How Marvel’s Nova Could Reshape the MCU

As a new project brings Nova, one of Marvel Comics' heavy hitters, into the MCU, big changes could be afoot.

Photo: Marvel

The man called Nova is finally headed to the MCU. Deadline has announced that Moon Knight writer Sabir Pirzada will be shepherding the character into the MCU. At this point, we don’t know if Nova will be a series or a movie, but excitement is already building.

Moviegoers have already received a glimpse of Nova in Guardians of the Galaxy, in which the Nova Corps played an important role. For comic book fans, the Nova Corps looks quite different. As in the movies, the Nova Corps is an intergalactic peace-keeping group, with members from all over the galaxy. But instead of flying around in cool star-shaped spaceships, the Nova Corps gain their power from their helmets and Centurion suits. Once a new member joins the Corps, their helmet grants them super-speed, flight, energy projection, and damage resistance.

More importantly, a Nova series offers a lot of potential for the MCU, as the character has gone through a few important phases. The first phase began with the character’s debut appearance in 1976’s Nova #1. Written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by John Romita Jr., Nova #1 featured ordinary teenager Richard Rider gaining his powers from Rhomann Dey, who came to Earth while hunting Zorr the Conquerer. Mortally wounded but desperate to stop Zorr from destroying Earth, as he destroyed the Nova homeworld Xandar, Dey transfers his powers to Rider. After a series of mistakes, including a stay in the hospital after the new powers overwhelm his body, Rider manages to find Zorr and bring him to Dey’s ship. Dey sacrifices himself to destroy Zorr, but not before passing his Centurion suit onto Rider.

Should Pirzada decide to follow this origin – or that of the second Nova, teen Sam Alexander, introduced in 2011 – then the project could be about a new hero learning the ropes. As Nova, Rider’s early years were marked by mistakes and near-misses. Dubbed “the Human Rocket,” Nova would often bumble through his adventures, not always certain how to operate the vast new powers. However, the MCU has already covered this ground, first with Peter Parker (very much an inspiration for Richard Rider) and with Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan.

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Instead, Pirzada could follow Nova’s later stories, in which Rider developed into a strong and capable leader, especially during the 2006 Annihilation event. Annihilation follows the invasion of the Fantastic Four villain Annihilus from the Negative Zone and into the main universe. His Annihilation wave rips apart the galaxy, destroying the re-constituted Xandar and killing all members of the Nova Corps save Rider himself. With the combined power of all Nova members, Rider joins Star-Lord and the newly formed Guardians of the Galaxy to beat back the invaders. At the story’s climax, Nova turns Annihilus inside-out, leading to a wonderful scene of Rider showing no patience for Tony Stark’s nonsense.

Marvel's Nova and Iron Man
Photo: Marvel Comics

To be sure, we’ve already seen elements of this kind of hero in the MCU with Captain Marvel. In Avengers: Endgame, she put Earth’s problems into perspective and reminded the Avengers that she has a lot of ground to cover. Even if the 2023’s The Marvels gives Carol at least one partner in Teyonah Parris’s Monica Rambeau, they could still use a hand from somebody like Rider. That’s even more true if elements of Annihilation find their way into the MCU. While it’s unlikely that Annihilus will appear in the franchise before the Fantastic Four, we do know that the universe is already under a great deal of stress, first from the actions of Thanos and then by the multiversal events in LokiSpider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Given the fact that Thanos obliterated Xandar in the lead-up to Avengers: Infinity War, there may be a need for an overpowered version of Nova.

At this point, we have little idea of where or even how Nova will appear. A Disney+ series seems likely, but as Eternals shows, Marvel does not shy away from introducing new and strange characters in their own films. That said, plenty of upcoming MCU projects would be good places to introduce Nova to the world. In addition to The MarvelsSecret Invasion deals with an invasion by frequent Nova antagonists the Skrulls. But the most logical place may be in the Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas Special, given Rider’s connections to the characters in the comics (including a romance with Gamora).