Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness conclude their run on Nova as strongly as they started. Sam Alexander fills his father’s shoes and faces down his father’s ex-squadmate Titus, who has led the ravenous Chitauri into Earth’s galaxy and now faces down the child Jesse Alexander left. Sam is written as well as any character with decades of establishment behind them, but it’s only been five issues of his solo series and he already feels like he fits naturally into the rest of the Marvel Universe and this issue cements that. He has all the charming awkwardness that a newly minted hero should have, but also the drive to do right, the fast-thinking to adapt to new situations and even some wit to keep the reader grinning. We even get Rocket Raccoon and Gamora (in her current Guardians of the Galaxy costume, no less) near the end of the issue to tie things back together and, hopefully, usher Sam into his next adventure. But the book is about far more than battles in space, at the end of the day it’s about the relationship of a boy and his family, especially his absent father, and that relationship gets completely redefined by the end of this issue, leaving plenty for the next creative team to pick up and run with.
The art must also be commended. Loeb and McGuinness have worked together for well over a decade now (though it was back at DC) and McGuinness’ style has morphed considerably over that time, and I’d say he’s brought a whole new look to this book. Most known for his larger-than-life cartoonish characters, most of the characters in this book are more subdued, even realistically, proportioned and it perfectly balances a sense of whimsy and groundedness. Fantastic inks with longtime collaborator Dexter Vines help make the characters and moments extremely crisp and clear. The dramatic moments actually seem stronger while the images of a teenager with a bucket on his head battling a space-tiger are actually fully in keeping with the style and don’t clash with the more subdued drama. The colors by Edgar Delgado also pop in every page, on every panel. He contributes as much to the sense of whimsy and wonder, as well as the bombastic action and wild battles of the book, as much as the expert pencils and inks. There is one page specifically where Sam’s arms divide the page horizontally that is a brilliant and intense image, perfectly displaying the character’s strength but also commenting on his shortsightedness.
There’s nothing in this book to stop me from recommending it. Jeph Loeb had a few shaky books over the last several years, but this is easily his best since Fallen Son and McGuinness has rarely, if ever, been in higher form.
Even the COVER of this book takes on amazing meaning if you extrapolate the meaning of the father affixing a helmet (Nova’s most notable piece of equipment) to his son’s head in his childhood. There are layers of meaning within this book that should keep older readers happier, that and the absolutely stellar writing, characterization and art. Even for younger readers, this book’s rating doesn't suit its very friendly atmosphere. In an industry that seems like it’s becoming increasingly dark, this book shines as a pure delight and an absolutely stellar all-ages book. And I do mean ALL ages.