Saturday, June 20, 2009

Out of the Vault - The Man Called Nova #5

So yeah, I guess I'm going to ride this horse till the wheels fall off or something. Last week featured the Marvel Bullpen guest-starring in Fantastic Four #176. The text feature replacing the letter column said that the Marvel offices would also feature in an upcoming issue of The Man Called Nova.

So I decided to look it up. Turns out, it was issue #5, cover dated January 1977. The cover is one of Kirby's lesser efforts, but at least it effectively conveys what goes on inside. The basic story is, Richard Rider sees a TV news story saying that Marvel Comics is looking to get hold of Nova for a potential comic book. So he changes to Nova and flies there immediately.

When he gets there, he meets Marv Wolfman and Sal Buscema (this issue's writer and penciller, natch), who want to pitch the idea for a Nova comic book to Stan Lee. The only tie-in to FF # 176 is a brief mention by Marv that "We had a little trouble here the other day, and we haven't cleaned up yet."

Turns out, Stan's out giving lectures, so to kill time, Nova, Sal, and Marv head to Central Park, where Nova demonstrates his various powers. It doesn't take long--he only has the flight, the not-so-impressive super-strength, and the invulnerability.

It does make for an amusing moment, though, when he asks a cop to shoot him. The cop protests, but his older partner says, "Take it easy, Bill. We got clearance from downtown for this." Wonder if Marvel specifically called them to clear the shooting, or if it's just a general rule of the NYPD: "If a superhero asks you to shoot him, do it." I kind of like the latter idea.

Anyway, about that time, that issue's villain, Tyrannus, shows up, driving a lame-o giant robot with a drill for a hat. Tyrannus was a bad Mole Man knock-off who first appeared in an early issue of The Incredible Hulk, and whenever I see him in a comic, my first reaction is, "who?" And then I sort of remember vaguely that he's that lame guy who shows up every now and then to provide a generic punching bag for one issue while the hero's taking a break from whatever he's really got going.

So Nova spends way too many pages making Tyrannus look like a legitimate threat, then (as is usual for Tyrannus apparently) beats him with one punch. Okay, and the threat of several more--they seriously pull the ol' "not the face" routine here, because Tyrannus is apparently the Barbi Twins' brother or something.

So with New York safe once again, Nova and the Marvel boys head back to the office to finally see Stan Lee.

It's not a bad cameo. I'm not sure whether to credit Sal Buscema or inker Tom Palmer with the Mort Drucker-like quality of the caricatures in this ish. I would say it's mostly Palmer, which is cool. His inks get pretty muddy in other places, though. He sometimes got a little too carried away with the zip gun, if you know what I mean.

So anyway, a fun issue overall, I guess, but kind of a throwaway. You could say the same about the Impossible Man's appearance in Fantastic Four #176, of course, but that issue was a breather after a multi-issue battle with Galactus and featured the return of a long-almost-forgotten character. This issue was a one-off in a string of one-offs before Nova had any real signature villains of his own (the next issue would feature the return of Condor, Powerhouse and Diamondhead, making them the first members of his recurring rogue's gallery). Plus, this was the second appearance of the Bullpen in three months, so you can see why this issue had very little of the impact that the FF one did.

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