I am a fan of Marvel’s “cosmic” characters but I haven’t been following them for some years now (not since 2004, I reckon). I’ve tried to keep my mind in over the years [including Thunderbolts #100 (2006), the Civil War: The Return one-shot (2007) and the five-issue Captain Marvel limited series and The Mighty Avengers #19 (both 2008)], but none of those really seemed to strike my fancy. I don’t know what caused me to pick up the Thanos Imperative: Ignition one-shot a couple of weeks ago, but I had previously read the six-issue “Samaritan” story (Thanos #7-12) by Giffen and Lim (i.e., “someone other than Starlin”), so I figured what the hell.

I know from previous experience that mentioning Jim Starlin’s name is immediately going to polarize the opinions of those reading this, but to them I say to re-read (or read) his last major “cosmic” trilogy for Marvel (Infinity Abyss #1-6, Marvel: The End #1-6 and Thanos #1-6) in a single sitting (as I did just this morning) before rebutting.

Reading Thanos Imperative: Ignition was like opening the floodgates to the past several years’ worth of Marvel’s “cosmic” comics and doing so convinced me that someone other than Starlin can write cosmic Marvel comics. Initially my intention had been to follow just the Thanos Imperative limited series, but after two issues, discussions with Alan and Dagwan, and some research on my own, I decided to backtrack and pick up some of the series I had inadvertently “trade waited.”

I the days to come I will be starting at two different points in the cosmic timeline: at the very beginning with the Annihilation Book 1 tpb (collecting Drax the Detroyer #1-4, Annihilation: Prologue one-shot, and Nova #1-4) as well as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 (collecting issues #1-6). In addition, I will be discussing future issues of Thanos Imperative in this thread as they are released.

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When I realized I was wholly unfamiliar with the version of “Captain Universe” who appeared in the Starlord mini, I decided to read the Captain Universe: Universal Heroes tpb, but first I needed to re-read the stories from Captain Universe: Power Unimaginable because… well, because that’s just the kind of guy I am.

We (and when I say “we” I mean “Figs”) thoroughly covered the first appearance of Captain Universe recently in the “Micronauts” discussion, so I picked up with Marvel Spotlight #9-11, written by Bill Mantlo and illustrated by Steve Ditko. In the three stories the Uni-Power was granted to Steve Coffin (son of the “original” Captain Universe in Mircronauts), a set of identical twins and a cat burglar. As a try-out for an ongoing series, the premise is problematical at best. With the Uni-Power granted at random, supporting characters and ongoing sub-plots would be problematic at best. Perhaps Mantlo had a solution in mind, but as it is, these three stories have about as much in common with each other as three random issues of Jack Kirby’s 2001: A space Odyssey (pre-Machine Man, of course).

Captain Universe next appeared in Hulk Annual #10, also written by Mantlo, which wasn’t quite as I remembered it. I thought the Uni-Power had been granted to Bruce Banner to prevent his alter ego from causing a nuclear missile to be launched, and although that is more or less what ended up happening, the original intention of the Enigma Force was to allow the Hulk to wield the power with Bruce Banner’s mind in control.

In Marvel Fanfare #25 (still by Mantlo), the power was granted to a picked-on school boy. In Web of Spider-Man Annual #5, Peter Parker’s Professor Dr. Evan Swan was granted the power in the first Captain Universe story written by someone other than Bill Mantlo, Gerry Conway, with Steve Ditko back on art. Ditko also illustrated the next Captain Universe story, from Web of Spider-Man Annual #6, set in Medina, Ohio, in which the power is granted to a two-year old boy named Eddie , based, no doubt, on writer Tony Isabella’s son. The next story, from Marvel Comics Presents #148, is run without credits but deals with an elderly man given the power.

The last story in the “Power Unimaginable” collection is from Cosmic Power Unlimited #5. On the one hand, it attempts to take the series in a new direction, but on the other it paints the “original” Captain Universe, Ray Coffin, in an unfavorable light. The character needs some kind of a direction, but I’m just as glad this storyline wasn’t picked up. The art hurt my eyes and the story is easy to ignore.

All of which bring me up to the “Universal Heroes” collection. I didn’t have very high expectations for these stories (on July 31 Alan posted: “The Captain Universe tpb itself is not very… good.”), but I was pleasantly surprised. I have always thought that it’s better to go into something with low expectations and be pleasantly surprised than to go into something with high expectations and be disappointed, so it’s all good. I knew after reading about the Gabriel Vargas Captain Universe in the Starlord mini that something had happened to change the status quo, and this series of one-shots explains what.

A two-part story from Amazing Fantasy #13-14 leads into the series of one-shots. The first one is very similar to previous Captain Universe stories except that something goes wrong and the wielder of the Uni-Power is almost killed. It is this event that has somehow changed the very nature of the power itself. In the second story, the Enigma Force communicates telepathically with its potential host, which it had never done before. Previously, Captain Universes just instinctively “knew” how to use the power. A prologue to both of these stories is set in the Microverse and evidently has some bearing on the change in the nature of the power itself. It looks as if two aliens somehow interfered with someone in a stasis couch, but it is unlikely Commander Rann because these events occurred “two months ago” in relation to the stories themselves.

I the second part, the Enigma force contacts its chosen host, Gabriel Vargas, and explains its intentions. It has been vastly weakened and must join with super powered beings in order to duplicate their powers to pass on to Vargas. Throughout the course of the series, it joins with the Hulk, Daredevil, X-23, the Invisible Woman, Gladiator, the Silver Surfer and an alien named Krosakis acquiring in the process a quite impressive array of powers. There is still much of the story yet to be told, but a narrative thread runs through the one-shots and leads directly into the further adventures of the new Captain Universe. It also provides the character with a purpose and a stable alter ego while simultaneously providing a plausible explanation how and why these changes came about.
...it paints the “original” Captain Universe, Ray Coffin, in an unfavorable light.

I know we shouldn't pick at these scabs, but... go on then, tell us!
In a nutshell, he has become obsessed with discovering the secret of the Uni-Power and has joined a clandestine government task force which tracks weilders of the power. I got the impression that it was intended to be the first of a series, an although the Captain Universe needed a direction, I'm just as glad this wasn't it.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
In a nutshell, he has become obsessed with discovering the secret of the Uni-Power and has joined a clandestine government task force which tracks weilders of the power. I got the impression that it was intended to be the first of a series, an although the Captain Universe needed a direction, I'm just as glad this wasn't it.

Me too. Yuck!
Personal expenses (some expected, some not) have prevented me from proceeding to Annihilation Conquest: Book 2. In the meantime…

MORE OLD NOVA: After the cancellation of the original series, writer editor Marv Wolfman continued the story in midst of the Fantastic Four storyline recently dubbed “In Search of Galactus.” If this story (#204-214) suffers from anything at all, it’s that Wolfman threw too much into it. Nova and the “New Champions” appear briefly toward the end of #206, are featured prominently in #208, and briefly again in #209. Nova’s story is eventually brought to a close in Rom #24, written by Bill Mantlo (with Mark Gruenwld credited with “research”), in a story which can truly be called “anticlimactic.”

THE THANOS IMPERATIVE #4: As much as I’m enjoying this series, after reading this issue I decided I no longer care to read it… until I’m caught up with the backstory I’ve missed. Last issue we saw why it’s not a good idea to put Drax on the same team with Thanos; this issue we see why it’s not a good idea to put Thanos on the same team with Drax.
I do still plan to bring this discussion back on track with Annihilation Conquest: Book 2 in the near future, but for today…

STILL MORE OLD NOVA:

I’ve already dealt with Richard Rider’s return as Nova in the New Warriors and also his second series further up in this thread, but 1999 saw the release of Nova v3, written (but not drawn) by Erik Larsen, who was at the time trying to earn props as a writer. The series was given the ax after only 7 issues, but that seventh was Nova’s 50th issue overall. The splash page blurb read: “Yeah, yeah — it took 23 years and three separate series to get there — BUT HE MADE IT!” Speaking of splash page blurbs, the one from v1 #1 read: “This issue has been voted the best eleventh issue of Nova—EVER!” the Larson series didn’t make it that far but v2 and v4 did; I wonder if that is still the case? :P

I’ve also previously dealt with the end of the first New Warriors series, but Richard Rider joined a new version of the team as Nova (but sporting yet another a new costume) in v2. He changed back to his original uniform in issue #6, but the series lasted only another four issues before it, too, was cancelled. There is another six-issue New Warriors series from 2005 (something about a reality TV show…?) with Nova in it, but it looks inane. That brings me up to the beginning of Nova’s participation in the various “Annihilation” series.
Yeah, about that reality show, really what could go wrong?
Philip Portelli said:
Yeah, about that reality show, really what could go wrong?

I'd have thought, that whatever its merits as its own comic series, that particular 6-issue mini does have interest as a lead in to Civil War and all that followed. I'd love to read it.

Was it always meant to be a mini-series and always meant to lead in to Civil War, I wonder?
I guess that depends on the timeframe and who wrote/edited it. Was Nova seperated from the New Warriors because of his participation in Annihilation or because of what happened to the Warriors in Civil War?
I guess that depends on the timeframe and who wrote/edited it.

I'm guessing that if a general direction was hammered out in a staff discussion headed by Joe Q, then it wouldn't matter who was writing/editing it! They'd do like their boss asked.

Am very interested in hearing if they knew going into the 6 issues how pivotal this hapless little group would become.

The very plausible alternative is that the New Warriors series in question crashed and burned after 6 issues and presented an obvious choice to Marvel when they needed a team of hapless losers to blame Stamford on.

Having read Annihilation lately, Nova finds the the Civil War to be ongoing when he returns to Earth during that story (he just orbits it, rather than landing on the suface), so he would have left Earth before the War started.

Again, it's easy to imagine they removed Nova from Earth between this New Warriors series and Civil War/Annihilation to try a different angle on him. His leaving wouldn't have been in-story.

You'll have to read that series Jeff, and answer our multitude of questions!
Figserello said:
You'll have to read that series Jeff, and answer our multitude of questions!

Really? (Sigh.) Okay.
I don't think Nova's in that series....

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