**** (four of five stars)
Favorite Quote: "Worldmind, I need everything the Novapedia's got on Mindless Ones, stat." "Anything else? A back rub, maybe? Polish your helmet? Little freakin' busy here, Rider!" -- Nova and Worldmind, discussing priorities
Rich takes Fraktur, Irani, and Morrow with him to investigate the Nova Corps patrol cruiser that emerges from the Fault, which Worldmind reveals disappeared 35 years ago. A mysterious figure on the outside of the cruiser observes the Centurions arriving on the ship. He also realizes that Worldmind is pulling it toward Nu-Xandar via tractor beam and sends a nano-encoded attack program to distract her. Inside the cruiser, the Centurions go their own ways to investigate, and panic ensues when Worldmind goes off-line to fight the attack program. Robbie convinces the other Centurions on Nu-Xandar to stay put, while Rich encounters Zan Philo, a Nova Centurion who reveals he and the ship got lost as a result of a stargate accident. He informs Nova that he's been fighting crime as he's made his way through the Universe and asks if he could transfer the prisoner he's got on the ship to Nu-Xandar. The prisoner is the head of the "Black Hole Sons" gang, a group of "neutron slaves" who discovered that the neutron stars they were mining for rare minerals also produced a drug called "krush;" the slaves threw off their masters and became drug runners. At this point, the rest of the Centurions join the pair at the prisoner's cell, and Worldmind re-appears, informing Richard that Ego has taken advantage of her distraction to re-assert himself. She also engages in a scan of the ship to see who attacked her, revealing that Fraktur is actually the mysterious figure in disguise. The figure drops his disguise, revealing himself as Monark Starstalker, a bounty hunter. Philo and Starstalker argue over the prisoner, who they both claim they have rights to hold. However, just then, the boss' minions arrive to spring the boss, revealing themselves to be "Mindless Ones." Nova, the Centurions (now along with Fraktur, who Starstalker had rendered unconscious earlier to steal her identity), and Starstalker fend off the Mindless Ones while Worldmind and the other Centurions fight Ego. Nova continues to stress that the "neutron slaves" are actually Mindless Ones, informing Philo that they're not just "great big stupid indestructible rockheads," but supernatural "great big stupid indestructible rockheads," something the Nova Corps isn't exactly prepared to handle. During the fray, Fraktur and Morrow wind up taking out each other, something Philo criticizes them for doing later when they've escaped the Mindless Ones momentarily to catch their breath. Moreover, the power on the cruiser fades, allowing the boss to escape. On Nu-Xandar, Robbie and the Centurions transfer the prisoners (including Ravenous and Strontian) to an escape shuttle and use it to flee Ego for the cruiser. Rich knocks the boss outside the cruiser, and the Mindless Ones follow him. He asks Worldmind, now ensconced in the cruiser, to open a stargate, and sends them inside Ego, who has completely awoken and demands "retribution." The Mindless Ones wreck havoc inside Ego, and Philo opens up a bombardment on Ego, "encouraging" him to stargate to a different location. Starstalker, who learned, when he was wounded by the boss, that he's actually a nanotech construct, decides to stay in this Universe, since he's able to exhibit free will. Rich offers a job to Philo training the "probies," and Philo accepts. Suddenly, Kallark projects a psychic notice to the Centurions that the galaxy's most wanted fugivite -- Darkhawk -- is in their vicinity, demanding they apprehend and detain him.
These issues reminded me a lot of the "Knowhere" arc, which is one of the highest compliments I can pay an arc. In fact, the only bad thing about these issues was knowing that this title ends at issue #36. DnA introduce a whole bunch of new elements -- Zan Philo, the Resolute Duty, Monark Starstalker -- that totally set up an awesome new status quo for the title. Philo was exactly what Richard needed, a capable deputy who could take over training the new recruits so that they didn't have to come with him on every mission. As such, DnA could focus on giving Richard some solo adventures while at the same time maintaining the fun aspects of a team book. Moreover, the Resolute Duty seemed set to become the Corps' own Millenium Falcon, a decrepit ship with its own special personality. Finally, I liked the idea that Starstalker would unexpectedly show up every dozen or so issues to cause some trouble for Nova. With these new elements, DnA really set up the sort of galactic milieu that have produced the best stories in this title, such as the aforementioned "Knowhere" arc. Unfortunately, we've only got seven issues left of the title, and four of them are dedicated to "Realm of Kings." DnA have done an amazing job making the various event tie-in issues matter for this title, so I don't think the "Realm of Kings" issues will suck. But, it's the solo Nova stories that I've enjoyed the most, so I'm glad we at least got one more before "Realm of Kings" hijacks everything.
1) OMG, the banter between Nova and Worldmind is just excellent. I laughed out loud several times in issue #30, with Nova badgering her for help with a stargate and Worldmind reminding him that she was busy fending off an attack by Ego. I'm glad to see DnA really using the potential that having Worldmind take on Ko-Rel's personality promised.
2) Monark Starstalker is awesome. DnA have been evoking a "Star Wars" feel lately, and nothing like someone with a last name starting with "Star-" to make you feeling like you're reading a galactic epic. A little Internet research shows that they revived this character from a story written in the 1970s, which clearly one (if not both) of them loved. He's an awesome character, the exact type of snarky nemesis/ally combination that the series needed. Again, although I like what DnA have done with the various cross-over events, I feel like they really excel showing smaller moments with quirky characters, which is why the introduction of Starstalker was so great for me. I hope we see him again.
3) Did anyone else sing "Black Hole Sun" in their head for most of this issue, or am I really dating myself?
The BadThe Mindless One angle was really weird. To be honest, I don't really see why DnA had to make the neutron slaves into Mindless Ones, since it wasn't like them being Mindless Ones had anything to do with the way the plot was resolved. It just kind of added a layer of confusion that I don't feel like we needed because, unless I missed something, we never get an answer on how the Mindless Ones became neutron slaves in the first place. It was sort of like the Fraternity of Raptors in "War of Kings," where it's a good idea, but it's a little bit too much of a good thing.