If you've been following along -- and it's somewhat safe to say you have been if you're reading this review -- then you know the last cliffhanger teased a huge battle. Well, Gerry Duggan does pretty much deliver on that, but I'm happy to say the fight itself is not the majority of the issue. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a good battle, but seeing as the last issue was essentially one big brawl, it would be nice to get a little more from the title. Thankfully, that's exactly what Duggan does as he delivers a satisfying action scene and then follows with a handful of character-driven and comedic bits. There's more to this issue than energy blasts and it certainly shows.
Despite the newly possessed weaponry, the fight itself isn't anything too out of the ordinary. That said, it's still amusing and ultimately produces a strong moment for Sam. The coloring gives it a lot of life as well, but I'll get to that in the next paragraph. The beginning and middle of the melee may not be anything unique or jaw-dropping, but the way it wraps up most definitely kicks things up a notch and generates a far more gripping and humanizing scene for our hero. Once the dust has settled from the action, Duggan chimes in on quite a few plot points. Thanks to some sharp writing and well-placed laughs, these not only keep the pace of the book strong but also make it incredibly amusing to read. And, for a book that's delivered so much levity and action in the past few issues, there's a surprisingly powerful segment -- one which relies on the art team to deliver and they do so spectacularly.
Penciler David Baldeon and colorist Sotocolor's visuals are such a solid compliment to Duggan's script. Be it an explosive and vibrant fight that fill the pages with bold colors or a beyond soothing look at how gorgeous the universe can be, the visuals do a commendable job bringing it all to life and match the tone very well. Aside from a minor gripe about Beta Ray Bill's anatomy, the character work is wonderfully energetic. Baldeon does a great job filling these characters with personality and there's one absolutely priceless expression on Sam's face as he's stuck in an amazingly awkward situation.
Aside from the cliffhanger -- which seems to promise a more Earth-based and emotional story -- a lot of the scenes here feel really familiar. It's not a major gripe, especially since Duggan is such a talented writer, but you're unlikely to be truly surprised or shocked by the developments (once again, ending aside).
Without blatantly spoiling anything, a fair reason is provided to pull Beta Ray Bill from the big battle. It allows Sam to shine and, seeing as he's the title character, it's totally understandable to give him the extra focus. However, can you blame me for wanting to see a little more from Beta Ray Bill? While he does serve as a good partner and offer some very important words of wisdom, it's not exactly often the dude appears. Yes, there's more to a book than slugfests (and such is pointed out in these pages), but letting him show off his power a little more could have delivered some much appreciated fan service.
Minor gripe: is it just me or did Beta's anatomy seem a little too top-heavy?
NOVA's a really fun book. Sam Alexander's a relatable and likable lead, Duggan's an exceptional comedic writer and keeps the book pleasant, and Baldeon's visuals -- along with Sotocolor's colors -- are a great fit for the title's atmosphere and produce a few legitimately beautiful panels of the universe. I may not be the biggest fan of Marvel's cosmic universe, but a book this enjoyable is pretty tough to resist.