With Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning almost single handedly (or double handedly in this case, I suppose) writing and defining the current Marvel cosmic line, it’s only natural for the work to suffer a little as the pair get overextended. “Nova” #33 looks like it could be the first sign in a decline in quality from the writing team, which is almost an accomplishment in itself, going this long before deliver a merely adequate, mediocre comic, but it’s also a sharp disappointment since the standards have been so high for nearly three years.
Beginning with the fairly benign concept of the Sphinx sending various time-displaced heroes back in time to 1920s Egypt, this issue lacks both the forward-thinking ideas and heart that have made DnA’s run so successful. Given the combustibility of Nova being reunited with his dead girlfriend Namorita and his struggle to keep it together without revealing to her that she will die at some point in her future, this issue had some great potential to present a different side of Richard Ryder and do something different with this old standard idea. Unfortunately, nothing of consequence or surprising happens.
“Nova” has been somewhat of a throwback book when not ensconced in the big cosmic event stories and this issue feels like a comic from thirty years ago where it’s cool to see time-displaced heroes getting together and fighting against a common foe, but that story has been done to death and nothing new is contributed here. There’s no indication as to why these heroes specifically were selected; even the promise of an explanation is cut short. Despite the unoriginality, there’s still a charm in this inoffensive, entertaining issue. It may not tread new ground, but it does retread old, familiar ground competently.
Andrea Di Vito’s art fits well with that throwback tone with clean, efficient lines that, oddly, remind me of the sort of work you would see in an issue of “Marvel Team-Up.” It's art that has the basics down, but doesn’t go that extra mile to establish a clear and unique style to stand out. The panels flow well and the characters are expressive, but there isn’t any drawing that stops you cold and holds your attention for a few extra seconds. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing since there’s plenty of art that holds your attention for all of the wrong reasons and knowing the basics of storytelling is no small accomplishment.
The art and the writing are a match in “Nova” #33, both very inoffensive, competent, and safe. No new ground is broken, not even much character development of Nova or Darkhawk is advanced, but a lack of originality and stylistic flair are the only faults this book has. It’s a perfectly enjoyable, mundane superhero comic, though that’s something that Abnett and Lanning haven’t produced many of lately. That's what makes this one somewhat disappointing.