Richard Rider’s thirty year career as Nova ended in The Thanos Imperative, and for half that period Sam Alexander’s been hearing about his father’s exploits as part of the intergalactic Nova Corps, with the helmet he wore stored in the shed. As a teenager in a small Arizona town Sam’s life isn’t made any easier by his father’s alcoholism, and Sam ascribes the stories he’s told to fantasies. Then, in relatively rapid succession, Jesse Alexander disappears, and Rocket Raccoon and Gamora turn up at Sam’s bedside with the helmet Sam never believed had any significance.

It’s a rapid learning curve for Sam as he inherits the helmet, which is bonded to his DNA, and how to use the abilities it supplies him. There’s also the small matter of an alien invasion force lurking behind Jupiter.

Jeph Loeb named Sam after his own son who died of bone cancer, and perhaps there’s a transferred love as this pretty well tops any of Loeb’s other work for Marvel. He successfully captures the cynicism and alienation of puberty in updating a series that was originally conceived as an update anyway, using many of the elements associated with Spider-Man. Sam’s latent nihilism evaporates as the thrill of his new abilities kicks in, but Loeb’s script remains on the right side of gosh wow naivety.

Pencil artist Ed McGuinness also pitches this just right. His superhero action has always been enjoyable, but here he also ensures the necessary character building scenes convey the mood. There are times, though, when Sam appears considerably younger than fifteen.

It doesn’t matter for this collection, but the new Nova had been zipping about the Marvel Universe for a while beforehand, and this answered the mystery of who he was, and how he appeared to have a legacy. Two shorter stories originate from this period.

This isn’t the gold standard of superhero comics, but it’s an enjoyable and charming book that doesn’t waste your time.