Review by Ian Keogh
In Annihilation Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning deconstructed much of what Nova had been, reducing him to the sole survivor of a galactic police force, carrying their home planet’s entire knowledge and power around with him in the form of a computer presence in his helmet known as Worldmind. This is an interesting, conflicted relationship, as Worldmind considers Nova’s over-riding duty to protect it, while Nova is a typically proactive and altruistic superhero. The merging has strengthened what he can be considerably, but as his power set is largely point and fire, in practical terms it makes little difference.
Over the opening two episodes Abnett and Lanning establish Nova’s capabilities via a series of alien world rescue missions before dropping him back to Earth to test him against Iron Man, but as the title suggests, the bulk of the collection concerns Annihilation Conquest. The Phalanx are an alien hive mind, absorbing other beings into the collective by techno-organic means, among them several aliens known to regular Marvel readers. Can Nova be absorbed? The writers answer this cleverly, introducing a new Nova, and some tragic circumstances.
From the opening page (sample art) Sean Chen makes a statement about how he sees the relationship between Nova and his capabilities, designing intricate visual effects to display these. Letterer Cory Petit, also contributes artistically by distinguishing the various forms of dialogue. Chen’s art is good throughout. He’s an old hand at laying out an eye-catching page, and when called on to design new characters they’re distinctive. As the story expands into Annihilation Conquest, Brian Denham also provides art with the spotlight switching around other characters. It’s good, but his interpretation of female characters is sleazy.
It’s clear that Nova’s destiny is as a space superhero. Differentiating him from the abundance of superheroes on Earth makes sense, but despite this the most interesting chapters are those of Nova back home, learning his former teammates the New Warriors are responsible for sparking a conflict between Marvel’s heroes on Earth. Perhaps it’ll have a greater resonance for those who know Nova’s past, with Abnett and Lanning respectful of it while also emphasising how anyone associated with the New Warriors is tarnished. The key emotional impact, though, comes from Nova comparing what he’s been through to what amount to petty squabbles on Earth. It resonates.
The entire content can also be found in both the bulky paperback Nova by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 and the hardcover Annihilation Conquest Omnibus, while the final four chapters are included in Annihilation Conquest book two. The machinations of the Phalanx haven’t been dealt with by the end, and continue into Knowhere.