Jonathan, son of Kevin:
Issue(s): Quasar #30, Quasar #31
I've said in the past that Quasar occupies a role that the Fantastic Four used to (and maybe should have continued to), exploring the odd nooks and crannies of the Marvel universe. One difference is that the places that the Fantastic Four explored (the Skrull homeworld, the Negative Zone, the Microverse) were all newly introduced, whereas with Quasar, thanks in a large part to the fact that continuity fan Mark Gruenwald is the writer, the focus is more on existing, if often forgotten, concepts and places. These issues continue with that sort of thing in a big way, with Quasar first exploring the multiple alternate dimensions of What If? and then landing in the New Universe. The former is fun, but i dislike the latter quite a bit.
This arc opens with Her still following Quasar around like a lovesick puppy, leading to a funny scene where Quasar bursts into his day job office while a potential client is having a meeting with Kenjiro and friends. Quasar smartly pretends that he was looking for the Fantastic Four, a few floors up. It's not enough to save the bid though.
Then a bit more weirdness as "H.D. Steckley", who was revealed to really be Moondragon, returns. Except this time she's not Moondragon.
Then Quasar goes into his office and finds the Watcher waiting for him.
The Watcher summons Quasar to the moon.
One thing i don't love about Quasar is the very casual way that he reacts to cosmic entities, including the way he talks to the Watcher here.
Quasar is supposed to be a goody goody, not irreverent like Spider-Man or the Thing. I very much understand the desire to spice the character up, but i don't think this works.
Anyway, the Watcher has called Quasar to deal with the problem of the Living Laser. In this series, we last saw the Living Laser fleeing from Quasar into one of the alternate universe that the Watcher observes in What If?. Quasar is aware the the Laser resurfaced after that, to fight Iron Man. But he learns now that while the Living Laser was in the alternate universe, he diverged, and every time he tries to return to Earth by flying through a portal in another reality's Watcher's house, it just creates more copies.
Note that the Watcher says that the Time Keepers have told him that he's responsible for the problem of the Laser. The Watcher will be interacting with the Time Keepers (and/or Twisters) in an upcoming What If? storyline, Timequake, that i'll be covering on this site.
Anyway, while the Watcher is responsible for the Laser problem, he's also got his oath of non-interference to contend with. So he asks Quasar to sort out his problem for him. Quasar says that he's the protector of this universe, but agrees to help since he's the one who chased the Laser into the alternate dimension in the first place.
Quasar zips through a number of dimensions, collecting the Living Laser divergents and noting how so many of the universes he goes to seem to be on the brink of destruction, which is a kind of joke/commentary on the nature of the What If? series.
Quasar arrives at his final destination seconds before the final universe is effectively destroyed. Most notably the local variant of the Watcher's house is destroyed, therefore leaving Quasar without any way to leave the dimension. This universe seems to be one where Thanos and Maelstrom were successful in the Infinity Gauntlet and Cosmos In Collision storylines, respectively, and are now fighting it out for total supremacy. Unlike the other dimensions shown, this doesn't seem to correspond with an actual issue of What If?
Note that Quasar does not recognize Thanos, since he's playing by the rules and not remembering the things that were reset by Nebula.
Maelstrom notices Quasar and tries to kill him (for what he thinks is the second time). To flee, Quasar quantum jumps, and that's how he ends up in a white dimension that leads to the New Universe.
Meanwhile, Her is hanging out with the Watcher, and is not pleased to hear that Quasar "is nowhere in the entire multiverse of dimensions". It'll later be said that Quasar went out into the "greater Omniverse".
Quasar comes out of the white dimension into the New Universe with a meteorite sent by Malestrom hot on his tale. Luckily it lands in Post-Pitt Manhattan, which is now sparsely populated. Quasar meets some of the New Universe characters.
The New Universe was supposed to be a more realistic, science based universe, and that's reflected by the fact that the characters call themselves paranormals and can't believe that Quasar is from another dimension.
The fact that the New Universe is outside the "multiverse" is a nod to the fact that the New Universe was not meant to be in any way a part of the Marvel universe. In my opinion, that means it never should have crossed over with the Marvel universe, either, and in my view the characters appearing here are as much the "real" New Universe characters as the Godzilla that appeared in the Marvel comic was the same one from Toho's films (i.e., not at all). I only read a few scattered issues of New Universe, so i don't really know the characters that well. Gruenwald does a good job introducing them, and setting up a scenario contrasting Quasar's frame of references with theirs. So my problem isn't with the writing, just the basic concept. Marvel characters shouldn't be walking into the New Universe any more than they should be visiting Dreadstar or Groo. But i feel better about it if i pretend that these are just new characters in a new universe (no caps!).
Since this universe is outside the multiverse, there is no Watcher here (the locals are aware of the Watcher as a character that appeared in Marvel comics), so Quasar can't get home through his portal, and he finds that he can't quantum jump or contact Epoch, either. So he truly is stuck. He returns to the New Universe paranormals and asks them for help. They aren't able to do anything, but their mention of Starbrand seems like a promising lead, so Quasar goes to look for him. He's secretly followed by the character called Antibody.
He finds a guy that, as i understand it, is a new Starbrand, not any of the ones from the actual New Universe issues. And the fact that he's tall and lanky and named Jim suggests that he might be meant to be meant to be a tribute (?) to Jim Shooter, the original character's creator (and, of course, the creator of the New Universe).
Anyway, Jim doesn't want the Starbrand power, so Quasar asks if he can take it to get himself home. Jim isn't willing to turn over the power right away, but after talking with Quasar for hours, he decides that Quasar is a good guy and agrees to the transfer.
I don't know... is it a way to suggest that Mark Gruenwald is Jim Shooter's successor or am i looking for metaphors where there aren't any? Jim is definitely happy to have given up the power, in any event.
Quasar is able to get home with the Starbrand, arriving in the Man-Thing's Nexus of Realities.
It turns out that Antibody has hitched a ride back with Quasar, but no one knows it.
We don't find out what happened to the Living Lasers that Quasar had collected. It's confirmed in a later lettercol that they were "lost" when Quasar escaped the New Universe.
These issues are done well enough. Quasar is still a bland character and could use a partner to spice things up. Makkari and Her are likely candidates but Mark Gruenwald isn't that great at scripting, so i don't know if it would have helped for them to tag along. Nonetheless, the plots and concepts of the issues are a lot of fun. I wouldn't even mind the New Universe visit if i thought it was just a one-off thing. But Gruenwald has allowed Quasar to bring one of them back, and he'll revisit the universe again with the Starblast event in a couple of years. I just don't love the idea of a publishing line intended to be the antithesis of the Marvel universe (regardless of its success) being turned into basically just another pocket dimension of the Marvel universe. And granted Gruenwald makes a distinction between the various alternate dimensions of the multiverse and a greater omniverse.
For the purposes of my project, i guess it's really the multiverse that i consider in scope, which is why i'd cover a Squadron Supreme story but not the New Universe.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The question of whether or not the Living Laser actually appears in issue #30 is debatable. It seems like the idea is that the real Laser really did return home for the Iron Man appearances, and all of the ones that Quasar collects in this series are divergent duplicates. And that's how the MCP seems to interpret things as well. But the way the Watcher describes things (e.g. the use of the word "he" instead of "one of them" or something), it almost sounds like it's the real one that keeps creating more divergents. I'm going with the MCP and not listing the Living Laser as a Character Appearing.
As for the New Universe characters, i've only listed those that appear again in the real Marvel universe.
This arc begins with Her following Quasar around, but it doesn't necessarily have to continue directly from when she resolved to stay with him at the end of last issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): showAntibody, Captain Manhattan, Chrome (New Universe), Erishkigal, Kayla Ballantine, Kenjiro Tanaka, Kismet (Her), Makkari, Man-Thing, Metallurgist, Quasar, Uatu the Watcher
Jim Hanrahan appeared in about three or four pages of the last issue of Starbrand, and he may well have been patterned after Jim Shooter... but since he is a John Byrne creation, it is a safe bet that it was not a homage to him.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 19, 2016 6:40 PM
So much of Quasar just sounds like bad fanfiction.
Posted by: Red Comet | January 19, 2016 6:40 PM
My take on his giving Quasar the Starbrand and being so happy for it is that in so doing he is simbolically passing the creative torch of the NU's from Byrne and Howard Mackie, who brought Starbrand to the ground with extreme prejudice, to Gruenwald, who will do his best to care for the characters and concept.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 19, 2016 6:59 PM
Fnord, if you ever reach 2016 in your project, you may want to keep track of Blur, who makes an apperance here. He is now a part of whatever the post-Secret Wars world is called.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 19, 2016 7:01 PM
And almost all of them will show up again in some issues of Exiles.
Posted by: AF | January 19, 2016 7:12 PM
"One thing i don't love about Quasar is the very casual way that he reacts to cosmic entities, including the way he talks to the Watcher here."
See, to me, that's a plus. I find it humorous and endearing.
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 19, 2016 10:06 PM
No kidding about Star Brand. John Byrne's run on that title is the most unprofessional thing I think I've ever seen published at Marvel. Something like eight straight issues about nothing but how much Byrne hated Jim Shooter.
Posted by: Red Comet | January 19, 2016 10:07 PM
@AF - I understand that the Exiles storyline featured alternate versions of the NU characters?
@Thanos - You and me both.
@Red Comet - Have you read "The Pitt"? It reads much like the proposal was "how can we make some bucks out of a book that shows how despairing it must be to live where Jim Shooter's alter ego is? Bonus points if we can make someone scream "Shooter Down" twice on panel."
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 20, 2016 8:05 AM
As a reader of the NU books, IIRC, one of the rules of the Star Brand was that the original bearer was left with 10% of the power. Did that change because Quasar was an extradimensional?
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | January 20, 2016 7:42 PM
No. Quaze still possesses some Starbrand power, and that's going to come up again...
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 20, 2016 8:31 PM
in that panel where he thanks the new universers for the hospitality, quasar straight up looks like a CHICK. and dig that Jay Leno chin!!! LOL
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Comics CEO | January 21, 2016 12:14 AM
I expected Fnord wouldn’t like the New Universe issue too much, and I entirely agree with his reasoning. The New Universe was explicitly a separate universe, just like “the world outside your window” where the Marvel Universe was just comics. It made no sense for Quasar to be there. However, as someone who did read the New Universe and absolutely mourned its end, I’ve got to say I loved Quasar 31, and I was happy to suspend my disbelief to see some of the characters again. Seeing the New Universe on the cover was like a Christmas present for me. I had stopped reading Quasar a while back, but saw the cover and was incredibly excited to find out what Gruenwald thought the DP7 characters were doing now. At the time, the only disappointment was that it was just a one off and we wouldn’t get anything continuing. Gruenwald does return to New Universe characters and concepts after this in Quasar, but all of that I found disappointing and uninteresting. I just wanted to know more about how all the characters I loved were doing, and this issue was the last we really saw them. (We see the New Universe Earth again, but not really its characters.)
Anyway, I can see how this issue would not stand out to anyone who didn’t read the original comics, but personally I was so glad it was made, I read the issue time and time again. As far as I can recall it’s the last thing Gruenwald did that I loved, or even liked that much.
Minor correction for Fnord: It’s post-Pitt Manhattan that Quasar lands in. (Don’t have this issue to hand, but the reference to Pre-Pitt is that the population now is much less than it was before the destruction of Pittsburgh. I kind of suspect you know this, but just in case!)
Posted by: Jonathan | January 21, 2016 9:13 AM
Thanks, Jonathan. That was just a 'transcription error', so to speak.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 21, 2016 9:16 AM
Fnord, do you want to mention what happened to the divergent Lasers Quaze sucked up? It's been a while since I read the issue, but I think his final jump back to 616 made him use so much energy that he (unconsciously?) used them as fuel too and they basically died from being drained into nothing?
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 21, 2016 10:04 AM
Thanos, I think you’re misremembering, if memory serves it’s the Starbrand that Quasar uses for his omniversal travel, he assumes it’s been burned out but (spoilers) reappears soon enough.
Posted by: Jonathan | January 21, 2016 10:32 AM
I know he used the Starbrand, but I swear I remember that at some point the Lasers got "used up" in all this.
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 21, 2016 10:38 AM
There's no reference to the Laser being used up in issue #31, neither when Quasar is making his jump or when he gets back to Earth, or even in his final wrap up with the Watcher. The latter is especially odd. Thanos, maybe you're remembering something from a later issue; it seems like something that may be brought up again since it feels like a dropped point here.
Jonathan, not off topic at all. Thanks for the recap.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 21, 2016 10:41 AM
I don't think that's something I made up. I'm crazy, but not that crazy. Unfortunately, my back issues aren't easily accessible at the moment. Would you mind keeping an eye out for a mention of that in future issues until I can browse my QUASARs myself? Sorry to ask.
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 21, 2016 10:58 AM
Per Shooter's blog, he worked retail back home for several years between his first and second stints in the comic industry. Ken Connell seems to be heavily based on this period of his life.
I think a lot of people didn't like the Connell character because he was a normal guy with no ambition who did stuff real people (with real flaws) do like cheat on their girlfriend. This was not the lifestyle and behavior of even a "flawed" Marvel hero. Readers weren't supposed to necessarily like the character or even identify with him. Unfortunately, comic book readers sometimes have a hard time grasping an unlikeable or unrelatable protagonist because they aren't very well versed in actual literature where characters like that are much more common.
As for the White Event: I assume the original intent was that it was caused by the Star Brand itself in some manner. My basis for this belief is Shooter's work on the Valiant universe, for which the New Universe served as a prototype in many ways. The origin of his version of Solar is heavily implied to have affected the timeline of the Valiant Universe and given the harbingers their powers and given Armstrong and Eternal Warrior their immortality.
Concepts from the New Universe (though not the characters) will come back to the main Marvel Universe during Jonathan Hickman's Avengers run. Hickman's stuff seems to be based on the aborted Warren Ellis reboot rather than the original material, though.
Posted by: Red Comet | January 21, 2016 12:50 PM
"As for the White Event: I assume the original intent was that it was caused by the Star Brand itself in some manner."
It's not an assumption. It's a fact.
Posted by: clyde | January 21, 2016 1:42 PM
I was trying to avoid any (nearly 30 year old) spoilers when I mentioned the White Event, but I didn't explain myself very well and just confused matters! The Old Man being the cause of the White Event I don't have a problem with at all. I imagine Byrne actually was using Shooter's original explanation there. All of the paranormals' powers came from the White Event except the Star Brand, so it seems logical that Shooter had intended the Brand had caused the White Event. The thing I was referring to that I didn't like Byrne's timey-wimey explanation for is he later linked the origin of the Star Brand itself to the White Event, and the time paradox explanation just seemed too much like a traditional "cosmic comics" concept that didn't fit in with the New Universe.
Posted by: Jonathan | January 21, 2016 3:33 PM
In retrospect, I wonder if Gru meant for the New Universe to be a sandbox of sorts for his corner of the Marvel books. The timing of his all-too-brief reintroduction of the NU fits neatly with the time when he likely realized that there would be no room in the MU proper for the high concept tales that he meant to say and that he only sort-of-actualized in "Cosmos in Collision".
At this time it was clear that Starlin's take on cosmic would have the spotlight for a good while and that very much short-circuited the remaining Quasar plots. Reintroducing the NU, despite their razed away state after the Pitt and later books, might potentially offer alternate grounds for Gru's stories. It eventually did in Starblast and #54-60, but I fear that by then Gru had allowed too much abuse on Quasar already.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 2, 2017 12:14 PM
That's actually a very interesting point... and you also have the fact that he starts bringing in more Squadron Supreme stuff (bringing Quagmire back for a whole story) while also dropping a lot of the links to Cosmic side - he pretty much directly lost Moondragon to Starlin (and after all the build-up to who H.D. was, to lose the character almost straight away after revealing her identity was awkward) - and was introducing a lot more original/"practically original" characters.
I do wonder what Starlin thought of Her/Kismet and why he never really bothered to include her in a story in some way. I don't think he ever even acknowledged Her but fortunately Gruenwald did the necessary legwork and gave us some of that in issues of Quasar. Starlin did draw her right at the back in one huge double splash page in The End #5, and that is the only time I think. Again, I imagine he has little interest. If ever that was a time when it made utter sense for Her to be integrated by Starlin, it was in War and Crusade...
Posted by: AF | April 2, 2017 1:56 PM
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