Nova #4 -- "Annihilation Conquest!" Woo! As everyone knows, the one thing better than epic space operas is sequels to epic space operas! And, as everyone also knows, Marvel is not one to let a sequel go untold! So here we are, thrust back into the cosmos with Richard Rider, with another war shaping up. As Nova responds to countless emergency signals from the Kree Empire, he finds himself in over his head very quickly, as the Phalanx tries to nuetralize him enough to make him one of their Chosen, just like one of his bedfellows from the Annihilation War. But will Richard's involvement end before it even begins? Nova is a good title, even if so far it has shuffled from one event to the next -- opening with an epilogue to the original "Annihilation," then moving onto an "Initiative" tie-in which was more of a coda to "Civil War," and now onto "AC." But DnA make it work, so I don't mind the little banners at the top of the cover each month. It's amusing how much Nova's situation has changed in a year; this issue is sort of a funhouse mirror reflection of the first issue of Annihilation: Nova. Also amazing is how strongly his "new" status quo as the Last Nova has stuck, so that when it changes, we feel like it's something pretty deep. Space and Cosmic fans: Buy this comic book!
Annihiliation Conquest: Wraith #1 -- Of the four "AC" prologues, this is the one with the least known about it: a new character with unknown motivations and origins. Javier Grillo-Marxuach, with Kyle Hotz on pencils, weaves a mystery story around this new arrival, and asks a lot of questions. What does he want with the Kree? Why do the Phalanx fear his technology? And how did the Phalanx know about him in the first place? The last page reveal is a great nod to those who read the first "Annihilation," and coupled with another character's appearance in Nova should fuel additional "Who can you trust?" speculation among readers. So far, the event is off to a solid start, with two more prologues still to bow. But I haven't been this interested in a Marvel story since, well, this time last year. So that's leaps and bounds of improvement over the ambivalence I feel towards the rest of their main line of comics.
New Excalibur #21 -- I always feel like I have to defend myself or apologize for reading this series. "New Excalibur?" people say to me. "You actually read that?" I usually say something along the lines of "Well, I was a big fan of the original Excalibur, so this sort of thing appeals to me." Which is true, and not too much of a cop-out on my part. And yet, that does not placate the critic. The usual follow up is "But... Claremont? Really? You actually like Claremont?" Which, again, makes no sense to me -- when I say the same things about Bendis, Millar, or Morrison, I get shouted down, so obviously different people have different tastes. But you know what, to hell with all of that: I like New Excalibur and if you don't like it, then *gasp* DON'T READ IT! The stuff hits the fan here, as Albion's plan to plunge the UK into a pre-technology state comes to fruition, and Excalibur and some unexpected allies have to try to help as many people as they can and try to stop Albion and his Shadow Captains. Penciller Jeremy Haun is pretty tight with his linework, and looks good, though I am not really familiar with his work outside of here. Claremont's working towards a big payoff, as the story elements introduced here date back to the launch of the series (I'd say "Remember when Albion and Lionheart popped up in that one issue, then vanished?" but since no one would remember it except me I will refrain). When it's all said and done, this is a comic book for fans of Chris Claremont, and for those of us who remember when "Claremont on X-Men" was seen as a boon and not a joke. Yeah, he's not a modernist, but sometimes the old methods still work, and this is one of those times.
Pick of the Pile for the Marvels is Nova. It's got action, drama, betrayl, universe-building, and an eye-popping last page, all in 22 pages. That's the kind of econony I can get behind!