(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR #1
ARMOR HUNTERS #1
UNCANNY X-MEN SPECIAL #1
Advance Review: KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE MASK OF NIGHT #1
ALL NEW X-MEN #28
RED SONJA: SANCTUARY #1
Advance Review: FABLES #141
Raiders of the Long Box presents NOVA #1 (1976)
Advance Review: In stores next Wednesday!
ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR #1Writer: Chuck Dixon
Art: Larry Stroman & Carl Potts
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Much to-do has been made about Chuck Dixon’s comments on the politics of the comic book industry mentioned here in an article called How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman. Now, I’m not one to talk a lot of politics. The subject actually bores me to no end as most of the time it’s two people screaming at one another instead of talking, listening, and acting as politics should work. But with ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR #1 coming out so soon after Dixon’s article, I feel it’s my duty to mention it since it definitely was on my mind while reading this book and, most likely, it will be on the mind of others who give this first issue a try.
Being a war comic, it’s hard not to view the book from a political standpoint. What’s war without politics? That said, there are two ways you can read ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR #1. You can view it as a political statement or you can read it as an interstellar war comic. Either way, despite one’s political leanings, I believe the book to be a fascinating read and will be for those who don’t immediately put the blinders up and start politicizing because of Dixon’s conservative leanings.
I was and still am a huge fan of ALIEN LEGION. Dixon, Larry Stroman, and Carl Potts, who return to the book after almost twenty years, delivered a comic like few others back in the day it was published at Epic, which was the closest thing Marvel ever came to having a Vertigo line. Sure, in 1983 you could get your Real American Hero on with GI JOE—and I did, I assure you. But when I wanted really gritty war tales, I looked no further than ALIEN LEGION. No one parachuted out off exploding planes in that series. There were no goofy villains. This was futuristic warfare that put boots on the ground and had a battalion of aliens band together as a fighting force to take on a common enemy. Dixon, Stroman, and Potts together was the team supreme, delivering hard-nosed action like few others in comics ever did.
ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR #1 marks the reteaming of this creative team supreme to tell the tale of Force Nomad, lead by the serpentine Sarigar who only appears briefly in this issue. This introductory issue reintroduces us to the surly Nomad team, including the surliest of the surlies Jugger Grimrod (just think of him as old school Wolverine with a Rambo hunting knife instead of claws), and gives them the assignment of a peaceful, non-deadly force nature to investigate some suspicious Harklon activity (the Harklons being the main enemy of the Legion since its inception). What transpires is unexpected, but still as action-packed as you’re going to get.
This issue delivers much of the action and adventure that filled all of those ALIEN LEGION books many moons ago. Dixon picks up the personalities of the individual members of the team and runs with them as if he’s been writing them consistently for years in the interim since we last saw them. There may be those who want to politicize this book, trying to make the Harklons represent the Taliban or some other terrorist force while the Force Nomad represents American soldiers being sent in on peaceful missions from higher ups not really understanding the warfare that is actually happening once on the ground. I’m not going to lie to you; if you squint hard enough, that stuff is all there, played out in glorious four colors.
But this is a war comic and while some politics are always necessary in wartime, the cause of the conflict is only a tiny portion of the story. This is a war comic and this issue delivers the conflict, the wartime camaraderie, and the clear distinction between good and evil that any good war story should tell. Reading this issue not only reminded me of how good a storyteller Dixon is, it reminded me of how influential ALIEN LEGION was. Without this book, I guarantee GREEN LANTERN CORPS wouldn’t be what it is today. Sure, the Corps was around before the ALIEN LEGION comic, but with the military aspects applied to the way it is characterized today, there are beats in this issue that seem to be interchangeable with GLC.
So add any political angle you may to this book. It doesn’t matter since it’s a rock solid read whether you believe in the politics of the writer or not. I will say that Potts is a bit thick with the inks in this issue, and there are some panels in which the angle Stroman is going for doesn’t always work. But this was often the case in those old ALIEN LEGION issues as well, and it never distracted me from enjoying one of the baddest, most razor-edged, guns-a-blazin’ war comics of all time. I’m so stoked to read the rest of this series, and if you like war comics that seamlessly mix in comic booky elements like aliens and intergalactic battles, ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVILWAR #1 is something you’re going to need to buy this week.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Mark’s written THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be an Uptown 6 Films feature film), Zenescope’s GRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13, UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES, and the critically acclaimed THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark wrote/provided art for a chapter in Black Mask Studios’ OCCUPY COMICS. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
ARMOR HUNTERS #1Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Doug Braitwaite
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’m torn on ARMOR HUNTERS #1. On one hand, Venditti and crew crafted a fine comic about a close-knit strike force looking to eradicate any and all X-0 sentient suits of armor.
I do worry, though, that which has sprung from other stories possibly should have stayed there.
Before I get preachy, I will give you the skinny on this story since the creators should never be punished for editorial actions. Fans of X-O and other Valiant titles will appreciate how seamlessly the Armor Hunters blend from their recent appearances to this “solo” adventure. My sarcastiquotes are basically because Aric carries a good portion of this book on his broad Visigoth shoulders. As has become the norm since the US government gave Aric’s people some shiny beads and a plot of land in who gives a fuck Utah, Aric’s new master, General Exposition, alerts us to this new threat from space looking to euthanize our most obedient lapdog since Lassie or the H-bomb.
The Armor Hunters themselves are an eclectic bunch that range from brains to brawn to the wise. They also have a hunter in the form of their rogue member, now a guest of Uncle Sam. They’re interesting and their mission adds an interesting twist to the X-O mythos. Why are they hunting the armor? Because apparently it is the lamb and the lion. Many species like The Vine have worshiped the armor, many like Aric have used it as a weapon, but all have fallen into ruination because of it. Like the vision of Aric for Valiant 2.0, this is also an intriguing and welcome differentiation (though I do miss Aric’s Color Me Badd CEO wardrobe).
Now I get cranky. As much as I loved this book, I can’t ignore how much I have talked about X-O and Aric in this review. I’ll grant Valiant some miniseries leeway if they want to go that route. They’ve earned it since they’ve never really done any. Hell, I thought for sure UNITY would pattern Valiant 1.0 as a few issue gelling of titles instead of becoming its own task force packed with the most powerful players affecting the world of Valiant. So again, if they want ARMOR HUNTERS to be a miniseries let it be so; however, I want clear signs for the road I am about to travel. As it’s presented right now, ARMOR HUNTERS look as though they are ready to be full time employees of Valiant instead of just temps, but I simply can’t see their long term benefit given their one note purpose.
My conundrum is one we all face in this current market of ever-increasing comics and prices:, does this story have consequence? I believe ARMOR HUNTERS does since it is basically rewriting the history of the little sentient suit that could, but I also wonder whether the consequences of one title breed the necessity of a new one. It’s a parlor trick the Big Two have been playing since we entered the Reboot Age in 2011, and I don’t like it. For titles I love, it pisses me off when they end after two arcs. For titles I loathe, I lament the fact the story could have been told better inside the parent book.
To be fair, Valiant hasn’t led me astray yet, and I am pulling some speculation out of my ass. Venditti could very well have a long term goal for this strikeforce once Aric is handled in whatever way that will still keep his book humming along. If so, we will need muuuuuuch more of the Armor Hunters in coming issues and a little less time seeing the story from Aric’s POV. Trust in the fact I am right about this being a must read for followers of X-O. Moderately trust that new readers might have a hard time getting vested. Don’t trust at all in my cynicism of what might be, but also be cautious over your personal coffers if your Valiant commitment is just the tip.
When not talking comics, Optimous Douche is the head of marketing for Work Zone, Project Management Software so powerful it could straighten out the New 52. To read Optimous other marketing, comic stuff and advice columns head to robpatey.com.
UNCANNY X-MEN SPECIAL #1Writer: Sean Ryan
Artist: Ron Ackins
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
I had one of those really, really rare and disappointing trips to the comic book store where the owner told me “Sorry, Tom--nothing came in for you” (you see, people on the street don't call me Masked Man). So I was left perusing the shelves, looking for anything to interest me (is it really too much to ask that the stack of comics I buy each month doesn't all come out in the same week??). Finally, I saw this X-Men cover with Iron Man and Nova on it. (Here comes an old joke) So I said to myself, self, this looks like it could be fun. And here we are, talking about NO END IN SIGHT, a crossover of solo specials.
Somehow Sean Ryan has talked Marvel into letting him do his own crossover event with UNCANNY X-MEN, IRONMAN and NOVA. The first issue, not surprisingly, deals mostly with the newest crop of X-Men under the tutelage of Cyclops, and it's not too spoilery to say the focus is on Cyclops being abducted. As the X-Men try to track down who did it, they run into Iron Man, and a fistfight doesn't break out--go fig. I assume the next issue will focus more on Iron Man, with the young X-Men in tow, as they track down Cyclops. Doesn't Iron Man still want to drag Mr. Summers to justice? That could be interesting when they find him.
Overall, this is a really hot and cold issue. Some stuff is really good and some stuff is just oddly lacking. Most of the good comes from Ryan's script. It's full of clever stuff and humor worthy of the JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL days, especially the villain, who is looking more like a victim than a villain. One lacking bit is, who are these characters? Being a crossover and pseudo one shot special, you'd think Ryan would take a moment or two to explain to me (a non-regular X-Men reader) who these characters are. A kid named Fabio 'poink'ed some brown spheres, was about all I got. I'm also rubbed wrong by (ok, this IS a spoiler so be warned) the gun that shoots containment helmets. Aside from the mix up of who is being abducted, it's a gun that shoots helmets that can block Cyclops' eye beams...yeah.
Ron Ackins’ artwork follows suit as well. Some of it is really nice and some of it really misses the mark. Empty wine glasses that are suddenly full, gloves so tight you can see fingernails, teachers and students all look the same age, and can one of these characters really just grow facial hair at will? I'd also say his wide shot compositions need work as well--they are often empty and dull (even with a plane crashing in it). His overall figure work, though, is very nice. He clearly has his own style, and it works very well. Ackins’ storytelling is very nice as well, though part of me thinks that most of it might be in Ryan's script, because it often sells the cleverness of the script so well, it's easy to believe the layouts were described in the script.
A real mixed bag here, but I had more fun with it than anything else, so I'll be sure to pick up the Iron Man special. I'm also not bothered in the least by a crossover in which everything will remain exactly the same in the Marvel Universe when it's over (hear that Marvel? You too, DC...well, maybe not you too). Now if Iron Man could just stop wearing that lame black and yellow armor...
Advance Review: In stores today!
KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE MASK OF NIGHT #1Writers: Anthony del Col & Conor McCreery
Artist: Andy Belanger
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Here we are again. It only seems like yesterday that I was haunted by the laughter of Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery as they at last turned around KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD and made me eat my own words. As a fan of the series I should have been happy that it ended on such a high note, and I was, but soon dread set in. For you see, KILL SHAKESPEARE had run the gamut on most of the non-historical Shakespearian tragedies. I have my doubts that the characters from the classical-era plays would fit into the KILL SHAKESPEARE realm, though Titus Andronicus has proven to be the exception to that rule. So that leaves us with the comedies for inspiration, which leads to...
KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE MASK OF NIGHT #1: "A Notable Pirate," which introduces us to two characters from “Twelfth Night”, sort of. Hamlet, Othello, Will, and Juliet have been captured by the pirate captain Cesario and his first mate Viola. Now unless McCreery and Del Col are pulling some “Fight Club”-like twist, this is one of the furthest departures from the source material they have made yet, for both Cesario and Viola are featured in the play “Twelfth Night”, but never together and yet always so. You see, Viola is Cesario in that Cesario is the identity she takes on while cross-dressing and passing for a man. In THE MASK OF NIGHT, they are two distinctly different characters—lovers, in fact.
The fault here isn't that the comic has split the character in two, but that even their personalities have been drastically altered. This is not a call for fidelity. Clearly changes to Juliet have worked. But the portrayal of Viola as a bitchy pirate wench rings not only false, but unappealing as well. The original Viola always had a way with words, but that were much more witty than vicious. Lady Mac had a venomous tongue, but with a touch of class. Viola, though not whiny like Romeo, has yet to draw any form of empathy from me.
Cesario, on the other hand, has his appeal mainly in the fact that he brings the story back around to the original crisis at the start of THE TIDE OF BLOOD. He tells Viola that Titus Adronicus' army has expanded to the sea. This returns our quartet to their first point of conflict, as they could be a rather tempting ransom for the big bad. At least that is what Viola thinks, while Cesario's more thought-out plan reveals a brain behind his mask.
Here I might be excessively critical, but I found Andy Belanger's art to be less than outstanding as compared to THE TIDE OF BLOOD, though his work then would be hard to top and doesn't necessarily make anything less than it bad. This issue has its moments, such as Cesario's split mask design which I can only assume is a reference to his "character" in “Twelfth Night” and Viola's chopped hairstyle. There are plenty of other well-drawn panels, but they are too crowded to appreciate fully. It is an important skill for an artist to create a realistic sense of depth, but that doesn't mean that the foreground, middle, and background need to be filled. Belanger's art is at its best when more abstract, and for THE MASK OF NIGHT when blood is spilt.
Harsh as I may be, the comic does maintain much of what I have enjoyed about the series up until now. The returning characters are still strong, just limited in their page appearances. Belanger continues to bring energy and coherence to action sequences, and Del Col and McCreery maintain the balance between flowery Shakespearean and original twists of tongue with a touch of humor. It is excess that drowns out the good. Excessive inking, crowded with too many words, spoken by new characters that have yet to intrigue me like those we have already been introduced to.
THE MASK OF NIGHT #1 is mostly exposition, hence the short, one-sentence summary given earlier. Besides Viola and Cesario arguing over what to do with their prisoners, little else in regards to plot development is covered up until the very end, and I am not one to spoil for I haven’t given up hope. THE TIDE OF BLOOD was a fun side adventure, but a return to the original scope of the first series would do KILL SHAKESPEARE some good. I just hope that the overall idea hasn't run its course and that I soon shall be dining on my own words with a side of relief.
Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a master's degree in Media Studies... which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."
ALL NEW X-MEN #28Writer: Brian Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel
ALL NEW X-MEN #28 sheds some light on the Brotherhood of Mutants featured in “Battle Of The Atom”, giving some background to Xavier’s personal vendetta against the original X-Men and why previously dead characters reappeared in ALL NEW X-MEN #27.
Issue 28 begins in the future, pre-“Battle Of The Atom” events, where Xavier and Raze are beginning their recruitment stage before returning to the past with a team. The two are recruiting Beast, who’s essentially lost his mind trying to understand time travel. I feel him on that one, and why he couldn’t send the original X-Men back to their own time. With a little help from Xavier, Beast’s mind is pieced back together and Xavier then begins his plans to enter the past and the future, according to him of course. ALL NEW X-MEN then switches back to the present time. The book switches between time lines constantly, to the Brotherhood of Mutants attack on Cyclops and his X-Men, along with the original time-trapped X-Men. #28 continues to switch back and forth between timelines, giving substance to Xavier as a character and answering a few other mysteries along the way.
Overall, I thought ALL NEW X-MEN #28 was pretty good with no real complaints. The dynamic of Xavier and Raze was interesting. While Xavier’s reasons for wanting to kill the original X-men seem legitimate, even if it’s a douche move, his motivates are warranted. Raze, on the other hand, seems to be a chaotic evil, with no driving purpose other than he finds killing and chaos fun. I had originally been confused as to how some of these characters turned “evil” back in “Battle Of The Atom”, which Bendis finally explains and it’s a story point I can dig. There have been times where ALL NEW X-MEN kind of fell off in terms of story; this is one of those points where it seems to be picking up again and providing something interesting. Time travel is such a mainstay and mostly such an overused tool in X-Men comics; however, while not an original plot point, Bendis does a good job of keeping it entertaining and interesting to keep your attention.
As for the artwork, it’s pretty freaking good and definitely a highlight of the comic. Immonen is phenomenal on pencil duty, doing such an excellent job in the character’s detailing and design. He captures emotions, presents some great action scenes, and just provides an overall very good product. Another plus is ALL NEW X-MEN’s shading and shadowing, really adding some extra emphasis to certain scenes as far as reactions and presence. The combo of coloring, actual artwork, and overall style are a perfect combination that makes the book something special. Throughout the book there are just some beautiful panels.
So in conclusion, I really don’t have much as to say simply because it’s a good book. There isn’t anything wow to carry on about and nothing really crappy to go on a rant; ALL NEW X-MEN is just solid all over. If you haven’t already, ALL NEW X-MEN is one of Marvel’s series I would recommend giving a chance. For the most part the series has been fun, with a view dip offs here and there, but overall very entertaining and Bendis is doing a great job on the series. It’s worth your money.
RED SONJA: SANCTUARY #1Writer: Marc Mason
Artist: Noah Salonga
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth
Now and then Mr. Mouth (That’s me) needs a little deviation from all the mega-crossovers and overly decompressed storylines that comics are now famous for. That’s the great thing about a one-shot comic: it’s a one and done proposition and can be a great way to take a break from your norm.
In all fairness, my familiarity with Red Sonja is limited at best. I think I own a MARVEL TEAM-UP issue featuring Red and Spidey. Oh, and I have a fuzzy recollection of a terrible film starring the one time Danish dish Brigitte Nielsen, before she hit the wall that is Flaaavor Flav! Still, Red Sonja is one of those characters that continue to endure. I guess just there’s something about a smoking hot, scantily clad redhead with a war blade that supplicates additional exploration.
In a previous tale, Sonja had a run-in with Scáthach’s other chosen warrior woman, the malevolent Raven. Needless to say they did not part the best of friends. In fact, Raven vowed to slay Sonja if they should ever cross paths again. Now deep within a hidden forest, Sonja comes to a magnificent stronghold called Chrysalis. Upon admittance Red is received by former acquaintance young Eleanor and, surprisingly, Raven herself. Most unexpectedly, Raven has renounced violence and now she and Eleanor have opened Chrysalis to other women in need of Sanctuary.
The peace of the Sanctuary is offered to Sonja as well, proposing a chance to free herself from the violence of her own life within its walls. All goes well until a band of mercenaries come to claim the price on Raven’s head. Maybe a peaceful existence is just too fleeting a prospect for a lady whose moniker is the She-devil with a sword.
The cover art by Sergio Fernandez Davila almost makes the book worth the purchase alone. I only wish Davila drew the interior as well. It’s not that artist Noah Salonga’s panels are bad, they’re just very basic. I can’t help but feel I would have enjoyed this issue even more if his characters’ faces were more expressive and their bodies a little less stiff.
Narratively speaking, RED SONJA: SANCTUARY is one of those tales that forces its protagonist into deeper self-examination of the life they are living and, more importantly, where that life is ultimately leading them. By contemplating the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished as its theme, Marc Mason manages to bring Sonja full circle and yet forever altered by the events in these pages.
If like me you’re curious about Red Sonja, but don’t want to have to commit to yet another monthly title, go ahead and give this one-shot a shot. You could do a lot worse.
Advane Review: In stores today!
FABLES #141Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Mark Buckingham
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I opened this issue with as much as dread as desire: my first time in 10 years of reading FABLES and 7 years reviewing for Ain’t It Cool I’ve said these words. I love FABLES and its spinoff FAIREST. Willingham’s take on our favorite fairy tale characters living in the modern world has broken so many walls of character development and the nature of literary figures permeating the zeitgeist I can’t even begin to describe what the man has done within the confines of my word count.
It’s all ending, though; issue 150 will mark the end of FABLES proper with issue #141 being the alpha chapter of this omega arc (the appropriately named “Happily Ever After.”) I don’t buy for a second that the title will be reflective of everyone’s fate, though, especially with the seeds of warmongering, deception and de-evolution Willingham jammed neatly but tightly into these 22 pages.
What surprised me most was that new readers could actually get something out of this arc. I don’t recommend that anyone starts now since it would be like coming in for the last two seconds of a blowjob, but if you only want money shots with no build-up you could. Willingham really does some grand explaining of Rose Red’s new Knights of the Round Table, the strife between her and sister Snow White, skullduggery from the 13th floor mages and a reintroduction of the recently resurrected and now very feral Bigby Wolf. There is also a moment with Cinderella that has me salivating with hope for some of her FAIREST Bond-like adventures to bleed back from whence they came.
To show that he’s not simply playing his endgame, Willingham resurrects a mythos from the Great War in the form of magical entities that were boxed up against their will when they told Gepetto to go pound wood. They are antsy, ornery and all have now found a home inside Rose Red. I have little doubt this is an effort to up her critical hit damage rolls for a final tussle with sister Snow before the end.
FABLES is almost impossible to review at this point outside of play-by-plays and spoilers, so this will most likely be my last words of admiration for the next 9 months. Instead I will spend the time lamenting the looming loss of Willingham’s delicious dialog, Buckingham’s marvelous margins and the end of yet another vivacious Vertigo era.
P.S. For anyone who is jonesing for more FABLES stories, there’s an app for that called “The Wolf Among Us” by Telltale games. It thrusts you into the life of Bigby back in the Reagan era as he cleans up the slums of Fabletown. Yes, it’s interactive, so if you are techtarded do what I did for my spastic friends: get someone with hand-eye coordination to play and then stream it to a big set with Apple TV or Chromecast so you can watch the story unfold.
NOVA #1Publication Date: June 15th, 1976
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: John Buscema
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
One of Marvel's heroes who seems to be getting a big push these days is Nova. The character was recently relaunched by Jeph Loeb as Sam Alexander. While not having a huge impact in the stories, he has managed to pop up in all the major crossover events. He also helped relaunch THE NEW WARRIORS, stars alongside Spider-Man in the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN cartoon, and will surely have some kind of presence in the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie. So I thought we'd wind the clock back 38 years ago this week, when the man called Nova first hit the Marvel U.
Summer 1976: the world just saw Apple Computers become a company and the Ramones released their first album. “Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain and Tennille won the Grammy, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW won its second Emmy, Sylvester Stallone became a household name as ROCKY won the Oscar, and the country was getting ready for the Bicentennial next month. In the world of comics, romance comics were all but dead at this point, but humorous comics published by Harvey and Gold Key were still doing well. It was pretty much all superheroes for the Big Two, as DC was in a pitched battle with Marvel to reclaim their spot as the top comic book publisher with the DC explosion (which you probably know didn't work out so well). As king of the superhero industry, Marvel rolled out a new one this week: NOVA.
Well, it's new superhero time, as Marvel brings out another fresh face: the man called NOVA! Current DAREDEVIL scribe Marv Wolfman, who is mostly known for his horror and monster books, is getting another crack at superheroes (of course, today we all know Marv Wolfman as the creator of the New Titan Teens, who with George Perez helped create DC current favorite minority hero Cyborg. Marv also created Blade for Marvel when he was writing those monster mags. Currently he still works in comics writing SUPERBOY.). Seems that Wolfman and fellow writer Len Wein came up with the character before their professional days, calling him Black Nova (see where Loeb got the name?). Now Wolfman has retooled him for his own comic for Marvel.
So what is NOVA all about? Basically, it's an homage to Spider-Man, with a little Green Lantern as well. Getting into spoilers, our man Nova is a high school teenager named Rich Rider. He's extremely uncool and gets picked on by the much bigger and stronger Mike Burley, and even helps the boys’ team lose to the girls' in a basketball game. But the fickle finger of fate soon bestows our average teenager with superpowers, and a new hero for the Marvel Age is born! Sounds a lot like Spider-Man huh? Well, for better or worse, Wolfman mentions in the editorial that it was all on purpose. Now to make sure Nova's not a complete Spider-Man clone, Rider isn't as smart as Parker, and he has a girlfriend named Ginger. Actually, Rich is shown to be such a loser in this issue it's a wonder he even has a girlfriend. Also unlike Spider-Man, Rich doesn't get his powers from a radioactive bug, but a space alien. Here's where the Green Lantern angle comes from. A centurion, a Nova Prime from another planet, is chasing down the villain who destroyed his world and left him on his deathbed. In order to stop this evil alien warrior, Zorr, the centurion transfers all his superpowers to a random human--Rich Rider. Dying space alien who's part of a peacekeeping force gives superpowers and snazzy outfit to human, who then becomes a superhero—yeah, that's a little too much like Green Lantern. And Wolfman can't claim homage here when he's talking about one of the Distinguished Competition's top sellers.
Ok, that's all a bit to take. I mean, sure this issue is well written, but there's just too much being borrowed in it. Also (spoiler time again) the biggest disappointment of the issue is the face-off with Zorr. Now the reasons behind Zorr's attack are very cool: Galactus drained his world, so he is off stealing other planets' energy in hopes of bring his world back. But the fight just ends with him disappearing for no reason. I suppose Wolfman will explain this in future issues, but as it stands, what the heck?!?
The one real high note of this issue is the art by John Buscema. Since the loss of Jack Kirby, Buscema has become Marvel's new golden boy, cranking out great work on THE AVENGERS, FANTASTIC FOUR, THOR, and now CONAN THE BARBARIAN--I'm surprised he has time for NOVA! Sure, Rich's high-school bully Mike looks like a middle aged man at times, but the rest of the book is flawless. Heck, on looks alone I'm willing to give this series another issue. Nova looks great; I like how he flies so fast this legs disappear into speedlines, and the storytelling and action scenes all look amazing as well. (In 1978 John Buscema and Stan Lee would publish HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY, which is, to this day, the best manual on drawing for comic books. Also while at Marvel, Buscema shaped the popular look of Conan the Barbarian, which differs from his description in the novellas. Buscema passed away in 2002, just as he was starting to do some work for DC, though his most famous DC work was SUPERMAN AND SPIDER-MAN (1981) (the sequel to SUPERMAN VS SPIDERMAN), where Superman battled the Hulk for the first time.)
Again, I think NOVA borrows too much from other comic books (either rip-off or homage), so I think there is little chance that he is going to become another Marvel classic. But at 30 cents an issue, Wolfman and Buscema could still have a very entertaining run with another teenaged hero from Marvel.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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