Now that Marvel has managed to build a movie universe out of characters largely unknown to casual fans, things look to really get interesting. ‘Phase One’ of Marvel’s movie plan has come to completion, providing origin stories for their heroes and universe, having the Avengers assemble, and hinting at figures and forces beyond Earth’s sight.

For ‘Phase Two’ things are going cosmic, as proven by the presence of Thanos, and the Guardians of the Galaxy actually getting their own film. But in the midst of all the rumors and confirmed details, fans of Marvel’s Cosmic fiction have been asking: where is Nova, and what’s being planned for Quasar?

Based on recent reports and our own suspicions, we’re beginning to think Marvel might pull a surprising move with the bearer of the Quantum Bands. Could Quasar first appear not as part of ‘Phase Two’s galactic conflict, but be introduced via S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America 2? The move wouldn’t just give fans a hand to hold when ‘Phase Three’ begins, but could build the kind of bridge we’ve yet to see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We’ve speculated on Quasar being included in Guardians since the property was first announced as one adaptation Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige hoped would succeed. Yet Quasar was noticeably absent from the concept artwork, and has yet to be revealed or discussed. Of course, that artwork also failed to show Nova as a potential character, and we can’t believe Marvel will let that be the case (we’re not alone on that, either). But rumors of a live-action Quasar are anything but new.

Back before the Marvel train had become unstoppable, casting rumors dealing with the extended universe ran rampant. Kevin Pennington was one young actor signed on for a three-picture deal, and while that contract bore little fruit, the presumed size of the role and Pennington’s description of his character as “maskless” had many predicting the imminent announcement of Quasar.

In hindsight, Marvel took baby steps in approaching their Cosmic fiction, which has turned out to be a wise move. But if Quasar was on their minds back then, the momentum gained by ‘Phase One’ means the time may be right. The question then, is how Quasar – a title held by more than one Marvel hero – would fit into the movie universe – and for fans, whether the ‘Cosmic Avenger’ would need to be preceded by Captain Marvel. If that’s the case, Marvel has a LOT of groundwork to lay (although new rumors of Ms. Marvel being cast bolster the idea). But perhaps we’re thinking about this the wrong way.

Marvel is currently casting for a pair of “physical” male roles in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and considering the skills of both actors being considered, it doesn’t seem to be a bit part. Which leads us to wonder: what absence is currently left in the roster? No vacancy stands out more than that left by S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson, liaison between Marvel’s super-powered individuals and the government agency overseeing them. Coulson is set to return in Joss Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, but a continued role in the films is still unconfirmed.

Captain America’s film franchise is the most clearly aligned with S.H.I.E.L.D. at the moment, with ‘Agent 13′ a.k.a. Sharon Carter set to be introduced in The Winter Soldier, alongside The Falcon (Anthony Mackie). The latter’s origin story is possibly being rewritten as a second attempt at Cap’s ‘Super Soldier Serum,’ so the ties between the team’s leader and the organization are being strengthened. Yet those roles still leave the opportunity to introduce another S.H.I.E.L.D. operative who can franchise-hop, in order to establish continuity before Avengers 2 (played by someone with a schedule less hectic than Scarlett Johansson or Jeremy Renner).

When the casting rumors first surfaced, we argued that Josh Holloway (Lost, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) would be tailor-made for such a role, having already proven his likability and operative skills on celluloid. The physicality required by Marvel in casting the role also implies that the new character will be expected to do more than just paperwork. With that in mind, could the new S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in Captain America 2 be none other than Wendell Vaughn?

NEXT PAGE: Quasar’s Origin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe…

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Allow us to explain, for the uninitiated. Agent Wendell Vaughn made his first appearance, fittingly, in the Captain America series as a skilled S.H.I.E.L.D. officer of who lacked the willingness to ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ in extreme circumstances. At the time of Vaughn’s service, S.H.I.E.L.D. was experimenting on a pair of Quantum Bands believed to have once been created by the Kree – the same alien beings who crafted the ‘Cosmic Cube/Tesseract’ seen throughout ‘Phase One’s films.

In actual fact, the Bands were constructed by the Eternals. In case the distinction seems a bit too ‘fanboy’ to fly with mainstream audiences, there is already one Eternal that movie fans should be familiar with: Thanos, ‘The Mad Titan’.

To make a long origin story short: the lab comes under attack, and Vaughn has no choice but to put on the Quantum Bands in an attempt to defend the installation. In so doing, Vaughn’s lack of a ‘killer instinct’ or temper grants him the ability to absorb the immense energy flow from the artifacts, and win the day. Now granted the ability to emit blasts of cosmic energy and craft constructs from light (think Green Lantern), Vaughn adopts the name ‘Quasar,’ and decides to demonstrate the justice and heroism of the superhumans he once worked beside.

Vaughn would later go on to work with the Avengers, fight Thanos, be ‘killed’ by the Infinity Gauntlet, become best friends with Nova, and if the Marvel writers wanted to tweak the fiction, Vaughn’s successor as Quasar also briefly fought alongside Nova and Star-Lord as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

If that were played out on film, fans would have a hero that is a special effects team’s dream, markedly distinct from any of the other heroes and villains, and whose power is derived from the Cosmic universe that ‘Phase Three’ will almost certainly move toward. Vaughn fighting cosmic evil as Quasar would be a welcome sight, but the journey to that point might be where the most promise lies.

Considering the risks Marvel is taking in moving their films from grounded, more realistic plots to science fiction/fantasy, it would be a brilliant move to introduce Vaughn as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent first. If Vaughn went through ‘Phase Two’ as simply an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. for fans to recognize from one film to another, and only went Cosmic for ‘Phase Three,’ the connections between the more grounded franchises (Iron Man, Captain America) would be far more linked with the cosmic ones (Guardians, Thor). This time by a friendly face, as opposed to a villain.

Seeing the Avengers’ standalone films lead into a team-up was one thing, but having Wendell Vaughn (played by Josh Holloway, or anyone else) begin as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in ‘Phase Two,’ and end up fighting alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers in ‘Phase Three’ would be a remarkable instance of character development.

We know Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet will play central roles in ‘Phase Two’ (the villain is confirmed to appear in both Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers 2), but members of the Screen Rant staff are still vocally demanding that ‘Phase Three’ welcome both the Kree and Skrulls. Quasar’s powers offer a way to do just that – but more than just for continuity or a fan wish fulfilled, Quasar introduced this way would be one heck of a risk; though the payoff could be immeasurable.

This is all just speculation on our part, but the evidence is piling up. Do you think Quasar should be introduced with the Guardians of the Galaxy, or begin as an operative of S.H.I.E.L.D.? The cast of superheroes isn’t lacking at this point, but as major contracts start to expire, that might be the time for Agent Vaughn to get super. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments.

The full Marvel ‘Phase Two’ release schedule is as follows: Iron Man 3 hits theaters on May 3rd, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8th, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4th, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, and The Avengers 2 on May 1st, 2015.

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Artwork: Daniel Acuna ‘Quasar’ #23, John Tyler Christopher ‘Annihilators: Earthfall’ #4, Clint Langley ‘Realm of Kings,’ Gabriele Del’Otto ‘Annihilation: Nova’ #3, George Pérez & Ron Lim ‘Infinity Gauntlet’ #4.

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