There’s a real old-school Marvel energy that surrounds “Nova.” It’s the tale of a kid who is truly down on his luck – dad’s gone, mom can barely make ends meet, school sucks, you are special but no one is allowed to know about it. With Spider-Man becoming a franchise on our Earth and a celebrity in the 616, Sam Alexander has caught the Parker luck and it’s on full display in “Nova” #17, a great done-in-one that Gerry Duggan and Paco Medina use to explore how the small problems can add up when you have your eye on a bigger picture.
Sam’s back from space and, in an attempt to keep his family from getting evicted, brings home a giant gold boulder, hoping it will make them rich. Hilari-sadly, it’s radioactive and is burning a hole in the yard, which his mom demands be removed before it contaminates them. Sam’s relationship with his mom is the strongest part of this book — they are both doing the best they can with the cards they have been dealt. They try, they fail, they argue, they go off on their own, then they get back up and try again. It’s obvious that Sam comes from a family of heroes and I don’t just mean his father. His mom is working more jobs than one should to keep the family afloat and is failing at it. There is real sacrifice in what she does — sacrificing her time, her energy, and even the time she gets to spend with the family for whom she is sacrificing. Giving too much of oneself can wear one thin and when she finally snaps on Sam for blowing a hole in the wall of the house they may be soon kicked out of anyhow, it’s real. The private and immediate regret she has with herself is relatable. Duggan works hard to show us this is a family that cares deeply for one another, even when that care is the very thing that’s pulling them apart.
I dug Sam’s superheroics and the chance encounter with an elderly couple who show him that the people in your life are the most important. We’re past the training wheels stories of Sam using his powers and again Duggan shows that just because Sam has a handle on his powers doesn’t mean his days of learning are over. Fourteen is a weird age and our writer does an excellent job of showing both the good and the bad of being a teenager. He also begins a subplot about UFO investigators flooding the town suddenly due to reports of a UFO lighting up the sky in this tiny town, seemingly appearing before midnight many times “almost as if it has a curfew.” I love this idea and the complications it will bring to Sam’s life. It feels like a logical step for a small town with a cosmically charged rocket shooting from it every evening.
The art team of Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, and David Curiel continue to shine on this series. The character models are consistent across the book and every moment feels like it should — the small moments are at turns fun, raw, and honest and the action remains kinetic and fast-paced. Curiel washes the book in vibrant colors, befitting of a futuristic space hero.
We’re sucked back in to another crossover with the next issue, which is a shame, but if any book makes sense for a crossover about the Watcher, it’s this ‘un. Duggan keeps pushing the human rocket to greater and greater heights with every issue of this comic book.