Duggan's "Nova" Rockets Through "AXIS," "Black Vortex"

Marvel's current Nova, teenager Sam Alexander, must deal with all manner of earthly and intergalactic threats while still attending school and trying to help out his family. Lately, the troubles Sam has been facing have escalated. Not only is his family in dire economic straits -- partially due to the disappearance of his father, Jesse -- thanks to the inversion spell cast in the first act of "Avengers & X-Men: AXIS," Sam is desperately trying to prevent a twisted and malevolent version of the Hulk from demolishing the Southwest United States and his missing father has embarked on a massive intergalactic quest.

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CBR News spoke with "Nova" scribe Gerry Duggan about Sam's rematch with the inverted Hulk in "Nova" #24, the series extra-sized 25th issue, and his plans for the book in 2015 -- including a confrontation with Carnage, a tie-in to the "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex" crossover, and a story focusing on Jesse Alexander's intergalactic odyssey back to Earth.

CBR News: Gerry, the current "Nova" arc is a tie-in to "AXIS," and Sam has his hands full with Kluh, the malevolent monstrosity that the inverted Hulk transforms into when he becomes sad. I understand this story was born out of a chat you had with your friend, "AXIS" writer Rick Remender. What made you want to pit Sam against Kluh?

Gerry Duggan: We knew that "Nova" was going to tie into "AXIS" and there was some discussion of whether we wanted to mess around with an inverted Sam? Or did we want to have Sam be one of the few available heroes that could face down some of the heroes that were inverted? I think we went the more interesting way.

We left Sam feeling once again like he was in the deep end of the pool, especially against the Hulk. There's sort of a tradition of heroes going up against the Hulk alone when they should not be. Frank Miller even did it with "Daredevil." The Hulk cleaned his clock and put him in the hospital.

I always loved stories like that. Having your butt kicked by the Hulk is a rite of passage. This was a great opportunity to have a coming out party for Sam on a big stage. "AXIS" was a really unique opportunity in that regard.

Sam and Kluh's battle in "Nova" #23 reminded me of the classic Spider-Man Vs. the Juggernaut story.

Yeah! That was great! Very flattering! That was a two-issue story done by John Romita Jr and Roger Stern!

You've only seen "Nova" #23, and "Nova" #24 really is Sam pulling himself up by his bootstraps to go back into the ring with the inverted Hulk. Then, to make matters worse his helmet is damaged. How damaged? Well, you'll find out in Nova 24. Hopefully the helmet and Sam will really have to find a way to work together.

After the Sam Vs. Kluh rematch, December's "Nova" #25 is an oversized issue that will feature some changes in Sam Alexander's life. What sort of hints and teases can you offer up about the issue?

It's an issue showcasing a lot of the repercussions of "Nova" #23-24; some good, some bad. We're trying to be as true to real concussion protocol as we can for Sam. I've had a couple of concussions so I know what it's like. We're trying to play very honest with that.

There's also an adventure to be had in "Nova" #25. It's a one-shot with the Avengers. I can't say much beyond that except that there's a real acknowledgement of Sam's heroics in "Nova" #23-24.

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The events of the second act of "AXIS" lead to Sam's heroic confrontation with Kluh. Will Sam get a chance to accomplish some more heroics in the event series third act?

Yes, Sam will appear in the final issues of "AXIS."

Let's move from how the events of "AXIS" impacted Sam to how they impacted his family. We saw how horrified Sam's mother, Eva Alexander, was at the end of his first battle against the Hulk, but it feels like in recent months she's becoming okay with and even proud of her son's heroics.

Yes, she's a little more comfortable with Sam going off and being a hero. I think she has the wisdom to understand that she's not going to be able to necessarily stop that outright. So what better way than to sort of collaborate with him on his heroics?

She's always been supportive as long as he meets his school obligations and I think it feels real. I was a kid who was allowed to stay out late as long as I was honest with my folks about what exactly I was doing. I'm trying to take that tact with Sam too.

Does she have some prior experience in dealing with a family member who regularly puts themselves in danger for others from what she went through with Sam's father who was the first Alexander to wear a Nova helmet? Is she sort of a cop's wife?

I think that's a pretty fair analogy, actually. The page counts I'm afforded don't always let me do everything I'd love to do, but that would be a real fun thing to explore. It's been hard enough for me though to make sure that Sam's story is moving forward while we're also moving his father forward through space and time. That would definitely be fun to explore some day though.

Speaking of Jesse, it seems like he's embarked upon an "Odyssey" style quest through space. Will you be checking in with him and his fellow escapees on a regular basis?

Yes, that arc and that story will begin to take much more of the center stage. We are tying in with the "Black Vortex" crossover In "Nova" #28. Then in "Nova" #29-31 Jesse's story will move to prominence.

What we've seen of Jesse's intergalactic adventures so far feel like a way for readers to see first hand the hero that characters like Rocket Raccoon know him to be -- because in early issues he was depicted as a school custodian who struggled with alcohol addiction.

Yeah, I sort of imagined what his life would be like back home if he made it. There's a real case to be made that he's almost better off in space than coming home and having this sort of "retired" life and being close to the booze.

He is in his element. It is fun to write a guy lost in space.

Let's also chat about the other member of the Alexander family, Sam's little sister Kaelynn. How much does she know about her brother and father's activities as Nova?

She's a young kid and young kids can sort of be tricked into believing different things. I mean that in an innocent way. I think they were able to cover up the damage she did to the house. So more or less, their secret is intact, but she did see Sam fly again. So she does know that her brother is special. Little girls can't keep secrets.

And speaking of secrets, Sam makes a pretty critical mistake as a result of his concussion during "AXIS" and that will lead us into the two issues with Carnage that happen after that.

Carnage comes into Sam's life in January's "Nova" #26. What made you want to bring Cletus Kasady to Sam's hometown of Carefree, Arizona?

To be totally honest, I wasn't quite sure that we would be able to do this story. Carnage is such a dark character and I do have a tone for the book that maybe was not going to include that. I think we found a way though to be true to Carnage's nature and also the tone of the book. With Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis' help I think we struck the right balance.

After that, Sam will be reunited with the guy he least wants to see: Hulk. Sam hasn't actually had the opportunity to meet Doc Green yet, but they have a really fun adventure in "Nova Annual" #1. The regular Nova team is on this annual, and no lie -- Sam and Doc have been a pure joy to write together. Somebody make Doctor Hulk & Mister Nova an ongoing!

2015's "Nova Annual" #1 will have these two characters interacting post "AXIS." David Baldeon is already letting his magic flow on that issue.

RELATED: Duggan's Nova Feels the Pain of "Original Sin"

Back to Carnage, what can you tell us about his motivation and mission in Carefree in the upcoming arc?

Carnage was very heroic during "AXIS," and by the time he shows up in Carefree, he is gunning for Sam for purely personal reasons. It's a grudge match, but Sam doesn't know what he did wrong. Carnage has motives that Sam won't understand until the second of the two-parter. When [Carnage's motives] become clear, their fight is almost at an end, but they have some really fun action through the partially devastated American Southwest because the inverted Hulk really does a number on Carefree.

I wanted to chat about the work of the guy drawing the Carnage arc of "Nova," John Timms. He recently drew Sam in the "Nova Special" that Sean Ryan wrote.

Yes, John has been really wonderful. That other experience he had with Sam made the book a real pleasure. He jumped in and already knew how to swim in that pool. He drew a great Sam that feels young and energetic. It's another action comedy and he's done a wonderful job.

Let's conclude by talking a little more about something you touched upon earlier: "Nova's" involvement in the upcoming "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex" crossover. How does it feel to be part of that crossover and not only thrust Sam into a larger intergalactic adventure, but also to be given a chance to play with the other cosmic characters that are involved?

It's been a real treat. It will be the first chance I've gotten to take a whack at the Guardians, but more than that [writers] Sam [Humphries], [Brian] Bendis, and Kelly Sue [DeConnick] have cooked up a real interesting cosmic adventure that will give us a new look at some of our older Marvel characters and really create some lasting new status quos for a lot of them.

Sam's part in the story is important, but it's funny because it's not what he goes into space to accomplish. I'll leave it at that.

I understand "The Black Vortex" gives Sam a chance to interact with a number of Marvel heroes including several his own age, the teenage cast of "All-New X-Men."

Yeah we started to seed some of that with "Nova" #22 where Sam accidentally ended up trick-or-treating with some of the kids at the Jean Grey School. It's been fun to play Sam off the younger characters. I didn't have an opportunity to take a whack at the New Warriors before that book wrapped up, but this is fun too.

David Baldeon, Terry Pallot, and David Curiel have provided the art for several issues of "Nova" and are currently working on our "AXIS" arc. These days I try to set the table and then get out their way. I let them go to town.

I think we have some of our most striking visuals coming up, especially in "Nova" #24-25. Then the Carnage stuff is a blast, and we follow it up with what is a real meaningful arc for Sam. I treasure my time with Sam and I'm glad everyone has been enjoying the ride.

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