After a fling with DC — a sour fling that led to awkward encounters like “Countdown” and “Teen Titans” — Sean McKeever is back at Marvel, doing what he does best: writing sweet comics about young heroes coming into their own.
In “Nomad: Girl Without a World,” he has brought Rikki Barnes from a parallel world — a version of the “Heroes Reborn” universe — into the Marvel U. This female Nomad is an over-earnest Carrie Kelly type, a sassy young girl with some fighting skills and a pure heart. McKeever has done a nice job with characters like this in the past. His work on “Gravity” showed that he could do simple superhero stories about young characters without condescension. And he could make them compelling.
He does something similar here, though with even fewer issues to work with (only four issues total in this series) things become a bit oversimplified. And that’s part of the problem here, as this series straddles the line between classic superheroics, social consciousness, Power Pack-style kiddie comics, and tragedy. That’s a wide line to straddle, and the comic can’t quite keep its balance in such circumstances.
So the villain is overly villainous — practically a moustache-twister, but without facial hair in his sinister identity — and the ending is too pat. Someone dies. It’s tragic. But it’s all part of the life lessons of Rikki Barnes and it feels less like a true loss than an obligatory origin speedbump. It’s the kind of thing that seems manufactured to launch the character into the Marvel world at large. Some kind of baptism in blood to prepare her for her soon-to-come appearances in “Captain America.”
But this is still clean, straightforward storytelling, from the pencils of David Baldeon to the sincere dialogue. “Nomad” #4 feels like a bit of a throwback to simpler times, and that’s not an inappropriate feeling. This is, after all, a story of a girl without a world. A girl who is coming to terms with who she is and who she needs to be. It’s a classic story, told without pushing any boundaries at all — even the safe-as-Wonder-Bread Young Avengers show up to lend a hand, to endorse this new Nomad as a young hero worth watching. And she might well be, even if this series is more nice than interesting.