James Gunn confirmed over the weekend that alas, Nova wouldn't be making his Marvel Cinematic Universe début in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. A disappointment for fans of the Marvel Cosmic surely, but honestly - we shouldn't be that broken up that Nova isn't coming to the big screen yet.
Gunn's reasoning that the 'uniqueness' of Peter Quill as the lone human in the MCU's cosmic sphere is an interesting enough point that it's perfectly valid for the character not to be cropping up in the Guardian's next adventure, but also, to be perfectly honest: Nova is fully capable of standing on his own, and Marvel knows it. The character has a big groundswell of fans in the comics, a fanbase that has grown largely in recent years, and the idea on its own (well okay, space cop didn't work out for DC like they'd planned, but I'm sure Marvel could take a crack at that particular whip and get something interesting out of it) is a strong basis for a movie. Even just for an introduction, why make Nova second fiddle to the Guardians? And likewise, the Guardians themselves have now proven that they can work similarly seperately and on their own as a unit as well - they don't really need to be backed up by Nova to work, and it'd be nicer to see more of them as a standalone unit instead of being backed up by other superheroes.
But at the same time, Marvel's also giving us something better (or at least, for want of better phrasing, better in the context of what's happening and coming up in the MCU) in the mean time: Captain Marvel.
I'm not trying to incite an internet flame war between the Carol Corps and the Nova Corps, but Carol Danvers is much more interesting for the MCU as we know it now, because unlike Nova, she can act as a bridge that ties together the already well established Earth-based heroes and the fledgling cosmic universe we've only just really started to see in the Marvel films - yes, Nova interacts with Earth a lot, but he's a decidedly more Cosmic-skewed hero compared to Captain Marvel. Right now, that's what Marvel wants, not purely just out of their love of tying everything that they're doing together, but because bridging the current gap between those two aspects of their wider franchise is what they need to do in preparation for Phase 3 culminating in Avengers: Infinity War. There's the added bonus too that, as a female lead, Captain Marvel represents a necessary, positive step forward for diversity in superheroic cinema - Nova's an amazing character, but would we really want him being fit into a context that isn't quite suitable for him just yet, and at the cost of a female-lead Marvel Movie? Not really.
The added bonus of not bringing Nova in just yet is that it also means we can get more development for the background elements of Nova's story that, in a way, could largely cut out the need to dwell too much on the character's origins when we do get round to him. Xandar and the Nova Corps brief introduction in Guardians of the Galaxy was necessary for the purpose of that film, but as we see more of the Marvel Cosmic coming to the big screen, it makes sense to have them becoming a bigger and bigger presence before we eventually get to see the best of their best, being Nova himself. Plus there's also that little thing of - spoilers for like, multiple-decade-old comic book plotlines I guess - where Nova inherits the Nova Force itself from the Xandarian Worldmind upon the eradication of the Nova Corps and most of Xandar itself, becoming the superheroic living embodiment of it in the process. It'd be a shame not to get more development of the Corps itself before we get to that point with Nova's character. Plus, a little more screentime for Glenn Close's fabulous space hair as the Nova Prime is a welcome thing in my books.
Ultimately though, I think what matters most for Nova not débuting yet is that there's no real place for him in Phase 3, both logistically (since all of those movies have now been announced and none of them are Nova movies), and within the story Marvel are slowly building towards. It's clear from the inclusion of the Guardians, Captain Marvel and Thanos himself that they're building towards a wider expansion of the Marvel Cosmic on film, but at the same time the Thanos/Infinity Gem story is what the studio has been developing altogether since the introduction of the Tesseract in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers itself. There is already enough going on in the build up to that, and its culmination in Infinity War, that it makes sense for Nova to sit out on Phase 3 until we've had this escalation into the full on cosmic-and-earth based shenanigans of Infinity War, at which point the wider Marvel Cosmic and Nova can come into the picture, and potentially become the tentpole of Phase 4 itself. Nova has a strong core character concept that could totally carry that sort of event, and it makes sense for Marvel to hold him back until then at least - especially if Phase 4 seeks to expand the MCU's foray into space and sci-fi.
It might be disheartening to be a Nova fan and hear that he's not quite coming to the MCU just yet - and that it in fact might be a very long while before we get to see Richard Rider or Sam Alexander on screen. But at the end of the day, it makes more sense this way, and when we do get to Nova, it'll have been well worth the wait.
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