SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR "NOVA" #17, IN STORES NOW
His name was Wendell Elvis Vaughn, and to a small but devoted band of Marvel Comics fans, he was best known as Quasar, wielder of the energy manipulating Quantum Bands and Protector of the Universe. But protecting the universe is a dangerous job, and in 2006’s “Annihilation: Nova” (collected in "Annihilation Book One"), Vaughn was murdered by the villain Annihilus. Space cop Richard Ryder — also known as Nova -- was the last man to see Vaughn alive, and in “Nova” #17, in stores now, Ryder becomes the first person to see Vaughn return to life.
CBR News spoke with “Nova” editor Bill Rosemann and writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, collectively known to their fans as DnA, about Vaughn’s return and what’s next for both him and the Human Rocket.
“Nova” #17 is the second part of the series’ tie-in to the Secret Invasion event. The issue sees Nova returning to Earth to protect his family from the Skrull invaders, a mission that sends him to the Project Pegasus Facility in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. There, Nova is reunited with both his brother Rob and former New Warriors comrade, Darkhawk, with whom he tries to repel the Skrull attack. When all seems lost, a moment of hope emerges when, on the issue's final page, Wendell Vaughn appears.
DnA had been working to bring Quasar fans that moment ever since Wendell Vaughn died two years ago. Along with their editor Bill Rosemann, the writers felt Vaughn’s unique powers, never say die attitude, and everyman perspective made him too good of a character to stay dead. “His return was always on the cards because of his power set,” DnA told CBR News. “We were just waiting for the best opportunity to fit it in as an organic part of the story. The Secret Invasion tie-in, and the return of Project Pegasus in particular, gave us that opportunity.
“We were the ones who did away with Wendell in [‘Annihilation: Nova’], we felt it was a fairly significant event that required some time for reflection,” DnA continued. “You'll have seen that his return is not the typical 'back from the dead' reappearance. We wanted his return to have as much impact as his death did, and perhaps not be a strict 'return' at all.”
Rosemann agreed. “Wendell is a 'Captain America' of the sci-fi set. Honest, forthright, noble--given the current chaos and growing darkness out in the cosmos, we're glad to see this shining light return. Oh, man — I hope he’s not a Skrull.”
Long time Quasar fans know that Wendell Vaughn used to work as the security chief at Project Pegasus, which is just one of the reasons why his return at the site is especially significant. “P.E.G.A.S.U.S. stands for Potential Energy Group Alternate Sources United States. Its remit is to seek out and analyze new energy sources. These are usually exotic, alien and bizarre in nature, which is exactly what Wendell now is. He survived as pure quantum energy,” DnA revealed. “Given his past connections with Pegasus, the fit was perfect.”
October’s “Nova” #18 explores the ramifications of Vaughn’s return as an energy being, as well as the ways in which his “resurrection” has affected his own state of mind. “Given the quirky nature of energy — and the very sudden end to his last life — you can imagine that Wendell’s mental state is a bit in flux,” Rosemann said.
Vaughn’s return has a significant effect on the mental states of others as well, especially Nova. “Rich probably feels a fair amount of guilt over Wendell’s death — and is most likely thrilled (and more than a bit shocked and confused) — by his return,” Rosemann explained. “While Richard has definitely matured over the last couple years, he still views Wendell as one of his heroic superiors, and holds him in high esteem. Which will probably only add to the guilt Rich will continue to carry with him now.”
That guilt stems from the circumstances of Vaughn’s death. “Wendell fell at Nova's side when the two of them were trying to stop Annihilus,” DnA said. “The death of such a significant hero and such a good friend shocked Rich deeply, and was one of the defining moments in the Annihilation War that changed him from teen hero to a seasoned veteran and an A-List hero.”
If Wendell Vaughn’s return is permanent, reverberations will be felt across the cosmic landscape of the Marvel Universe, especially in DnA’s other ongoing series “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which features she who inherited the Quasar mantle from Vaughn, Phyla-Vell. “If Wendell's back for good, then the universe can't have two Quasars,” the writers remarked. “If Wendell's already died in the line of duty, will he want to continue in the role? How will Phyla feel about using the Quasar mantle if Quasar isn't dead? And who do the Quantum Bands really belong to? Who decides who gets to be the Protector of the Universe? All these questions will be explored in the upcoming 'Guardians' issues.”
Wendell Vaughn’s return isn’t the only piece of historical significance to occur in “Nova” #17. Richard Ryder also meets two Project Pegasus staff members, one of whom is Dr. Gruenwald, whose name should be familiar to longtime Quasar fans. “Mark Gruenwald is synonymous with Quasar and Project Pegasus, and was always very supportive to us when we were starting out at Marvel. This is our tip of the hat to him and his invaluable creative legacy,” DnA said of the late Marvel writer and editor.
The other Project Pegasus staffer Nova encounters is Dr. Necker, a character whose name will strike a chord with fans of Marvel’s old UK line. “Dr. Necker, for those of you with long memories, is a character from Marvel UK's 'Death's Head II' series created by Dan and Liam Sharpe in the early ‘90s,” DnA explained. “She was the creator of the robot body that eventually housed Death's Head and was depicted as working for AIM in the near future. This is us just having fun- the Death's Head thread has recently been worked back into the Marvel Universe via Planet Hulk, and we thought we would tie a few loose ends together.”
Even with the added help of Wendell Vaughn's Quantum powers, the Skrull threat to Project Pegasus still looms large in “Nova” #18, which features the art of Wellinton Alves. “It was well trailed that Darkhawk would be the guest in issue 17, allowing us to produce Wendell as the surprise reinforcement,” DnA admitted. “Now people know that Quasar is going to be in issue #18, it's possible we will have to pull an even bigger surprise in terms of who turns up to help fight the good fight!!”
“Nova” #18 wraps up the series tie-in to Secret Invasion, but this doesn't mean life is going to get any easier for Nova and his allies. “If anybody survives the Secret Invasion, then they will certainly be around in issue #19, when we kick off our next major story arc, which is an epic that no self respecting Nova fan will want to miss!” DnA teased. “If the Skrull win, of course, issue #19 will be an all-Skrull issue, where they sit around on conquered Earth and tell jokes about how crap the human heroes were!”
Teaser ads for the next Cosmic Marvel event,“War of Kings,” have revealed that Nova plays a major role in the epic story, and those wanting to experience the full buildup to the story should keep their eye on the Human Rocket's monthly series. “Dan and Andy are masters at subtly planting seeds that burst to life months down the line,” Rosemann explained. “So consider every issue of 'Nova' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy' your personal Easter Egg Hunt for the rapidly approaching 'War of Kings!'”