Warning: spoilers ahead for X-Men Red #11Richard Rider, aka Nova, just brought back an iconic catchphrase with an updated twist, ready to take on the modern era. In X-Men Red #11, Nova’s brief vacation on the mutant planet Arakko is interrupted by an unexpected visitor. In his state of shock, he calls back to his classic ’70s-era catchphrase, giving the dated term all-new meaning.
Between his time with the X-Men on Arakko and his leadership role in the Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova is a hero in high demand in current Marvel Comics. He’s so in demand, in fact, that in X-Men Red #11 (by Al Ewing, Jacopo Camagni, and Federico Blee) Nova admits to Sunspot that he’s only on his Arakko spa day at the insistence of his therapist. Shortly after, a mysterious presence triggers a warning from the interdimensional portal known as the External Gate. When Nova and Sunspot investigate the portal, they find Jon Ironfire, the mutant freedom fighter from the recently corrected Sins of Sinister alternate timeline. Out of shock, Nova utters his catchphrase “Blue Blazes!”, with Sunspot noting that the phrase means things are really bad.
Nova Redefines His Classic Catchphrase
First appearing in 1976’s Nova #1 by Marv Wolfman and John Buscema, the titular character came to be closely associated with the Bronze Age of comics with his instantly recognizable, science-fiction inspired costume, outlandish adventures, and cheerful personality. Like many other heroes with decades of publication history, Nova’s personality and mannerisms have changed and adapted to the modern era to remain relatable. Due to this, his dated “Blue Blazes!” exclamation has been reduced in modern appearances of the character. However, this comic gives that fact new meaning, as it’s identified as a sign that Nova is facing real trouble, giving the campy phrase new relevance.
“Blue Blazes” Is Now Nova’s Last Resort
When referenced creatively, moments like Nova calling back to an outdated phrase work to make characters feel like real individuals rather than heroic archetypes. Here, recontextualizing the use of the now dated “Blue Blazes!” serves to pay respect to the past while setting the story firmly in a present where the phrase is obviously unusual for a hero in their 30s to use on instinct. It’s this exact trick that has endeared the MCU so consistently to comic fans, as room is made to honor where heroes came from.
The MCU Should Take Note of Nova’s “New” Catchphrase
While Nova’s introduction into the MCU is still seemingly on hold, he’s been increasingly visible in recent comics with both the Guardians of the Galaxy and now the X-Men, and this issue shows how to strike the balance of keeping a character recognizable from where they started without making them feel too dated. A young hero spouting “Blue Blazes!” every other issue would feel forced, but having this be a phrase that Richard resorts to when nothing else conveys his shock is endearing. Hopefully, when Nova finally flies into the MCU, his “Blue Blazes!” catchphrase will come with him, as the comics show the movies exactly how to make it work.
X-Men Red #11 is available now from Marvel Comics!