For those keeping track, “Nova” #11 is Gerry Duggan’s first full issue as the regular writer for the series. This makes him the third person taking over that post, after the departures of Jeph Loeb and then Zeb Wells. Normally, I find that extremely worrisome, a sign that the book was having some severe problems behind the scenes. If that’s true, though, it’s much to Duggan and Paco Media’s credit that we never see that as readers. “Nova” #11 is a charming comic, just like the series as a whole has been to date.
Duggan solves the mystery of Nova’s strange spots that he’s been seeing, even as we learn more of the fate of the rest of the Nova Corps. It ends up fitting in well with the overall tone of “Nova,” a mixture of Sam learning about how his Nova powers work, as well as dashes of both humor and drama. Sam’s montage of getting struck in the head while the doctor asks him if he’s had any recent cranial blows is pretty funny, for example, even as it also underlies the danger that Sam’s putting himself into over and over again.
Duggan also hasn’t lost sight of the struggles that Sam goes through in his civilian life, and how in many ways it’s more difficult than being a superhero. His being forced to join the chess club feels like we’re getting setup for a slightly painful metaphor in the months to come, but considering everything else I’m enjoying — the struggle for his family to pay bills, being put in detention, having to wait until Sam’s mother comes home before he can be a superhero — I’m more than willing to wait and see how it actually plays out.
As a superhero, Nova is still learning more about his abilities and responsibilities, but so far I feel like Duggan has that on track. The explanation of the spots that he’s been seeing is inventive even as it’s also a little sad. It’s definitely not what most readers would have seen coming, and I think that it bodes well for the series as a whole. “Nova” needs to find a balance between Sam’s two lives, and Duggan’s doing so by letting them intersect back and forth, even as they pull apart when it’s really important to just focus on being a superhero, or just focus on being a teenaged kid.
Medina stepped on board “Nova” when Ed McGuinness departed, and he’s still an excellent choice for the title. The style is still clean and smooth, and Medina’s good with the physical comedy like the montage of head strikes while Sam plays dumb in the foreground. One of my favorite parts of the art this month, though, is the way that Sam’s mother just looks exhausted when they’re leaving the hospital. There’s something about the way that he draws her eyes that brings this aspect to life far more than any yawning or other similar method would have done. Seeing those slightly sunken eyes brings to the foreground just how ragged she’s being run now that Sam’s father is no longer in the picture, and it puts their financial situation into a much more precarious position. This is a great example of showing rather than flat-out telling, and Medina hits that mark with flying colors.
“Nova” #11 is another strong issue in this series, and I’m glad that even with the merry-go-round of creators that the book still feels like it’s on course. If you haven’t been reading “Nova” this is as good a spot as any to sample for yourself. It’s good old-fashioned superhero fun, but updated to match today’s sensibilities. It’s too bad more superhero books aren’t like “Nova.”