Tag: Marvel

“Quasar” #46-60 by Mark Gruenwald and Ron Marz

Quasar 60

Quasar #46-60 by Marvel Comics

Writers – Mark Gruenwald, Ron Marz

Artists – Andy Smith, Grant Miehm, John Heebrink

Published 1993-1994

**Note, this review is for Quasar issues #46-60**

The final 15 issues of Quasar felt like an encapsulation of the things that made this an entertaining as well as frustrating series. Once again, Quasar gets pulled into a crossover that, reading this series on its own, leaves the reader with little understanding of the story line and even less invested in the outcome. Along with Andy Smith and Grant Miehm, John Heebink comes on board as artist for several issues and provided competent though certainly not flashy work. As the series wrapped up, each of the recurring characters got to complete their character arc: Makkori learned that being fast isn’t everything in life, Kismet found a purpose besides reproducing with Quasar, and Kayla…. well, let’s talk about Kayla.

I mentioned in my earlier reviews that the most enjoyable part of this series for me was Quasar’s development of a relationship with Kayla. Her character took a superhero twist at the end of the last batch of issues, which I didn’t particularly care for, but it ended up being the core conflict throughout these last 15. By my count, there was only one issue throughout this series of 60 comics that featured Quasar and Kayla on a full issue adventure together, and probably only 2 dates shown that the characters go out on. That’s pretty slim to hang the weight of a superhero story conflict on, and I think Gruenwald missed an opportunity to make the readers more invested in the characters and the relationship by never letting it appear on the page. (I say Gruenwald as he wrote 59 of the sixty issues, this last group of issues also features a standalone story by Ron Marz that was quite fun but is completely out of place with when it is taking place in the larger story arc.)

Still the payoff to the Quasar/Kayla arc ended up being one of the best issues in the entire series. Overall, I’d say because of the buildup to it, issue #58 was my favorite issue of the series, but because it required reading a lot of so-so comics to get there, the first three issues (#1-3) would be better reads as stand alone stories. As a Marvel Cosmic character, I’d agree that Quasar belongs in a lower tier than characters like Silver Surfer, Adam Warlock or Nova in terms of quality of stories and iconic appearances. His replacement with a female version in the Abnett and Lanning cosmic era was a good idea that has also not been capitalized on. Quasar may be destined to be a character that never becomes recognizable outside of fans of 1990’s comics, but I can’t exactly argue that it’s undeserved.

3-star

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“Quasar” #31-45 by Mark Gruenwald from Marvel Comics Review

Quasar 43

This is a review for Quasar issues number #31-45. This series has not been collected in trade beyond the first few issues.

Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Artists – Greg Capullo, Rurik Tyler, Steve Lightle, Andy Smith and Grant Miehm

The 1990’s get a lot of blame for the death of the comic industry. The speculator bubble is a big part of it, although for somebody who grew up reading the comics of that era it’s not anything I hold against the industry. Some of my favorite comics were the #1 issues from Marvel, Image and other companies that sold millions of issues to people that never had any intention of reading them. Another criticism is the over the top art and lack of good storytelling. Again, as a reader from that era, I thought the crazy art of guys like Liefeld or Dale Keown was a fun stylistic choice that made a few books stand out more on their own. The other major criticism of books from that time is that the issues took place in endless crossovers with other titles (and this is sill a criticism of Marvel and DC comics today).

This run of 15 issues of Quasar certainly had me lamenting the endless crossovers of the era. Issue 31 crosses over with the New Universe, issues 32 through 35 were parts 3,10,17 and Aftermath of the Galactic Storm crossover. At that point, we get two stand alone issues of Quasar before it ties into the Infinity War for three more issues. Once we’re clear of all those crossovers, the next few issues are dealing with a bad guy let loose in those issues by Thanos (the original Marvel Boy). Marvel Boy has the distinction of being one of the lamest designed and childish behaving characters I’ve ever read. Issue #43, picture above, features Marvel Boy and Quasar fighting in what is also in the running for the ugliest Marvel Comics cover I’ve ever seen.

What were the high points of this run of issues? A funeral for Eon hosted by a cult of interstellar beings whose purpose it is to mourn those that fall stood out to me as interesting and the type of cosmic originality I like best from Marvel. Kayla (Quasar’s secretary) continues to also be the standout character of the series, but possibly only because her story moves at a page or 2 per issue so we are always left wanting more resolution for her.

The art seemed to take a dive in this run of comics, and I’m sorry to point to Andy Smith as the culprit. If you can recognize Kayla before and after her haircut as the same character, you’re cheating. I’m on the fence regarding the change of Quasar from cosmic band wielding Green Lantern clone to generic strong superhero with Starbrand abilities. Neither is particularly original, but as I mentioned in my last review (on Goodreads under issue #25) Gruenwald was just beginning to create some rules for Quasar’s powers that gave him more depth and those have been thrown out the window. Only fifteen issues left in this series, hopefully it improves as so far it’s been a bit of a let down.

2-star

“Quasar #1-14” by Mark Gruenwald from Marvel Comics

Quasar 1 to 14

Quasar #1 to #14

Writer:  Mark Gruenwald

Artist:  Paul Ryan and Mike Manley

Published:  1989 to 1990

Rather than reading Quasar Classic (pictured above), I’ve actually read the 9 issues of the main series collected in here as well as the next 5 issues of the regular series (so Quasar #1-14). There’s a Quasar #25 on Goodreads that I’ll mark on that website to review the next batch of comics, but I’ll just lay things out more clearly on this website.

Let’s start with the good. The first three issues of this series are fantastic. Issue #1 is a standard superhero origin story but it’s also charming in its retro tropes and SHIELD vs AIM storyline. Issue #2 was my favorite in this first batch of stories, as it takes a time jump of six years and features some deep space travel and discovery for our protagonist. Issue #3 three shifted things again by bringing Wendell Vaughn back to Earth where he tries to set up a business and rent office space in the Baxter Building.

Unfortunately, that’s where the book really stalls as the next several issues (#4 through #9) feature a very routine “alien of the week” storyline. Wendell is tasked by Eon with being ready to face a great alien menace, and so each issue he goes to find one of these aliens and confront him. Usually there is a quick battle or misunderstanding, and that’s about it. Wendell also shows up at his office for about 2 pages each issue to show up late, bemoan that there’s no business or that he has so much to do, but then he leaves again instantly to go investigate something.

Maybe it’s the thirty year old in me, but I really enjoy the supporting cast of coworkers Gruenwald surrounds Vaughn with more than the alien adventures that never really challenge Quasar. There’s also a hint of romance with Vaughn’s secretary, but as of yet it hasn’t gone anywhere. The other interesting relationship in Vaughn’s life is with his dad, who is more interested in chatting with Eon (the space entity) than with his son, although at this point in the series Gruenwald seems to be showing how it is more Wendell’s fault than his dad’s. I’d expect this storyline to have some major ramifications shortly.

The worst parts of this series can be found in those issues I lumped together (#4 through #9) as they really stay formulaic with little change in geography or concept. For a cosmic hero, Quasar is strictly Earthbound for this period and the book doesn’t spend enough time doing anything to advance plot to keep it interesting. (Issue #9 does have some more fun with AIM however, and a newer, evil female MODOK analog.) Even Vaughn’s power set hurts the comics as Quasar comes off like a Green Lantern rip off during every fight scene, with very little discovery about what he can do after issue #2. Issue #10 fixes some of that with a (finally!) cosmic adventure with a couple of Kree supporting characters but it’s back to the same problems for Quasar #11 and #12.

Where I’ve left off Quasar is engaged in another cosmic story with the Ex-Squadron Supreme, but because it deals with a different dimension I don’t have high hopes for it having much going on in terms of high stakes. I much more interested with what’s going on with Wendell’s dad and his coworkers, though if this group of comics is any indication it will be another 15 or so issues before either storyline pays off.

3-star

“Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon & Groot Steal the Galaxy” by Dan Abnett Review

Guardians of Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon & Groot Steal the Galaxy

Author: Dan Abnett

Release Date: 2014

This prose novel featuring characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy comics (and tv show, and movie, etc.) is written by Dan Abnett, one half of the writing team that revamped the team’s lineup and has led to some obscure characters becoming as recognizable as the X-Men. Back when he (and Andy Lanning) first released those Guardians of the Galaxy comics, my wife and I got so hooked on them they quickly became our favorite characters. Along with Groot and Rocket Racoon, Star Lord, Drax, Gamora, Bug, Cosmo, Mantis and plenty of others were totally unique in the Marvel cosmic landscape and in comics in general.

Since that time, a lots happened with our favorite characters. As mentioned, they starred in a huge success of a film, have their own cartoon on Disney, and have been written by various A-List comic writers including Brian Michael Bendis on the most recent run. Groot, Star-Lord, Rocket Racoon, Gamora and even Drax have had their own solo series in addition to the ongoing team book. Abnett and Lanning have stopped writing together (sadly I’ve tried a lot of each of their solo stuff and haven’t enjoyed any of it as much as all of their earlier stuff they wrote together). The result of all of that? The Guardians have had a major drop in quality and the two most obscure characters of the bunch have really been run into the ground for the sake of capitalizing on their new fame.

Yeah, I get it. Complaining about overexposure on obscure Marvel superheroes is kind of like saying “I liked the Backstreet Boys where they were underground,” but anybody who reads comics knows that publishers will take a character that sells and put them in a dozen books until the bottom falls out of the market. What does all of this have to do with this prose novel? Unfortunately, the entire novel felt like a cash grab more than a story that needed (or deserved) to be told.

The plot goes as follows: Rocket and Groot come into contact with a Rigellian space recorder (a robot that records everything, who also serves as the 1st person narrator for the book). The robot is being hunted by Timely, Inc. (basically the Wal-Mart or Amazon of the Galaxy) for its contents which may prove so valuable that along the way others start chasing after it as well. Those include Annihilus, The Badoon, the Kree, a Galadorian Space Knight, The Shiar Empire, Gamora, the Xandarians (Novas, or space police) and just about every Marvel alien race short of the Inhumans. Rocket and Groot don’t know why the robot is so valuable, but they try to hang on to him to save their own skins, make a profit and/or protect their new friends depending on the chapter.

The plot of the book felt like a six issue story arc in the comics, where every few chapters there’s a new alien race or bounty hunter involved in the pursuit, but despite the huge cast of fairly disposable characters the book takes a low stakes cartoony approach where nobody ever feels in danger. The humor is most reminiscent of Skottie Young’s Rocket Racoon series, but without the fun artwork to accompany it the story feels tedious at 350+ pages. Rocket and Groot work best as supporting fun characters than as their own protagonists, and this book really suffers for it until a third guardian shows up to provide some additional plot movement.

The best things going for this book is the humor by Abnett, who routinely puts in pop culture references and adolescent voyeur humor by the narrator that work OK. A list of the top five worst jobs in the Marvel cosmic universe was very well done and showed the potential of a prose setting in a Marvel story.  Jokes about disconcertingly human like hands worked less well, particularly on their 39th landing. I got another of these prose novels recently that takes place in the Marvel Cosmic universe, as apparently it’s a new line of books Marvel it trying. Based on this first outing, I’ll read that one before I purchase any more of these.

2-star

“The Infinity War” by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim Review

Infinity War

The Infinity War

Created by: Jim Starlin and Ron Lim

Release date: 1992

Following on the events of the Infinity Gauntlet and Warlock and the Infinity Watch, Jim Starlin continues the saga of Adam Warlock, Thanos and the Infinity Gems in the Infinity War. Included in this collection is the Infinity War limited series, Warlock and the Infinity Watch #7-10, and the stories I, Thanos from Marvel Comics Presents #108-111. I’ll echo other reviewers and state that the proper order to read these issues is not as presented in this collection but instead as:

1. Warlock and the Infinity Watch #7.
2. Infinity War #1-3.
3. Marvel Comics Presents #108-111 (The I, Thanos stories at the back)
4. Warlock and the Infinity Watch #8.
5. Infinity War #4-5.
6. Warlock and the Infinity Watch #9-10.
7. Infinity War #6.

The biggest problem that this series faces is the curse of following up a very successful event and just not working as well in comparison. The main culprit is a villain that seems over the top evil in the Magus, which makes sense to some degree because he is the evil portion of Adam Warlock’s psyche expelled and made flesh. (After obtaining the Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock expelled all good and evil from himself in order to be omnipotent and not destructive.) Besides being pure evil, Magus is also brilliant enough to foresee the exact reactions of everybody from Thanos to Captain America to Galactus to his maneuvers. The result is a plan that plays out too tidy over the course of the story.

Turning Thanos from the villain to a sidekick for Adam Warlock provides some of the better material in this book, and also allows a side story into Gamora’s origin to fit in (which also has the most adult material in the collection). However it also constantly reminds the reader how much more fun the Infinity Gauntlet with evil Thanos was by comparison. Along with the Magus are a ton of evil doppelgangers of the villains which are completely impotent when it comes to threatening the heroes. During the course of this story, if the doppelgangers are killed they disappear, and for the two heroes they actually beat in battle, everything is reset to back to normal by the end.

The characters that aren’t Adam Warlock or Thanos are profoundly useless during this book, with the lone exception of Doctor Doom and Kang who provide some of the best moments, constantly saying one thing and thinking another. Doom’s arc is one of the best parts of the series, up until it ends and is summarily discarded and never mentioned again. The other most intriguing question is who possesses the Reality Gem, but because this collection includes ongoing titles it’s unfortunately not one that is provided any resolution. The end result is a fun operatic space saga that never escapes the shadow of the Infinity Gauntlet.

3-star