When the new “Nova” series launched, it was heralded as the new project by frequent collaborators Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness (most notably together on “Superman/Batman” and “Hulk”). To then be an entirely different creative team unveiled for “Nova” #6 is not a situation that most comic professionals would relish, but that’s why Zeb Wells and Paco Medina deserve a lot of credit. Their work on “Nova” #6 is enthusiastic and carefully following in the footsteps of Loeb and McGuinness, but at the same time, there’s a subtle shift and it’s perhaps for the better.
Wells’s first issue not only takes place after “Nova” #1-5 but the events of “Avengers vs. X-Men” as well. He handles all this backstory with ease; Sam’s dealing with both an offer to join the Avengers as well as his family and school works well. The reactions of everyone that he’d left behind during his adventures feels realistic (a combination of annoyance, frustration and confusion), and Wells didn’t just sweep all of this under the rug. In terms of plotting, “Nova” #6 fits in seamlessly with Loeb’s run.
That said, there’s one big and important difference: “Nova” under Loeb always felt like it was written for a pre-teen audience, while Wells’ take on “Nova” skews firmly into the teenagers-and-older crowd that most Marvel Comics are written for. There’s nothing wrong with either take on the comic — there’s room for both at Marvel — but if “Nova” plans to interact with the greater Marvel Universe, then it makes sense for it to be more in line with the rest of its titles. The shift also makes sense from a thematic standpoint. Sam’s had his first two adventures now, ones that first had him explore his powers and understand the greater universe (“Nova” #1-5) and then had him directly interact with other superheroes and world-shattering events (“Avengers vs. X-Men”). He’s a little bit older now, emotionally, and in Wells’s depiction it shows.
Medina’s pencils look nice, and it feels like he’s shifting his style a tiny bit to look more like McGuinness’. It’s not a carbon copy, though; Medina’s pencils possess that same smoothness, but there’s a little more realism inserted into them than readers get with McGuinness. The scene with Sam in the principal’s office is a great example: the principal’s face has much more nuance and expression than McGuinness normally offers, and in some ways it matches the art. Characters feel a little more well-rounded under Wells’ watch, and Medina’s art suits that upgrade. Best of all, Medina understands how to draw Nova when he’s using his powers. That final page as he’s blasting across the globe is just energetic; Nova feels fast because of the way he’s drawn here, and I love the physical body language that Medina brings to life here. I’ve enjoyed Medina’s pencils for a long time, but I feel like this is a new step forward for him.
“Nova” #6 is a fun comic — above average and takes a tough situation and makes it work. I think Wells and Medina might have only had one issue to sell their taking over of “Nova” to its existing readers; the good news is that I feel they’ve succeeded. If only all creative team transitions were so smooth.