Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nova: War of Kings - A Review

Nova: War of Kings is a perfect of example of how Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have made Marvel’s cosmic books one of, if not the, most consistent and entertaining line of comic books of the past five years.

In this fifth collection of the Nova series, our titular hero has lost the Nova force and needs cosmic armbands from his dead best friend to go fight the insane alien supercomputer that used to live in his head (and is currently living in a planet with a giant face on it) to stop it from brainwashing innocent people into becoming an intergalactic police force. And that’s only the first two issues! If that doesn’t sound completely awesome to you, then you are not cool and we cannot be friends.

This book moves at a breakneck pace, going from a powerless Nova on earth, to Nova fighting the Worldmind as the new Quasar, to him being Nova again and having to rescue what’s left of the Nova Corps from the War of Kings crossover, all in only six issues. Yet it never feels rushed or inorganic. Each part moves effortlessly to the next without feeling jarring or disorienting.

The reasons for the success of Marvel’s cosmic line, which benefits enormously from Abnett and Lanning writing basically everything in it, are all on display in this volume. There are tons of utterly insane cosmic stuff on almost every page, from Ego the Living Planet to the ghost of the Protector of the Universe to a crack in the universe itself. But the sense of scale is always appropriate. After living through an endless succession of intergalactic catastrophes, a powerless Nova can’t reconnect to life on Earth. The immensity of the intergalactic War of Kings is appropriately enormous. The difficulty of not only policing the galaxy, but trying to reassert that police force’s authority after its been entirely wiped out, is displayed as a suitably impossible task.

That is actually one of my favorite ongoing threads of the new Nova series. The concept of Nova is a thinly veiled ripoff of the Green Lantern Corps. When they killed off everyone but Nova himself during the Annihilation crossover (also a great book), Marvel sorta ripped off what DC did when they drove Hal Jordan nuts and eliminated the Green Lantern Corps. The difference is Marvel has done a much better job following up on the storyline. Now don’t get me wrong, Kyle Rayner is my favorite GL, but I always felt like DC never really did enough with the idea of what happens when an intergalactic police force is reduced to one man. Nova never lets you forget it and Abnett and Lanning have done a great job mining the concept. You really get a sense of one man against the universe and when a brain damaged Worldmind tries to rebuild the Corps in a single go, during the middle of an intergalactic war, it all goes about as well as you’d expect.

Nova: War of Kings starts you off in the middle of the storyline, but once you get settled, its very easy to follow. Abnett and Lanning do a good job of keeping the reader up to speed and grounding you in the midst of all this cosmic craziness. Nova himself is a very relatable and sympathetic character, despite having off the chart super powers and having galaxies rise and fall around him. Andrea DeVito and Kevin Sharpe do a pretty good job on the art. You never have a difficult time following the story. Still, it all feels a bit blah to me. DeVito, who handles the bulk of the book’s art chores, feels very old school to me. His art style puts me in mind of a Mike Zeck or Patrick Zircher’s older stuff. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just find it a bit wanting when we have these gorgeous Daniel Acuna covers, who, for my money, draws the best rendition of the new Nova costume to date.

The bottom line is, if you’re thinking about buying a super hero book set in outer space, you should ask yourself one, simple question: Do I want to read a book where the main character gives a sentient planet a lobotomy with fist lasers before the halfway mark? If the answer is yes, Nova: War of Kings is for you. If the answer is no, don’t worry, I think Green Lantern is crossing over with Rainbow Brite next week or something.

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