Comics

‘How I learned to stop hating Sam Alexander’ – Or how one man “Got over it”.

Finally coalescing his thoughts, Joe tells us how he’s grown to love the new Nova.  

“We did what we had to do, what we always do. The right thing” 

– Richard Rider.

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Richard Rider, The Original Nova.

Nova, The Human Rocket, The Nova Corp, Worldmind and so on. A tantalising aspect of the cosmic Marvel universe that had me utterly entranced from the first moments of Annihilation, Annihilation Conquest, Nova Volume 4 and the brilliant cap to this run of cosmic adventures – The Thanos Imperative.  And when I say utterly entranced, I mean sitting down and reading entire story arcs in one go – something I later attempted with the entire “Spider-Verse” event. I discovered Nova in a rather unceremonious way, in that I was tremendously excited for 2012’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and wanted to read more in preparation for the film. Fellow “The Werd” writer, and co host of “Werd Bugger – The Argumentcast”, Rob Lindsay, had been enthusing something rotten that I should read the Dan Abnett (whom I’ve since had the tremendous pleasure of meeting) run of the comic.

And so, I began reading from “Guardians of the Galaxy: 01”, and noticed all of the varying crossover stories and titles at the header of the comic every now and then; Realm of Kings, Secret Invasion etc. So I looked at the characters around these events, found myself reading Annihilation Conquest (before Annihilation I might add. I know. Boo Hiss) and hit on Nova through that, which I had read – in my research – was one of the better runs in the storyline. And so I began to read Nova alongside Guardians of the Galaxy.

So there I was, traipsing around the universe, battling Skrulls, bedding Gamora, talking to the newly revived Adam Warlock. I had never connected with a Marvel superhero until Nova, never really felt the need to exclaim ‘that’s my guy!’ but here I was, doing it, giddy at the thought of another flight into space or another fight with Silver Surfer and Galactus. Or another bout with Thanos or the Church of Universal Truth. I was thoroughly taken. So when the inevitable happened, and poor old Richard Rider snuffed it in (I now think, I mean, at the time I was bloody heartbroken) quite a poetic ending to his character arc – forgetting the fact that it was released as a small element of issues #18 #19 & #20 of the revamped, Brian Bendis led “Guardians of the Galaxy”, a few years after the cliffhanger ending of “The Thanos Imperative”. Realising that this was the end for the character and that, there didn’t seem to be any plans on returning to Richard Rider, you can imagine my dismay at the prospect of a new, younger Nova, Sam Alexander.

It was a bitter pill to swallow indeed. Who was this newcomer? This little scamp, clearly of the same league as Marvel’s redesigned Avengers and Ms. Marvel. A ploy to appeal to a broader audience and generate a fresh buzz about the stagnating properties (later capped off by 2015’s Secret Wars event that effectively reconstitutes the Marvel Universe to include elements of the Ultimate universe – meaning we get Spider-Gwen and Miles Morales interacting with Peter Parker etc.) This move ultimately went great lengths in diversifying the Marvel landscape and providing readers with interesting new takes on old characters, perhaps even affording some moments like I had. Affording them their own hero.

To my dismay however, this commitment to new characters also meant Richard Rider wasn’t due back for a long time, if at all. (Though I’m hoping for Rich’s return, through some convoluted method later on down the line) So I, and many others like me, were stuck with Sam Alexander, and from this current point, a perceived insensitivity towards Richard Rider (In particular a moment, that when taken out of context, just looks like the writers further twisting the knife to all original Nova fans – see Nova #28)  had taken hold.

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But. It’s not like that at all. Believe me. You see, without any new Richard Rider material to satiate my appetite, I eventually broke and turned to Sam Alexander, and I’m really glad I did.

From the offset, I went in with the mentality of “who is this usurper?” and after five or so issues, my guard began to lower. Sure, to begin with – it wasn’t Rich struggling with whatever space war he was involved in at any time, instead we had the struggles of existing with very little money, an odd parity with Peter Parker’s struggles with school life, and Sam’s determination to not only find his dad, but also his own place within the universes’ pantheon of heroes. This was story of a very different flavour, and, they couldn’t have continued the overarching ‘Nova’ story – I think – any better. Rich had always contemplated his own place in the greater universe, sure, but for Sam, this struggle felt much more compelling on account of his age and the normal struggles and teething pains associated with it. To date, I’ve read all issues in the 2013 Sam Alexander run, and – apart from some odd instances i.e. crossovers with Original Sin Black Vortex – the entire run felt self contained, so much so that by the end of it, I had to sit down and acknowledge that ultimately I’d just experienced everything I’ve ever wanted out of a Nova series. Seeing Sam’s faults and his subsequent mastery over them became compelling in its own right, until his preternatural skills were put to the test against stronger foes. There was even a really smart deviation from standard hero affairs, in that although there seems to be a potential love interest for Sam, his main concerns are always in protecting his family and finding his father, showing a form of narrative restraint that became a breath of fresh air as I read. Of course, it’s wise to note that these are quite typical of the struggles Richard also faced, but what the writers have managed to do with Sam Alexander is update the issues into a much more contemporary setting. Sam’s mother deals with crushing debt and the fear of losing her house, something Sam’s superpowers aren’t exactly geared for helping with, and it’s interesting to note that because of this – his frustration with his inability to help – is the reason many of his early adventures start, they forge him into his own kind of Nova.

Also, it’s worth noting that the art is consistently good throughout, with some real stand out panels, especially in the later issues; this is another victory here, as it maintains some cohesion throughout the 2013 run that…for lack of a better term, just does it for me.

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Before, when I said it seemed as though Nova and the memory of Rich Rider in particular, wasn’t being written with much reverence or sensitivity when certain moments are shown out of context, well, now, having read past the initial fear and trepidation, I think I just want others to persevere. If you were or are anything like me, thinking your guy can’t be replaced or some other such nonsense, then listen to me now. I’m out of the other side of it. I’ve grieved for Richard Rider. He could remain dead and unimportant to the current Marvel Universe and I’d be fine, or they could bring him back and I’d welcome his return. But in the meantime, this Sam Alexander guy, well, now, he’s my guy.

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