Set during the scientific revolution of 17th century France, NOVAE is a historical romance webcomic that explores love, science, and the supernatural. Helmed by creative team Kate Rhodes and Jennifer Xu (collectively known as KaiJu), the “two-headed monster with a passion for creating worlds rather than destroying them,” NOVAE portrays the beginning of a truly cosmic love story.

NOVAE follows the story of Raziol Qamar, a gifted astronomer’s apprentice, and Sulvain, a world traveler and psychologist. The two establish a bond based on shared scientific interests, and they soon discover their relationship growing intimate. As their story progresses, Sulvain’s arc suggests a mysterious past, hinting that he may be more than meets the eye.

Intersectional Representation

When I first started reading NOVAE, the comic’s depiction of diversity jumped out at me. One of the lead characters, Raziol, is a scientist of South Asian descent studying in a prominent Parisian school. Characters of color rarely feature prominently in historical dramas (unrelated to oppression), so NOVAE feels fresh. Still, the creators do touch upon the feeling of “otherness” of a minority character in a predominantly white community.

NOVAE
Image courtesy of NOVAE

In NOVAE’s prequel webcomic, INHABITANT OF ANOTHER PLANET, Raziol expresses his anxieties as an immigrant in Paris, along with the exoticism he faces from other people. “I have conversed and studied among other scientists…. They are not interested in my talents… but rather where I come from. But I know more about the moon than I do about Hindustan or Arabia.”

Instead of lingering on his background, KaiJu portrays Raziol as a brilliant scientist, both kindhearted and socially awkward. By infusing his race as an important part of his character without making it the central feature, KaiJu establishes Raziol as a nuanced character of color.

Scouring the Unknown Universe in ETERNITY

The creators also touch upon the subject of disability in Sulvain, who is depicted as mute. In the comic, Sulvain explains to Raziol that since a “certain incident,” he no longer has the ability to speak vocally. Considering that French Sign Language would have only begun to be canonized around that time (if not later), the characters initially struggle with communication. Nevertheless, they find a way, using written language and finger tracing letters to “speak” with each other. Raziol’s understanding and respect for Sulvain’s character and disability also bolster the comic’s positive representation of an interabled relationship. It will be interesting to see how the authors continue to explore Sulvain and his disability over the course of the comic.

Prominent LGBTQIA+ Representation

One of the most engaging parts of NOVAE is its romance. Raziol and Sulvain’s interactions are completely swoon-worthy. At first, they engage with each other on an intellectual level. From the beginning, though, Raziol is clearly enamored with Sulvain. Although Sulvain needs a little more time to develop his feelings, he clearly reciprocates Raziol’s affections. Their dynamic is also nuanced, full of affection, humor, and respect.

Exploring Levels of Anxiety in ETERNITY GIRL #2

INHABITANT OF ANOTHER PLANET also sets up NOVAE’s depiction of the characters’ queerness. In that comic, Raziol expresses his attraction to multiple genders, including a genderqueer love interest. In a drawing for Pride month, KaiJu presented a “70s-themed drawing,” with modern flags to illustrate their identities. Raziol holds the pansexual pride flag, while Sulvain presents the panromantic and demisexual flag. Though these terms were not available in the time period of NOVAE, the creators are still impressive for expressing non-cis/straight identities in this historical setting.

NOVAE
Image courtesy of NOVAE

Celestial Art

NOVAE’s art is breathtaking. KaiJu’s attention to detail and historical accuracy seem to carry the reader to another world. Settings like fully stocked libraries and starry skies receive their full attention, highlighting the artistic skill on display throughout NOVAE. KaiJu also takes great care to communicate the characters’ love through mannerisms, gestures, and expressions. This comic never wastes a scene, as the artwork carries the story to new heights in each chapter.

NOVAE
Image courtesy of NOVAE

A Space Love Odyssey

NOVAE is a wonder to behold. Readers will fall in love this comic the way Raziol and Sulvian do with each other. The potency of gazing at the stars or  gentle touch will inspire wonder, making readers long to do the same. Utilizing strong artwork, compelling character dynamics, and beautiful representation, NOVAE presents an impressive love story still unfolding and ready to be told. NOVAE has been running since 2016, and is currently ongoing, now in its fifth chapter. The webcomic updates Monday and Thursday.

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