This is Marvel's next ground-breaking event that will shake the Marvel Universe for about half a month once it's finished. Of course they released a #0 issue...
Sam Alexander, Marvel’s current teenage Nova, introduces himself, explaining all he’s “ever wanted was a father [he] could be proud of.” Sam clarifies that his “gin-drowned” dad was a high-school janitor who always spoke of his past adventures as a member of the Nova Corps. He always “ached” to believe his father, but realized that he was nothing more than a failure when he left for good. Sam was stuck with his job as janitor, humiliating him.
Soon after his father’s departure, though, he found a Nova helmet left behind, which looked “about as spaceworthy as an Iron Man Halloween costume.” When he donned the helmet, though, he found that it and his father’s stories were authentic. As Nova, Sam has experienced much, but his weirdest experience was his encounter with the Watcher. “I could swear sometimes that he wants to say something,” Sam thinks. He wonders if the Watcher’s aiming to help him be a hero.
In current times, Nova is trying to rescue innocent workmen at an oil rig from a colossal Aztec god, Tomazooma. The monster is livid about “those who desecrate these sacred lands.” Once he’s flown the workers to safety, Sam blasts Tomazooma, which proves ineffective. Part of the monster’s flesh dissolves to reveal that he’s really a robot! Without holding back against the mechanical fiend, Nova smashes through it, effectively halting its reign of terror.
Quickly, the Quinjet enters the scene, and Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor step out. Stark compliments our hero, which excites him. Cap explains that he suspects Roxxon to be behind Tomazooma’s attack on the oil rig. Sam is distractedly stares off, and Iron Man inquires him if he’s anticipating another’s arrival. After enlightening that he’s waiting for the Watcher to appear, Stark explains that he only emerges for cosmic-level events.
This leads to Sam asking an essential question about Watcher: Why does he observe everything but not act? “No one studies that hard unless they have to,” Sam reasons. Cap and Stark look at each other and respond that they’ve never questioned the cosmic being’s life goal before.
Soon, Nova flies on the Moon to the Watcher’s residence, speculating if he’s looking for answers…or he just wants an excuse to put off his homework. Sam concludes that neither are the reasons for his expedition. Uatu stands at the entrance of his home, and, as a greeting present, Sam gives him a piece of the battlefield from Avengers vs. X-Men. The Watcher mutely walks away, silently inviting Sam to follow.
When Sam enters, he is astonished by the mechanics in Uatu’s house, which he describes as “austere” and “depersonalized.” Suddenly, Nova endures from flash of pain, which leads to his seeing a gathering of ghost Watchers. After another flash, they disappear, and Sam enters the nearest door looking for Uatu. When entering the Watcher’s armory, Sam’s astonished to find an Ultimate Nullifier. He figures the weapons around him are extremely deadly, and assumes that if he bumps into anything it could “shatter a planet.”
Once leaving the armory, Sam experiences the severest agony flash of all. The ghost Watchers rematerialize, and his helmet alerts him of a nearby “Multiverse Engine.” He follows the separate Watchers, discovering they branch off from each other. Nova finds Uatu before a screen above a pinkish sphere that Nova’s helmet labels as a “Multiversal Friction Engine.” His helmet also cautions him of danger as he closes Uatu.
The screen initiates a special showing of the Watcher’s origin. In the beginning, Uatu’s father, Ikor, had suggested that their mission should be to “reach out and aid lesser races.” His colleague, Emnu, dismissed his philosophy, deeming they “owe nothing to those who are not [their] equals.” Uatu responded, “The strong must always aid the weak--else our strength is but a sham!”
The Council agreed with Ikor, and the Watchers began their undertaking to advantage other races with a primitive people, the Prosilicans. Ikor told the primitives, “We bring you he gift of nuclear energy! It will serve your every need--and advance your civilization a thousand years!” Watching the Watchers aiding, Sam realizes that the Prosilicans rocketed up the evolutionary scale quickly. Appreciating that they had built a Utopia, the Watchers departed to facilitate other civilizations.
Later, when the Watchers revisited Prosilicus, they found the terrain in lifeless ruins. “We gave these people the tools, the limitless power, with which to transform a planet--and they used it to war upon one another!” Ikor despaired. At that moment, he decided that Emnu was accurate in his philosophy, and they cannot reverse the genocide they caused. They will have to pay the penance for as long as memory endures.
“It remains our privilege--our responsibility--to observe. To chronicle all that is and all that will be. But never again will we use that knowledge to tamper the destiny of others,” Ikor reckoned. As he staggered away, Uatu unsuccessfully attempted to stop him. Then, all the Watchers separated.
In current time, Sam tries to apologize to Uatu for his tragedy, and asks what he’s been tasked to watch. Uatu raises his hand, and the Multiversal Friction Engine erupts. Rapidly, Nova and Uatu are encircled by walls of images, depicting major events from many universes, including the Fantastic Five Spider-Man was part of from What If… #1. Soon, Sam’s helmet resumes its task of alerting him about “multiverse fissures” that powers Uatu’s Moonbase. Sam discovers that the energy around him is “utterly unsafe for humans”; luckily, his suit is protecting him. Soon, an infinity of universes begin zooming around him.
Nova can’t handle it anymore, directing the Watcher to make it stop. “How do you stay sane? What are you looking at in all this? My god, what do you focus on?” Sam screams. Before he departs, our hero perceives a recurring event, the only moment exactly identical in all realities. In every universe, Ikor fails in his mission to enhance other civilizations while avoiding their inevitable annihilation.
The Watcher stands wordlessly, gloomily. “I wanted my dad to be right, too,” Sam mentions. With the wave of Uatu’s hand, images vanish. Before Sam leaves, he asks Uatu if he could tell him what happened to his father, but he remains soundless. Nova persists, but, met with silence, recognizes his request is senseless.
“He is alive,” the Watcher declares.
Joyously, Nova rockets off. Once Sam’s departed from the Moon, Uatu extracts his gift from his robe, places it on a pedestal, and walks away.
With this lead-in to Original Sin, Mark Waid crafts a truly enjoyable, revealing tale. When I planned on reading this story, I assumed that it would prove to be a senseless, unnecessary way for Marvel to make money. In fact, I think that’s exactly what it was planned as, but with the writing of Waid, who’s a veteran writer in the comic business, it evolves into something far more than that. In fact, this issue's great even if you aren't reading the main event.
Firstly, this sheds light on and adds layers to the Watcher, perhaps Marvel’s most enigmatic and austere character. The backstory Waid gives Uatu is totally plausible and makes the character’s endless mission of observing everything tragic. It also leaves you to ask: Is Uatu's repeated intervention in the 616 Universe going to lead to its ultimate demise?
Uatu's origin also relates him to Nova, making an interesting comparison between two people who wished their fathers were correct. The obvious difference between the two is that Nova leaves the issue happily while Uatu is just as miserable as ever. It's interesting how the Watcher has chosen to fascinate over Nova and how he found it so important to actually speak to Sam about his father. It's really revealing about Uatu's character.
Speaking of Nova, after reading this issue, my interest in Sam Alexander has been revitalized. I stopped reading Nova after the Infinity tie-in, mainly because the title wasn’t really going anywhere. Waid’s depiction of the young hero in this story really impressed me. His highlight on Sam’s father problem added depth to his character, and his dialogue is very fresh.
Jim Cheung draws this issue fantastically. Cheung lays his panels out well, leading our eyes where he wants them and pacing Waid’s script well, especially near the end. The art is crisp and tight, and the layout is stimulating. It’s interesting how Cheung’s work is always inked by a ton of people, but always looks largely the same. The depiction of the Watcher and the shading of his face add to the Watcher’s endless anguish and sorrow.
This is a very interesting issue adding character and depth to the Watcher's character and offering a great comparison between him and Nova. Cheung's art is terrific too. I recommend this issue, even if you aren't getting Original Sin.