doesn’t quite fit the stock “hot airhead” mold that we usually see in space operas. While she seems to be looking after Cadivan, she seems to be on a bit more equal terms with him:

Nova11_yelling

Just from their brief interaction, I’m hoping (though it seems unlikely) that we’ll see more of their back-and-forth in the future issues rather than just focusing in on Cadivan vs. Nova. We’ve all seen the story of the big, cruel jock warrior hunting down the hero; I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the big, cruel jock warrior having to put the hunt on hold because he’s just been corralled into doing his fair share of the housekeeping and cooking. And that would be completely amazing.

 

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 DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

One comment on “Nova 11

  1. Once Wells took over this book it got really good and so far Duggan seems to be following him up well. This character is very likable and the stories are filled with physical and emotional adventures as every good supers comic should be. I agree that the helmet off scenes are just as engaging and always do a good job of making him feel like a real kid.

    The story introduced here with the stars being the helmets was fantastic what a great way to have lots of space adventures and have him learn something about the Nova core and ultimately himself.

    Finally Paco Medina’s art is absolutely fantastic. It fits the tone of the book flawlessly and every single page is a joy to look at. The art is expressive and fun and super tight. Also a book that is not afraid of color and daylight. I am not sure how long this book has which really is too bad. It is a great book. Much like the Red Hulk a character that Loeb brings fourth in the most uninteresting and poorly written way gets followed by a writer/s with talent and heart that seem to get the character better then the guy who created it.

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