In "Nova" #1, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness give a fuller introduction to the newest Nova in the Marvel Universe. Having appeared in the "Marvel Point One" one-shot and the opening and closing issues of "Avengers vs. X-Men," this is Sam Alexander's chance to finally take center stage. The problem is, it needs a slightly swifter opening act.
"Nova" #1 jumps back a few months to before Sam has become a member of the Nova Corps; it's a smart decision from Loeb, presenting an actual origin story and assuming that no one has read his few appearances to date. Parts of this set-up will feel very familiar to comic book fans; a teenage life full of bullying and dashed expectations, and in a remote part of the country where it feels like there's no escape. They're all stock tropes that work fairly well here even as you recognize them.
Where "Nova" #1 differs is that in the first couple of pages, you quickly discover the connection that Sam has to the Nova Corps right from the start, even if Sam doesn't truly understand it. It's a route that works pretty well; not only does it let Loeb deliver exposition in a way that feels less clunky than most attempts, but it also gives Sam a certain amount of information about his ultimate destiny that won't have to be doled out in future issues and slow down the series.
Unfortunately, while that part hasn't slowed down, other aspects do feel a bit sluggish. When you get to the end of the first issue, it's a little surprising how little has actually happened, and that's the biggest flaw of "Nova" #1. This is a comic that should feel a little peppier and grab attention in a way that the cover image leaps out at the reader. The character of Nova has always been a fast-moving, zippy character, so to have this first issue come across slowly feels like a point that's been beaten into us a little too long. It's easy to get that life in Sam's hometown is slow, but it'd be even more effective if we things zoomed around in comparison to get that sense of contrast.
Less sluggish is the art for "Nova" #1, which McGuinness draws with his typical clean faces and strong expressions. Over the years, McGuinness' storytelling has continued to refine itself; he's an artist who understands how to draw something big and powerful that blasts across the page, and a comic like "Nova" feels like it'll be a strong match to those talents. I like that he's also good with the less pulse-pounding details; the cross-cut between Sam's father's first story and then reality works well, and the cramped garage full of his father's stuff feels more realistic than the ones you'd normally see in a comic.
"Nova" #1 is off to a fine enough start, but this is a comic that should be great rather than just good. I feel like at the end of this first issue, the Human Rocket should be blasting off into high gear, but instead it's still idling on the launch pad. I'm ready to see more of "Nova" but hopefully the set-up is almost complete.