Hero's Journey: Gage Talks "Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar"

During the Marvel Comics mega-story "Annihilation," heroes died and new heroes were born. One hero who died was the Protector of the Universe, Wendell Vaughn AKA Quasar, but Phyla-Vell, the daughter of the original Captain Marvel, inherited the fallen hero's Quantum Bands and became the new Quasar. This July , the new Quasar will find her mettle tested when "Annihilation: Conquest" begins and war again erupts in the cosmos of the Marvel U. Phyla-Vell will play a key role in the storyline as she stars in her own four issue mini-series, "Annihilation: Conquest-Quasar." CBR News spoke with writer Christos Gage about the book.

Gage's "Quasar" mini-series actually came about before "Annihilation: Conquest." "In the earliest discussions, the Quasar mini was going to be more of a direct sequel to 'Annihilation,'" Gage told CBR News. "But then Andy Schmidt got promoted and moved to the X-office and Bill Rosemann took over all things Annihilation before we'd really started settling on a story, so it's not like there were wholesale changes in midstream. At some point during all this (and I am a bit out of the loop, not being in the office) it was decided to do an entire event, similar in structure to the first, but with new threats, new stakes and Rocket Raccoon!"

Gage is aware that Wendell Vaughn, the previous Quasar had a small but devoted legion of fans that might be wary of a mini-series starring another character named Quasar. "I'm a Wendell fan myself," Gage said. "If his fans don't want to pick up this mini because he's not Quasar, that's totally their right and I respect it, though I hope they'll give us a chance to win them over. To those who are upset about his death, I'd say (echoing what Bill Rosemann said on the NYCC panel) that the likelihood is that Wendell will be back. Now, just so no one gets disillusioned, I'm not hinting that this miniseries is 'the return of Wendell;' I'm speaking in general terms. But let's face it, there are any number of ways Wendell could come back, and it'll probably happen sooner rather than later because there are a lot of fans of the character among Marvel editors and creators. However, in this miniseries, Phyla is the new Quasar, and my concern (as well as that of the entire creative team) is doing my best to tell a great story. We'd love to have you along for the ride."

As the new Quasar, Phyla must live up to the heroic legacy of both Wendell Vaughn and her family members. "Phyla has an interesting background. Her mother is Elysius, the lover of Captain Marvel, who created Phyla by using Titanian science to combine her own DNA with Mar-Vell's after he died of cancer," Gage explained. "Phyla was then artificially aged to adulthood in just a few years, but to her it seemed like a normal lifespan because her mind dwelt in a virtual, computer-generated realm where time passed faster than in reality. Phyla was raised and trained to become as great a hero as her father, so from day one, she was expected to be the best. As a result, when she first appeared, she could be arrogant. But the more time she's spent in the real world, facing events like the death of her brother and the Annihilation War, she has changed. In describing Phyla to the other Annihilation creators, I likened her to a trainee in a military academy who was at the top of his class and won every trophy, only to suddenly land on an actual battlefield and realize that all the training in the world can't prepare you for what it's like. I'd say her best qualities are her bravery and persistence. Her worst quality used to be her arrogance, but now, if anything, she's swung too much to the other side and may doubt herself excessively, especially now that she has the legacy of Quasar to live up to as well."

Phyla-Vell is a lesbian in a romantic relationship. but readers of the "Quasar" mini-series shouldn't expect that to be the character's defining trait. "Quasar and Moondragon are still together and their relationship is a strong one; in fact, it's a key part of the story," Gage stated. "Having said that, I don't feel either character is defined by their sexuality; they're multifaceted characters. Besides, we're in the midst of a war, so there isn't a lot of time for romance; the characters are more concerned with simple survival."

When readers meet up again with Phyla in the pages of the "Annihilation: Conquest Prologue," she has changed slightly since her last appearance at the end of the "Annihilation" mini-series. "She's become more spiritual," Gage explained. "Her lover, Moondragon, was raised by the Priests of Pama, a Kree religious sect, and Quasar has become involved with them as well. She has also been struggling with who she is and what her role should be, though she knows that whatever role she chooses, the universe needs heroes, now more than ever."

Fans who caught a glimpse of the series promotional art might have noticed that the powers Phyla possesses as a Quasar (she's armed with a sword) might be slightly different than the ones of previous Quantum Bands wielder Wendell Vaughn. "Every wielder of the Quantum Bands uses them differently," Gage said. "Quasar's sword is a construct of the Quantum Bands, which as far as anyone knows functions the same way they did when Wendell had them - although Phyla doesn't yet know how to do all the things he could. If the Bands were at all affected by being worn by Annihilus, an evil creature from another universe, that remains to be seen."

"Quasar" #1 picks up shortly after the events of June's "Annihilation Conquest Prologue" and sends Quasar and Moondragon into the remote reaches of Kree space. "Talking in Star Wars terms, imagine planets like Hoth or Tatooine - inhospitable, isolated places, not centers of civilization," Gage stated.

It's a desperate mission that sends the duo to this desolate and inhospitable sector of space. "Quasar and Moondragon are on a quest, and the object of their quest could be the only hope for the Universe," Gage explained. "More than that, I can't say. Pick up the 'Prologue' for the shocking revelations!"

Hostile planet environments aren't the only dangers Quasar must confront in her quest. "I can reveal that the Super-Adaptoid will be her main adversary," Gage said. "He's an old favorite villain of mine, and should provide a formidable challenge, considering he has the combined powers of all the Avengers plus Phyla's father, Captain Marvel!"

The story of Quasar's quest will be a mixture of science fiction and fantasy elements. "Bill has referred to 'Quasar' as 'Joan of Arc in Space' and that gives you some idea of the tone - it's clearly sci-fi, but also combined with classic heroic fantasy elements," Gage explained. "One of the cool things Bill has done as editor is to show us examples of art and design from the gaming world - both role-playing and video games. He's even gone after some of the artists from those fields to contribute covers and such. It's really encouraged me to think outside the parameters of what we've all seen in cosmic comics. Comic book sci-fi tends, naturally, to be influenced by Jack Kirby - as well it should. But there's also room for stuff along the lines of H. R. Giger, 'Star Wars', or even earth-based historical epics like 'Braveheart'. It's a big universe, with a lot of possibilities - and we want to use them all!"

Readers of "Annihilation: Conquest - Quasar" will be given the complete story of Quasar's quest: whether she and Moondragon succeed or fail, and what if anything they find. But Phyla-Vell's story doesn't end there. "This miniseries is very much a part of 'Annihilation: Conquest,'" Gage stated. "So the question of whether the end of Quasar and Moondragon's quest does, in fact, lead to salvation - or to something else entirely - will be answered in the main 'Annihilation: Conquest' miniseries.

Gage and the rest of the creators involved with "Annihilation Conquest" have worked hard to provide an event story that delivers an equal amount of thrills, fun, and surprises as the original "Annihilation" event. "If you liked' Annihilation', odds are pretty good you'll like this," Gage stated. "It's not a retread, but it's got the same epic feel. The entire creative team behind this event is extremely enthusiastic, and in my opinion, it shows. And there'll be some surprises along the way that are sure to raise some eyebrows!"


Thursday, CBR News will take a look at another key part of "Annihilation: Conquest" - "Nova!"

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