Jonathan, son of Kevin:
Issue(s): Quasar #1
It's worth noting that by publication date, Quasar already had a stint with the Avengers (beginning in the Super-Nova storyline in Avengers #302-303, which was co-written by Gruenwald), which is a nice bit of promotional synergy that allows this book's tagline to be "The Cosmic Avenger".
I want to call out again the idea that Gruenwald's concept for Quasar was "cosmic from a human perspective". I think there's a lot of potential there. We potentially had/have/will have that (tenses are tricky when dealing with continuity inserts) with the Rick Jones/Captain Marvel dynamic, but a big part of Rick is the amount of experience he's had all around the Marvel universe already, so bringing in a human with fresh eyes would still be something new. But the reason i call this out is because Gruenwald isn't exactly known for his ability to handle characterization or develop the human sides of characters. We've seen/will see that one of Gruenwald's first moves on his Captain America run was to entirely discard the non-superpowered supporting cast, for example. We'll look at the degree to which Gruenwald remembers this part of his theme as we go through the series; for this first issue it's really a moot point since it's more of a history lesson.
This issue presents the origin of Quasar and takes place entirely before his first published appearance as the new Marvel Boy. It starts with Nick Fury reviewing the history of the original Marvel Boy for scientists including Tony Stark and a Gilbert Vaughan. SHIELD wants Stark to figure out how to use the bracelets that were left behind when Marvel Boy disintegrated.
Stark protests that he's out of the arms trade, but Fury convinces him that they're only interested in defensive applications.
While Gilbert Vaughan is at SHIELD, he asks to see his son Wendell, who is currently a SHIELD trainee. And he's allowed to look in on a training session, where Wendell is about to fight with another trainee named Gail Runciter (who by publication date had been a recurring character as a SHIELD agent until she was seemingly killed in the Nick Fury vs. SHIELD miniseries).
Wendell is intimidated by Gail. He manages to hold his own during the fight but does not win. And he's later seen being told that he lacks the killer instinct necessary to make him a good field agent. But he's otherwise considered to be a top asset, so SHIELD intends to find a use for him.
Wendell is afraid this means a desk job, but he actually winds up assigned to a security detail guarding the investigation into the bracelets at Stark International's Pittsburgh branch.
We also learn that Wendell's parents are divorced, and Gilbert Vaughan is emotionally distant.
At Stark, the scientists have a test pilot named William Wesley try out the bracelets.
But after some testing, he finds that he's unable to shut off the bracelets' power...
....and he disintegrates like Robert Grayson did. Gilbert's reaction to this is "he knew the risks when he took the job", but he's not the villain of this issue. That is a Dr. Stanley Zane, who is actually an AIM agent, and Zane calls in AIM to take advantage of the confusion in the aftermath of Wesley's death.
During the AIM attack, Wendell decides (rather casually, and not exactly because he was forced) to wear the bracelets himself.
He gets a brief cosmic flash...
...and then uses the bracelet Green Lantern style to repel the AIM invaders.
He's even able to take down the AIM saucer. But he then starts to overheat like Grayson and Wesley. However, he finds that becoming calm, he's able to defuse the energy. It turns out that his lack of a killer instinct is exactly what was needed to master the bracelets.
Thinking back to Gruenwald's interest in the human side of things, we see that Gilbert genuinely cares about his son, and it's interesting body language from Paul Ryan, who doesn't show Wendell hugging back.
Nick Fury shows up at the end to offer Wendell a job at SHIELD's fledgling Super-Agent program.
In terms of story, there's not much here that we didn't already know. It's actually in terms of character where Gruenwald is doing the work, establishing Wendell's lack of a killer instinct and also that he seems to have some emotional problems. He spends days sulking after his SHIELD review, and there's the situation with his father. This latter point is mainly a set-up for next issue's confrontation with Deathurge; i'm pretty certain the idea that Quasar suffers from minor depression isn't an ongoing plot point. But it's still interesting to see Gruenwald focusing on character development at all after what i said about him at the top. Now, the killer instinct thing is brought home with the subtlety of Marvel Boy's light-hammer, and as i said i don't think the depression point is anything more than a set-up for next issue. And everything about the script and the plot is very much utilitarian. But it's enough to make this more than just a Marvel Saga style recap and justify devoting an entire issue to a recap of Quasar's origin.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place before Quasar's first published appearance (as Marvel Boy) in Captain America #217. Following the MCP, i've placed this in the same break in Tony Stark's chronology as his Werewolf By Night appearance, and before Dum Dum Dugan gets tied up in the Godzilla series.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showDum Dum Dugan LMD, Gaffer (SHIELD Scientist), Gail Runciter, Gilbert Vaughn, Iron Man, Lisa Vaughn, Nick Fury, Quasar
And thus he heads off to join an amazing adventure...with a roller skater, a vampish spy and the Texas Twister. (yeah, somehow the origin makes the fact he ends up with the Super Agents all the weirder)
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 6, 2014 5:15 PM
"Marvel was in an expansionary phase, and the "decision was made to pull the plug" on the New Universe," - too bad they had to bring the star brand back from the "New Universe" in this title. That really messed it up towards the end of the run, IMO.
Posted by: clyde | September 6, 2014 8:44 PM
Maybe Mark Gruenwald felt the need to give a better send-off to the New Universe and to the Star Brand? I know I did.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 6, 2014 10:33 PM
I have mixed feelings on the Quasar series. There are some good ideas and moments, but the character and title never really connected. Gruenwald is really fighting the general trend of dark and gritty in the era with Quasar, and it is interesting artifact because of that.
Posted by: Chris | September 7, 2014 1:28 AM
I'm not going to lie. QUASAR is, without a doubt, my favorite comic series. Ever. By anyone.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 8, 2014 8:15 AM
I have to agree with Thanos6. I loved this series all the way to it's bitter end. It really had a down-to-earth feel to it, IMO.
Posted by: clyde | February 14, 2015 10:43 PM
I see what you mean. Gruenwald really wrote it from the heart. :)
Posted by: Luis Dantas | February 14, 2015 10:55 PM
Really wonderful penciling on this issue by Paul Ryan. This was the type of material he excelled at drawing. And I always liked it when he was paired up with Danny Bulanadi's inking.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 12, 2016 2:25 PM
Paul Ryan was such an underrated artist. Better than many superstars.
Posted by: Mizark | July 21, 2016 5:01 AM
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