If the creatives behind this annual (Wolfman, Buscema) wanted to highlight Nova they sure began with the right splash page.
I love that Nova looks like he has no legs when he flies.
Suddenly, the skies over New York are ablaze and we have a scene reminiscent of Fantastic Four 50 when Galactus arrived on Earth.
Mentioning the 'G' sets the bar a bit high though. We have something as gigantic but not as impressive - a Monitor.
Behind the giant alien, something appears that is obviously inspired by H.G. Well's War of the Worlds.
Nova tries to tackle the alien alone but . . .
Let's give Richard Rider credit, he knows when he needs help. He tries the Avengers first (we would too wouldn't we?), but they are unavailable. Next comes an amusingly ridiculous panel.
Did you catch it? Nova asking for the address of the Baxter Building - that is the address! C'mon. The Baxter Building sticks up prominently in the middle of New York City and Nova is a flier. Man, this panel is nuts.
The fun continues as Nova shows the Thing newspaper cutouts of himself that he somehow carries with him.
Beautiful panel layout as the two heroes come upon the giant alien.
We are shown a similar alien landing in Paris and we are taken to the alien mothership and a surprisingly human (actually superhuman) occupant known as Milandra.
She reveals that - like Galactus - these giant aliens have destroyed their share of planets. Milandra converses with both the Thing and Nova.
I think it's official we have Galactus wannabes as the villains in this comic.
This next panel reveals that Milandra is quite the giantess herself.
More importantly she has a plan. It's not a very hopeful plan though since if she and her sisters are so powerful why are the Monitors able to imprison her? And them, for that matter?
These alien women are living energy batteries the Monitors use to power their ships and technologies.
The Monitors show up and by the time we get to the panel shown below I'm starting to wonder if Nova and the Thing have a fighting chance.
A straight-on power vs. power fight isn't going to be good for our heroes.
Nova is dealt with unconventionally here. He is transported out to the depths of space. At which point we are reminded that the armor of the Nova Corps is designed to survive deep space.
Just before the Thing gets smashed to gravel, the fight is interrupted by Milandra and her, presumably, even more powerful sister. After telling everybody how tough they are the two girls disappear; leaving Ben to his fate. A fate the comes in the form of being thrown out of the spaceship.
Luckily, the Thing is able to summon the Fantasicar via technology in his belt buckle.
Using the Fantasticar, the Thing flies all the way to Tokyo. Why you ask? Uh, the yakisoba.
Meanwhile, the two sisters who left so hurriedly are engaged in freeing a third.
Both sisters are repelled by a guardian Monitor.
At this point, it is revealed that there are three sisters in all: Milandra, Kallara, and Ascare.
As the story comes together, it is becoming evident that there are three heroic allies -the three sisters - but there are also three antagonists - the three Monitors. A comforting symmetry that braces this annual which I hope will get really interesting really soon because so far it's just this prolonged anticipation.
The panel showing the gigantic Monitors arriving in Tokyo gives a sense of the panic their immense size causes on the populace.
What follows next is both predictable and futile.
Ben is the strongest member of the Fantastic Four. He's also the most straightforward. The Torch has all this options with his flame, Sue can get really creative with the force field. Mr. Fantastic, the most unpredictable of all, will most likely create a solution from his lab. Ben, he'll punch his way to solve a problem. Unfortunately, this problem seems literally too big for him to solve this way. Fortunately, that punch never gets to land. One of the alien women appears and spirits Ben away.
At this point, a welcome backgrounder of the heretofore mysterious Monitors is presented. They are a race that achieved perfection long before the Earth even formed. After reaching such a pinnacle they set out to other worlds with the intent of helping others achieve the same perfection.
In time, their seemingly philanthropic ideal got warped and the Monitors became destroyers of worlds they deemed imperfect.
One panel in particular from the Monitor's past jumps out at me.
To wit: Perfection breeds boredom and boredom breeds decay. Really? I hope that someday I get to test this out. Right now my life is anything but boring. I'm in the real world and it's one problem after another for me.
While Nova is lost in space we get an inkling of his power potential.
I just can't let it go without a little criticism and the critique is based on this panel.
Let me get this straight. The Nova armor can fly faster than light but only has a one hour air supply? C'mon, the air supply of scuba gear?
Everybody meets up. While the sisters see to a long-term solution the boy's are given the job of 'distracting' the Monitors.
Nova does his part.
The Thing focuses on the ship.
A Monitor lashes out resulting in this very subtle panel
Did you catch it? The wisdom of the Thing: You only live once. Have fun. No matter if the situation is dire. Savor the moment.
With the last sister freed, the battle is now between the Monitors and the sisters. One of the sisters is the first to fall and it is revealed that these sisters, these power sources of the Monitors, are actually machines. Machines that have evolved and - more than that - they have become the receptacles for the souls of billions from all the worlds the Monitors have obliterated.
The battle has definitely turned against the good guys as the giant Monitors begin to rampage. The heroes go on the defensive of course, resulting in a revealing panel about the then new hero, Nova.
Richard Rider reveals that underneath the armor he's just an insecure kid trying to do his best. I think that's a great angle even though it's been done before with Peter Parker.
Here's another Nova attack.
Smashing into foes like a flying juggernaut. I just realized that Nova hasn't been using nova blasts. At this point Richard must not yet figured out that he can do that.
Nova manages to push a monitor inside the crater of an extinct Volcano.
The three sisters do their part by 'waking up' the dormant Mt. Fujiyama.
This whole story was set in a different locale: Japan. Plus it is a special issue - an annual. But, unfortunately, the creative team fail to take advantage of the opportunity to give us an Oriental vibe to this tale.
Here are the four panels that effectively end the tale.
As a further ending the sisters rebuild the damaged Tokyo (nothing is said about the deaths and injuries though).
And that's about it. What's the wonderful message of this story?
It is this: Sometimes, problems solve themselves. Ah, that's good news.