More so than any other Marvel ongoing title of 2008, Nova tied into the events of Annihilation Conquest, the first volume of this series even being titled just that. The two projects shared the writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and the events of Knowhere build toward a decisive intervention. The previous volume ended with Nova escaping two deadly beings, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora, both infected with the Transmode Virus connecting them to the Phalanx hive mind. Nova also spent a brief period absorbed himself, and is now in previously uncharted territory, but with Drax and Gamora hot on his heels.

Nova’s location is a vast refuge for galactic flotsam and jetsam within the decapitated head of a Celestial, one of the galaxy’s oldest and most powerful beings. It’s a fantastic concept, one that made it to the Guardians of the Galaxy films, and far from the only good idea offered as Abnett and Lanning introduce some hard science fiction ideas to Nova. This is all the better for being included at a time when the purpose was to provide a holding pattern before Nova’s story reintegrated with Annihilation Conquest.

Wellinton Alves has a slightly grittier style than previous primary artist Sean Chen, and it suits the environment. Alves is good, but just one of four contributing pencil artists, the biggest surprise being Paul Pelletier (sample art right), where the needs of the script pull him well away from the clean superheroics he usually draws. His sections toward the end are set on a planet of vast, complex morphing machine life forms, and his versions are fantastic. Mahmud A. Asrar is nice on sections dealing with Richard Rider’s past and possible future, while Klebs only has a small contribution to make, but it’s vital and evocative.

Key to the entire book is the Transmode Virus. Nova was an exceptionally rare being able to break its control over him, but wasn’t able to purge it entirely, and the longer it lurks, the more likely it is to take him back under its control. His solution is to visit the source, and that’s where Abnett and Lanning spring another nice surprise. It leads into Nova feeding back into Annihilation Conquest where the Phalanx story concludes. However, there’s no rest for Nova as he’s next thrust into Secret Invasion.

There were some ho-hum aspects to Nova’s series re-boot, but while not entirely absent here, there are fewer of them, and they’re more than mitigated by the cascade of good ideas and surprises. The writers define Rider well, as far from infallible, but confident and with a sure sense of what’s right and where his duty lies. He’s very likeable.

The entire content can also be found in both volume one of the bulky paperback Nova by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 and the hardcover Annihilation Conquest Omnibus.