Marvel Comics Review: Annihilation 2099 #1 (Nova)

Can it live up to the original? And on that surprise twist...

marvel comics annihilation nova 2099 review

Editor’s Note: Timelord regularly reviewed the 2007 “Nova” and 2008 “Guardians of the Galaxy” series with his reviews directly sent to the books’ editors and creators. Timelord’s reviews have been quoted by Marvel in cover blurbs, press reviews, and solicits.

Writer: Steve Orlando

Artist: Ibraim Roberson

Colorist: Neeraj Menon

Cover Artist: Nick Bradshaw & Rachelle Rosenberg

As a lifelong Nova fan and being of the opinion that Giffen’s original Annihilation series was the best cosmic story Marvel has ever produced, I approached yet another attempt to re-capture Annihilation’s glory with some trepidation. I came away from reading this issue with some mixed feelings but trending positive

From the storylines in this issue and teases for the upcoming 4 other issues, this mini-series appears to be pitting various 2099 versions of cosmic and pseudo-cosmic characters against world-ending villains and/or each other. A sequel mini-series to the events of this first issue, Annihilation Conquest, pitting Nova 2099 against Dracula 2099 is upcoming later this year. It is unknown if this mini-series will culminate in an Annihilation-like event bringing all the featured characters together to face a common foe.

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If you are expecting something akin to Annihilation: Prologue or the first issue of Giffen’s original Annihilation event, you’ll be disappointed. If you resist the temptation to compare this issue to the original Annihilation event, you’ll be entertained for a few minutes at the very least because it is a somewhat engaging standalone story if you are willing to overlook the overused tropes from the Nova mythos and the borrowed wild west tropes as well as avoid the annoyance with Marvel for once again replacing Rich Rider in the Nova role. More about that later. First, let me overlook the overused tropes, set aside my annoyance with Marvel for replacing Rich again, and tell you what I liked.

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The character, “Nova 2099,” hereinafter referred to as “Noverine,” is, obviously, a Nova-power-infused future version of Wolverine, badly wounded after a battle with some 2099 Hulks, recruited by the Nova Corps of 2099, and healed by infusing him with Nova force. Setting aside my disdain for overused tropes and resentment about Rich being replaced for a moment, I admit that I begrudgingly halfway enjoyed Noverine’s origin story and his Spaghetti-Western-ish first story. The origin story, told in a brief flashback, is actually the more interesting and entertaining of the two. I wish it had been the main storyline featuring its intriguing big bad, the Exo-Parasites, and the Nova Corps’/Novarine’s battle with them in a much more de-compressed presentation. The main Spaghetti-Western-ish story about Clint Eastwood….er….I mean, Novarine, clearing Dodge City…..er….I mean, a small alien town, of a group of three unruly cowboys….er…I mean, The Knull Set, though predictable, was entertaining enough, worth my $4.99 investment, and could have been a lot worse (I reference the mess that is the current Spaghetti-Western-ish GotG series). In fact, I found this short story of Noverine vs Knull’s minions more entertaining and better executed than the entire King in Black event even though I’m gently poking fun of the Wild West tropes. I swear to you that as I’m writing this review, an old episode of Gunsmoke is playing on the TV right next to me and the story is literally about Festus running three unruly cowboys feared by the gentle townsfolk out of a small western town. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing the Wild West tropes and reconfiguring them for the 21st Century. I’m just of the opinion that the World War II and Cold War tropes work better for Cosmic in general that the Wild West tropes. Is anyone seriously going to argue that Science-Fiction/Science-Fantasy franchises that use WWII tropes such as Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and Star Trek are less successful than Wild-West-themed Firefly? I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when westerns saturated television and movies. Yellowstone as a possible exception to the rule, the current entertainment-seeking public has grown beyond westerns and I don’t see a return to anything close to the level of fervor of the 60’s and early 70’s. It’s puzzling to me why today’s Marvel Cosmic keeps doubling down on using Wild West tropes for GotG and Nova. Were today’s writers just super-fans of Firefly? Firefly was an admittedly great show, but it just couldn’t find that mass audience because Wild West tropes are passé. Seriously Marvel Editors, switch back to WWII tropes and you’ll see Cosmic soar once again.

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Much like being barely able to stomach Frank Castle being Cosmic Ghost Rider, I can begrudgingly barely stomach Noverine being the last “Lone Ranger” Nova. That’s just not the characterization and storyline I would have preferred for an Annihilation series. In general, I prefer street level characters remaining on Earth and in the street, not powered-up and replacing true Cosmic characters just because said street level character is popular and/or is featured in a current movie or TV series and/or, worst of all, to pander to one side or the other in the culture wars. What next? Novapool? She-Novulk? Captain Novfalcon? Please God, no! Quite simply, there is no reason this story couldn’t or shouldn’t have been told with an aged Rich Rider in the starring role. In fact, it would have been better that way as this series is at least giving lip service to being a homage to Annihilation. Please Marvel editors, either use the Cosmic characters that made the character the legend that the character is or create an entirely new character.

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As to the tired old Nova tropes I’ve been bitching about, once again we have the lazy and over-used “destroy Xandar and the entire Nova Corps leaving only 1 Nova alive to be the Lone Cosmic Ranger travelling the cosmos leading the fight for truth and justice, law and order, etc., etc., etc.,” just like his 19th Century Lone Ranger counterpart. I have criticized the hackneyed “destroy Xandar and the Nova Corps” plot device and “Lone Ranger” trope countless times in past reviews and op-eds. It just needs tgo away forever. Nova, regardless of the iteration, works best with an ensemble cast. Enough of the “Cosmic Lone Ranger” BS – and please, Marvel Editors, retire once and for all the “destroy Xandar and kill all the other Novas except 1” plot device. Genocide shouldn’t even be possible with a star-travelling species. There would be too many of them too scattered throughout the cosmos to kill every single one. That’s one of the main reasons to be a star-spanning species. Don’t believe me? Just ask Elon Musk.

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Roberson’s art was eye catching. He has a penchant for cosmic, bringing the kind of detail and energy needed for a cosmic comic. It was said that Noverine’s look was a homage to the legendary John Buscema’s rendering of Nova. John and Sal Buscema’s renderings of Nova back in the 1970’s in Nova Volume I remain my favorite renderings of Nova to the present day. In fact, some of them are hanging framed on the wall next to me as I write this review. It was nice seeing much-deserved honor and respect given to the work of the Buscema’s. Menon’s colors perfectly complemented Roberson’s art, blessing the fans with some pleasing eye candy before this short story came to an abrupt end. Bradshaw & Rosenberg’s cover art was enticing and succinctly captured the mood and main storyline.

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The second short story in this issue concerns Dracula in space searching for his vampire homeworld, accidently being awakened too early by some space pirates, and crash landing on an unsuspecting backwater planet where he and his newly transformed into vampires pirate crew will no doubt wreak havoc upon said planet’s population. I felt myself channeling classic Vampirella as I read this story and halfway hoping she’d show up for no other reason than the eye candy she always brings and a surprise crossover twist to the storyline breathing some new life into plot devices we’ve seen in way too many vampire stories and movies. Noverine will apparently be squaring off with Dracula in the Annihilation Conquest sequel. I’m not all that excited about this particular science-fantasy and horror mashup, but we’ll see if Orlando can pull it off and change my mind.

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So, fellow Novaphiles, if you’re in the mood for a good Rich Rider Nova story, you’re going to be as disappointed as I was. But, as far as non-Rich Rider Nova stories go, this one is better than every NINO (i.e., Nova In Name Only) Sam Alexander story and all of the other Non-Richard Rider Nova stories produced over the past several years. NINO and the other NINO-like characters were, admittedly, a low bar to clear, but at least Orlando cleared it.

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