Welcome to the all-new Comicscape! Each week we'll be taking a look at a few of the week's new books in hopes of informing your comic shop purchases, or at the very least giving you 4-color thrills and chills. Enjoy!
Nova #1 (by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines) It's no secret Marvel has the cosmic side of their universe on the brain. Phase 2 of the film division will be centered around cosmic foes, and new bits of info from the big screen Guardians of the Galaxy leak out every other day. For better or worse, as the filmic Marvel goes, so goes the comic Marvel. Brian Michael Bendis has a high profile Guardians of the Galaxy re-launch just around the corner, but the first strike from the cosmos above is actually Nova #1. We were given a tease of this new, younger Nova in the prologue of Avengers vs X-men, as he came crashing to earth with a warning of the impending Phoenix. Now we are getting the story behind the new, black helmeted Nova, and I must say- it's pretty darn good. Jeph Loeb gives us many familiar origin story tropes, but with some twists that keep the book engaging.
Sam Alexander lives under the stars in Arizona with his little sister, mother and drunk of a father. Sam's Dad is the janitor at his high school, but he's so often inebriated he can't finish the job, and Sam ends up filling in. This of course gets Sam picked on at school, and makes him resent his father even more. When he's not passed out, Sam's father regales him and his sister with wild tales about his time blazing through the galaxy as a member of the Nova corps. Sam's little sister eats the stories up, much like Sam did when he was younger, but these days he sees them for what they most likely are- the rambling delusions of a drunk. A lot of this ground has been tread before, but there are some really nice touches here. Sam, despite being a bit of a jaded kid, actually takes a lot of his situation and bullying in stride. He's actually pretty self assured, and never falls into a "woe is me" malaise. He's even fairly slick during an encounter with the opposite sex, it's just his situation, not his awkwardness, that throws a wrench in his love life. Sam's mother, who you would expect to be a rightfully angry and dispirited wife, actually tells Sam he would be lucky to measure up to his great father. This all plays into the core of the story- Sam's father really was a Nova, but ever since he left the corps to raise his kids, he has been in withdrawal from the life of space-faring adventure he once knew. The adrenalin rush of hurtling through space, battling alien forces, and daring rescues, is an addiction. This is wonderfully illustrated in a page where Sam is helping his passed out father to bed. His room is full of items that connect to his past, including a star map on his wall that has all the places he's been marked, and routes highlighted. All the remnants of a man who is trying to find his way back, and mentally has been gone for some time. Of course, things get real at the end, and Sam's future starts looking rather cosmic.
Kudos to Jeph Loeb for handling the subject of alcoholism with some aplomb. Sam's father Jesse is never shown to be violent or angry, but crawling into a bottle will never be an easy subject matter, particularly in a book that will appeal to a younger crowd thanks to its kid protagonist. Not enough can be said about this book's overall presentation. Ed McGuinness is one of the best artists of our time, and when he's firing on all cylinders he is hard to top. Nova sees him at the top of his game, and his giant, energetic pages of Sam's father's space exploits will draw you right in to the adventure, and make you wish there was action figures of everyone on the page. It's bold, it's clean, it's colorful, and it's perfect for the giant world this book will explore. Nova #1 is a well told origin with a nice blast of adventure. A worthy addition to your Wednesday pick-ups.
Justice League of America #1 (By Geoff Johns and David Finch) I'll be blunt- the core Justice League book (also by Geoff Johns) is an absolute mess. It's full of characters who are barely sketches and threadbare storylines that only make the most die hard of DC loyalists giddy. Classic storytelling it is most definitely not. It's a bit of a head scratcher considering it's the New 52's flagship title, and when you are devoting two issues to a rote and almost pointless storyline involving the Cheetah this early in the game, there's definitely something rotten in Denmark. Honestly, I think every new Avengers title in the Marvel Now! line (and there are many) outclasses Justice League in every way. The Avengers books are trying to do new and interesting things, while the Justice League is treading water in a baby pool. The most interesting thing that book could muster is a kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman, and that is oddly enough the crux of the new spin-off book before us- Justice League of America #1.
Emphasis on the "of America", because this team is being created to serve. The Super/Wonder smooch-fest wasn't just a private moment in the fields of Smallville, satellites captured the lip-lock in full HD 48 HFR Dolby Digital 7.1, and it creates a growing concern among the US government. They don't trust the Justice League, and seeing two of them emotionally involved makes them even more unpredictable and less trustworthy. Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. are tasked with forming a new Justice League that they can control, a check and balance if you will. Waller manipulates ex-Wonder Woman flame and currently emotionally fragile, Steve Trevor to oversee this new rag-tag bunch of public servants. What follows is a typical team-book first issue roll call, but with some nice twists from Geoff Johns. Most of these characters have been introduced already in the New 52, and many have failed to grab the reader's attention. Johns is approaching these characters in his own way, and giving them some depth and mystery they haven't really had in the past year. Hawkman has an interesting delusional brute force mindset, Stargirl is an innocent tabloid good girl, and Catwoman is presented with an intriguing mystery. Johns will have to do a bit more selling on Vibe, and still needs to put his stamp on characters like Martian Manhunter and Katana.
David Finch's art is generally good, it gets a bit caught up when there are a lot of panels on the page, but he should prove to be a good choice (his splash page of Hawkman is particularly stunning). He can bring some dynamism to the action, and his darker style will help separate this book from the other Justice League. I've always found Geoff Johns very hit or miss, and this is one of the better books I've read from him recently. It's not a home run, but there's enough to keep me coming back. The book ends with an interesting hook- a visual that shows who on this new team matches up with the members of the core Justice League. Some of the matchups are a bit suspect-- is Catwoman really a match for Batman? Is this entire new team a match for Batman? But at least it gives us a tantalizing glimpse of things to come.
Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him onTwitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.