Issue(s): Starblast #1
From a formatting perspective, this crossover is a little unusual and theoretically it's a minor new "innovation" in terms of what we've seen from Marvel's crossovers. This crossover has a "core" book, this Starblast miniseries. But unlike other crossovers that have had a core book, like Secret Wars II and the Infinity sagas, it's not - or at least it's theoretically not - a case where the main story is told in the core books and the tie-ins deal with periphery matters or expand on events from the core books. This is nominally a part x of y type crossover, where the core books are just part of the continuing story. So far, all of the part x of y crossovers have taken place in regular ongoing books (and/or with annuals or unlimiteds). So this seems to be a "first", at least at Marvel. I grant it's not a revolutionary development, but i like to keep track of how the crossover format develops.
All that said, the truth is actually the opposite. Even though the issues are numbered, only the Starblast and Quasar portions are direct continuations of each other. What happens in the other books are indeed periphery events. The Namor and Fantastic Four portions eventually tie into each other, forming a parallel set of events, but even then they don't relate at all to the Quasar portion. So while by the official format this is a part x of y crossover, there really are "core" books and tie-ins, and in fact the tie-ins are even less related to the main story than the average Infinity tie-in.
On top of that, the books that are included are a bit haphazard. There are four Starblast issues, and three Quasar issues, which seems normal enough (the crossover starts and ends with a Starblast issue, and there are enough Quasar issues to rotate to in-between). But there's only one Secret Defenders issue, and two Fantastic Four issues. There are also two official Namor issues, with numbers of the cover, but before that there is also a Namor issue that is just labeled as being part of the crossover without getting a number. So the titles included seem kind of random.
The reading order can be confusing, since beyond the unnumbered tie-in, another issue of Namor is mis-numbered, and Marvel didn't think to put chapter numbers on the Starblast issues themselves. So if you're just looking at the issues, you have parts 2, 3, 6, 7, 7 (again), 9, 10, 11, and the unnumbered Namor issue, and the four Starblast issues. Good luck piecing that together on your own. And the truth is that even following the official numbering, once you've got it sorted out, doesn't really work. You're better off reading the Quasar and Starblast issues together, and then the Namor and FF issues (and you can read the Secret Defenders issue whenever).
The Starbrand/Quasar portion of the story also doesn't really conclude in the final part. It continues more or less directly in Quasar's series. Quasar #57, at least, and probably #58, should have been labelled as being part of the crossover. It's really in those issues where the Starbrand concept is tied off. This crossover is really dealing with the threat of the Starblasters, a group of space pirates that have been hired to kidnap Kayla Ballantine, the holder of the Starbrand. And some of them stick around on Earth and cause some random bullshit for the tie-in books.
Anyway, i have it on good authority that this is the first part of the crossover, so let's just open it up and WOOOOOMG i didn't realize the art here was by Herb Trimpe.
The Starblasters kidnap the Watcher (they were given the means to do so by an unnamed rogue Watcher) and use him to learn everything he knows about the Starbrand (see the References). The Starblasters then deploy a "moonthruster". The disturbance is noticed by Moon Knight, who takes a break from beating up Trump.
Meanwhile, Quasar and Kayla are searching for a way to remove the Starbrand from Kayla, and doing their best to ignore what Trimpe has done to them.
Quasar also notices a disturbance on the moon, and so do a number of other heroes, who send representatives to investigate.
Interesting to see that Carol Danvers is being deployed by Professor X. The last we saw of her was in Avengers #351 when she said that she was going to go and see her parents.
Quasar arrives first to discover the moonthruster, which is literally thrusting the moon. Captain Marvel is right on his heels.
"Oh man... what am I looking at!" is equally applicable to the moonthruster and Trimpe's interpretation of Captain Marvel's hair.
They split up to investigate.
I take minor umbrage at Captain Marvel talking about how glad she is that Quasar is around because he's had so much experience in space. Captain Marvel spent a long period of time in space during Roger Stern's run, and she also participated in Operation: Galactic Storm. Plus they're just on the moon, which for a Marvel super-hero is like going down the block. It's indisputable that Quasar has more experience in space than any Earthbound hero, but Captain Marvel is a confident, competent character (and longtime readers of this site know my contention that Captain Marvel should have essentially been Quasar in this series, which is why that line stings me). Monica will get a better showing as this crossover goes on, though.
But for now, she's captured by some manacles, and so are other heroes that show up. Except Quasar, of course.
Quasar rescues Captain Marvel, but all the heroes were also fitted with mind-control head clamps while they were captured, so she attacks.
Note the double-balloon ("see if you can subdue Captain Marvel"). A similar word balloon error happens a couple pages later when a line meant for Quasar is added to a string of balloons coming from Hyperion.
Hyperion's final line ("I didn't know you cared, Qaze") doesn't really sound like him, either.
Eventually Adam Warlock arrives and he's able to use the soul gem to remove the mind-controlling "skull-huggers".
Once freed, the heroes join together to dislodge the mind-thruster.
The group departs without knowing what was really going on. One character that does not participate in any of this is Gladiator.
At least in part, the moonthruster business was a distraction, allowing two of the Starblasters to kidnap Kayla with another skull-hugger.
Nova happens to notice and tries to stop them, but fails.
Quasar finds out about it when he returns to Earth.
Meanwhile, some additional Starblasters, Xylymm and Codabac, are deployed to Earth for the tie-in books.
Knowing Mark Gruenwald, i suspect all, or at least most, of the Starblasters are meant to be from established Marvel alien species. Professor X detects that one of them is a Z'Nox, and one, Zardok, is clearly a Stone Man From Saturn (which are officially called Kronans). But with Trimpe's art, it's hard to tell who is what.
The Marvel Appendix, per a Handbook, states that Kreeg is the Z'Nox, but you'd never know it from this story, if you can even find him. It's odd to keep him so much in the background after having Professor X call out the existence of the Z'Nox.
The Appendix suggests that Codabac is a Contraxian (Jack of Hearts' people), but notes that the problem with that theory is that he has extra limbs.
Xylymm will be identified as a Fomalhauti in the Namor portions of this crossover. We've seen his species in Giant-Size Defenders #3 (in the scan fighting Daredevil), Thor #256-257 (a mutant variety), and in the Rick Jones story in Avengers Spotlight #25.
Fabrikant is apparently an Autocron, same as good 'ol Ten-For from the Machine Man series.
Insidio - the pale guy with a purple ball on his head who uses his mental powers to glean information from the Watcher - is an Ovoid.
Nygorn, the guy who initially attacks the Watcher, is apparently a Monitor (aka a Marvanite!), as seen in Marvel Two-In-One annual #3 (but not necessarily one of the ones that appeared in that story, especially since his head is tiny compared to them).
The leader, Skeletron, doesn't seem to be based on an existing race.
This crossover was meant to raise the profile of Quasar and launch a new series by Mark Gruenwald called Starmasters. But (again per the Appendix) this series was such a disaster that it failed to do either. Quasar will be cancelled shortly after this crossover ends. Starmasters will belatedly appear two years from now, presumably in a different configuration than originally intended. It features Quasar, Silver Surfer, and Beta Ray Bill, and the latter two don't appear in this series at all (they are wrapped up in Blood and Thunder). I suspect that the Starmasters would have included the group of heroes that team up with Quasar in this story. The art in the core series here is a disaster, and the crossover suffers from overall coordination issues (and that's even before getting to its relationship with Blood and Thunder and Siege of Darkness). But even if everything were executed flawlessly, i don't think it would have helped the Quasar series. The best this crossover could have possibly been would be "more Quasar". It's a Quasar story written by the Quasar writer featuring obscure characters dealing with an obscure cosmic concept and a group of obscure alien races. There's nothing wrong with that, but to the degree that there was an audience for it, it was already reading Quasar. And as the Appendix notes, despite the (botched) numbering system, the tie-in books weren't even doing a good job of funneling readers back to the Quasar and Starblast books. Also, Starmasters sounds like a line of toys from Mattel, not a Marvel comic.
One final note for now: i brushed away the continuity problems between this crossover and Blood and Thunder and Siege of Darkness in a parenthetical. But i do want to emphasize that this was Mark Gruenwald, continuity guru and Marvel executive editor, who was writing this series. And anyone looking at my continuity Considerations for these three crossovers will see the contortions that were necessary to get things to fit. There's something extra disappointing about continuity fails when Gruenwald is involved. It just seems like Marvel's output was so overwhelming at this point that getting stuff right was impossible.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part one of Starblast. Part two is in Quasar #54. But Adam Warlock's appearance in Quasar #54 is concurrent with his appearance in Warlock Chronicles #6, which is concurrent with Silver Surfer #86. So this issue takes place prior to Silver Surfer #86, probably concurrently with Thor #468. Quasar and Kayla are trying to find a way to remove the Starbrand at the start of this issue, but it doesn't have to be a direct continuation from Quasar #53. The scene of Triton leaving the Inhumans is repeated from Namor #45. Nova's costume is inconsistently colored in this crossover (and even in this issue) but he is sporting the red bands here that place this after New Warriors #40-42. See Michael's comment about Moon Knight.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): showAdam Warlock, Arcanna, Arex, Black Bolt, Black Widow, Blind Faith, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Carol Danvers, Codabac, Darkstar, Fabrikant, Fantasma, Firestar, Gladiator (Shiar), Gorgon, Henry Pym, Hyperion, Ikaris, Insidio, Jean Grey, Karnak, Kayla Ballantine, Lockjaw, Medusa, Moon Knight, Moondragon, Nick Fury, Nova (Rich Rider), Nygorn, Peggy Carter, Pip the Troll, Power Princess, Professor X, Quasar, Rage, Skar, Skeletron, Speedball, Thena, Threkker, Triton, Trump, Uatu the Watcher, Ursa Major, Vanguard, Xlyym, Zardrox
Ugh, this art is terrible. The tiny heads with huge hands and O-mouths...
Posted by: Ataru320 | March 27, 2017 10:50 AM
I am surprised by how many appearances Trump has had.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | March 27, 2017 2:26 PM
I just bought all of these issues over the past several months and won't get to read for a while. I'd prefer not to read the reviews, but...I...can't...help it.
Posted by: Mquinn1976 | March 27, 2017 7:16 PM
In the "Gruenwald should be more careful with continuity" department, Moon Knight's appearance here doesn't make sense. In Moon Knight 58, Marc seems to have been teleported directly from the end of Infinity Crusade 6 to Seth's base, and that starts the story that ends in Marc's "death" in issue 60. At the MCP, we tried to explain it by creating a gap in issue 60. It's not clear if Gruenwald knew about Marc's impending death- he spoke about plans to kill a major character in one of his Mark's Remarks columns around this time and claimed he didn't know who but it's not clear if he meant Marc or Wonder Man. Trump screws up everything. :)
Posted by: Michael | March 27, 2017 8:42 PM
Trimpe's art in this crossover (and in this time period in general) commits all sorts of crimes against eye sight, but one particular problem it has in this crossover is in the depiction of the skull-huggers. The writing suggests that it is meant to be an organic device. The art in other chapters of the crossover depicts it that way. But he draws it as metallic technology.
I think somewhere later in the crossover there is a line about two different types of the device, but I suspect that was Gruenwald writing in an excuse to cover up for Trimpe misunderstanding the script.
Posted by: Dermie | March 27, 2017 9:22 PM
I know this set of reviews wiped you out, because there's at least a dozen Trimpe panels that deserved their own comment.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | March 28, 2017 2:00 AM
"X-Men Classic" had just finished reprinting the Binary issues of "Uncanny" at this point so if I had been paying any attention at all to Quasar at this point I might've read this crossover. But judging from the art maybe it's better I didn't.
Posted by: Jeff | March 28, 2017 9:01 AM
worst art ever
can't even take this serious, looks like a ren & stimpy type of thing XD
Posted by: Bibs | March 28, 2017 10:07 AM
Oh, lord, my eyes! I'm a fan of Trimpe, and I'm usually *very* charitable towards his work from the 1990s, but this is just sooooooo bad! It sucks that a solid, reliable artist like Trimpe had to churn this stuff out in an effort to extend his career. I'm just glad that when he finally started getting work in comic books again beginning in 2008 he went back to his normal style.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 28, 2017 1:14 PM
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