Issue(s): Quasar #44, Quasar #45, Quasar #46, Quasar #47, Quasar #48
Quasar has escaped from the White Room, but he still doesn't have his quantum bands, and he's floating in an unknown sector of space. He does have the Starbrand, and he eventually figures out that it can move up to his eye, which shows him a trail of energy that he left behind when he was flying to use the Ultimate Nullifer (it turns out that he's emerged exactly where he entered). Quasar follows the trail back to Earth. He contacts Black Widow, who (along with everyone else) thought that Quasar was dead, especially after the Blue Marvel's actions in the last arc. He then heads to his former place of work. Kenjiro Tanaka has hired a new secretary, and Quasar learns that Kayla Ballantine has been missing for 5-6 weeks. Quasar goes to visit Kayla's family. Her father won't talk to him, but the brother confirms that she's been missing for 6 weeks, and the last he heard, she was going to Disneyworld with a friend from work. Quasar contacts Peggy Carter and learns that Kayla's rental car had been abandoned and found weeks ago. He heads to that general locaiton and uses his Starbrand Vision (tm) to search, and finds muck that he recognizes as coming from Quagmire.
It just so happens that Quagmire is currently on a rampage, so Quasar shows up to fight him.
Quagmire is helped out by a mystery ally...
..that turns out to be the little Antibody that we saw Quagmire meet in an earlier arc (Antibody originally hitched a ride to our universe from the New Universe in the same issue where Quasar got the Starbrand). Quagmire is just as surprised as Quasar to see him acting like an ally now, and they team up to fight Quasar (without a word from Antibody). But then Quagmire suddenly disappears, leaving Quasar to fight Antibody, who is growing in size.
You'd think Quasar's fight with Antibody would be about showing his resourcefulness and adaptability by putting him in a situation where he has to fight without using his traditional powers. In practice, the Starbrand powers are so ambiguous and powerful that it really doesn't make too much of a difference. The real problem is that whenever Quasar hits Antibody, he splits into clones of himself.
Granted (as noted in the issue) if Quasar had his quantum powers, he could just contain Antibody in an energy bubble. But the fight isn't about Quasar trying to find a way to defeat Antibody with the powers that he has.
In fact, there is a lot of weird swapping out of characters in this story, in a way that really feels random. We've already seen Quagmire come and go. And while Quasar is fighting Antibody, we see Neutron rescue the Presence from the Quantum Zone.
They then pool their resources to leave the sector of space where Neutron was left floating, and they head to Earth for revenge on Quasar (who was responsible for both of their predicaments). They wind up having to fight the Antibodies too.
Quasar tries to get them to delay their attack on him until the Antibody situation is dealt with, but they're having none of it, and Neutron pulls off his ponytail.
That's one way to give a character a haircut.
Quasar tries to explain to the Presence that their animosity is based on a misunderstanding (Maelstrom was manipulating both of them), but there isn't enough time during the fighting to get through to him.
And then more random characters show up.
Good grief is right. This is the most randomly thrown together plot i've seen. Kind of like running a Dungeons & Dragon's campaign entirely off of a Wandering Monsters chart.
When i first saw these guys, for a brief second i thought they might be the Hydra DOA characters introduced in Nightstalkers #2, with the female character being based on Spider-Woman, who was at one point a Hydra agent, and i thought that would be kind of cool (but still totally random). But they're actually a new team called Shock Troop, and their appearance here seems to have been a pitch for them to get their own series or something. They're even introduced with a Nabisco Corner cover on issue #46.
The guy in the middle is actually Dr. Druid...
...and two of the other characters aren't new either. The mummy is the Living Mummy, and the guy in the skeleton costume is a new Blazing Skull (the original being a Golden Age character). But he's not entirely new; he's really Jim Scully, aka Skull the Slayer. So only the character that looks like Spider-Woman is new. She is Shadowoman (note the W doing double work; i keep reading it as Shadow O'Man or Shadowwwwwwmnnn).
The last Quasar heard, Dr. Druid resigned from the Avengers in disgrace (which isn't exactly accurate even if there weren't later developments), so he isn't sure what to make of Shock Troop. But they are definitely there to deal with the problem of Antibody. Shadowoman's powers are way-too-conveniently suited to deal with him.
Meanwhile, Quasar gets rid of the Presence by telling him that the USSR has broken up, which causes him to leave, and some of Neutron's Imperial Guard buddies show up to take him home. Which does result in even more characters, and Quasar even has to deal with a mini-fight with Glom, but that's ok because Glom is hilarious.
With everything seemingly wrapped up, we get a final pitch for Shock Troop.
In the lettercol, a fan is credited for providing "constant reminders" about the Living Mummy (presumably since Gruenwald used him in Captain America), and that's how the character wound up in Shock Troop.
This is the last we'll see of Antibody. It's really weird for him to have been brought over from a whole different publishing line just for this.
Meanwhile, Kayla starts off still trapped on planet Scadam with (the new) H.D. Steckley. There are a couple of weird near-misses with this subplot. First, Kayla's scenes have been interspersed with Kismet's, and Kismet eventually starts tracking Kayla's use of the Starbrand power. So you might think that they'd all get together and figure out how to go home. But before Kismet can meet up with them, Kayla and H.D. are abducted by some random aliens (and Kismet is left stranded, because Makkari and the Mourners are gone at this point too, and we'll see in the next arc that she's none too happy about it). But the alien abduction doesn't really lead anywhere either; the aliens eventually become afraid of Kayla because of her Starbrand power. Or at least, that's the presumed reason; the aliens comically only communicate via interpretive dance - as Omar notes in the comments, these are the aliens from Solo Avengers #18).
So they drop them back home on Earth. So despite having the Starbrand, Kayla doesn't manage to get home of her own accord. It seems basically like dumb luck that she gets back.
The weird suspiciousness of a second H.D. Steckley showing up after Moondragon was originally using that name is something that hadn't really been explored while they were on Scadam, but we do get a hint that something is up with her when she suggests that Kayla try to transfer the Starbrand powers to her when they get back to Earth (and skinny dipping, clearly).
Kayla laughs it off, but we see H.D. not looking happy.
Meanwhile, Quasar is still searching for either Kayla or his Quantum Bands. He decides to focus on the latter, reasoning that he can then use the bands to find Kayla. So he heads to the Watcher, who he's helped in the past. The Watcher is in the middle of narrating for an issue of What If (looks like "What If the Watcher had reality?", but that doesn't make sense and i can't guess anything better).
The Watcher pretends like he can't help Quasar, but he leaves the location of Quasar's bands up on a monitor for Quasar to see. Quasar then stops by Avengers Mansion and Thunderstrike agrees to accompany him on the quest for the bands.
The location turns out to be where Quasar left that giant embryo floating in space, and it turns out the embryo has attracted a swarm of Elders of the Universe.
This includes Caregiver, a relatively new Elder that Gruenwald introduced a few issues back and who Quasar left with the embryo. And the Contemplater seems to be there as well (more on that in a minute). And we also see another of the traditional Elders, Kamo Tharnn, aka the Possessor. And there's the Obliterator, who is unfortunately wearing generic armor that covers up his cool unusual appearance.
On top of that, we have two totally new Elders: the Explorer and the Judicator. These are not exactly inspired creations. The Explorer leaves after learning that he wasn't the first to find the embryo, since he's only interested in new things, and we'll never see him again.
Judicator is trying to adjudicate all the claims that the Elders are putting on the embryo. She will actually have a couple more appearances, but she's basically a footnote.
While all the Elders are bickering, Quasar gets a telepathic message from the embryo, who turns out to be Origin. He enters the embryo and retrieves his bands, which Origin was keeping safe for him in return for him helping her in the past.
However, while he's putting his bands on, Contemplater grabs one of them. This Contemplater turns out to actually be a Skrull (Quasar says that he should have suspected because the character is chubbier than the real Contemplator). In the past, we've seen that most characters can't handle wearing the Quantum Bands. Energy builds up and explodes, killing them. Quasar saves the Skrull's life by using his band to contain the explosion, but the Skrull loses an arm.
Quasar and Thunderstrike then try to get away from the madness of the Elders, but it turns out the Possessor has taken an interest in them. He starts by possessing Thunderstrike and making him fight Quasar (and giving everyone red hair, apparently).
Quasar breaks the Possessor's control by combining his quantum powers with the last remnant of the Starbrand that he has. The resulting blast destroys the Possessor's staff.
Which is actually a pretty big deal. That staff was the whole basis of a quest circa Thor #235.
The Possessor has also lost an arm, but he says he can grow it back.
Quasar and Thunderstrike then teleport home, with Quasar saying that he's "lost all respect for my Elders". If they're going to be used like this, sure.
In issue #47 we also see a little bit of Makkari while he's on his quest to learn from the race of super-speedsters that the Mourners told him about.
Andy Smith's art sometimes gets kind of weird.
But he's usually fun and draws crazy stuff like the dancing aliens and the race of speedsters that Makkari encounters. From a certain point of view, the story is a lot of fun, too. It's actually very readable in the exact moment you're reading it; it's when you think about the bigger picture that you realize we're jumping from one random thing to another, and nothing - from Kayla's whole adventure on Scadam to the various characters blinking in and out - feels like it has any resolution or purpose. It's just a big "hey look at these characters!" fest. Which isn't the worst thing in the world, and it may be what one should expect from Mark Gruenwald, but he's usually a little better at stitching an actual plot together.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 88,295. Single issue closest to filing date = 126,600.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Quasar can be between dimensions indefinitely (but shouldn't appear anywhere since his last appearance) and see above regarding the Kayla subplot. But i have pushed this back in publication time because Quagmire disappears from this story to participate in the Forces of Darkness, Forces of Light storyline that starts in New Warriors #32 (which in turn is pushed back in publication time due to reasons involving Dr. Strange). This takes place after Thor #457-459 and Thunderstrike #1, when Eric Masterson becomes Thunderstrike and updates his costume. In issue #44, we see that Four Freedoms Plaza is not yet repaired (following the explosion in Infinity War).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAntibody, Black Widow, Caregiver, Contemplator Skrull, Devon Ballantine, Dr. Druid, Erishkigal, Hercules, Judicator, Kayla Ballantine, Kenjiro Tanaka, Kismet (Her), Living Mummy, Makkari, Moondancer, Mr. Ballantine, Neutron, Obliterator, Origin, Peggy Carter, Possessor, Presence, Quagmire, Quasar, Shadowoman, Skull the Slayer, Thunderstrike, Uatu the Watcher, Voyager
The dancing aliens are the Dance, from some Peter Gillis stories in Avengers Spotlight that resurrected Moondragon and the Gargoyle and introduced her cousin Sundragon.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | August 31, 2016 7:17 PM
The Contemplator Skrull was Grunewald's way of explaining the Contemplator's out-of-character appearances in Silver Surfer and I've got mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, the Contemplator WAS horribly out of character in Englehart's stories. OTOH, the Contemplator in those stories was shown to both immortal and a telepath and this Skrull seems to be neither.
Posted by: Michael | August 31, 2016 7:52 PM
The Shock Troop does end up with its own series- sort of. Dr. Druid, Shadowoman and another living corpse called Cadaver will be the "stars" of Secret Defenders eventually.
Posted by: Berend | August 31, 2016 11:38 PM
It kinda makes sense that the Explorer is not seen after this issue... After all, Earth and most other locations Marvel comics take place in are well known to the other Elders, and therefore the Explorer would have no interest in exploring them.
Posted by: Tuomas | September 1, 2016 3:55 AM
Shadowoman is eventually renamed Sepulchre and given her own, non-Jessica Drew costume. The last I saw of her was as one of the superhuman applicants for babysitters for Luke and Jessica (Jones') baby in the street-level version of "New Avengers" a few years ago.
Posted by: Jeff | September 1, 2016 2:39 PM
@ Michael: I totally agree with your opinion that the idea that Englehart's evil Contemplator was actually just a Skrull impersonator is a poor way of fixing the problem. A better solution might be that the real Contemplator had undergone some experience which split him into "good" and "evil" selves (just as Captain Kirk was split in the Star Trek episode "The Enemy Within"). This would explain how, as you mentioned, the evil Contemplator could have survived as a disembodied head and possessed the same powerful telepathic abilities as the good version. Unfortunately, the "Skrull Contemplator" theory is canon until such time as some writer is willing to re-examine the problem.
Also, the Explorer showed up in the recent Contest of Champions (mini)series.
Posted by: Don Campbell | September 1, 2016 3:13 PM
Considering that nearly all of the Imperial Guard are expies of the Legion of Super-Heroes, exactly which member is Glom supposed to be a stand-in for?
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 1, 2016 3:18 PM
Just to clarify, my project will stop with the death of the 616 universe during/just prior to Secret Wars, so anything that happens after that won't affect character listings, etc.. It's totally fine to bring such things up; i'm just explaining why i'm not listing Explorer as a character appearing despite Don's info. (And let's not use this entry to debate/discuss that decision. The forum is the place for that, if necessary.)
I assume Glom is a parody of Matter Eater Lad.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 1, 2016 3:32 PM
Matter-Eater Lad is a good guess. If Glom ever gets used again, it should be revealed that his real name is Mek Liznet :)
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 1, 2016 3:50 PM
Maybe "What if the Watcher Had Responsibility?"
Posted by: Andrew | September 5, 2016 9:34 PM
We have only a year worth of Quasar issues at this point, and from a meta perspective it becomes noticeable that the character is not being handled with the significance that one would presume from his assigned roles.
He was a sidenote at best in the first two Infinity crossovers and IIRC fails to participate at all in Infinity Crusade, presumably in order to keep the flow of Starlin's story. He also fails to make an appearance in the very long "Blood and Thunder" crossover. I am fairly sure that his only remaining crossover is "Starblast", where I guess he plays top dog to the Fantastic Four, Secret Defenders and Namor.
I can't help but conclude that this is Marvel's flooding working against itself by way of editorial policy. Far too many of its books are at this point attempting to evidence that they deserve reader attention, far too often the end result are crossovers of questionable merit. And because the books share continuity, lending prestige to some books can only happen at the expense of others. Starlin was selling better than Gruenwald at the time, so Gru had to get out of the way even if it hurt the narrative in Quasar.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 25, 2016 1:07 PM
Is that Contemplator imposter really a Skrull? Here's an alternate theory within the comments section of this page: http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/contimp.htm
Posted by: D09 | October 6, 2016 8:43 PM
In retrospect it's funny to look at all the new Elders and conceptual beings that were introduced in Silver Surfer and especially in Quasar around this time, and consider how few of them have "stuck". Post-2000, pretty much the only cosmic beings used are those introduced by Kirby or Starlin. (The biggest exception I can think of was DnA used Oblivion for a few issues of Guardians of the Galaxy.)
Posted by: Andrew | November 20, 2016 11:18 AM
When I read issue 46 back in the day, Blazing Skull appealed to me more than Ghost Rider. I think it was in part because the '90s Ghost Rider was so staid, and in part because a glowing skeletal body seemed cooler than just a skeletal head.
After hearing about the Golden Age hero of the same name, I assumed that was who was appearing here. It wasn't until this chronology that I understood the Shock Troop Blazing Skull was a different obscure character.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 28, 2017 5:02 PM
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