Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Nova Approach

When Marvel released The Guardians of The Galaxy movie in 2014, no one really knew what to expect. Far from the household names that they are today, back then, Starlord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax were mostly 2nd-3rd tier characters from the Marvel universe at best. But given Marvel Studios’ previous track record, people were open minded at best and for the most part, I think it’s safe to say that the movie delivered in spades.

The Guardians of the Galaxy movie also has some added significance for me (and I’m assuming my wife) since it was the first movie we watched together as a married couple. And when we went on our honeymoon, my wife bought me the entire wave of the Marvel Legends GOTG series as her wedding gift to me.

At this point, despite cherry picking certain figures here and there, I had not yet decided to become a full fledged Marvel Legends collector. This was the first time I got an entire wave of figures. Despite definitely being on a GOTG high, the main reason why I decided to go all in on this wave was to get one specific character who while not being an actual member of the group was strongly associated with them in the comics, Richard Rider, better known as the cosmic superhero Nova.

For those not familiar with Richard Rider aka Nova, here’s a quick background on the character. Nova made his comic debut way back late 70’s and was a member of the Nova Corps, an intergalactic military/police force from the planet Xandar. He is recruited into the corps by a dying member named Rhomann Dey. Sounds eerily familiar? I guess this was Marvel’s version of DC’s Green Lantern Corps.

Now Nova wasn’t really a superhero I knew much of growing up. By the time I learned about him, I was too much of an Avenger/X-Men fan to care much about the guy or the team he was a charter member of, the New Warriors. It wasn’t until 2006’s epic comic crossover event, Annihilation that Nova (and pretty much the entire lineup of Marvel cosmic superheroes & villains) finally made an impression on me. It’s been quite some time since I last read Annihilation and the specific details are hard to recall, but in a nutshell, it dealt with a large invasion force from the Negative Zone led by the supervillain Annihilus seeking to extinguish all life in the universe. In a massive intergalactic conflict that spans over a year, it takes the combined efforts of United Front led by Nova and featuring most of the known cosmic heroes in the Marvel universe as well as Galactus and his Heralds to ultimately defeat Annihilus and his ravenous Annihilation Wave.

One thing worth mentioning is that during the course of Annihilation, Xandar and the entire Nova Corps are destroyed. As the only surviving member, Rider makes contact with the living supercomputer called the Xandarian Worldmind, the caretaker of the entire database of Xandarian civilization as well as the custodian of the Nova Force, the power behind the Nova Corps. The Worldmind uploads itself as well as the entire Nova Force into Rider, greatly enhancing his abilities making him Nova Prime.

After Annihilation I was completely hooked on the whole cosmic side of the Marvel universe which was spearheaded by two new ongoing series, a Nova solo book as well as a new Guardians of the Galaxy book that would serve as the inspiration of the 2014 movie. Unfortunately nothing lasts forever and both of these titles which I enjoyed immensely ended in 2010 with the limited series “The Thanos Imperative” wherein both Nova, and the Guardian’s leader Peter Quill aka Starlord “sacrifice” themselves in order to defeat Thanos trapping all three of them in an eternal struggle within the Cancerverse.

Anyway, a few years later in 2012, the Guardians of the Galaxy movie was officially announced by Marvel Universe and in line with that, on the comics side of things, both Star Lord and Thanos miraculously return to the land of the living. Unfortunately there was no sign or mention of Richard Rider’s fate. To make matters worse, around the same time, a new Nova character was also introduced in the form of a much younger Sam Alexander with Marvel touting him as the ONLY Nova moving forward.

This of course did not sit well with fans of Richard Rider like myself. Many felt that Richard Rider, a very well rounded and developed character with a lot of history deserved a better fate and was just being conveniently tossed aside and erased to make way for this inferior character whom they referred to as NINO (Nova in name only).

To be fair, I gave Sam Alexander’s Nova a shot, but clearly, I was not the intended audience for this new character/book. I found it juvenile and simplistic with a lot of “oh cool look what I can do with all my cool new powers” and “I better make sure mommy doesn’t find out I’m now a superhero” moments. This was a FAR cry from Richard Rider who unknown by the general population of the Earth, had bravely battled and saved the universe from Annihilus’ horde.

Despite the backlash though, Marvel stood by their new Nova even going as far as shoehorning him into the Avengers. And when he proved to be “too good” for that team, had him break away to form his own team, the Champions. Eventually though they did throw fans of Richard Rider a bone by finally revealing what actually happened to him in the Cancerverse. His fate wasn’t anything mindblowing though, he basically sacrificed himself to allow both Star Lord and inadvertently Thanos to escape back into the main Universe. Thus reaffirming Marvel’s stand that Richard Rider was indeed….as Miracle Max would say, ALL dead.

Anyway, as everyone knows, the first Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge success and although it didn’t include Nova, himself, the Nova Corps (including Rhomann Dey) and their homeworld of Xandar was prominently featured which gave Nova fans hope for his inevitable inclusion on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, during the production phase of the movie, it was heavily rumored that Richard Rider would make a cameo appearance in a post credits scene played by sci-fi favorite actor Nathan Fillion. Of course, this never panned out. But the writers did admit that Nova was initially considered to be part of the movie with design concepts drawn out but was ultimately written off because they wanted Peter Quill/Starlord to be the only Earthling in the group.

Despite his exclusion from the final movie, as mentioned earlier, an action figure of Richard Rider’s Nova Prime was included in the Marvel Legends GOTG wave and he turned out to be one of the most highly sought out figures of the I said, having the complete movie lineup of the Guardians was cool, but I was really after Nova who was pretty much impossible to find on his own. I’m pretty sure Marvel took notice of this because pretty soon, they finally caved and brought Richard Rider back from the dead.

Now that Nova Prime is back I am hopeful once again that Richard Rider will take his place as THE Nova of the Marvel Universe. I’m OK with Sam Alexander sticking around as his sidekick though. This would give him a fair chance to properly develop as a character under the wing of Rider. And as for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Marvel Studios stating that after Avengers 4, the focus will be more on the cosmic side, I am hopeful that Richard Rider’s Nova will play a major role in the very near future. In fact, they already have the “stage set” for his origin with Thor revealing that Thanos had destroyed Xandar to gain the Power Stone before the actual events of the Infinity War movie. Now all they need is a (post credit?) scene wherein a dying Rhomann Dey who managed to escape the destruction travels to earth and find Richard Rider to hand over to him the entire power of the Nova Force. And there you go…..Nova Prime, Phase Four. Make it happen!