Next Up: The Man Called Nova

The emotionally charged trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has fans wondering which members of the team will kick the bucket when the film hits theaters next Summer. Whatever the case, one thing will be sure: the team will never be the same again. Whether or not there will be more adventures for a new iteration of the team is a decision that Marvel Studios One Above All, Kevin Feige, and his trusted Parliament have to make but in-universe, Guardians or not, the galaxy still needs heroes. Fortunately, because Marvel Studios has woefully underdeveloped the cosmic corner of the MCU, one of the galaxy’s greatest heroes-if not THE greatest-is ready to come off the bench and join the fight.

Though it has long been a staple of Marvel Comics, Marvel Studios has not invested much effort into building out the cosmic side of the MCU outside of James Gunn’s work on Guardians of the Galaxy. In their eagerness to bring Carol Danvers into a starring role, Marvel Studios skipped right past the tales of the comic’s first cosmic hero: Mar-Vell. Though the character was present in Captain Marvel, an alternate path with a more fully developed Mar-Vell as a true hero could have changed much of the cosmic landscape. Instead, what exists now is a terrifyingly bland, basic and underdeveloped idea of one of Marvel Comics’ most important conflicts: The Kree-Skrull War. The Kree are sorely misrepresented compared to their comic book counterparts and one of their greatest warriors, Ronan the Accuser, was egregiously done dirty and taken off the board in Guardians of the Galaxy. Their “war” with the Skrulls has been relegated to a few scuffles and Annette Bening’s Mar-Vell’s role in it was reduced to a glorified cameo. Yes, the Skrulls are due back for more in Secret Invasion, but which Skrulls? Gravik? How about a Power Skrull or two? Where’s Paibok? For fans of old-school Marvel Comics cosmic adventures, Marvel Studios adaptations of these characters and stories has been disappointing.

Past is prologue, of course, and even in a medium that’s easily “retconable” it’s going to be pretty tough to undo the stories told of Mar-Vell and Ronan. Maybe Power Skrulls and Super Skrulls can show up down the road. Maybe the portrayal of the Kree can be improved (at this point it’s the equivalent of polishing a turd, however). Maybe…but it’s not in changing the mistakes of the past that Marvel Studios can improve its cosmic storytelling. No, the path to redemption lies ahead and rests on the shoulders of The Man Called Nova.

In March of 2022, a trade report confirmed what many had been discussing for a long time: Marvel Studios is developing a Nova solo project. Moon Knight writer Sabir Pirzada was brought on board to get the gears turning on what many insiders believe will be a Disney Plus project. If everything were to go according to plan, that project could go into production in 2023, meaning it would be ready to stream in 2024. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 wrapping up what’s hopefully Marvel Studios’ first act of cosmic theater, MCU audiences would find themselves being introduced to the character who should rightfully be the star of the second act just about a year later. Though fans of the character have been pining for his debut for years, Richard Rider couldn’t find a better time to join the party.

Mar-Vell and the Kree-Skrull War became the backbone of most every Marvel Comics’ story for decades. However, in 2004 Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning launched Marvel’s modern cosmic line that was comprised of a series of large-scale events unlike anything ever attempted by the publisher before. For the better part of a decade, cosmic fans hand their hands full as Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest, War of Kings, Realm of Kings and The Thanos Imperative hit stores in rapid succession. These stories introduced a new generation of readers to some of Marvel’s most obscure heroes and villains (including the Guardians of the Galaxy team that James Gunn adapted for the MCU) but one hero found himself at the center of nearly every one of those stories: Richard Rider.

Though he’d been around for nearly 30 years at the time, Rider had never taken center stage as he did during Abnett and Lanning’s epic run. Save another hero. Save a planet. Save the entire galaxy. Nova did it all, ultimately at the cost of his life. The Silver Surfer may have had more adventures than Richard Rider, but it’s hard to argue that Rider didn’t become Marvel’s greatest cosmic hero during that time. Now, with the MCU’s Guardians set to be reeling from whatever comes their way in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Rider could find himself getting the same treatment in the MCU.

Somewhat serendipitously, the stage has been perfectly set for Nova to follow the Guardians though most of his heroics in the comics preceded their assembly. Should Marvel Studios be keen to follow the DnA blueprint, characters such as Annihilus, Blastaar and Kl’rt and alien races like the Shi’ar and the Phalanx would likely play their roles. None of those characters were available to Marvel Studios until after the Dinsey-Fox merger of 2019. So by postponing Nova’s MCU debut, whether intentionally or not, Marvel Studios made it possible to introduce Richard Rider and have him enter his finest hour fairly quickly. As fun as some of the older Nova books used to be, the 2000’s version of the character is the kind of hero the MCU has routinely developed and one that fans will respond to.

Of course, there’s the unfortunate possibility that Marvel Studios might make familiar missteps wth Nova. In their eagerness to spotlight Carol Danvers, they took away from Mar-Vell; the same could happen here by choosing to jump straight to Sam Alexander over Richard Rider. In both instances, properly developing the first character (Mar-Vell and Rider, respectively) would only serve to strengthen the legacy characters (Danvers and Alexander). Marvel Studios has a chance at getting it right this time with Rider and the blueprint couldn’t be any easier to follow. Get out of your own way and let The Human Rocket save the universe…and the cosmic corner of your MCU.

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