Another week back at the 7-11 brought another issue of NOVA, a title that I’d only just begun to follow, having enjoyed the pair of coverless issues I’d gotten sometime previously. NOVA was an attempt on the part of writer Marv Wolfman to create a new young Spider-Man-like super hero for the Marvel Universe. And it wasn’t a bad attempt, though the character never quite reached the heights of the webhead. Marv wasn’t the only one trying this, across town at about the same time they had launched FIRESTORM, which carried a similar ethos as created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom. Turns out that there was more to Spider-Man’s popularity than simply his youth, but these characters became ongoing components of their respective universes regardless.
Apart from the cover image, regular artist Carmine Infantino was missing from this issue, filled in for by John Buscema, Bob McLeod and Joe Rubinstein. The presence of two finishers suggests that this was an emergency replacement and not something that had been planned well in advance. Carmine was a bit divisive as an artist during these later years. While for a decade and a half, he was the shining superstar of the DC line (and eventually the firm’s publisher) having returned to a freelance life his style was a bit more out of favor, with tastes generally running more towards the quasi-realistic school of Neal Adams. Fans were sharply divided on Carmine’s work in this period, and the end result often came down to who was inking him. Not that we really need to worry about any of that this time out.
This issue served to wrap up a bunch of running subplots involving the Inner Circle, a secret organization that Rich Rider’s father was seemingly connected with or being framed by. So the issue opens with Rich’s younger brother Robbie Rider and the Sherlock Holmes robot that he’d created (!!!) walking in on Nova standing over their father’s prone body. But Charles Rider isn’t dead, merely unconscious, and Nova zips off to try to catch the perpetrator of all of Rider’s recent woes. This turns out to be his old sparring partner, the Corruptor, one of several new super-villains that Marv introduced in this series. As his name implies, the Corruptor possessed a chemical touch that would turn people evil upon contact. That’s a pretty specific super-power, especially when it comes to a brawl–but it turns out that he’s also super-strong and can shoot beams out of his eyes and other stuff, so he’s not entirely as one-note as you might imagine.
After a brief fight during which the Corruptor reveals how his powers came back after his last battle with Nova and his plans for using them to take over the country, the villain gets bored and teleports away–whether this is yet another power that he’s pulling out of nowhere or something done technologically is left unspecified. With his foe gone, Nova vents his anger on the Corruptor’s Inner Circle goons and their base, trashing both them and the place before heading back to where he left Robbie and his Dad. He gathers them up and flies them to a hospital where his father can receive medical treatment.
After dropping his dad and brother off, Nova goes in search of the Corruptor. This entails visiting his recently introduced stoolie Shuffles, a pimp-suited card-shuffling quasi-stereotype. Shuffles isn’t willing to cross the Corruptor a second time, so he stays quiet, but he does pass Nova a clue that sends the Human Rocket jetting in the right direction. Turns out that a mob ginned up by the Corruptor’s touch of evil is rampaging randomly on Broadway. Nova scoops up the rioters in a borrowed fishing net and deposits them with the cops until the effects of the Corruptor’s touch wear off. Elsewhere, the Corruptor fumes, his nebulous plans foiled, and vows to return. The whole resolution is a bit of a damp squib, to be honest–it doesn’t feel like the Corruptor really had a plan of any great merit. But, hey, he was only just starting out in the Super-villainy game, we’ll cut him some slack.
Afterwards, Nova returns to the hospital and his civilian identity as Richard Rider, having come to a decision along the way. He decides to reveal the truth of his costumed identity to his family–and goes through with it. This was considered to be a huge no-no in the world of super heroes at this time, though there’s honestly not much of a good reason why Rich hadn’t come clean with them prior to this. So it was something of a progressive move. And it goes off without a hitch. The family is accepting of Richard’s dual life. Considering that Rich’s defining trait was that he was a bit of a doofus, it probably comes as a great relief to them that he’s got some direction in life.
Elsewhere in the hospital, we focus on Mike Burley, Rich’s rival and Flash Thompson-esque bully figure. Mike’s been on the lam ever since he was forced to help the Yellow Claw commit a robbery in order to save his own brother–the things that happen to you when you’re adjacent to a super hero, am I right? Anyway, trying to figure out his next move, Mike comes upon a stricken bum in an alleyway and is driven to play good Samaritan. He brings the guy to the hospital, where the doctors try to x-ray him to figure out what’s wrong with him. The guy keeps muttering that he’s the Comet and begging them not to use the x-ray machine on him. But does anybody listen? No way! So as the issue reaches its fade-out, the guy is bombarded by x-rays and begins to undergo a fantastic transformation. To Be Continued!
2 thoughts on “BHOC: NOVA #21”
I’m kind of surprised Archie Comics didn’t get upset over the Comet’s appearances in Nova. It feels more than alittle like an attempted trademark grab, especially since they would add a character called Crime-Buster as well.
Marv also did the Fly and the Black Cat as Spider-Man villains at around this same time, so he was definitely aiming at discarded or defunct trademarks.