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Star Brand flying from newuniveral #3 "Trauma".
Marvel Publishing, circa 2007.
|First appearance||newuniversal #1 (Feb 2007)|
|Created by||Warren Ellis, Salvador Larroca|
|Alter ego||Kenneth Connell|
|Abilities||The Star Brand grants its wielder near infinite powers and abilities ranging from flight, disintegrating matter, time travel, and many others.|
Kenneth Connell is a character from the newuniversal imprint of Marvel Comics, and is one of the four initial superhumans created by the White Event in 2006 (the others being Justice, Cipher, and Nightmask). newuniversal, designated Earth-555 in the Marvel Comics multiverse, is a re-imagining of the New Universe (designated Earth-148611) imprint from the late 1980s. The name Star Brand actually refers to two things: a powerful extra-dimensional glyph (tattoo) that confers superhuman powers on a sentient being, and the name of the being that wields the glyph. Originally the Star Brand was the only extra-dimensional glyph, but Warren Ellis' re-imagining broadened the concept to allow others to exist, namely Justice, Cipher, and Nightmask. Ellis's re-imagining of the Star Brand should not be confused with the original New Universe Star Brand, as its origins and powers are significantly different.
Origin of the Star Brand
The origins of the Star Brand lay with a supposedly long-dead alien race that created the Star Brand artificially as a tool. The purpose of the Star Brand is to help the transition of a world through the inevitable paradigm shift caused when it comes into contact with a web of strange matter, called "newuniversal structure", wherein normal physical laws operate differently. Whenever a world enters the web it can take thousands of years before the world finishes traveling along one of its many strands, thus contact implies the danger that any given world could be destroyed if its transition period is not guided. It is the purpose of the Star Brand to protect the world from being destroyed. It is not yet clear what effects (if any) the destruction of a single world within the newuniversal structure would cause, but presumably it could threaten the stability of the strand if not the entire web.
The newuniversal structure was created by the same alien race that created the Star Brand, but as of newuniversal: shockfront #2 no explanation has been given for why they created it. That said, while the origin of the newuniversal structure is unknown, its effects on a world are: in addition to changing the native physical laws of a world, it creates superhumans, or "paranormals". In the continuity of Earth-555, the first such effect was to trigger the activation of the superhuman gene in the human genome.
Since multiple worlds within the Marvel multiverse interact with the newuniversal structure, then this means that there are as many Star Brands as there are worlds (as per Marvel comics shared multiverse concept). Two such alternate Star Brands appear in newuniveral #4. Outside the continuity of the newuniverse, the Star Brand was wielded by Quasar for a short time when Jim Hanrahan (of the original New Universe of Earth-148611) transferred his glyph.
Powers and abilities
The re-imagined newuniversal has only just begun, as such the powers and abilities of the Star Brand have yet to be fully explained. Still, as of newuniversal: shockfront #2 the Star brand has granted its wielder the following powers: flight, creation of energy shields, ability to see and sense electrical energy fields and superhuman energy signatures, trace superhuman teleportation, matter disintegration, melt solid steel, and energy blasts.
A future version of Kenneth Connell, the current wielder, demonstrated the ability to project his image (possibly a hologram) through time, and time travel (though it is not certain if he was able to achieve this unaided).
Thus far the powers and abilities of the Star Brand seem markedly different from the original, in that the original was a weapon of infinite power that was limited only by the wielder's imagination. While no definitive explanation of the Ellis's re-imagined Star Brand has been presented, it is conceivable that the powers that have been displayed so far do not represent infinite power per se, but rather an infinite potential. In other words, the wielder does not possess god-like abilities, but rather the wielder is able to manipulate energy according to physical laws that have been hinted at but have yet to be explained as of newuniveral: shockfront #2.
Current Wielder of the Star Brand
Essentially nothing is known about Kenneth Connell's past, except that his home town is Optima Down, Oklahoma, and that his life is a relatively normal one. The most dangerous thing about Kenneth's life is that the city's sheriff hates him because he is dating his daughter, Madeline Felix. After a night out drinking, Kenneth and Madeline fall asleep on a hillside, and in the early hours of March 1, 2006, while they sleep, the White Event takes place.
Ken wakes to find Madeline dead beside him, burned to death when the White Event granted him the Star Brand. The energies were so strong that a symbol of the Star Brand had been scorched into the hillside around them, with Kenneth at its center. Traumatized by the death of his girlfriend, he contacts the sheriff, only to be arrested under suspicion of murdering her. The sheriff assaults Connell in jail and draws a gun, intending to kill the man he considers responsible for his daughters death, and enlists the aid of his fellow officers. Just before the sheriff fires, the Star Brand manifests on Connell's hand, and he instinctively uses its power to protect himself by not only disintegrating bullet, but the sheriff's pistol and right arm as well.
The other officers open fire on him, but he stops them mid-air, reverses them, and fires them back at the officers, killing them. Ken goes on to set the police station on fire, killing two more officers in the process of escaping, barely aware of what he is doing. Still traumatized and wanting only to leave, the Star Brand responds to his desire and begins to fly him away. It is clear from this that the Star Brand reacted to protect Kenneth, but it is unclear if it acted on instinctive commands from Kenneth's mind, due to some pre-programmed command that enables it to protect its wielder, or if the Star Brand simply reacted of its own accord.
Connell retreats to a secluded mountain, and is approached by three people bearing similar brands at various places on their body. Two of them are Star Brands from alternate universes, and one of them is a future version of himself, all of whom came to warn Kenneth that he must save his world from himself. One of them, an elderly man, is revealed to be Kenneth Connell himself from fifty years in the future; he is using the power of his Star Brand to travel back in time. He warns Kenneth that the power of the Star Brand is enormous, powerful enough that he could wipe out all life in Asia: "That thing in your palm makes you a walking doomsday machine. You're the world's biggest hammer. But a hammer can be used to crack a skull or build a home."
Kenneth's future self tells him that he has to push away his pain and move on quickly, because events are coming that need him to focus, and that he is now a walking planetary self-defense system. During their conversation, the military becomes aware of their presence and General Ross, impatient and unwilling to wait for Project Spitfire to act, authorizes a fighter jet to attack them. Kenneth's future self protects them in a field of energy, negating the attack. Ross, distraught, authorizes a nuclear launch on their location. The alternate Star Brands offer to help him in whatever manner he wishes, but he must willingly choose either the help or to act for himself. Kenneth chooses to act for himself, and consciously accesses the Star Brand's power. Just as the other Star Brands from alternate Earth's leave, and the nuke is prepared to be launched, Nightmask teleports to Connell's location and then quickly teleports them back to her apartment in San Francisco to protect him from the blast. General Ross aborts the launch, but realizes that he overstepped his authority and moves swiftly to protect himself. Connell, overwhelmed by recent events and unable to accept Maddie's death and his responsibility for it, breaks down.
Connell spends the next two weeks in a deep depression, coming to terms with his new powers and supposed responsibilities. He believes that Madeline died because he wasn't conscious when the Star Brand came to him and was therefore unable to control its power in that precious moment, and that her father and his officers all died because he was only half-conscious (still in shock over Madeline's death), not limiting the Star Brand with conscious control. He decides that its time for him to "wake up" and focus on his powers. Over the past two weeks, he became aware of energy fields, particularly the one belonging to Izanami's TV, which he described as glowing "like how mint tastes". And after an explosion outside of Izanami's workplace, seemingly unwittingly caused by another superhuman (who was notably mentally unstable), he believes that nothing is coincidental anymore, and that he needs to get involved with the world. At the site of the explosion, Connell sees a pillar of energy where the detonation occurred, and figures out that it was caused by another superhuman. Thinking that whoever it was like him, that his power was triggered and he couldn't control it, he decides that they need to follow his energy trail and speak to him.
At the end of newuniversal: shockfront #2, both Connell and Izanami decide that they need to get away from the explosion site, and go to a restaurant to have a coffee. There, Izanami explains how she knew about him and what happened to his girlfriend, that she had "watched" his dreams to make sure that he was going to be okay. It was in the restaurant that they witnessed Jack Magniconte accidentally killing an opposing player in a televised football game.
Previous Wielders of the Star Brand
An earlier White Event occurred in the year 1959, creating that era's incarnations of the Justice, Cipher and Star Brand. Lester Robbins was granted the Star brand glyph, but he either did not fully understand the power he was granted, or he was too afraid of it to use it.
Lester Robbins was living in San Francisco when he gained the glyph, and was soon named "the man who wasn't there" by Project Spitfire. Lester was an emotionally and mentally unbalanced individual, though it is not known if the White Event caused the mental imbalance or if it was a pre-existing condition. The NSA became aware of Robbin when he teleported into the bedroom of then President Eisenhower, to compliment him on how he was handling Korea. That said, Lester's mental condition was not a dangerous one: he was deeply devoted to the American dream, and to using his powers to teleport all around the world,
Over the next six years Lester traveled the world, presumably because he initially wanted simply to travel but after meeting Veronica Kelly it was because he didn't want to return to the U.S. Over the next four years Lester and Veronica would occasionally come into conflict, all the while Veronica attempted to convince Lester that he wasn't doing what he was supposed to be doing. Lester refused to act responsibly with his powers, continuing to travel the world and keep out of the U.S., delivering presents to American troops overseas and attending (uninvited) the wedding of Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe. Having no stomach for the constant conflict, Lester stays out of the U.S. returning only occasionally, always to be confronted by Veronica (how she knew when and where he teleported into the U.S. is unknown). Eventually Veronica's words sway him from his path, their conflict ending in 1957 when Lester decides to go to Veronica's home, and thank her for her help in setting his life on track. The two quickly fall in love and two years later they have a baby boy in 1959.
Lester's and Veronica's conflicts had been monitored by the NSA's division Project Spitfire, who took no action against them since they technically hadn't broken any laws, and their conflict did not cause injury or death to innocent bystanders (they routinely caused massive environmental damage in remote locations). That said, Project Spitfire agent Philip L. Voight advised that they should kill all known superhumans before they caused the eventual extinction of the human race. Vioght argued that superhumans represented the next evolutionary step, as far removed from humans as humans are from apes. Further, he argued that Lester and Veronica were locked into Darwinian evolutionary imperatives that forced them to engage in primitive territorial disputes over their four-year conflict, theorizing that their romantic behavior was actually indicative of a strange kind of "mating ritual". Fearing that Anthony Stark, the Cipher of that era, might clash with Lester for Kelly affections (since she was the only known superhuman female), Voight convinced the head of Project Spitfire that any and all superhumans needed to be killed, otherwise their conflicts might eventually escalate in violence that would cause the death of bystanders, but that if they ever bred then it signaled the eventual extinction of the human race as the superhuman race competed for resources.
Relying on subtle tactics, Voight created a plan to isolate and kill the three superhumans. Stark was shot in the back of the head, after being lured to the Naval Base San Diego to debrief him on his escape from North Vietnam. In an effort to see how solid their relationship was, Voight ordered an NSA operative to seduce Lester, presumably wanting plant evidence of his affair in order to cause a breakup. However, Veronica immediately knows that Lester had cheated on her when he returned home, seeing his guilt within his aura. Lester runs away from Veronica's anger at his affair, but isn't followed. Fearing the Kelly will somehow see the intentions of any agent sent to kill her in the same way she saw Lester's guilt, Voight secretly poisons Veronica's food at a local restaurant without the kitchen staff noticing. Veronica, realizing that she had been poisoned moments after, tracks Voight and his team outside and is able to kill Voight's fellow agents before succumbing to the poison. After her death, Voight send's Lester a letter in Veronica's name, asking him to come home. Lester notices that something was wrong seconds before the bomb Voight planted at his house detonates. Voight murders Lester's newborn son in his crib, shooting him in the head, considering even him to be too dangerous to live.
Starr the Slayer
The first White Event occurred in the year 2,689BCE, creating that era's incarnations of the four primary superhumans (Justice, Nightmask, Cipher, Star Brand). Starr the Slayer is granted the Star Brand.
The newuniversal: conqueror one-shot, set in 2689BCE (some years after the first failed White Event), introduces the first wielder of the Star brand glyph, Starr the Slayer. Some years after the first White Event, conqueror presents Starr as the king of Zardath, the Shining City, allied with that era's incarnation of Nightmask, Cipher, and Justice named Trull, Baneth, and Ukru respectively.
Due to the nature of the time, the Star Brand is viewed as great magical weapon granted to Starr by the "sky gods", what they call the aliens that attempt to aid them. Starr is filled with a profound sense that something is wrong in his city, patiently awaiting the arrival of others with abilities. It is revealed that Trull has betrayed him and had been torturing and mutating any superhuman that arrived in Zardath, pitting them against Starr as "monsters" that attacked the city. In order to accomplish this, Trull had taken over the mind of Ukru and selectively erased his memory and ability to fight him, thereby preventing his crimes from coming to light.
The aliens that communicate with them via the superflow, members of the "Divudian Queendom," located in "superattenuated reality 228 (reparadigmed)", have been attempting to contact Starr for some time in order to warn him of Trull's betrayal. The aliens, worried that they were going to fail, forced Baneth to create a device with which to communicate with him. But before their message could be heard completely, Trull interfered by dominating the mind of a nearby guard and forced him to destroy the machine. The aliens, their hands forced by Trull, traveled back in time and altered the original White Event to grant a woman named Gila superhuman powers (mainly telepathy) with the sole purpose of communication their warning to Starr. Trull was able to fight against them by abducting Gila and mutating her, but his efforts failed when Gila was able to write her warning just before Starr killed her, thinking her another monster.
Elements of the origin and purpose of the Star Brand are alluded to throughout conqueror, namely that the White Event was meant to create a large population of superhumans that would enable their world to transition safely into the paradigm shift caused by the newuniversal web. The story is crucial to the development of the dangerous situation Kenneth Connell finds himself in as the current wielder of the Star Brand, because conqueror showed that it is highly possible for the wielders of the Star Brand (and the other glyphs) to fail in their jobs to protect their world.
- Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Alternate Universes 2005
- Warren Ellis (w), Salvador Larroca (a). "Mathematics" newuniversal 3 (2007), Marvel Comics
- Warren Ellis (w), Salvador Larroca (a). "Trauma" newuniversal 2 (2007), Marvel Comics
- Warren Ellis (w), Salvador Larroca (a). "Enter" newuniversal 1 (2007), Marvel Comics
- Warren Ellis (w), Salvador Larroca (a). "Distance" newuniversal 4 (2007), Marvel Comics
- Warren Ellis (w), Chris Chuckry (col). "Tumble" newuniversal: shockfront 1 (2007), Marvel Comics
- Warren Ellis (w), Chris Chuckry (col). "Breaks" newuniversal: shockfront 2 (2007), Marvel Comics
- Kieron Gellen (w), Greg Scott and Kody Chamberlain (a). newuniversal: 1959 (2008), Marvel Comics
- Simon Spurrier (w), Eric Nguyen (a). newuniversal: conqueror 1 (October 2008), Marvel Comics