Six-year-old Nova witnesses the murder of her mother, father, and sister in their apartment. Nova believes the Renegades will show up to help her, but they never do. She uses her power to put the perpetrator to sleep before he can kill her. Uncle Ace finds Nova with a gun aimed at the sleeping man and does the deed for her. Ace is the leader of the Anarchists, the group who systematically took over the world before Nova was born. He’s excited to finally discover what her power is, a fact Nova’s father kept hidden from Ace.
One year after the murders, a battle occurs between the Anarchists and the Renegades, the opposing group of superheroes. Many die on both sides, but the Renegades end up with a victory of sorts. Many things change in the world as they know it. The Renegades are lauded as heroes by nearly everyone.
Nine years later, sixteen-year-old Nova (aka Nightmare) is stationed on the route of the annual parade, the one which paints the Anarchists as villains and the Renegades as heroes. She and her team of rebels hope to take out the five original Renegades when their final float rolls past them.
Nova is supposed to fire the opening shot at their leader, Captain Chromium, a poisoned dart right to his eye. But Nova’s distracted when a young girl snatches her bracelet. Sketch steals it back for her. He uses his power to repair the broken clasp. This delays Nova. The team thinks their plan is done because Nova won’t be able to set it in motion with her kill. But she uses her gear to jump to a nearby building to have the proper angle for her shot.
When the time comes, Nova can’t pull the trigger. A butterfly materializes on the end of her gun. Soon many butterflies coalesce in front of her. It’s Monarch. Nova finally gets a shot off on Chromium, but he turns his head at the last minute. The dart bounces off his helmet. A fight ensues between Nova, Monarch, and other Renegades who suddenly descend.
Sentinel, a hero Nova is not familiar with, shows up in full body armor. Winston, the harlequin puppeteer hero, arrives on a float. Nova tries to net Sentinel. He burns through it. Nova calls to Winston for help. Sentinel gets to her first. He’s dangling her over the building’s edge. Her fingers finally find a way into his armor to touch his flesh and put him to sleep. Winston rescues her by sending a puppet string her way so she can swing off the building.
Chaos erupts on the parade route between both teams of heroes as well as civilians. Nova turns her earpiece back on to check in with her team.
Chromium launches a pike at Harlequin’s balloon, hitting the connection to the propane and changing the float’s course. Nova has to sacrifice weight to clear the next building they’re headed toward. Instead of throwing her bag full of inventions, she tosses Winston off instead. Chromium captures him.
Adrian (aka Sketch and the Sentinel) wakes up hours later, alone on the rooftop. He’s embarrassed his first attempt at the next great superhero failed miserably. He uses his drawing talent to clean and stitch his shoulder wound.
Adrian goes to Renegade headquarters to catch up with his team about the goings on. He’s told no one about his alternate identity Sentinel and won’t do so now that he accidentally burned one of his own. He lies about where he’s been. They all try to figure out who Nightmare is and what vigilante group she’s with. Because of the one sentence she said to him about fear spurring bravery, Adrian knows he has to find her on his own.
Adrian goes to visit Max (aka Bandit), the ten year old boy who lives in headquarters in quarantine. He continually works on his glass replica of the city and knows more about the goings on than Adrian because of he always watches the news. Adrian makes him a few new glass pieces to help him construct his parade replica.
The council returns to headquarters. Adrian goes out to greet his dads. They are furious about Nightmare and the Sentinel but don’t yet have answers. A lab tech comes to them with news on the poison on the dart shot at Chromium. It’s like what Anarchist Leroy Flynn (aka Cyanide) has used before. They don’t realize at first that Adrian has stayed to listen to their conversation.
Adrian thinks the council’s way is wrong. They need to go about their rule more quickly and effectively.
Nova returns home to her subway lair, which the Renegades pay visits to regularly. Ingrid is there. She sees Honey next. Nova grabs food from Winston’s stash since he won’t be home any time soon and ventures on to her favorite Anarchist: Leroy Flynn. He suggests she infiltrate the Renegade ranks by becoming one of them.
Adrian listens to a newscast about recent events and realizes how their questions are his own: Did the council do a good job with their response? And who is Nightmare? He looks at a photo album to see pictures of his mom before she died and pictures of him a year later on his adoption day. He finds what he’s looking for: the news article about her death. It includes the quote written on a note left by her killer that says the same thing that Nightmare did.
The Renegades show up at the Anarchists’ lair to discuss the attempted assassination. They try to bully the Anarchists into obedience. Nova thinks once again about how they’re not the heroes the public thinks they are. The Sentinel shows up and says he was sent by the council. They have called this mission off. He says they don’t get reception down here, so there’s no way they would’ve known. They seem unsure. They don’t know who the Sentinel is or what side he’s on. He says he wants to talk to Nightmare. Nova thinks about how she might be their only hope of defeating the Renegades since they don’t know who she is.
Nova thinks about how Ace was her only family after her family’s murder. He talked of the deaths only once, when he told her it was a group called the Roaches and the Renegades didn’t come to rescue them. Ace killed all 47 members of this gang. He died not long after he told her this in the big Anarchists versus Renegades battle.
Nova and Leroy arrive at Millie’s houseboat in Harrow Bay. She’s prepared a fake ID and a fake background for Nova so she can enter the Renegade trials. She’s Nova Jean McClain now, with the prodigy name Insomnia. Millie mentions how talented Nova’s dad was as she looks at the bracelet he made and how handsome the boy was who fixed it.
Adrian is at the trials, thinking this is another part of being a Renegade he disagrees with. A few questions and a 30 second power display can’t show a prodigy’s worth. His sketching talent wouldn’t be flashy enough to win the panel over even though it often proves useful out in the field. Adrian’s group wants to see if any talent is worth joining their gang. The girl with the bracelet from the parade day steps out. Adrian is drawn to her once again. The crowd is divided on whether Insomnia has a worthy skill. She also touts her physical training and scientific wherewithal.
Adrian’s team is the only to vie for her. Another team challenges their bid because her skill can’t be confirmed. Nova has to choose her opponent from the challenging team. She chooses Gargoyle. As she’s walking to the ring, she realizes the bracelet-fixing boy from the parade is the one who wants her on his team. She realizes he’s the Renegades captains’ son, Adrian Everhart. She defeats Gargoyle using a couple tricks. Her new teammates welcome her.
Adrian gets up early one morning to sneak into the basement and give himself a new tattoo for another secret ability. His dads call him up for a family breakfast. They talk about the goings on in the city, and Adrian asks for his team to be assigned to the investigation of the Librarian, who they think may have supplied and Nightmare’s gun. He says their new insomniac teammate could be a big help. His dads say no. They say his team needs to use their expertise out on patrol in the city. Adrian tries to persuade them, mentioning how Nightmare quoted the note that was found on his mother’s dead body. They give his team two weeks to perform surveillance.
Nova arrives at the Renegade headquarters for the first time. She’s nervous she’ll be found out. But it all goes smoothly, especially when Nova confirms there currently aren’t any Renegades with mind reading powers. Ruby and Oscar show her around a bit. They ask about what inventions Nova brought with her. She shows what she has, although she couldn’t bring her best ones because Nightmare had used them in public in the past year.
Adrian meets up with Nova, Ruby, and Oscar. Nova asks him tons of questions, and seeing headquarters through her eyes makes him realize how amazing everything the Renegades have developed in the past 8 years is. It makes him interested in it all over again.
They take Nova to the training facility, a gutted-out parking garage where superheroes can practice their powers. Adrian assumes Nova’s awe is because of the various talents she sees being practiced. He tells her how prodigies from around the world come here to train before going home to protect their various cities. Nova asks if Sentinel trains here. Oscar says they don’t think the Council was faking their surprise and anger about the Sentinel. Oscar believes he’s rogue.
They take Nova to meet their other teammate, Monarch, who didn’t even see Nova compete at the trials because of the injuries she sustained during the parade day fight. She’s friendly but seems skeptical of Nova’s surveillance abilities. Nova invited Monarch to test her, so she does. Nova easily passes her test.
Adrian takes Nova to meet the Bandit. Nova’s amazed at the detail of the glass city he’s created. Max is awed by her and asks Adrian to draw a figurine if her. Nova allows it and is amazed at the quick, accurate results. She asks why he’s secluded. Her teammates explain he has a condition that’s dangerous but valuable.
Before they elaborate, a lady in a hazmat-type suit arrives for her regular collection of Max’s blood and saliva. Nova asks if they’re trying to heal him. Adrian says research and development is using these samples for something much different. The specifics of his condition are classified. Nova makes a mental note to investigate this later.
Adrian gives Nova a wristwatch, the latest and greatest in Renegade tech. She’s impressed but also worries it could be used to track her location. She’s supposed to keep it on at all times.
Nova goes to the apartment her friends rented for her. She kicks out a homeless guy who has been squatting there. Soon two of her friends show up. She recaps what she learned in day 1 at headquarters. They will warn Cronin that Nova’s team is going to start watching the library the next night. He has 24 hours to clear out anything illegal. They want Nova to trigger a search of the place to show the Renegades it’s clean. Once it’s cleared, he can move his illegal business back into the library.
On their first night of surveillance, not much is going on. They all share a little bit about their families and superhero origin stories. Oscar goes first, then Ruby, then Adrian, and finally Nova. She’s afraid hers gets a little too close to the truth. She takes watch while the others sleep and is slightly disappointed when Adrian doesn’t come check on her even. Nova comes back down, berating herself for her disappointment. She talks to Adrian a while before he goes to sleep.
The next morning, the foursome sees Ingrid (aka Detonator) walking into the library, which Nova uses to convince them to go in and search the library. Adrian calls for back-up, but they go in before the other team arrives. They ask for Cronin. Adrian sees the library assistant watching Nova. Cronin arrives and agrees to give them a tour of the library. Adrian wants to tour the parts not open to the public, starting with the basement. Adrian asks Oscar to stay behind and keep an eye on the library occupants’ safety.
During the tour, they encounter Ingrid. Nova can tell something’s off. Ingrid didn’t warn Cronin and has her own plan: to kidnap Adrian because he’s the council members’ son. A fight ensues. Ingrid ends up detonating some of her bombs. The library begins to burn. The Renegades rush to save everyone inside. Oscar says one little boy is missing. Adrian leaves to look for him. Nova finds him.
The Sentinel arrives asking Cronin for information on Nightmare, guaranteeing his safety and his granddaughter’s safety if he reveals who or where she is. Cronin considers this. Ingrid kills him. Narcissa (his granddaughter) escapes using her power to flow through mirrors. She carries one old book from the library with her. Ingrid kills Cronin. Nova shoots Ingrid but carries her away from the burning building.
Nova and the Sentinel speak. She doubts his allegiance to the Renegades and asks him to reveal himself to prove his good intentions. He can’t yet. Nova sees Ruby and Oscar below. Adrian isn’t with any of them. The Sentinel leaves. Oscar’s going to go back into the building to try to save him. Their back-up finally arrives. Captain chromium finds Adrian in an igloo that he sketched and brought to life inside the fire.
That night, Nova goes back to the Anarchist’s hide out. They’re packing up and leaving. The Renegades are coming after them after the stunt Ingrid pulled. Ingrid isn’t allowed to go with them because of her actions. Nova’s headed back to Renegades headquarters to resume her undercover position. She’s not going to let this stop her.
Adrian and his team are on trial about what happened at the library. Their defense is that they’re normally a patrol team and they’re used to taking action if they see an Anarchist. Even though they defied orders in their actions, this defense works. They end up on probation. Adrian asks to question Winston during this downtime since Winston is tied to Nightmare.
Nova accompanies Adrian to go visit Max. She likes the little boy, plus she’s hoping to pump him for information. Nova starts out by pointing out a few things that are wrong with his model of the city and offers to help correct them. She also offers to build functioning elevators for his model of Renegade headquarters. Then she tries to milk him and Adrian for information about Max’s background and condition. They’re careful in that responses. But Nova learns his parents tried to throw him off a bridge, Captain Chromium rescued him, and his abilities would have people wanting to kidnap or kill him. Nova asks a little more about Adrian’s mom and dad.
Adrian’s request was granted to question Winston. Nova tries to get out of it because Winston has no clue about her undercover assignment here and has no idea how he’ll react when he sees her. But Adrian insists she come along and at least use her powers of observation. Winston doesn’t give Nova away, but he does act suspiciously. He stares at her several times when they first arrive and gives several strange, unbelievable sounding answers when Adrian asks him about Nightmare. But at least he keeps Nova’s secret for now.
In addition to doing legitimate work at her data entry job, Nova also changes incriminating data (like who a weapon used by an Anarchist is registered to) and often digs deeper into the Renegade database for any information that might be helpful to the Anarchists.
Adrian goes out to dinner with Ruby and Oscar one evening while Nova’s at work. He purchases a variety of sandwiches to take back to her for a snack break. When he gets to her department, he hears guards yelling. He rushes toward the noise. Nova has entered the quarantine because she saw Max hovering and then falling and hurting his hand. She tells Adrian about this after he drags her out of Max’s room and she comes to. He tells her what Max’s powers are. He steals other people’s powers permanently if they’re exposed to him long enough.
Both Nova and Adrian are weak. They’re not sure whether their powers remain. Nova asks Adrian to test his. He grabs his pen, and he indeed retained them. Nova asks about Max’s telekinesis. She says he was levitating himself while holding up many of the glass buildings, too. Adrian has never observed him holding up this much with his mind and didn’t realize his powers were this strong. He stole them from Ace Anarchy.
Monarch visits Nova in the hospital wing. They talk about a variety of things, including how she’s used her power to sneak into movie theaters and the artifact wing at headquarters. She also mentions how Adrian has never had a girlfriend but seems interested in Nova. Nova’s embarrassed and knows that she’s attracted to Adrian, too. She tells herself it’s just a biological reaction to him, though.
Frostbite comes and this her annoying self as always. Once she leaves, Nova touches Monarch to test her powers. She’s thrilled it’s alive and well, putting Monarch to sleep immediately. Nova packs up and leaves against the advice of the nurse treating her.
Adrian goes to visit Max and helps him rebuild the glass model that was broken during the ordeal. Max shows him how he has a little of Adrian‘s power now. He doesn’t know whether he captured any of Nova’s. He hopes not because he doesn’t want to have even more waking hours to try to fill all alone each day.
Max mentions how he saw Adrian fly to carry Nova out of the room. He mentions how the Sentinel also has this ability and basically asks Adrian if he’s the Sentinel. Adrian won’t say. But he does answer “hypothetical” questions Max asks about the Sentinel. Since the Sentinel seems to have a variety of abilities, he asks whether the Sentinel can capture the invincibility of Captain Chromium. Adrian knows Max is asking because he would love to have someone else who can come in and interact with him. Adrian has never considered trying to develop and invincibility ability. He’s not sure if this is possible for the Sentinel or not.
Nova leaves the hospital wing and finds a very important artifact, Ace Anarchist’s helmet. She gets a text from Adrian, wondering where she is and wanting to make sure she’s okay. Nova has warring emotions between the text and the helmet. She finally pics the helmet up and is surprised when no alarms go off. Then the Dread Warden appears and she realizes maybe there’s a silent alarm attached to it. But as she held it, she had noticed it’s a fake. She asks the Dread Warden about it. He surprisingly tells her the truth. The actual helmet wasn’t destroyed and is held down in the artifacts department. Nova asks if Renegades are allowed to see it. He says maybe Nova would be allowed in if she bribed the head of artifacts with some candy.
Nova gets another text from Adrian but doesn’t respond. She mentions she knows Max came into contact with Ace at some point. The Dread Warden acknowledges this is truth and explains what happened, a story very different than the famous painting. Captain Chromium had baby Max in his arms and flew toward Ace, hoping the close contact would start draining Ace of his powers. It worked. Ace soon figured out what was draining his power and tried to fight Max. He was soon too weak to fight anymore. Captain Chromium snatched the helmet from his head. Ace jumped off the third story of the building they were on into the burning building below.
Nova heads to her home outside headquarters. Honey and Leroy are both there. Nova leaves her watch behind and heads outback to leave. Ingrid appears with an offer that’s hard to refuse. She proposes a public fight to the death for both Nightmare and the Detonator, that way they both are off the Renegade’s radar for good. She’ll be back tonight for Nova’s answer. Ingrid sees Adrian coming and says she hopes Nova knows how he looks at her.
Nova runs back to the house. Honey and Leroy have both vanished. Adrian knocks twice before she answers. He was worried about her since she hadn’t responded to any of his many messages. Adrian seems taken aback by the ramshackle house. He draws a bouquet of roses on the forlorn table. He suggests they go to the carnival Cosmopolis the next day since Nightmare is known to be tied to it. Adrian thinks Nova can show him around since her resume says she used to work there. She hadn’t, of course, so during her sleepless night, Nova becomes familiar with the park and plants some clues she hopes Adrian will find.
They play a variety of games, with Nova winning all the shooting ones and Adrian winning all the strength-related ones. The two get into a friendly debate about what is wrong with the world, about whether prodigies make it a better or worse place. They can both understand the other‘s points. Adrian doesn’t seem that suspicious that Nova defends the Anarchists at times. Adrian suggests they ride the Ferris wheel to give them a good vantage point to see any clues about Nightmare. Nova feels nervous about being crammed into a little gondola with Adrian but agrees. She can’t believe the feelings she’s having that would have been unbelievable to her a few weeks ago.
Some kids approach them as they are walking to the Ferris wheel. They interact with them for a while. Adrian draws a variety of toys to bring to life for each of them. Nova realizes how late it’s getting and how she still has to fight Ingrid later in the night, so she encourages Adrian to go. She walks him toward the gallery, hoping he will see one of the clues she left behind. As they’re looking at the pictures, Adrian sees it. It’s the photo Nova altered to make it look like the fun house used to be named Nightmare. Nova asks whether this is supposed to be a date. Adrian kind of dodges the question. She realizes it was something more than a surveillance mission.
They follow a string of clues. Nova acts like she sees something. Adrian drags her behind him. Nova can’t believe his touch is affecting her like it is. They make their way to a fun house, begin going through it together, and continue to get scared by each of the tricks of the old fun house. The two of them get separated when Nova falls through a trap door. They yell to each other and agree to go through the rest of the house on their own. Adrian discovers some clothes and a weapon that Nightmare had used on him during the parade. It’s all the confirmation he needs. He sends a message to Nova and the Renegades.
HOW IT ENDED?
Adrian hears a noise and expects to see Nova. Instead, Nightmare pops out of a door. They fight for a second. Adrian runs away, yelling a message into the communicator on his wrist. He looks for Nova but finds Nightmare again. She fires at him but misses very wide. Someone calls out that she thought she trained Nightmare better than that. It’s the Detonator. Nightmare and the Detonator seem to be fighting about who caused Cronin’s death and the Renegade’s pursuit of the Anarchists. Adrian begins backing away. Nightmare shoots multiple bullets at the Detonator. Adrian draws some more tranquilizer darts for the tranquilizer gun he drew earlier. He’s glad to have the tranquilizer gun loaded again.
It appears that Nightmare is hit and killed. The Detonator tells Adrian this was supposed to be a fake fight to convince the Renegades they both died. But she changed her mind. She tells him she already took care of Nova. Adrian tries to shoot Detonator with tranq darts but misses. He eventually draws handcuffs on her. The Renegades arrive. Chromium rushes over to check on Adrian. He tells him Nightmare is dead. A bomb is detonated somewhere in the park. Detonator must have put it on a timer earlier.
Nova arrives and shoots the Detonator. Adrian is relieved to see her and carries her to safety. A Renegade mentions how people like the Detonator won’t even be a problem soon because of what they are working on. Nova asks what it is. They can’t elaborate. Nova assumes it’s about their research on Max.
Nova goes to an Anarchist lair, thinking about the Renegades as she walks. She realizes why the Renegades are not heroes. They make decisions for everyone and would take away any prodigy’s abilities if they don’t fit into the Renegade mold. She goes down into the heart of the lair and announces to the room that the helmet is alive and well at Renegade headquarters. She enters a room where her Uncle Ace levitates before her. He tells her he’s proud of her.