After the explosive events of “Guardians of the Galaxy” #25, “The Black Vortex” event takes a breather to get to know Sam Alexander and the Vortex itself better in “Nova” #28. Though a lull is a smart pacing choice, the event’s return to pass-the-MacGuffin mechanics is tiresome and all the more noticeable because of the issue before it. Even Gerry Duggan’s wonderful ear for Nova’s voice and David Baldeon and Terry Pallot’s cool layouts can’t quite make this one memorable. “Nova” #28 is an average issue that fulfills its function and moves smoothly, but it doesn’t do much more than that.
Sam has escaped with the Black Vortex, but now he has to find a way and a place to hide it — while also avoiding the temptation to submit. His issue-long debate with the Vortex is one of the few times that this event really engages with its emotional core questions. Like a supervillain Siri, the Black Vortex can fulfill Sam’s specific requests for information and, as he asks it for reasons, motives and possibilities, he has a fun, somewhat obvious look at what he might trade for power. The audience already knows exactly what the “right” answer is here, so it’s not a true tug-of-war, but it’s a preview of what “The Black Vortex” could have offered with a more manageable cast. Watching a character one-on-one with this evil artifact is pretty interesting.
However, Sam is most concerned with hiding and fleeing with the Vortex, and that piece of the story is too standard and coincidental. From Sam’s sister almost grabbing the Vortex to Sam accidentally bringing it to the wrong place, the plot hits all the tropes in expected fashion. It also adds even more people to the mix. When the Collector showed up, I almost laughed. How many more characters are going to participate in “Black Vortex?”
David Baldeon and Terry Pallot serve up a spunky universe that keeps its cosmic wonder while still feeling young and wired. Sam’s bobble-head body and nimble fighting style prevent the metal-space-suit action from feeling too clunky and static, while a few nifty layouts make scenes feel more inventive than the writing would otherwise accomplish. However, some of the more exaggerated elements don’t read well. Sam’s neck is almost grotesquely pencil-like, particularly when he puts on the helmet. While I know the book isn’t aiming for anatomical reality, it kept drawing my eye in a bad way. Baldeon and Pallot also don’t have a good grasp of Thane’s face. When he says, “My heart is shattered…I will crush the Earthlings,” his scrunched, eye-rolling expression looks a bit too cartoony, especially compared to the other characters in the scene.
Colorist David Curiel does what a “Nova” colorist ought to: get the galaxy looking wondrous and explorable. Meanwhile, letterer Albert Deschesne’s treatment for Sam’s narration, with yellow text on a blue background, captures the tone of the book perfectly. For a less grinning, go-for-it character, it might suck the gravity and professionalism out of a scene, but for Sam it really works. It gels with both his jokes at home and his sails through space — a tricky balance to maintain.
Though it doesn’t stand out, “Nova” #28 moves the story forward, staying true to both its character and its event.