WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Old Man Quill #8, by Ethan Sacks, Ibraim Roberson, Rachelle Rosenberg and VC's Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
Over the past decade or so of Guardians of the Galaxy stories, Peter Quill, Star-Lord, has proven himself to be one of the most unconventional leaders in all of Marvel history. Not blessed with superpowers or anything that really gives him the edge like his half-Celestial Marvel Cinematic Universe counterpart, Quill is simply a man in space trying to survive wars with aliens and cosmic gods.
Think of him as a cowboy, relying on fast ships like the Milano and the Bowie, as well as his trusted arsenal of guns such as his Quad-Blasters. Of course, it helps when you've got killing machines like Gamora, Drax and Rocket Raccoon alongside you. However, Old Man Quill deconstructs the very essence of the character, stripping him down to his bare basics as a retired hero and ruler of Spartax who lost everything. And in the latest chapter, as his survival instincts kick in, with no one left to turn to, Quill gives himself the biggest and most lethal upgrade he's ever had.
Quill has come to Earth to find the Ultimate Nullifier to stop Galactus and his evil Church of Universal Truth, which has the Imperial Guard led by Gladiator as its cult-like war dogs. What really broke Star-Lord in the last issue, though, was finding out that the allies he thought accompanied him on the trip were really dead. He's been imagining the Guardians as ghosts the whole time, thanks to his mental breakdown and years of trauma following his empire's destruction.
Seeing his homeworld and family incinerated at the hands of the Church was the catalyst for his realization. The last transmission he received from his former colleagues wasn't a last-ditch attempt to recruit him -- it was to send him on a one-man mission for the Nullifier. As he watched Gladiator raze them, he went into a denial, which manifested these hallucinations.
With the veil fully lifted on Quill's tragic story, the Guard finally gets its hands on the "last superhero alive" at the Baxter Building after his unsuccessful heist.
Titan wants to kill him, but Gladiator insists on placing him in a cell so the Church leaders can interrogate him later on. This backfires, however, as H.E.R.B.I.E., the Fantastic Four's robot sidekick, recognizes Quill as an ally and frees him to get something that can level the playing field. Quill only has the Two-Gun Kid's firearm, and even though he channeled the skills of his Guardians to kill enemies to get to this point, he seeks out some heavy firepower.
When the Guard is seen discussing his escape in the closing sequences of the issue, Quill makes his explosive entrance by blowing Titan's head off with a beam of energy. The final page, though, reveals Quill in Iron Man's massive Hulkbuster armor, ready for battle. Quill clearly means business, and it'll be interesting to see how the suit integrates with him, since it usually only responds to Tony Stark or someone he designates.
We did see the Hulkbuster in the previous issue collecting dust, so it's unknown if Reed was storing it to make further changes or to simply hide it when villains overran the planet. Following that repulsor ray blast that knocked out a member of the Imperial Guard, it's clearly still combat-ready.
Star-Lord levelling up with a weapon of this magnitude is a major landmark that would make Rocket proud and honestly, it's the only way he stands a chance against Gladiator on his road to revenge.