Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing Nova 7, originally released June 7th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: Add this volume of Nova to the list of great series that died too soon. Thankfully, Jeff Loveness, Ramón Pérez, and Ian Herring clearly know how to craft a powerful ending. Nova 7 loops back around to all the themes the creative team have been laying throughout their run — responsibility, friendship, teamwork, taking risks in life — and brings them to an explosive finale. It’s not just impressive how well it works, but that it works despite the fact that half the issue is drawn by a new addition to the creative team.
When Scott Hepburn illustrated Nova 6 (a Cancerverse-set Worldmind origin story) I assumed he was simply a fill-in artist, but bringing him back to cover similar scenes in issue 7 firmly establishes his art as Nova‘s depiction of the Cancerverse itself. As much as I loved Pérez’s take on the Cancerverse’s monstrosities in earlier issues, Hepburn’s work has a remarkable amount of grit that makes it the perfect representation of the pain of life in the Cancerverse. There’s no more effective moment in this issue than the smash-cut from Pérez’s resolute, optimistic Sam as he pries open the portal to the Cancerverse immediately to Hepburn’s Sam on the ground, dazed and bleeding from Cancerverse-Rich’s assault.
Hepburn is also a remarkably talented sequential artist in his own right.
Take this sequence. We’ve got the the full-bleed establishing shot of the horror of Cancerverse-Rich and Worldmind, then a series of thin, smaller panels. The first portrays Cancerverse-Rich as a monster, looming mostly off-screen, only his hand in silhouette, while Sam is a small figure caught in his crosshairs. The second uses its horizontal space to follow the path of Sam’s blast, but Sam himself breaks out of the panel and into the gutter, showing how he’s trying to take control of the situation. His attempt is immediately reversed in the final two panels. The worm’s-eye shot shows how Cancerverse-Rich is able to sneak up on Sam from an unexpected angle, and in the final panel he quite literally flips the odds back into his favor; this time Cancerverse-Rich breaks out of the panel, practically dragging Rich out of the prior frame, portraying not just his complete control over the situation but his sheer raw power. There’s a skill and subtlety to Hepburn’s art that doesn’t just portray action, but adds subtext and meaning to each action a character takes.
As writers, Loveness and Pérez do the same, using Sam and Rich’s final battle against Worldmind and the Cancerverse to show off the lessons both Novas have learned from each other throughout the course of this series. When Rich seems convinced that they’re trapped within the Cancerverse for good, for example, Sam mentions that he “talked to some girls.” His point? Sam thought talking to a girl was impossible, but Rich encouraged him to do it anyway, and it worked out! Sam’s encouraging Rich to do the same — to face his fears and attempt the impossible — and once again, their risk pays off.
Sam is likewise inspired to chase after Richie in the first place because of a lesson Rich himself taught him: “Novas gotta step up.” It’s that same lesson that later helps break Rich out of Worldmind’s control. Notably, Sam’s cry that Richie was the “Best [Nova] there were was. Prove it,” doesn’t seem to reach Cancerverse-Rich at all. For all his fame, ego means nothing to Rich anymore. Responsibility and teamwork does.
This may even come to play via the way Rich rids himself of the Cancerverse’s power.
Throughout this run Rich has infamously been remembered as the Nova who ripped Annihilus’ intestines out through his throat. He frees himself of the Cancerverse in a similar manner, ripping the last remnants of it out of his body through his throat. In a way, this is Rich turning his most well-known feat back on himself. I don’t think Rich’s ego has really been his problem, but this is a good way for Rich to exorcise his tendency to act alone and rely only on his own skill and power. It’s that kind of thinking — an (understandable, but perhaps selfish) desire to escape the Cancerverse no matter what, even if it meant leaving a friend behind — that turned Worldmind into a threat in the first place, after all.
In light of that, it’s appropriate that it’s teamwork that ultimately saves the Novas. It’s the bond Rich has forged with Sam — and advice that he gave the younger Nova — that causes Sam to disobey Rich’s order and chase after him, eventually allowing Rich to free himself from Worldmind’s manipulations. And it’s only by working together that Sam and Rich are able to generate enough power to escape the Cancerverse and put it behind them for good.
I’ll admit that the way Rich and Sam get a Cosmic Cube is practically a deus ex machina, but I’d also argue that it doesn’t matter. It’s not the cube that saves them — it’s only a conduit. It’s the power of Rich and Sam’s friendship that saves their lives.
That’s a powerful message, and one that allows Pérez and Loveness to end their story on a heartwarming, forward-thinking note. Taylor, I’m beyond bummed to see this series end. It’s been so emotionally smart and a real artistic powerhouse, so I hate to see that go, but I’m glad the creative team was able to keep that winning streak running straight through to the end. Did you enjoy this finale (and this series as a whole) as much as I did?
Taylor: I totally enjoyed this issue and this series from beginning to end! As you mentioned Spencer, this final issue does a wonderful job of capturing the numerous themes this series has hit upon all at once. One of the primary themes, of course, is the bond between Rich and Sam, despite the fact that they are very different people. This is captured wonderfully on one of the final pages of the issue.
In a slew of panels Pérez shows us all of things that important to Rich and Sam. For Rich, he values his relationship with Gamora, his friends, and going out for a cold beer. Sam, on the other hand, values his sister, his budding romance with a classmate, and his friends at school. On the outset, theses appear to be different but it doesn’t take much digging to realize that both Sam and Rich are driven by the people they care about. And really, this hits at the heart of what makes Rich and Sam such a good team: even though they come from dramatically different backgrounds, at their core, they are very similar. I appreciate how they aren’t a good team simply because they both are Novas, but because they both share intrinsic values that go deeper than superpowers or surface level differences.
This being the case, it’s still fun seeing how Sam lets Rich’s personality rub off on him. There are several ways this happens throughout the series, but perhaps the most entertaining one is how Sam adopts Rich’s irreverent attitude. At one point in the fighting in the Cancerverse, Sam confronts the Revengers version of Captain America and punches him in the face. Both his and Rich’s reaction to this is wonderful.
After punching this version of Captain America, Sam feels pretty good, which Rich assures him is totally natural. Before meeting Rich, I’m not sure this is something Sam would have said or necessarily felt was fine, but after hanging out with him for a couple of adventures, he’s learning to approach his superheroing duties with a certain swagger. What makes Sam’s adoption of Rich’s attitude satisfying is that it signifies his coming into his own as a Nova. Before, Sam was very much unsure of his abilities. Sure, he was somewhat of a braggart, but that belied his lack of confidence in his abilities. However, his acceptance that punching Captain America in the face felt good not only shows he’s taken on Rich’s influence, it shows that he is comfortable doing whatever it takes to be a hero.
Spencer, you’re also right to praise the artwork in this issue. Pérez and Herring both do an excellent here, but if I had to pick out something that really stands out, I love the way Herring inventively breaks up panels during action scenes. After Rich frees himself from the Cancerverse curse and the Worldmind, he and Sam begin to fight back as best they can. In a dizzying flurry of activity they punch basically anything that is purple.
At first glance, this page appears to be a full page spread, but in reality Herring has split it but by cleverly using the subjects he is drawing as gutters. For example, the top of page is dominated by a panel showing Sam wizzing through the Cancerverse and blasting all sorts of baddies. Directly below that, Rich is positioned in a way that shows he part of this scene, but which at the same time breaks up the panels. His body and his arm essentially former a gutter between the top and middle panel, where Sam is battling a teethy beast. Herring uses this same technique to make a third panel, as well. This isn’t a new trick by any means, but Herring executes it perfectly here. I’m always a sucker for pages that break up panels in a unique way, because when they are done well, such as here, the page becomes less just a sequential order of events, and more a cohesive page of artwork.
I realize the term “artwork” is nebulous though and means something different to every individual. However, I think almost anyone who has read this series can agree that, even though it’s short, Nova certainly is a work of art. I’m sad to see it go, but I’m excited to see what this creative team does next, whether on their own or together, just like Rich and Sam.
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?