Next to my desk at work, I’ve got this poster looming over at me, depicting the entire Marvel Universe as it was back in the mid-to-late-80’s. Most of the characters I know, a couple I don’t and a few hover in between, where I am aware of who they are, but would like to know more about them. Today my gaze settled on a purple-and-blue-hued, weird-helmet-wearing fellow who I know to be named Maelstrom.
The first time I remember seeing Maelstrom outside of a Marvel Handbook was in Dan Slott and Paul Pelletier’s GLA limited series. He was a maniacal type with those ever-lovin’ ambiguous “energy manipulation” abilities and seemed wicked powerful, way above the pay grade of the generally-played-for-laughs Great Lakes Avengers. There wasn’t much insight into his origin or anything there, but I was intrigued by the fact that this was a seemingly big-deal bad guy—yeah, he was getting his ass handed to him by Mr. Immortal and Flatman, but Slott made it pretty clear that they got real real lucky and this was indeed a baddie to be taken seriously—who I had no knowledge of. I figured he was in the same league of Graviton: a villain earmarked for the A-list but who didn’t quite have the staying power to become a Magneto or Doctor Doom, so he got dusted off from time to time and I must have missed his previous campaigns.
I didn’t see Maelstrom again until just last year when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning brought him into Guardians of the Galaxy, confronting Drax and Phyla-Vell during their quest to reclaim Moondragon from the realm of Oblivion, manipulating the latter into slaying the Dragon of the Moon and in the process becoming the new avatar of Death. Those machinations are still playing out today in the Marvel cosmic books as Phyla’s actions led to Thanos’ resurrection, seemingly another goal of Oblivion and thus Maelstrom.
This piqued my interest.
I’ve been intrigued by Oblivion since I picked up that 80’s Iceman mini where he first appeared. He’s so weird-looking and mysterious, but besides that, I have very little idea what his deal is. The big conceptual entities in the Marvel Universe are generally pretty easy to figure out: Eternity embodies everything, the Living Tribunal is a judge, Death is Death and so on. You’ve got other guys like the Elders of the Universe who are totally defined by their crazy hobbies listed in their names (Collector, Runner, Gardener, etc.).
Then you’ve got Oblivion—what’s his story? Does he want everybody dead? Everything gone? Why? What would he do if he got what he wanted? Why doesn’t Thanos want to make sweet sweet love to him?
Anyways, from what I’ve gathered, Maelstrom has some sort of tangled history with Oblivion and was his avatar—essentially his Silver Surfer—at some point. I’m not sure how that synchs up with Deathurge—Oblivion’s other flunky who gets his jollies convincing people like Hellcat to take their own lives—but it definitely ups his stock to me.
Digging deeper, Maelstrom is apparently a Deviant Inhuman, combining two major Marvel U sub-races in a formula I’ve never heard of. If that Inhumans are weird humans and Deviants are weird Eternals, does that make Maelstrom a super-weird Inhuman with some connection to the Eternals? Crazy. I must know more.
Maelstrom was also co-created by one of my favorite writers, the late Mark Gruenwald of Squadron Supreme greatness, as well as the non-Karate Kid Ralph Macchio, the long-tenured Marvel editor whom I still greet in the halls.
The Gruenwald involvement explains why Maelstrom seems to have made a lot of appearances in the Quasar ongoing series, where Oblivion was always a presence as well. I’ve really been meaning to check that one out as I used to have a real Wendell Vaughn aversion, but have conquered that, I think. For me, if Nova was Coke, then Quasar was Pepsi, so it was my duty to stay loyal to my cola, but as the two have proven able to co-exist in recent years, I’m willing to concede Wendell is Root Beer and give him a try.
On a related note, I don’t drink soda.
But regardless, Maelstrom seems like a cat with some potential and a crazy hat—more please.