Issue(s): Quasar #9
AIM is an organization that never really lived up to its potential. A group of super-scientists thinking that they should rule the world because their superior intellect would allow them to usher in a technocratic utopia is a cool concept, but they very rarely come across as anything more than typical terrorist goons with advanced weaponry (and really, not even better weapons than Hydra or other groups have). So i like the idea of differentiating them. But it might have made more sense for them to go back to becoming a subsidiary of Hydra or something. Because the idea that they are only going to create technology for "accredited subversive, terrorist, or criminal" organizations makes no actual sense. Why not go legit if the goal is just to make money building stuff? The idea that they'll only sell stuff to other villains feels very DC-ish cartoon bad guy to me.
They immediately lose focus on their new direction, too. First by offering to rent out their latest creation, MODAM.
If you're familiar with the cartoon The Venture Brothers, one thing thing that happens a lot is the inept Dr. Venture trotting out some invention of his super-scientist father, usually with some lame or extraneous additional modification attached to it, and trying to pass it off as his own creation. That's what i feel like AIM is doing with the introduction of MODAM here. Look, guys, it's MODOK except with Dr. Octopus arms!
But the real reason that AIM immediately gets off track is because they're hired by a Dr. Minerva and a Mr. Atlas (who AIM identifies as aliens) to replicate Quasar's quantum bands.
(AF suggests in the comments that it might be the Taskmaster in the first panel of the scan above.)
And, pathetically, they immediately give up on the idea of replicating them, and instead decide to try to steal the originals.
I mean, Minerva and Atlas may as well have hired the Serpent Society at this point. What does this have to do with being super-scientists to the villain world? Even if you like that concept, it's immediately discarded. Weird!
Meanwhile, despite running out on the company twice, Quasar (in his Wendell Vaughan identity) gets the job to upgrade the security system for IDIC. When he gets back to his office, he tells his secretary Kayla Ballantine about it, and thy have an awkward moment.
Wendell and Kayla are supposed to go out to celebrate with Ken Tanaka (the IDIC employee that got Wendell the opportunity), but at that moment Quasar detects a power surge at the Statue of Liberty, and he has to run off. Since his office is in Four Freedoms Plaza, he pretends to be the Human Torch as he flies out of the building, to protect his secret identity.
The surge at the Statue of Liberty is a trap by MODAM to lure him out.
MODAM hits him with a neuronic broadcast that makes him feel woozy. But he draws on his experience of being "drunk once or twice" and lashes out at random with energy javelins.
MODAM is able to deflect them, and then attacks, destroying a chunk of the statue in the process.
However, when she reaches out with her octopus arms to grab the bracelets...
...Quasar blasts them off, and then bats her around.
Now your new & improved MODOK sucks.
MODAM sends a distress signal to AIM, saying that she's being taken to the Vault and requesting a retrieval team.
AIM is upset by this turn of events, and they decide that whether or not they're able to cobble together a replica of the bands for Minerva and Atlas, they're going to get the real bands one day.
The issue ends with Wendell eventually making it to the dinner celebration with Kayla and Ken, and Ken asking for a job at Quasar's new company. Talk about the revolving door of industry: get your friend a contract at your company, and then go work for the contractor.
I also love the little dig that Wendell is never around the office. The company until now has had 0 customers and as far as i know no other opportunities besides IDIC. But Wendell has already rented office space and hired a secretary, and the implication is that he's just supposed to sit in the office all day and... what? I recognize that seeing him work the phones all day doing networking or cold calling or whatever would be pretty boring, but i feel like Gruenwald has just installed all the trappings of an office life into this series without actually giving it any thought.
I've said before that as a writer, Mark Gruenwald makes a pretty good editor. The basic concept for this series is fun. A lot of opportunity to explore various elements of the Marvel universe with Quasar's mission of protecting Eon. I don't love the idea that he's got a day job, but a better writer could have made it work. I'd like to think the Wendell/Kayla relationship could be developed into something beyond the same straight-laced guy / not-so straight-laced girl thing that we're seeing in Captain America. A better writer could have also made the 'AIM as evil techno-providers' concept not seem so cheesy, and wouldn't have immediately gone off track with it. And MODAM... ok, i can't see anyone doing much with that. *I* love MODOK, but he's often seen as a joke, and introducing a female version that appears to be wearing lipstick and whose name is a pun on "madam" isn't going to make things better.
The point is that there's some good concepts here, but you need an actual writer to develop them.
Of course, you can't just assign a bunch of concepts to a writer and say "Go write what i want". They have to be interested in it. To that end - and i'm about to return to a tangential rant here that you've probably heard from me before so you can stop reading here if you like - i keep thinking about Mark Gruenwald's relationship with Roger Stern, and with that, the similarities between Quasar and Captain Marvel. The two complaints about Monica Rambeau were that she was too powerful and that she was too "boring", i.e. straight-laced with no traditional Marvel character flaws. Those two traits apply just as well to Quasar. Both characters also had claims on the legacy of the original Captain Mar-vell: Monica in her costume, name, and the approval she got from Starfox, and Quasar in his wrist-bands. Quasar's connection is less compelling, in my opinion; he is of course actually a legacy version of the original Marvel Boy. But it's Quasar that got anointed by Eon to be the protector of the universe. Mark Gruenwald forced Captain Marvel off the Avengers, and forced Quasar onto the Avengers. And Quasar gets his own series; Monica got shunted off into limbo. So when i read these issues, with good but poorly executed concepts, i wonder to myself how it would have went if Roger Stern was never (essentially) forced out of Marvel over the Captain Marvel incident and if instead of Quasar, this was a Captain Marvel book with the same basic concept but with Monica as the lead character. She even had a small business she was trying to start up in Stern's Avengers. But it could be the same concept, with her getting the bands from Eon (it would be the ones Captain Mar-vell wore) and becoming the protector of the universe. She'd still explore the corners of Marvel continuity and do the same stuff, except with Stern's voice instead of Gruenwald's, and with a black female lead instead of another blond white guy. Just a thought that bounces around in my head as i read through these issues.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: At the beginning of this issue, Quasar is in space swatting an asteroid away from Earth. He mentions a cosmic hiccup that he says happened while he was in hyperspace, and a footnote points to both Avengers #314 and Quasar #7.
That seems to suggest that the difficulty that Quasar had teleporting Terminus' lance in issue #7 was related to the Universal Compressor storyline going on in Avengers #314-318. But that can't be the case. Spider-Man has the Uni-Power in Quasar #7, and the scene with Quasar teleporting happens just moments after Spider-Man heads back to Earth. But a non-cosmic Spider-Man appears in Avengers #314-318. I'm going to assume that this story takes place during Avengers #314 while the universe is blinking in and out, but that the reference to Quasar #7 is just Quasar speculating that his earlier teleportation attempt was disrupted by a similar event when that wasn't actually the case.
A few notes based on the opening AIM splash page. From this issue there's no reason to think that's the real Super-Adaptoid any more than it's the real MODOK, but per Thanos6's it turns out that the current head of AIM is actually the Super-Adaptoid in disguise. Also, the MCP doesn't list the Arranger as appearing, but that seems to be him sitting between the two ordinary goons in the front; i've listed him. Sitting in front of Crossbones is a Secret Empire agent with the number 6 on his hood. The MCP assumes this is the same Secret Empire Agent #6 that appeared in Defenders #129 and i've followed them on that. I don't recognize anyone else in the crowd scene (and the MCP doesn't list anyone else) but there may be a few other characters in there, like maybe the guy with the A on his shirt. AF suggests in the comments that the Taskmaster may be in a subsequent panel (shown towards the top of the entry) and that Justin Hammer may be in the panel below.
It's not definitive, and the MCP doesn't list them, but it would make sense for them to be here, and it's very much likely that Mark Gruenwald would have been deliberate in his plot to Mike Manley about who to include, so it's likely that "random hooded guy" and "random old man" are likely meant to be existing characters. But as with Turk and Grotto (see comments) i don't necessarily want to go out a limb and include them.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showArranger, Captain Atlas, Cobra, Crossbones, Doctor Minerva, Eon, Gilbert Vaughn, Kayla Ballantine, Kenjiro Tanaka, Madame Masque Bio-Duplicate II, MODAM, Quasar, Secret Empire Agent Number Six, Shintaro Kuramoto, Super-Adaptoid
"Now your new & improved MODOK sucks."
Lol. Shades of Twisted Toyfare's "Now your power sucks"?
Posted by: TCP | April 27, 2015 4:12 PM
That is what i was channeling, but i didn't expect anyone to get it!
Posted by: fnord12 | April 27, 2015 4:15 PM
It's for exactly the reasons you've listed that I've started shipping Wendell and Monica, since they have so much in common.
And there's a reason besides the statue that the Super-Adaptoid is listed as being in this issue...
Posted by: Thanos6 | April 27, 2015 4:35 PM
I actually first saw that strip referenced in a comment here on this site! It clearly stuck with me.
Posted by: TCP | April 27, 2015 4:35 PM
@Thanos6 - ok, thanks, i've listed the Super-Adaptoid then.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 27, 2015 4:39 PM
This is MODAM's first appearance? Interesting that the first M in her name actually does stand for "Mobile", whereas with MODOK, the M, despite being misattributed as standing for "Mobile" in several places, actually stood for "Mental".
Posted by: mikrolik | April 27, 2015 4:50 PM
Sorry I wasn't more specific, I wasn't sure if you wanted to avoid "spoilers" for a 25 year old plot twist. ;)
Posted by: Thanos6 | April 27, 2015 4:51 PM
I don't think Gruenwald was always a bad writer. I loved his D.P.7 comic (of the much maligned New Universe... I don't know if anyone's going to agree with me here!) and I liked stuff he did for Two-in-one, Squadron Supreme + the first half of his Captain America run, though that does get very bad later on. I never rated Quasar, and again it gets worse as it goes on. I agree Quasar was Gru as editor not writer, like the 310s of Englehart's FF it did seem mostly inspired by flicking through Official Handbooks. The comparison with Monica Rambeau doesn't cast Gru in the best light, though i was under the impression he was generally well liked at Marvel.
Posted by: Jonathan | April 27, 2015 5:42 PM
@mikrolik - this is her first appearance as MODAM, but if you click on her character name you'll see she had two prior appearances, one as SODAM which stood for Specialized Organism Designed for Aggressive Maneuvers.
@Thanos6 - spoilers are fine. I'm good either way.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 27, 2015 5:45 PM
Alessandro Brannex is a disguised Super-Adaptoid.
I love QUASAR myself; the "Cosmos In Collision" arc is probably my all-time favorite comic story ever. Certainly my favorite cosmic.
Posted by: Thanos6 | April 27, 2015 6:33 PM
I dunno, if you're going to have MODOK in lipstick, i think SODAM is an even worse name, cos it's trying to avoid the obvious. MODAM tells it like it is. If you have to have a dumb Silver Age concept, give it a dumb Silver Age name.
Posted by: Jonathan | April 27, 2015 6:46 PM
Yeah, mlkrollk is right:
or so said TTT.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 27, 2015 7:02 PM
At least it isn't Ms. MODOK...
Posted by: Ataru320 | April 27, 2015 7:12 PM
One weird thing- how is AIM still in control of Boca Caliente? Iron Man 215-216 implied that it was liberated by the end of that story.
Posted by: Michael | April 27, 2015 8:41 PM
Could the goons seated next to the Arranger be meant to be Turk & Grotto?
Posted by: Erik Robbins | April 28, 2015 12:11 AM
But all the other guys are representatives of large criminal organizations. What large criminal organization in its right mind would send Turk and Grotto to purchase arms for them?
Posted by: Michael | April 28, 2015 7:49 AM
Well, if Gruenwald wanted to show recognizable grunts from the Kingpin's organization, Turk & Grotto would make a kind of sense. But i'm already out on a limb with the Arranger so i don't want to push it.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 28, 2015 7:59 AM
AIM getting a new direction and then immediately dropping it is pretty stupid, but I don't think their plan of selling only stuff to villains is that ridiculous. They are a known criminal organisation, with plenty of wanted people on their payroll. They can't simply go legit, so they decide to sell to the many criminal and terrorist organisations within the Marvel Universe. Essentially they are a corporate version of the Tinkerer.
Posted by: Berend | April 28, 2015 5:13 PM
I liked the Captain America issue that showed AIM was publicly trying to be legit while privately still selling basically to criminal groups. In that issue, AIM has even sent a pamphlet to the Avengers selling stuff and Captain America is greeted warmly by Brannex when he shows up on the island. That seemed to be a more realistic depiction of what AIM would be up to (and was also written by Gruenwald).
Posted by: MikeCheyne | April 29, 2015 11:05 AM
Running with your theory that Gruenwald didn't like Captain Marvel, he made her cheat (technically) during the speedsters marathon resulting her in getting disqualified by the Runner.
Posted by: Grom | August 14, 2015 9:22 AM
Sorry, I can't remember the page number, but on the page where Minerva and Atlas talk to Brannex after that seminar, Justin Hammer appears in panel 1 and Taskmaster appears in panel 2. Neither appear on the double splash page.
Posted by: AF | April 16, 2016 6:43 PM
(The Taskmaster one is in the entry, the other one not.)
Posted by: AF | April 16, 2016 6:44 PM
I've added the scan of Justin Hammer in the Considerations and noted in the entry where the Taskmaster scan is. I'm still hesitant to list them as characters appearing for the same reason as Turk and Grotto. I don't like to make my own canon. But Hammer and Taskmaster make more in-story sense than Turk and Grotto, so i could see adding them.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 17, 2016 11:19 AM
Comments are now closed.
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