"which is the event where we last saw Quill, Nova and Drax dead before the relaunch"
Here's one idea:
Starlord is now Star-Lord. He looks physically different. Nobody's mentioned Rich. The GOTG outfits are different. In GOTG #5 Quill mentions a hiccup in the space-time continuim, which has been mentioned a few times since in different comics. I think that Rich and Peter combined the Nova force and the cosmic cube to try to stop Thanos, and doing that ripped a hole in the STC. Since BMB used the word "dead", they didn't survive, but alternate reality characters got pulled into 616, which explains the different look of Thanos, the GOTG characters and Jessie Alexander. That they don't belong in 616 would explain some of the unspoken dialogue between characters and some of the decisions made by them.
It's possible in the alternate universe, where the new GOTG team was ripped out of, Jessie and the Black Nova Corps were the norm, which explains why Rocket would know Jessie (since they're from the same dimension) and nobody but 616 characters not involved in the STC rip like Sam Alexander, Speedball, Vance Astrovik, The Watcher and Beta Ray Bill would even know of or mention Rich. The GOTG team we see in comics today never met Rich. The story that begins in GOTG #18 could be Quill recounting the story that was told to him by the 616 Quill before he died.
OTOH, it's possible that if those guys got sucked into 616, that Rich, Thanos and the 616 GOTG team got sucked into that alternate timeline and they're still alive and kicking in there. But since BMB used the word "dead", I wouldn't hold out any hope.
What isn't covered by that idea is that there's more than one Black Nova in 616. But even then if the cube exchanged power for power, since Rich had the entire worldmind back for the last fight, it'd stand to reason the entire Nova Corps from that universe would get changed out for him if it was a swap for a swap thing. But Jessie being in the 616 universe for as long as he has been is what messes up that idea.
Another idea is:
Nova and Starlord fought Thanos and lost. They died since death had been reintroduced into the Cancerverse. So Drax, Nova and Starlord are dead. Someone revives Drax and Starlord. Whether it's the power of the cosmic cube or somebody, or death not being allowed to exist in the Cancerverse again. That explains Drax and Starlord returning. and looking different, and being alive. In that case, chances are Nova was revived as well. Rich probably stayed behind to let Drax and Peter escape, which would be in character for him, while fighting the many tentacled thing. If death was eliminated from the Cancerverse again, than the answer is simple about what happened to Rich. He's trapped in there for eternity fighting the monsters to stop them from trying to escape into 616. So the answer would jive with what was in the letters column of GOTG #1 that Rich is still alive, and would also jive with what BMB said that they were all dead. Because maybe they did die until death ceased to exist in the Cancerverse again. The only problem is the Black Nova's are still unexplained and Rich got the entire nova force downloaded into him, so the Black Nova's really are something different. They suits come on different. No helmet, no powers. They don't like gold domes. Someone on one board mentioned maybe a link to Garthan Saal as an offshoot of the Nova Corps? Maybe someone else? That history will probably be explored by some writer some day, but I'm pretty sure the powers Sam has aren't from the same source as the powers Rich has. Worldmind made it clear that Rich was the last surviving member or the corps and the entire Nova force was downloaded into him. So these Black Nova's are getting their power from somewhere else.
We'll all know what happened soon enough, but those are two things that would dot most of the i's that I can think of. I'm sure BMB will have his own spin and I won't even be close, but something like either one of those would make for a tidy end to Rich's story for now.
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