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Waiting for the Trade - Nomad

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller


Nomad: Girl Without A World.
by Sean Mckeever and David Baldeon
collects Nomad: Girl Without A World 1-4 and material from Captain America 600.

Why I Bought This: The female Bucky (Rikki Barnes) was far and away the best thing about the Heroes Reborn 90s reboot of The Avengers line of titles: Indeed she was probably the only good thing from that era aside from the art. So the idea of having that character come to the main Marvel Universe as the new Nomad is pretty inspired—particularly the “Girl Without A World” catchphrase as a play on Cap’s “Man Without A Country” arc when he was the original Nomad.

The Plot: For the 10th Anniversary of Heroes Reborn Marvel did a series called Onslaught Reborn that much like the original Onslaught crossover made little sense. It did however have very nice looking Rob Liefeld art. Anyway that series saw Onslaught chase Franklin Richards into the Heroes Reborn Universe where that world’s version of the Avengers, FF and Masters of Evil united to take him on and in the end Bucky sacrificed her life to stop him: only instead of dying she emerged in the main Marvel Universe just in time to witness the death of Captain America post Civil War. This series focuses on her efforts to find a place in this new world as both a superhero and a teenage girl.

Chapter 0 – Rikki, in her Bucky costume, tracks down Patriot of the Young Avengers. After she convinces him she is who she says she is. Patriot tells her that he doubts the new Cap (Bucky/Winter Soldier) is going to want a sidekick. He does offer her friendship and they go to a vigil in Steve’s memory together.

Chapter 1 – In researching her new world Rikki learns she doesn’t exist here (i.e. there is no counterpart for her unlike the other Avengers/FF heroes). When the police radio tells her Bucky-Cap is on a mission nearby she decides to introduce herself. Black Widow intercepts her and reveals she knows all about Counter Earth. Widow advises Rikki that this Cap would not react well to meeting a Bucky and shoos her away. Meanwhile we see Rikki is attending high school where she has found the dimensional counterpart for her brother. She has befriended him to feel closer to home. Next we see the student government elections where some blond kid named Desmond Daniels gets the crowd to go wild for him and his message of better manners and increased civic responsibility. Rikki gets suspicious of how some of her fellow students are so quickly buying into Daniels’ spiel so she investigates as Bucky. In the basement of the school she encounters what appears to be a werewolf and it kicks her butt good, shredding her costume in the process. When she gets home she finds a suitcase on her bed with the Nomad costume inside.

Chapter 2 – We get a flashback to how Rikki first became Bucky. (Her brother joined a skinhead cult headed up by the Red Skull and tied her to nuclear missile until Cap arrived on the scene.) Rikki talks to her pseudo-brother John about her suspicions of Daniels and the kids at school but he blows them off. He also reveals that in this universe his mother and sister both died in childbirth, which blows Rikki’s mind. Furthermore his dad died in the terrorist bombing of Philadelphia that kicked off Brubaker’s Cap run. And then the diner they are in blows up as Flag Smasher attacks. Rikki switches to Nomad—the costume includes the Jack Monroe Nomad’s stun discs as well as a version of Cap’s old energy shield from the Mark Waid run. Nomad defeats Flag Smasher and then runs into Falcon, who was a fellow partner of Cap’s in her world, and they briefly compare notes. Back at ground zero we see John was injured in the explosion. Back in school we see Daniels influence continues to grow, and then the reader learns these events are being orchestrated by the Secret Empire while the werewolf looking dude is Mad Dog (A d-list villain with dog-like powers who has worked for them before). Rikki goes to visit John when he gets out of the hospital and he hits on her assuming what most teenage boys would when some random new girl singles you out and makes an effort to get to know you. Of course Rikki wigs out and says she only wants to be friends and thinks of him like a brother. John sends her away and then that evening goes off to meet with Desmond’s supporters where we when he takes off his hat we see the explosion made him lose his hair thus causing him to look like the skinhead John from Counter Earth.

Chapter 3 – It’s now a week later and John is now being mean to Rikki. The Secret Empire is hypnotizing kids by using lasers. Nomad gets attacked by a mystery villain with laser blast powers and Mad Dog and together they defeat her. They then hook her up to a brainwashing machine. Back at the student election the Secret Empire has Nomad endorse Desmond and then unmask before the entire high school. The Secret Empire is plotting to expand their program to other high schools. Desmond wins the election and the students begin to riot. Rikki is still chained up below the school where she learns the mystery villain is Professor Power.

Chapter 4 – Nomad uses her energy shield to free herself and takes down the two super villains. Riot police arrive at the high school. John and two other students realize things are out of control and try to quell the riot but it seems to be too late. Just before the police open fire Nomad arrives with the Young Avengers. Meanwhile the super villains recover, cut their ties with the Secret Empire, and blow up their lab under the school and escape. The heroes subdue the rioters as Desmond resigns as student president to get the teens to disband as he himself was not involved with the Secret Empire; it was the first five kids who supported his candidacy. However the most fanatical of those original supporters has a gun and he ends up shooting John. Nomad takes him down but its too late as John is dead. We cut to Rikki at John’s grave where Bucky-Cap pays her a visit. He gives her a pep talk and ponders her last name but does not reveal his real name to her (It was implied in the Heroes Reborn universe that she is Bucky’s granddaughter). We see agents of the Secret Empire capture the Professor. Finally we see Nomad vowing to take down the Secret Empire.

Critical Thoughts: This is very good comic all around. Rikki remains a very likeable protagonist and we get to see her be resourceful and a face a much deeper level of adversity than she ever did in her original appearances.

All of the stuff with her pseudo-brother is fantastic. The conversation where she learns how she and her parents died in this world is written to hit like a punch to the gut. John misunderstanding her intentions and the subsequent reveal of him possibly turning out like the original skinhead John is a fabulous cliffhanger, where the art really pulls the reader into thinking that is where the story is going. And they actually fooled me, I didn’t see John turning it around and ending up a hero again at the end; and I certainly didn’t see him dying. Rikki’s story really feels like a tragedy here and yet the reader buys that in the end after her pep-talk with Bucky-Cap that she manages to respond to it in a determined productive way while remaining upbeat.

Credit McKeever’s writing, which is top notch throughout. In general I’m starting to like the little I’ve read of McKeever as he wrote a Gravity miniseries that I grabbed in trade for a few bucks on a whim due to the low price that was quite good too. Based on this story I wouldn’t mind seeing him write Cap one day because just in the few scenes they have in this story he writes Widow and Bucky really well. This story feels like its part of the larger Cap mythos even though at the end of the day Rikki herself is only a footnote in that mythos. The implication that Widow is the one who gave Rikki the Nomad costume is also a nice touch that feels right after it plays out.

The same can be said of the Young Avengers and their presence here as Ricky feels like she’d be a really good fit on that team. In both cases this is a really good example of how to use guest shots to explore the sense of being part of a wider Marvel Universe without distracting from the primary hero’s journey. I will say however that Rikki tracks down Patriot way too easily in the opening beat. She basically does some Internet research and figures out who he is. If secret identities are that easy to solve than most of the heroes of the Marvel Universe should be dead by now.

I thought the Secret Empire was a very good choice as the main villains of this story as the Secret Empire were the villains who first caused Cap to assume the Nomad identity. Admittedly their plan to rig a high school election seems awfully low key from their usual plan of world domination, but at the end of the day you can let it slide because it’s not like they’ve done anything important since that Englehart story 40 years ago and they make good foils for Rikki. I also liked Flag Smasher showing up, as he was one of the better villains from Gru’s run on the main Cap title. Again bombing a diner is insanely beneath him and his usual M.O., and he’s defeated byRikki way too easily as back in Gru’s run he defeated the John Walker Cap (U.S. Agent) and was a serious threat to Steve. I’m also not sure why Professor Power is alive when Walker beat him to death years ago. So yea overall I suppose one could criticize the use of the villains in this story, however; I will not because the villains are clearly secondary to a strong character piece that is needed to establish Rikki in the main Marvel Universe (of course that they later killed her off just two years later makes one wonder why they bothered to bring her over in the first place, but I’m not going to criticize this story for the failings of a subsequent story.)

Finally I want to praise Baldeon’s art quite a bit. It is exactly what this story needs. I already mention how good the art is in the cliffhanger for chapter 2. His art works both in the quiet moments of dialogue in Rikki’s civilian life and in the big action scenes. Plus I really like the ultimate design of the Nomad costume. The final splash page is inspiring in the way the best Captain America stories are.

Grade B+. I enjoyed this. It’s a quick yet compelling read and you can find it online in the $5 price range making it worth checking out even if you are unfamiliar with the main character. I should add it is digest-sized for those who are concerned about such things.