The Small Lebowski:
Characters Appearing: Black Widow, Captain America, Carlo Zota, Darkstar, Doctor Spectrum, Firestar, Gayle Vaughn, Henry Pym, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Justice, Kenjiro Tanaka, Kismet (Her), Lady Lark, Lisa Vaughn, Maris Morlak, Mr. Ballantine, Nova (Rich Rider), Power Princess, Presence, Quasar, Rage, Red Guardian (Tania Belinksy), Spider-Man, Thunderstrike, Vanguard, Vision, Whizzer, Wladyslav Shinski
Issue(s): Quasar #60
Meanwhile, Darkstar brings the body of her brother, Vanguard, to her father, the Presence (and "Starlight", the former Red Guardian, is there as well). When Presence hears that Quasar was involved, he flips out, having already had unpleasant experiences with Quasar twice now.
He decides to take Darkstar to fight Quasar, and tells Starlight to kill Quasar's family if they don't come back (i.e. if they lose to Quasar). Darkstar lamely goes along with it, saying that Quasar probably didn't arrange Vanguard's death because of the Presence (he didn't know they were related) but that he is "ultimately responsible" because he's the one that recruited them.
Quasar, meanwhile, says goodbye to Kenjiro, and then tries to say goodbye to the Thing but he's not home (and Nova happens to fly by).
He then contacts the Black Widow, who is like "You still exist?", and she puts him in contact with Captain America.
He gets a less warm response from Spider-Man (whose spider-sense was triggered because the Presence is stalking Quasar).
Quasar then goes to Project Pegasus to say goodbye to the Squadron Supreme and Kismet, and finds out that Kismet's cocoon has been abducted. For what it's worth, Hyperion is said to still be with the Shi'ar, but they'll be returning him within the week. Quasar tracks down Kismet and finds her still tending the Enclave.
He says goodbye to her as well. He then goes to tell Kayla's drunk father what happened to her, but they get into a fight. And that's when the Presence decides to attack. It turns out that Quasar didn't even know that Vanguard was dead.
Quasar learns that his family will be targeted if he doesn't stick around to fight.
Meanwhile, Nova pops up again. He's working as a messenger (we saw the set-up for that in Nova #1). Nova runs into Darkstar's darkforce shell, goes through a list of who it might be (Blackout, Darkling, Cloak), and tries to break through. In the meantime, though, Quasar decides that he's in a no win situation, so he allows the Presence and Darkstar to think that they've killed him (including creating replicas of his quantum bands).
A bunch of other heroes show up just after the Presence and Darkstar teleport away.
The issue ends with Quasar depressingly thinking that he won't be missed.
I've mentioned before how i didn't have much interest in Quasar in realtime, but as i started working on this project i became intrigued by how many obscure characters' next appearances were in this series. I definitely think there's room in Marvel's publishing line for a book that explores the more obscure aspects of the Marvel universe. Honestly (i've said this before too) i think that book should be the Fantastic Four. But it could have worked with this book as well. And it did work some of the time, and the fact that it lasted 60 issues with that core concept is probably a testament to the fact that it had an audience (then again, Alpha Flight lasted more than twice as long while being indisputably awful since forever).
Mark Gruenwald had some general weaknesses in his writing style but even putting those aside, i think the biggest problem with this series is that the premise - or at least the premise that i had in mind - never really delivered. Yes, we got to see all those obscure characters. But for the most part, that was literally all we got to do. They appeared in massive crowd scenes on the Stranger's planet and things like that. Gruenwald could have given us actual stories about all of them, but instead they just kind of passed on through. I also think that Quasar as a character was as bland as you could get, and he had essentially the same personality as Gruenwald's concurrently-written Captain America.
Still, i've often said that while individual stories might not be that great, they are better for what they add to the larger Marvel tapestry. And by doing this series, keeping all these strange parts of the Marvel universe alive, Gruenwald did the Marvel universe a great service. It seems pretty clear where his mindset was at this time. With this book being canceled and his planned Starmasters series getting nixed for similar sales reasons, and Captain America's sales declining as well, Gruenwald probably felt like market trends were getting away from what he loved about comics. I mean, i don't want to make Gruenwald out to be a tragic hero in the face of the speculator market; his writing was never that great and it had been declining in recent years, and this book in particular got more and more cutesy and indulgent. But my point is that even despite all that, Gruenwald contributed a lot of memorable moments with this series. And vanilla old Quasar himself will remain an important character, especially for Marvel's cosmic events.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Quasar is still moping at New Universe Earth, so the fill in story in last issue can't take place in between. This story ends with Quasar leaving Earth, but last issue had/will have Quasar visiting Titan so it can go after this. Note that Justice is among the heroes gathered at the end. That says that this has to go at least after New Warriors #43, when Vance is release from prison. And that issue ends with him walking away from Firestar to join with Shinobi Shaw. Which isn't to say that he couldn't return here for this crowd scene, but it seems unlikely. I'm assuming that this takes place during New Warriors #43, after Justice is released but before he leaves with Shaw. Invisible Woman is wearing her new costume, seemingly placing this after Fantastic Four #387, but it's possible that she was trying out her costume here first (only Namor comments on it being new in FF #387, and he's not here to notice it).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Captain America thinks Quasar is one of the best Avengers he's known? Really? He's just being nice, right?
Posted by: Wanyas the Self-Proclaimed | March 30, 2017 5:52 PM
Quasar is one of my all-time favorite series, and I'm sad I didn't discover it until after Gruenwald's untimely passing.
"Cosmos In Collision" from #19-25 is my personal high-water mark for cosmic writing.
Posted by: Thanos6 | March 30, 2017 7:21 PM
I would rank "Journey Into Mystery" from 13-16 right up there as well.
Posted by: clyde | March 30, 2017 7:46 PM
Quasar's highpoint creatively mostly coincides with Greg Capullo's artistic run from 1990-1992 (basically Cosmos in Collision to Galactic Storm) when the seeds he had planted early on had been allowed to develop and he concentrated more on cosmic matters. Before that, it was mostly pedestrian despite good work by Paul Ryan on pencils (I love Paul, but his work is generally too mundane to work well with cosmic stuff), and afterwards the title got lost with increasingly bad artwork, Gruenwald running out of ideas, and Quasar's participation in cosmic crossovers where he is just one guy among other heroes greatly reduced his own status.
Posted by: Chris | March 30, 2017 9:13 PM
Gruenwald made several critical errors on the title which I've written on other posts.
1) Quasar should not have a secret identity. No reason for it other than it is generic superhero stuff.
Quasar was really Gru's pet project so I'm not surprised anyone was not brought in to save the title.
Posted by: Chris | March 30, 2017 9:18 PM
Chris - I'm only going to comment on a couple of your points.
Point 2 - I don't know how else most super heroes can survive financially if they don't at least try to have a source of income. Obviously the richer super heroes don't need to worry about that.
Point 5 - IMO Quasar was very similar to Dc's Green Lantern. He was also tasked with protecting a large amount of space. He also stayed on earth a lot. In fact, going back to the other point, Green Lantern had a secret identity and a job as well.
Posted by: clyde | March 30, 2017 9:39 PM
I liked Quasar in most of his appearances. He was just the right kind of straight arrow to pick my interest, at least when written by Gru.
Still, this book had a lot working against it. Characterization was often badly lacking, and significant plots just kept dragging on without any resolution. IIRC Kayla spent well over a year without even meeting Quasar face to face.
There were a lot of exciting plots running around, but they suffered badly from the excessive interference from crossovers.
Infinity Gauntlet was a significant distraction from Cosmos in Collision, despite well handled efforts to reconcile with it that unfortunately ended up being two competing reboots of the Universe that even most Marvel heroes do not even remember; Infinity War should have spotlighted Quasar but paid only lip service to it; Infinity Crusade ignored him completely and apparently Gru attempted to deal with that by simply keeping Quasar occupied with far away events of not much significance at all; and the final nail in the coffin was Starbrand, which suffered from subpar plotting, marketing and editorial supervision as well as terrible art.
It probably did not help that the series came to be at just about the worst of all conceivable times, facing the rise in popularity of a largely incompatible fad of "extreme" characters, a terribly cannibalistic "glut the market" policy, and the first signs of the burst of the speculator market bubble. It would fare far better back in 1979
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 30, 2017 10:12 PM
To comment specifically on this issue, I do like John Heebink's art here. He has a Mike Manley kind of feel and I don't remember ever seeing his work before fnord uploaded these scans.
Posted by: Wis | March 30, 2017 11:35 PM
Ultimately, in all likelihood Gruenwald should have at least tried to work with Starlin to make Quasar an important part of the Infinity crossovers; Starlin's "ownership" of Thanos and favoritism towards certain characters may have scared him off, but Starlin's use of Gruenwald's Infinity in Infinity Crusade (and Nebula in Infinity Gauntlet) suggests he may have been more open to working with Gruenwald than that. All this is assuming Gruenwald didn't actually reach out to Starlin and fail, of course, or if he was more scared about Starlin interfering in his own plans than the other way around.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 31, 2017 1:00 AM
I've heard rumors that Starlin and Gruenwald had a minor feud going on; apparently they had mutually incompatible plans for the cosmic scene. But these are just second or third hand rumors, so take them with a grain of salt.
Posted by: Thanos6 | March 31, 2017 2:21 AM
In Response to Chris criticisms A.K.A. "I Don't Like Quasar But Here Are Very Specific Ways I Would Do It Better Than Them"
1&2) So he should just leave his life and family behind the minute he becomes a superhero? He should severe all ties to his humanity and become nothing more than a hero?
Posted by: AF | March 31, 2017 3:44 AM
I like the downbeat ending. One thing we get a few times in this series is Quasar willing to take a fall for the sake of a higher cause, such as the beating he takes in issue 50 to defeat Erishkigal and his self-sacrificial use of the ultimate nullifier. Gru has also presented Quaze as a guy who comes through in the end but suffers a lot along the way, as we saw in Cosmos in Collision. He doesn't get a lot of clean, easy victories.
Although supporting characters like Kayla aren't exactly enduring literary achievements, I also like the small ensemble, family feeling that the book maintained. I think that was the point of revisiting the Galactic Marathon right before the end--yes, it was Gary indulging in Silver Age DC silliness, but it was also a callback to the book's early setup with Makkari and a farewell to, in effect, Quaze's best friend; almost his only friend. We get more goodbyes here, and of course, Kayla is tragically lost (but gets a happy ending that Wendell doesn't know about). There's a nice, bittersweet completeness to it all.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 31, 2017 3:57 AM
I think the "feud" between Starlin/Gruenwald actually stemmed from Starlin feeling Quasar wasn't a worthy successor to "his" character Mar-Vell (Thanos and Warlock consistently even voice this). I don't quite understand it, I see it more as a man a bit hurt that he wasn't asked to revive/create an heir to Mar-Vell than subjectively looking at someone else's idea. This is also highlighted by when Starlin's friend and frequent co-writer Ron Marz creates an ACTUAL heir to Mar-Vell in Genis, down the road Starlin subsequently treats him with a LOT of respect. On top of that, I'd imagine that folk like Byrne, Englehart and Stern (and mostly Gruenwald as editor) having come along and heavily fleshed out, structured and co-ordinated exactly HOW the Marvel Universe and it's Great Powers operate also bugged Starlin.
And I lol'd at the person suggesting he was willing to "play" with Nebula. His "playing" with Nebula involved Thanos showing up, dismissing her claims of heritage and then burning her alive. Later, using her flayed corpse for 5 parts of Infinity Gauntlet before deciding that Thanos is too awesome to LOSE in the crossover where he's the villain so dumping Nebula with the burden of being the villain lets him show how easily she can be defeated by Thanos and Warlock. Then he never touched her again.
Starlin's another one of THOSE writers who doesn't like playing in a sandbox with others. Just look at how he eventually retcons nearly every appearance of Thanos not by him.
Posted by: AF | March 31, 2017 4:05 AM
What are some examples of Thanos or Warlock saying Quasar didn't live up to Captain Mar-Vell? The closest thing that comes to mind is Infinity Gauntlet 4, but Quaze wasn't singled-out as the only hero to get taunted and crushed there.
Posted by: Mortificator | March 31, 2017 5:30 AM
@Mortificator: It seems to me that there was some effort to specifically avoid confrontations between Quaze and Thanos and/or Warlock, despite an environment that made those all but unavoidable.
Still, besides Infinity Gauntlet 4, there were such direct confrontations of some sort or another in Infinity War #4 as well as Quasar #38, #39, #53 and #59. #39's scene is duplicated in Infinity War #4, and in Quasar's book it has some additional disapproving thoughts from Thanos.
#59 (not yet reviewed in this site) is a fill-in by Ron Marz that is very light on plot and consists of Thanos tricking Starfox and Quasar. Thanos' posturing there is, frankly, rather empty and contradictory - now that is a scene worth retconning into not being the true Thanos - but it still makes clear that Thanos does not have a lot of respect for Quasar in the same way he would respect Mar-Vell or Warlock. Then again, I am not exactly a fan of Ron Marz's authorial voice and that may be factoring into my perception. One should also note that #59 is the next-to-last issue of the series and out of sequence to boot.
On a meta level, Warlock was featured in Starblast #1 and its direct follow-up, Quasar #54, where he basically decided that Thor was more deserving of his attention than Quasar and had Moondragon tell him not to expect a return call. Quite a reasonable decision given the circunstances, but still a situation of Quasar being called off in his own book.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 31, 2017 7:08 AM
Personally, I just don't see how Starlin and Gruenwald could have avoided stepping into each other's feet during this time.
Quasar's concept made him unavoidable for the kind of plots that Starlin was writing at the time, but those were clearly meant to spotlight Warlock and his own characters. Starlin is not necessarily bad at working with others, but his plots are not accomodating to the extent that, say, Peter David's are.
As it turned out, much of Gru's Quasar concept was that he was supposed to be a reluctant top dog, and for that to be fulfilled he would need a lot of cooperation from other books. Marvel at the time just would not offer that kind of cooperation, and that became increasingly evident since Infinity Gauntlet, gradually emptying the character's credibility.
As of late 1993-early 1994, the whole cosmic niche at Marvel was in clear decay and losing relevance, what with:
Thanos featured in directly contradictory and utterly forgettable ways in Secret Defenders, Quasar's own book, Silver Surfer, Thor and the two Warlock books;
Silver Surfer becoming a boring combination of crossover fodder, Warlock's naive sometimes sidekick and irrelevant witness to the shouting matches among Galactus' "extreme" heralds.
Warlock's books were somewhat better, but still not at their best, with all the heavy-handed mysteries and the full swing of Starlin's "preacher of hopelessness" mode.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 31, 2017 7:24 AM
@Chris, just wanted to say i always find your thoughts on what a series could have done differently/better to be insightful.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 31, 2017 8:31 AM
From the approach of the series on here, it does seem obvious that the best stuff was all pre-Infinity Gauntlet, as if Starlin's return and his overreach with the cosmic characters more or less derailed a lot of what Gru wanted to do with the book. I think there is enough room for a mundane character in a cosmic part of the Marvelverse...but I think that that probably more emerged when Starlord got his revamp than poor Quasar.
Posted by: Ataru320 | March 31, 2017 10:16 AM
I don't know that I would call Gru's interpretation of Quasar "mundane". As of the resolution of Cosmos in Collision (Quasar #25) he is made "Avatar of Infinity" and named "(her) most wondrous son of all" by Gaia.
Of course, then he meets Thanos in #26-27 and has a goofy fight with him only so that Epoch can make it explicit that Quasar is not to be much of Thanos' nemesis. Slightly less obvious at the time was that there would not be enough room in the coming years for spotlights on Quasar, Warlock/Thanos _and_ the Silver Surfer (who is also briefly featured in those two issues).
In essence, those two issues announced that Gru would attempt to work with instead of against the plans of Starlin.
On another note, it seems that for all his love of continuity Gruenwald just wasn't good at keeping Vanguard's first name straight. It is "Nikolai", but here as in Starblast Darkstar insists that it is really "Mikhail" (which is Ursa Major's name).
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 31, 2017 10:51 AM
Hindsight is always 20:20. The comments here have hit on a combination of reasons why Quasar never lived up to its potential, and instead often fell flat.
It's very true that Mark Gruenwald's extremely traditional approach to superheroics prevented both the character and series from ever truly stretching their boundaries. As fnord and others have observed, despite the fact that this was supposed to be about an "everyman discovering the wonders of the universe" set-up, it rarely seemed to ever actually spark much of a sense wonder. A major reason for this was Gruenwald's obsessive need to quantify every single character. It's difficult to really make any characters or phenomena mysterious or awe-inspiring when you are always providing an encyclopedic description of said character or phenomenon that examines in minute detail their origins and motivations and how they relate to all the other cosmic entities.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 31, 2017 1:17 PM
It's also very true that Jim Starlin's Infinity trilogy also played a detrimental role. Starlin really has difficulty playing well with others in a shared universe setting when it comes to Thanos and Adam Warlock. As I have commented before, throughout the early 1990s he was basically writing any character who was not Thanos or Adam Warlock as an incompetent moron. Quasar is supposed to be the Protector of the Universe, but it's impossible for him to fulfill that role in any of Starlin's three Infinity minseries because, again, in Starlin's view the only two people who actually are clever and capable enough to save the entirety of existence from complete destruction are Thanos and Adam Warlock. So for three years in a row this series crosses over, for several months each time, with all of the Infinity miniseries, and every single time Starlin's plots require Quasar to either be sidelined or act like an imbecile, which completely undermines his credibility as the so-called Protector of the Universe.
Agreed with comments that the first two years of Quasar were the strongest. After that the book had to repeatedly cross over with the Infinity trilogy, as well as Operation Galactic Storm, and in general Gruenwald's writing began to seriously decline. So, for a variety of reasons, even though Quasar managed to run for three more years, it just never managed to regain the stature of the early stories.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 31, 2017 1:26 PM
@Luis - I should have specified "from Starlin." The assertion I was replying to was that Starlin was using Thanos and Warlock to voice his disapproval of Gruenwald's Quasar, which doesn't apply when Gruenwald is writing them himself. Thanks for pointing out the examples you did, though, and explaining what the situation was with Quasar 59.
The partiality toward Thanos / Warlock in Starlin's works is clear, but I don't see an interest in tearing-down Quasar specifically. Thanos has called Mar-Vell a "dog" and a "fool" (when Starlin was writing Mar-Vell's book) and totally played Silver Surfer (when Starlin was writing the Surfer's book).
Posted by: Mortificator | March 31, 2017 2:53 PM
@Wanyas - Whether you agree or not, it is difficult to deny that at this point in time Captain America would think of Quasar as one of the finest Avengers, particularly having some recently dealt with Operation Galactic Storm's sorrow and schism. It is an even more recent development from Quasar's perspective, because his stories in the last few years have been so decompressed. He has not really advanced his own plots very much since #31 or so, even before Galactic Storm. It may well be that Gru had felt an unreceptive editorial climate and reacted by "slowing down" happenings in both books in order to weather it with the minimum possible damage. A fairly good tactic, except that the wave outlasted him by far.
Issues #401 and #422 of Cap's book are almost metatextual in that sense, as reflected by the explicit disappointment of Captain America with his own rapport with the Avengers.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 2, 2017 4:32 AM
Your point doesn't really work because at the end of Operation Galactic Storm, when Quasar leaves the team (after siding with Cap), Cap points out that Quasar is one of the few Avengers who he believes in and that he doesn't need a lecture on ethics. Gruenwald hamming it up massively but it's sweet.
In later books, Cap will continue to refer to Quasar in a similar light (the first and last arcs of Busiek's Avengers and Annihilators Earthfall spring straight to mind). I think Cap/other people's respect for Quasar probably hung around as a meta-respect for Gruenwald after his death.
But when it comes down to it objectively Quasar is one of the few who has had a long term tenure with the team and never had a particular conflict of interest with the them and has being wholly committed to the team and it's ideals. Come to think of it, I think the only time Quasar actually got "told off" was when Hercules orchestrated that fight between him and Thunderstrike and when Quasar was among the Avengers chewed out at the start of OGS (which he probably softened by saying he didn't agree with them). And then you have that Quasar has been willing to sacrifice himself and fought against the odds several times (Thanos, Magus, Maelstrom).
There's not that many that have fit the mold of pretty much perfect tenures. Wasp, Monica, Hawkeye, Starfox maybe, She-Hulk, Crystal eventually... huh, mostly ones from Stern's run. I'm sure there's more anyway.
Posted by: AF | April 2, 2017 6:03 AM
Uh? Despite your claim that my point does not really work, I don't see any disagreement with me in what you wrote. Except that I think that Quasar is respectable for his own merits, regardless of how people might think about Gruenwald.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 2, 2017 11:56 AM
I meant in regards to Cap being disappointed with the Avengers team - Quasar was one of the few who he wasn't/hasn't ever really been disappointed with. I don't think his feelings towards the Avengers or the strife between the team affected his view on Quasar as Quasar was on his side - or rather the side of what's morally right - through-out.
I think Quasar (like Monica before him) was an Avenger whose actions, decisions and principles continued to ingratiate himself with Cap.
Posted by: AF | April 2, 2017 1:29 PM
Sorry if I missed a mention of this, but... wow, four issues after we last saw them and Gruenwald still has Dawnstar referring to Vanguard as "Mikhail." His name is Nikolai. Mikhail is Ursa Major.
Posted by: Dan H. | May 4, 2017 11:47 PM
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