Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Claire Roe
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Jen Bartel
Editor: Darren Shan
Publisher: Marvel Comics
If Gamora is the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy, then where does that put Nebula? In this week’s Nebula #1, maybe we’re closer to finding out who she really is.
Of all the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s arguably Nebula who has the most fascinating trajectory. In just four films, she went from being a secondary villain in Guardians of the Galaxy to becoming a full-fledged hero in Avengers: Endgame, and her arc never feels rushed or forced despite all the different cooks in the Marvel kitchen (if I told you five years ago that Nebula is one of two characters in Guardians who becomes an Avenger, would you believe me? You wouldn’t!). Because of her fascinating portrayal in those movies, it’s obvious why she’s getting her very first solo series, helmed by writer Vita Ayala and artist Claire Roe.
There’s just a slight issue there — the Nebula of 616 is very different from MCU Nebula. While MCU Nebula has been given lots of nuance and dimension, 616 Nebula is a fairly flat character who has only ever really existed to be an antagonist. Much of her current characterization in the comics is informed by Karen Gillan’s portrayal of the character (e.g. her visual design and origin) while remaining firmly a “villain” as recently as her turn in Asgardians of the Galaxy. With this new series, however, it seems Marvel is looking to reboot her, literally and figuratively.
We meet up with Nebula mid-pirating (as she’s wont to do), holding an inventor’s daughter hostage in exchange for some bleeding-edge tech developed by him. Needless to say, things quickly go south and she ends up stranded on a strange planet, unable to remember her name or who she is. This feels like a very obvious ploy to reshape 616 Nebula into something closer resembling MCU Nebula, and I’m very interested to see how it plays out. I could be completely wrong in this assumption, but if Marvel is going to make Nebula a more viable figure in the Marvel Universe moving forward, it may be for the best. The character seems due to reappear in the delayed, upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, so there’s plenty of time till then to get Nebula on a similar level to that of her adoptive sister Gamora (I believe Nebula is actually the granddaughter of Thanos in the comics, but that may have been retconned; I’m not sure).
While this issue very much reads like setup for the main plot, at least it flows at an enjoyable pace from the capable creative team. Writer Ayala is an emerging voice in Marvel’s latest crop of newer talent (Prisoner X and Morbius being some of their most notable works) and they succeed in making Nebula equal parts unscrupulous and likable. If anybody seems suited to delivering Nebula as a complicated yet compelling figure, it’s Ayala.
I haven’t seen Roe’s art since her run on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, but from what I remember of it, she has a knack for expressiveness and action, both of which are represented here. She’s also upgraded her game quite a bit since then, with interesting panel layouts and detailed linework that gives her visuals a propulsive energy you’d expect from the character. Mike Spicer’s colors are a nice match, opting for a multicolored, almost Lisa Frank-esque palette that doesn’t seem like it should work, but does (speaking of the Lisa Frank connection, Jen Bartel will be doing covers for this series, and her work especially calls to mind that whole aesthetic with a modern sensibility).