Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dinosaurs vs. Evil Corporation

Quasar was a good character, but also a second-tier hero who never hit the big time. So, even though I know a lot of you reading this are up on your comic history, I'll give a brief "Who the heck is Quasar?" recap.

His real name is Wendell Vaughn and he used to be a security guard at Stark International. When a powerful alien artifact called the Quantum Bands were being studied at a Stark facility, AIM agents tried to steal it. Wendell used the Bands to fight them off, became the hero Quasar, got some training from SHIELD, then became chief of security at Project Pegasus--a government research project looking into alternate energy sources.

Ben Grimm and Quasar worked together during a Marvel Two-in-One story arc set at Project Pegasus, so its no surprise when Quasar asks Ben to accompany him an a raid to break up the organization that had been persistently trying to wreck the project. This brings us to Marvel Two-in-One #73 (March 1981), written by Ralph Macchio and drawn by Ron Wilson.

The bad guys are unpowered mooks, so you would think Ben and Quasar could mop the floor with them pretty easily. But they don't count on the villains having a dimensional projector--sending the heroes on an unplanned vacation to a jungle planet in another dimension--a planet inhabited by cavemen and dinosaurs.

Frankly, I don't know why anyone would have to be forced to visit a planet full of dinosaurs. I don't care what the Jurassic Park franchise has been desperately trying to teach us--if it's got dinosaurs, then, by golly, I'm going.

Well actually, in this case, the planet is spoiled by Roxxon Oil, the Marvel Universe's go-to company whenever they needed an evil corporation. Roxxon has gotten the idea of drilling for oil in other dimensions. By itself, this actually isn't a bad idea. But Roxxon has also enslaved the local cavemen as a source of cheap labor. 

Soon, Ben and Quasar are attacked by hovercraft. Ben is hit with knock-out gas and captured. Quasar manages to hook up with free cavemen, who have learned English from their captors and have gathered an army of dinosaurs to use in their fight for freedom. Quasar soon agrees to help them.

Meanwhile, the head bad guy conveniently explains the entire situation to Ben--a contrived and over-used plot device, but justified in this case because the bad guy wants to bribe Ben into switching sides. Naturally, this does not go well for the villian. Not only does Ben rip his way out of his shackles, but Quasar and his dinosaur/caveman army attacks.

This, of course, is the point of the whole issue. The story is a really good one, well-constructed and making complete sense in the context of a comic book universe. But it was clearly built around the idea of showing us dinosaurs wrecking havoc on puny humans. And I, of course, am fine with that. As the ancient proverb teaches us: If you tire of dinosaurs, you tire of life itself.

I also appreciate a clever plot twist at the end. The leader of the villains gets back to Earth via the dimensional projector and takes the projector with him, apparently leaving the heroes stranded on another world. But Quasar realizes that the oil pipeline also travels between dimensions--that's how Roxxon was getting the oil back to their refineries on Earth. So Quasar fiddles with the controls, redirects the oil into the bad guy headquarters, then forms an energy bubble that allows he and Ben to ride the oil flow back home.

It's a neat twist, adding some more tension to the climax and forcing the heroes to use their brains rather than just punch stuff.

So we have a good story plus dinosaurs wrecking havoc. Why scientists in real life haven't invented dimensional portals, time machines or dinosaur-cloning so that we can see this sort of thing for ourselves is beyond me. It really is.

Next week, we'll find out why its a bad idea to step on an unfamiliar throw-rug.

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