With the long-running ‘War on Kings’ event now wrapped up, the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe continues to tick merrily away, putting out a series of reasonably solid but undeniably antiquated adventures. This issue of Nova is a good example. On paper, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning continue to do everything right, with foreground action backed up by low-key ongoing plot development and an intriguing scenario linked across all of the sub-lines’ array of books. The implausibility of the situation, however, threatens to sink the entire venture.
The Sphinx’ self-improvement drive continues, but his younger self stands poised to resist his retconing. It’s up to the schizophrenic villain’s appointed champions to decide the day, but a rogue element looks set to be the deciding factor. The overwhelming feeling of the tale is artificiality, with the ritualise magic deployed being presented as an excuse for a tag-team “contest of champions” which would have appeared clichéd back in the early eighties. The florid dialogue adds to time impression of a forgotten backwater of the Marvel Universe. Reed Richards is particularly poorly-served, being happy to deploy a stratagem “if it means your munitions miss me”.
In many ways, Mahmud Asrar’s art is emblematic of the entire venture. He’s able to command attention during the big moments, despite some slightly clichéd character posing, but the end product fails to gel. The bold signature images and smaller pieces of storytelling are both sound of themselves, but there’s no link between the two. The irritations keep mounting up, with expressions miserably failing the match the dialogue, and some extremely shoddy anatomy drawing. With the comics line firmly established, Nova’s position appears secure, but he won’t be bringing many new recruits to his Corps without a serious increase in quality.