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Quasar # 39

Issue Date: October 1992

Story Title: To Be or Not To Be

Staff: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Steve Lightle (penciler), Harry Candelario & Mark McKenna (inkers), Paul Becton (colorist), Janice Chiang (letterer), Kelly Corvese (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description:
Quasar and the heroes of Earth, including members of the X-Men and Alpha Flight, are given the Ultimate Nullifier to use against their foe the Magus. The heroes are concerned for Quasar, who has volunteered to activate the nullifier, and while he prepares himself, encases himself in a quantum-bubble. He contacts Epoch, wanting to know more about the Ultimate Nullifier, but Epoch doesn’t know much about it, however she informs Quasar of a repository for knowledge in another star system. Quasar teleports away, leaving the heroes of Earth worried about what has happened to him. Quasar arrives at the planet where there is a library devoted to powerful weapons, but when aliens see him with the Ultimate Nullifier, they become concerned for their own safety. Epoch demonstrates the ability to come out of her regular form and appear as a full infant, and after they locate a computer where they can find the information they need, Quasar is confronted by Deathurge, who, as an agent of Oblivion, has come, concerned with what Quasar will do with the Ultimate Nullifier. They engage in battle for some time, with Deathurge challenging Quasar about whether he is prepared to use the Ultimate Nullifier. Quasar struggles against Deathurge, but despite the pain he is put under, refuses to give in to Deathurge, and expels his power. Deathurge tells Quasar that he will fail to activate the nullifier, and disappears. Quasar believes otherwise, and after going to collect Epoch, who decides to remain at the strange library, Quasar returns to the Earth heroes, who try to talk to him through the quantum-bubble, while Quasar prepares the nullifier for use. Meanwhile, on the planet called Scadam, Quasar’s girlfriend Kayla Ballantine has been killed, leaving HD Steckley alone on the planet - until she notices Kayla’s remains strangely glowing. In another galaxy, Quasar’s friends Her and Makkari are aboard the starship Mourning Star, where a cult of aliens devoted to worshiping dying races seek out their next aliens to mourn. Her is disgusted that the Mourning Star crew do nothing to assist the dying races, and before long, their next mourning site is located. When the Mourning Star teleports to its next site, they arrive near the planet Scadam, which a mysterious black fleet is ravaging. Her abandons the Mourning Star and takes to the stars, starting to destroy the fleet with her vast power. While, down on the planet, HD watches in shock as Kayla’s remains start to re-form.

Full Synopsis:
Aboard the scoutship of the World-Drainer, Galactus, a contingent of Earth heroes has come in hopes of finding a way to vanquish the cosmos-threatening Magus. A weapon has been found that has the power to nullify reality itself, and now all they need is a volunteer to pull the trigger. ‘How steely is your resolve, Quasar?’ a voice calls out, as the young hero Wendell “Quasar” Vaughn stands, flanked by several other heroes - Wolverine, Jean Grey, Northstar, the Invisible Woman, the Thing, Captain America and Storm. ‘Finely tempered’ Quasar replies, as the cosmic being, Thanos, holds the small weapon. ‘We shall see’ Thanos declares, before announcing that the Ultimate Nullifier is Quasar’s. Thanos hands the weapon to Quasar, then strides away, reminding himself that he vowed Quasar would pay for his impertinence, so it appears he shall not have to wait before this vow reaches fruition. Thanos knows of no entity who has ever activated the nullifier and has not been nullified in the act.

‘Never thought I’d willingly accept a gift from Thanos, the Death-Worshipper. But better one of us good guys have this thing than old Stoneface’ Wendell decides. He turns to his former teammates, Captain America and Hercules. Cap tells Quasar not to do it, while Hercules exclaims that it is not a dare worthy of acceptance. ‘But it may well be our only way out’ Quasar tells them. The Thing, Wolverine, Moondragon and Archangel all stare at Quasar, while Captain America points out that they don’t know that, and tells Quasar that he doesn’t have to use the thing, that no one here will thing the lesser of him. She-Hulk stands nearby, while Quasar suddenly uses his Quantum-Bands to erect a dome around himself. ‘The kid probably doesn’t want an audience when he commits suicide’ the Thing points out. Hercules bangs on the quantum-dome and announces that he has decided that he, the Prince of Power should shoulder this burden, not one as inexperienced as Quasar - but he gets no response.

Wonder Man, the Hulk, the Human Torch and Storm stand beside Captain America, who tells Quasar that his prayers are with him. ’If anyone can pull this off, it’s you’ he declares, while the Human Torch adds ’I held the nullifier once. I should’ve volunteered’. But, inside the quantum-dome, Quasar calls forth Epoch, his cosmic “goddaughter’ and asks her if she has been monitoring this. ‘Indeed I have’ the strange cosmic being replies, so Quasar asks what she can tell him about the nullifier. Epoch points out that it must be powerful indeed if both Galactus and Thanos fear its might. ‘That’s all you can tell me? I guessed that much’ Quasar replies. ‘That’s all I can say with certainty for the time being’ Epoch replies, telling Quasar that if he wished, she could research it further.

Quasar remarks that he is going to want to know something about this thing before he uses it, and asks Epoch if there is a place in the universe that has a whole lot of information gathered together in one place, like a library or museum or something. Epoch confirms that there is a repository of knowledge, both ancient and modern, in the Beta Scorpi System. Quasar asks for the co-ordinates, and realizes that he usually doesn’t quantum-jump within atmospheres because of the environmental effects, but if he quantum-jumps from within the dome, the bad effects will be contained inside it. ‘Why didn’t I ever think of this before?’ the young hero wonders, before quantum-jumping inside the dome.

The heroes on the outside see a bright light, as the Thing, Nova, Invisible Woman, Hercules, Jean Grey, Archangel, the new Thor, Wolverine and Captain America gather together. ‘Hey, it suddenly got bright inside Quasar’s bubble!’ someone points out. The Thing wonders if Quasar just used the Ultimate Nullifier, and remarks that hr hasn’t been pointed in the direction of the enemy. ‘Or the punk snapped under the pressure and aced himself’ Wolverine suggests, while Hercules points out that the weapon may have activated by accident.

Meanwhile, on the distant planet Scadam, an Earth woman named Holly “HD” Steckley is sole witness to an event which would affect Quasar profoundly, were he to learn of it - his girlfriend, Kayla Ballantine, has just died. As black space ships fire beams of energy down onto the planet, HD crouches beside the remains of Kayla Ballantine, and rubs her head, ‘This can’t be happening! This charred skeleton isn’t Kayla Ballantine!’ HD thinks to herself. HD was certain Kayla had the power to blast those alien warships out of the sky, that is why she was kidnapped here in the first place. HD starts to cry, ‘Some “friend” I turned out to be! I was the one who told her to go ahead and try! Such a waste! Why did I ever accompany her here?’ HD asks herself. ‘Now I have no choice but to -’ she begins, before a blast of energy knocks her aside. ‘Blast you! Haven’t you done enough?’ HD screams, before suddenly noticing Kayla’s remains start to suddenly glow.

Elsewhere, there is a burst of quantum energy, as Quasar materializes in space, over a planet, he asks Epoch if this is the place. Epoch confirms that it is the planet Rus, the tri-galaxy area’s academic center. As he descends amongst sprawling buildings, Quasar decides that the planet reminds him of Hala, the seat of the Kree Empire - the whole world is covered in buildings. Epoch explains that each major megalopolis is dedicated to the acquisition and dispensation of a different branch of knowledge. ‘So where might I find the library devoted to “unbelievably powerful weapons”?’ Quasar enquires. Epoch replies that she doesn’t know, and suggests Quasar land at the largest building, so they can ask for directions there.

Quasar does so, landing amongst strange aliens, he introduces himself, and enquires as to whether any happen to major in Earth languages. One of them notices the Ultimate Nullifier and points at it in shock. Some of the aliens begin to run away, while Quasar assures the aliens that he hasn’t come here to use it. ‘Really! I come in peace, as they say’ he announces, adding that he needs information, but he realizes that they are all scared of him. ‘Say, Eppy, I need a little help here!’ Quasar calls out, when suddenly, Epoch materializes before him. Wendell remarks that this is a surprise, as Epoch almost never comes out f her pocket dimension. ‘I thought it might be useful’ Epoch explains as she hovers before him, adding that humanoid appears to be the majority form here.

Epoch then calls out to the fleeing aliens: ‘Gentle beings, do not feel discomfort! Like yourselves, my companion and I simply seek knowledge!’ she exclaims, while Quasar is still in shock at Epoch taking a human form. Epoch realizes that she has done little to allay the aliens’ fears regarding the nullifier, but reports that she was able to scan their minds enough to ascertain that there are information directories inside virtually every major edifice. Quasar takes Epoch by her hand and flies down between the buildings, ‘What a place! I’d love to take a decade or so off and try to cram all the learning in my head I could fit!’ Wendell thinks to himself, while Epoch remarks that she likes the sensation of flying.

Flying into a building, Quasar asks Epoch if she sees anything that looks like a directory. ‘Ahead. Now release my hand. I wish to try this aerial locomotion by myself’ Epoch announces, so Quasar does so, and they both fly, separately, down towards a large enquiries desk, where an alien behind the counter exclaims ‘Excuse me, there is no cutting in line!’ in his native tongue. Quasar asks Epoch to tell the man they don’t have much time for protocol, as the universe is in jeopardy unless he figures out what to do with this weapon. He places the Ultimate Nullifier on the counter. The clerk is surprised, and holds up some forms as he exclaims ‘My goodness. You wish to use our facilities? Please fill out these forms and I will expedite the processing of your privileges’.

‘Just a minute, Sir, you don’t seem to understand! The universe is in danger!’ Quasar exclaims, adding that he doesn’t have time to fill out forms - but Epoch hands the completed forms back to the clerk, who in turn hands over an access-disc. Quasar and Epoch walk on through the building, as Wendell tells Epoch that she was pretty swift, before asking where she supposes they look. ‘The master data directory is this way’ Epoch announces. Shortly, they stand before the master data directory, and Quasar points out that it appears to be some sort of computer. He asks if there is some sort of instruction booklet somewhere, but Epoch reports that she has already deciphered it, and adds that compared to organic intelligences, computer intelligences are easy to comprehend.

‘Okay, then see what we can find on the Ultimate -’ Wendell begins, when suddenly, a large black axe comes crashing down on the data directory. ‘What? Aw, no - Deathurge!’ Quasar gasps. The mysterious being tells Quasar that he is pleased he recognizes him, but Quasar just replies ‘I don’t even want to know what gravestone you crawled out from under’, and tells Deathurge that he doesn’t have any time to horse around with him just now, as the universe, or some fraction thereof, is in jeopardy, and he has got to do his part to save it. ‘I know. Why else would I be here?’ Deathurge replies. ‘You hold the nullifier, a weapon capable of plunging untold expanses of reality into oblivion. I am an agent of oblivion. Consequently, what you do concerns me’ Deathurge points out.

Epoch tells Quasar to fight Deathurge if she wishes, as she will stay and research the nullifier. Quasar decides that he has to lead Deathurge away from Epoch so he doesn’t do any more damage, and starts to fly away, ‘Come and get me, Tar-Face!’ Quasar calls out to Deathurge, who creates a set of skis, and zooms after the cosmic hero, ‘Such is my destiny - such is your doom!’ Deathurge declares.

Meanwhile, in another galaxy, the starship Mourning Star receives two earthly visitors - the cosmic Her and the Eternal called Makkari. One of the aliens, Fath, thanks Makkari for what he and Quasar did to help the dead Kree, but Makkari replies that Quasar did all the hard work, and he and Her were just along for the ride. Her tells Makkari that they have done as Quasar asked, and suggest they quit this space-faring sepulcher. Makkari excuses himself and Her from Fath, as he pulls Her to one side, asking what her hurry is to get out of her. Her explains that she dislikes this ship, and its occupants. Makkari tells her she is entitled, but asks where else they will wait until Quasar returns.

A small alien approaches Fath and reports that he has found the next mourning site. ‘Indeed!’ Fath gasps, while Makkari points out that at least here there is air, food and a floor to run on. ‘Aren’t you even the least bit curious how this mourner cult keeps finding folks to mourn?’ Makkari asks Her. ‘Somewhat’ she replies, while Fath asks the other alien if the mourning site is in this galaxy. The alien replies that it is in the Advinter System, in the Milky Way galaxy. Makkari races over to Fath, who introduces him to the small alien, Kruggar, one of the listeners. Makkari greets Kruggar, before asking Fath if he and Her could hang out with them for a while. ‘Certainly. We would be honoured to have the companions of the Protector of the Universe aboard our humble vessel’ Kruggar exclaims.

Suddenly, Her confronts Fath, asking ‘I don’t see why. Anyone Quasar manages to protect gives you one less person to mourn, no?’ But, Fath replies that they do not enjoy their task, and explains that it is a solemn duty. Her asks how it is they find new races to mourn, to which Kruggar reveals that listeners such as he can hear the psychic screams of the dying. ‘And you hear such screams now?’ Her enquires. ‘Yes’ Kruggar confirms. ‘And you do nothing to help the dying, or at least try to stop whatever it is that is killing them?’ Her asks as she starts to fly away from the aliens. Kruggar points out that they aren’t warriors or protectors, but mourners. ‘Our purpose is to bring honor to those -’ he begins, but Her interrupts, ‘Honor!? Hah! You celebrate death - in the guise of honoring the dead!’

Back on Rus, ‘You’ve encountered me twice before, Quasar - yet you still persist in the belief you can outrun me!’ Deathurge calls out as he pursues Wendell, who replies ‘Well, D’urge, the fact that I survived our previous meetings fills me with confidence I can do so again!’ Wendell replies as he throws a quantum-anchor towards Deathurge, and it the chain latches around Deathurge. ‘This time is different!’ Deathurge exclaims, but Wendell sees that the quantum-anchor hasn’t taken hold of Deathurge, instead, he manages to dodge it, and the anchor slams into the side of a building. Wendell tells himself that he will have to go back and repair the damage later, while Deathurge tells him that the Ultimate Nullifier in Quasar’s possession makes a world of difference.

Two locals are nearby and see Deathurge battling Quasar. ‘You query him as to how’ one of the aliens exclaims. ‘The black one pulls weapons from within his body!’ the second points out as Deathurge indeed pulls a bow and arrow from within his body. ‘I am engaged in self-preservation!’ the first alien declares, as Wendell sees the arrow flung towards him and narrowly dodges it, unable to put up a quantum-shield in such a narrow space of time. However, when Deathurge fires a second arrow, Wendell is able to create a quantum-shield to deflect it. Hovering near each other, Quasar asks Deathurge how the nullifier makes this skirmish any different. ‘Have you not guessed?’ Deathurge asks. ‘Using the Ultimate Nullifier is suicidal. Wielders must be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. I am the avatar of self-destruction. Thus you must submit yourself to -’ Deathurge begins as he creates a sword and shield, and Quasar does the same. They battle, until Quasar interrupts Deathurge by shouting ‘Submit this!’ as slices his sword - and cuts off Deathurge’s head!

Quasar drops his sword and throws his hands to his head, ‘Aw, man! Didn’t think that would happen! I…I beheaded him!’ he gasps, unaware that Deathurge’s body suddenly catches his head. Wendell closes his eyes, and realizes that Deathurge wasn’t exactly alive, so he doesn’t think he is a murderer. Suddenly, Deathurge creates a deadly mace with spikes, ‘And it’s not like I had much choice -’ Wendell decides, before Deathurge slams the weapon into his back. ‘You dropped your guard, Quasar! You let me approach you’ Deathurge calls out, as the spiked chain wraps around Quasar’s neck. Deathurge then creates a large spike and tells Quasar that he relinquished his precarious hold on the fragile envelope of his mortality. He shoves the spike into Quasar’s body, explaining that his weapons are made out of the midnight in all mortal souls, that they are useless, ephemeral as shadow - unless you give them power over you. ‘This you have done, Quasar’ Deathurge states.

‘Like heck I have. You’re just playing mind games!’ Wendell exclaims as another spike is shoved against him. Deathurge tells Quasar that he has come to help him on his journey into inner darkness. ‘You claim you are Protector of the Universe, Quasar - but you fail to see that life itself is an aberration. A random mixture of chemicals and electricity with delusions of grandeur!’ Deathurge exclaims, as several more spikes are shoved into Quasar’s body. Quasar tries to use a small weapon against the chain around his neck, but fails, and he drops it. ‘Oblivion is the universe’s preferred state. You are so vain as to think that because you are alive, that is what that universe desires. Fah!’ Deathurge exclaims, still hovering near Quasar on his skis, as he shoves another spike through the young hero. ‘I am Protector of the Universe, too, Quasar - I protect the universe from the chaotic blight of that aberration called life!’ Deathurge declares.

Back in the Milky Way, ‘Starjump to the Advinter System implemented. Cloaking field?’ one of the aliens about the Mourning Star exclaims. ‘Engaged’ someone responds. Another alien asks what the native name for the planet below is, and another crew member reports that it is Scadam. ‘It would appear the destruction of the Scadamites is still going on’ another remarks. A yellow-skinned alien reports that their dispatches call themselves the Black Fleet, and that they appear to be ravagers, plunderers and pirates. ‘How soon before they have finished their cruel work?’ he asks a female alien, who replies ‘Within a rotation, according to a transmission I intercepted’.

Annoyed, Her tells the cult that they could still do something to save lives. ‘But no - you want them to maximize the loss of life so you’ll have more fodder for your precious mourning rituals!’. She asks them how they can stand to live with themselves, and announces that she cannot idly stand by and watch this slaughter. ‘I am going to do something or die in the trying! And if I do die, don’t you leeches dare mourn for me!’ Her snaps as she flies out of the starship and into the blackness of space, where, she uses her phenomenal cosmic abilities to obliterate one of the Black Fleet ships with a single burst of spectacular energy.

Unknown to Her, on the surface of the planet below, another of Quasar’s acquaintances, HD Steckley, who tells herself that with Kayla incinerated and her formidable power gone, she doesn’t know how much longer she can last. ‘Though I’m…not without some resources myself, the Black Fleet seems intent upon wiping all life off the face of the planet!’ HD thinks to herself as she stands in a cavern, where several of the local Scadmites have gathered. ‘If only Kayla’s boyfriend, Quasar knew what had -’ HD begins when suddenly, one of the Scadamites alerts her to something going on at the entrance to the cavern - a figure has appeared,, ‘Holly…I feel so strange…’ a gunky-like being calls out, and HD gasps ‘KAYLA!’

On the planet Rus, Quasar has fallen to the ground, blackness seeping over his body as the large black stakes poke out of him. ‘I’ve beaten you, as I always knew I would. You’ve always had a refreshing sense of futility about you!’ Deathurge exclaims. ‘Why are you doing this? If you take me now…I won’t be able to use the nullifier’ Quasar points out, adding that he won’t be able to consign a being of far greater power than he, to Deathurge’s master oblivion. Deathurge states that Quasar misunderstands him. ‘I’m not here to kill you. I visit everyone who is seriously contemplating using the nullifier, and make sure they understand what it means to be the bearer of nothingness. To dispense the void, one must accept the void into your heart’ Deathurge explains.

Suddenly, ‘NO!’ screams Quasar as he reaches up, his cloak flows behind him and the spears all shuck out of his body, the blackness follows. ‘I refuse!’ Wendell declares, to which Deathurge tells him that he will fail to activate the nullifier. ‘I think you will succeed. See you on the other side, fellow protector’ Deathurge declares as he vanishes. Quasar decides that Deathurge is wrong about the nullifier, certain that he will find a way to use it without perishing.

Soon, Wendell returns to Epoch, announcing that he sent Deathurge on his merry way, but before Deathurge put him through the ringer. Wendell asks Epoch what the scoop is on the nullifier. Epoch replies that data is scant, and reveals that no one has recorded who built it, only some of its past users are known. She adds that there is no record of how Galactus came to acquire it. Epoch reports that one thing the various sources agree on, is that no one who has used it survived the experience. ‘That’s what Deathurge said’ Quasar exclaims. Epoch then urges Wendell not to use it. ‘I value your continued existence’ she tells him.

Wendell crouches down beside Epoch and thanks her, adding that he values hers, too. He picks her up and tells her that he will be as careful as he knows how to be. He tells Epoch that they had best get back to Galactus’s ship, but Epoch informs Quasar that she wishhes to remain here for the immediate future, as there is much she can learn here. ‘You’re…sure?’ Wendell asks. ‘Yes’ Epoch responds. Quasar agrees, and tells his cosmic goddaughter to stay in touch. ‘Take care, little spudling!’ Quasar calls out as he takes to the stars once more. ‘Boy, does that feel weird…Eppy coming out of her little dimension…taking humanoid form…staying behind in the library world…’ Wendell thinks to himself. Back aboard Galactus’s ship, ‘Quasar’s locked himself inside that bubble for almost an hour now. What can he be doing?’ someone calls out. The Thing suggests that Quasar might not even be in there anymore, that he might have found a way to take a powder. Suddenly, there is another flash of light from inside the quantum-dome. ‘Did he activate it…?’ Captain America wonders as he, Storm, Wolverine, Cyclops, Iceman, Colossus, the Hulk, the Thing, She-Hulk and the Vision gather around it. The Vision states that it would not be advantageous if Quasar had, as the enemy they wish to nullify is nowhere in sight. ‘Quasar, I wish you wouldn’t leave us in the dark about this’ Captain America calls out.

Inside the quantum-dome, Quasar holds up the Ultimate Nullifier, he tells himself that he made it back so smoothly, he would doubt many were aware he was even gone. Examining the nullifier, Wendell knows he has to figure out the activation sequence, drop his protective dome, and then ask Thanos where he wants the nullifier aimed….

Characters:
Captain America, Hercules, Thor II, Vision (all Avengers)
Wonder Man (member of Avengers West Coast)
Quasar, She-Hulk (both inactive Avengers)

Archangel, Colossus, Cyclops, Iceman, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Northstar (member of Alpha Flight)

Human Torch II, Invisible Woman, Thing (all Fantastic Four)
Nova (member of the New Warriors)
Hulk

Moondragon, Thanos (both Infinity Watch)

Kayla Ballantine
Epoch
Her
“Holly Debra ‘HD’ Steckley” / Ereshkigal
Makkari
Deathurge

Fath, Kruggar and others aboard the Mourning Star
Various aliens on the planet Rus
Scadamites

Notes:
This issue is part of the “Infinity War” crossover, and specifically ties into Infinity War #4.

Issue Summary written by: Daytripper (Steven Bishop)


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