Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Passing of Len Wein

Len Wein, legendary comic creator and co-creator of Black Nova with Marv Wolfman, has passed away at the age of 69.

Marv and Len co-created The Star, who later evolved into Black Nova, in 1966 for Marv's Super Adventures fanzine.

Len wrote Amazing Spider-Man #161, the second part of the Nova/Spider-Man crossover "Who Is The Man Called Photon?". He was also involved with Nova in the animation field as the writer of the Super-Hero Squad episode "So Pretty When They Explode!".

Like a lot of fans, his passing has left me feeling a little empty right now. I think it bothers me more than other creators' passing because I had the pleasure of meeting Len. He was so nice and warm even though I'm sure I came off as a stammering Goofenstein. And that doesn't happen very often to me when I meet creators.

But Len created so many characters and stories that you couldn't help but stand in awe when meeting him. I especially LOVED his run on Justice League of America.

Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway are writers/editors who shaped comics for generations of fans (especially mine) and the comic world is brighter and better because of them.

I didn't know until later that he had health issues his whole life. You definitely wouldn't know it from meeting him.

Thank you for all you gave the world, Len. Rest well.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Nova #4 Review

Nova #4 - 3.5 (of 5) Gravimetric Pulses ❋❋

Things slow down a bit from an action perspective this issue. In this case, the issue's character development was worth the trade off.

Both heroes deal with issues of the opposite sex and the way they handle them is a study in contrasting similarities.

Sam's story is one of insecurity and trying to impress a girl. He tries to give Lina the outward appearance of something he's not while we see how Sam feels about himself on the inside.

Rich's tale is a similar story. He gives the appearance of being comfortable with Gamora on the outside but hides from her the Cancerverse creature that's we know is inside of him.

There are some contrasts in how they perceive the date. Before his date, Sam is worrying himself sick over whether to tell Lina he is Nova or even if he should go on the date because being Nova might put her in harm's way at some point. Rich, on the other hand, is trying his best not to think about being Nova and simply have a normal time.

Also, as Sam is going to pick up Lina, he imagines that she is a monster that says he sucks at everything he does. On the other hand, Rich knows he contains a monster inside himself but is able to maintain his self-confidence while he's with Gamora.

However both heroes are on the same path through the whole issue. They want to find someone they can share their time with and help them retain their humanity in lives that are far from normal. And interestingly, it's the females who put the heroes at ease.

And we get to see the contrasts in the females, too. Lina simply tells Sam to just be himself and gets to witness his hero side when helping a mugging victim. Gamora already knows Rich so she lets him be himself without prying too much. Unlike Lina, Gamora is a fighter and teams up with her date to smash a group of muggers. It also shows again how Rich is a better trained fighter than Sam.

And near the end of the issue, the creative team shows both dates simultaneously across two pages. Both Novas talk, dance, drink and finally kiss their dates.

Sam and Rich's hero lives converge again at the end as the Cancerverse creature who had escaped in #2 has attacked Sam's sister at the Nova shrine in the Alexander's garage!

The Loveness/Perez writing team continues to catch the characterization of both Novas so well. Their scenes of Sam's youth and insecurities and Rich's maturity and attempting to cope with his inner monster are very well done. As for the art, Perez's styles for Sam and Rich are different but they have stayed consistent throughout the series. Yet, while different, they are complimentary and help emphasize the differences between both Novas.

A side note: I really liked Rich's "safe house" located inside the World's Fair Unisphere! My guess is that it was created during his tenure with the New Warriors as most of Rich's mementos go up to that point. Plus the wealthy New York-based Taylor Foundation could have purchased the Unisphere and created quarters for all the New Warriors inside.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Nova #3 - Review

Nova #3 - 4 (of 5) Gravimetric Pulses ❋❋

You know, after 45+ years of reading comics, I don't get caught off-guard very often. But Nova #3 gave me a "HOLY ----!" moment. More on that later.

The fight in the bar had a Spaghetti Western feel to me. I know that sounds odd but, to me, all that was missing was some ponchos and little stogies. Seriously, in my head I could hear the soundtrack from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

A scene I enjoyed was the subtle display of how much more powerful Rich is than Sam. After rightfully becoming angry with Titus, SA Nova unleashed his anger and strength on him. After repeatedly being punched, Titus shrugs and tells Sam how Sam's father hit harder and knocks him out.

With Sam knocked out, Rich faces the three bounty hunters on his own. In contrast to Sam's fight, RR Nova gives Titus the Guy Gardner one-punch treatment and tosses him into the Chitauri with very little effort. Not to mention holding off Death's Head at the same time!

But since Annihilation, Rich is more than just power. He has become a strategist on the level of Steve Rogers. Using Cosmo for communications, stalling while planning (a very funny scene) and, most importantly, knowing how to intelligently implement the weapons around him. Realizing he has a better chance with the bounty hunters than Sam, Rich is still smart enough to send Sam to the bomb on Knowhere as a backup plan.

And then - the "HOLY ----!" moment.....

I did not see it coming. No sir, I did not. Had no idea that Rich was going to squid out and go halfsies on the Chitauri. The Cancerverse infection (I still think it's from whatever Lord Mar-Vell planted in RR Nova during The Thanos Imperative) is becoming stronger. Either Rich is able to now control it to a degree or the creature is able to control Rich when the host body is threatened.

Either way, an intriguing plotline that keeps me wanting to get to the next issue. And I especially love that Loveness and Perez didn't just have Rich come back and everything is a-okay.

And the issue wasn't just all action. The aftermath of the fight in the Knowhere bar continues the simply terrific relationship Rich and Sam have developed. It's obvious from Rich's advice on life that Richard Rider has learned from his experience in the Cancerverse. And he's mature enough as a mentor to advise Sam on the lessons learned.

The epilogue in Rich's quarters on Knowhere was a great setup to next issue. It's the subtle things like Dr. Sun's helmet and the pictures of the New Warriors that show the love this creative team has for both Novas.

The art has finally won me over. The storytelling in the art is solid and helps tell the story as much as the dialogue. While the minimalist style isn't my usual taste, I'll take substance over style any day.

Unlike some creators, this creative team has done their homework and have plenty of talent to produce a book worthy of both Novas and their fans' support.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Nova #2 - Review

Nova #2 - 4.5 (of 5) Gravimetric Pulses ❋❋❋

Blue Blazes! That was a great issue!! I enjoyed it more than the first!

The interaction between Rich and Sam is the real highlight of the issue. The two have a terrific big brother/little brother interaction that captures the personalities of both characters extremely well. Both Novas clearly need each other and each enjoys being around the other.

But the personal interactions aren't limited to just Rich and Sam. The pages with the Champions were wonderful. The young heroes clearly admire Rich Rider but still act like teenagers and can't resist ribbing the older hero. However, it's obviously in fun and not some snarky attitude towards an adult.

And as if that wasn't enough - we got COSMO!! Who doesn't love a telepathic Russian space dog who reads War and Peace?!? And his characterization had me laughing page after page. "Americans". lol!

And while a lot of the issue is character building, it starts and ends with action. In the beginning, we get a battle with a gross monstrosity from the Cancerverse. And the issue finishes off with a nice cliffhanger as the two Novas are targets of bounty hunters (Death's Head, Titus and a Chitauri).

In between the action and characterization, Loveness and Perez are able to squeeze in an interesting subplot regarding the Cancerverse creature. Apparently, only Rich Rider can see the rift that brought it to their universe. Later, a small piece of the monster returns after Rich uses his power to go to Knowhere. It finds the Nova helmets in Sam's garage. That certainly can't lead to anything good.

And that's another reason I love this series so far. The writers clearly have done their homework. References from the past series of both characters are made. The only small discretion is that Rich says he was never an Avenger although he was a member of the Secret Avengers briefly.

I asked Jeff Loveness about it and he mentioned that he had to nudge that a little due to Bendis stating in GotG's Original Sin arc that Rich always wanted to be an Avenger. To make it fit, Jeff assumes Rich never felt like he was a full Avenger since he was only involved in one mission with the Secret Avengers.

The art is growing on me more. The art style isn't what I'm normally used to since I'm an older reader. However, I love comics from all eras so different art styles are fine with me. What matters to me is the storytelling ability of the artist. Perez does a very very good job in that aspect!

And finally, the toast to Rich on Knowhere's bar made me stop reading and just smile (not to mention making my eyes a little moist).