Who is Adam Warlock? (And Why You Should Care)
Even though it’s been a few weeks since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II, the latest entry into the Marvel cinematic oeuvre, was unleashed to the public, I still feel the compulsion to tag the rest of this article with a big fat SPOILER WARNING.
If you sat through the credits and wondered who THAT named character was then read on. If you didn’t sit through the credits…well, it’s been over a decade at this point, why are you still getting up and leaving before the lights come back up in the theatre? It’s a Marvel movie. There’s something at the end. Probably.
Is that a sufficient spoiler space?
I mean, sure I gave away a big ol’ spoiler with the title of the article, but that’s really supposing you know who the heck Adam Warlock is to begin with. If you’re reading this, my guess is you don’t, or that maybe you’re hoping I post some egregious info and you can get my nerd card revoked. I’ll do my best to oblige you either way.
So, who is Adam Warlock? And why should you care?
The answer to the first question is simple.
But why should you care?
Well, that’s a bit harder, and possibly full of spoilers for what we may be in for in future Guardians films, or even the upcoming Avengers sequels. And that’s because, while their origins aren’t intertwined in the least, the fates of both Thanos and Adam Warlock seem to be perpetually linked for the rest of time.
Or until Jim Starlin runs out of stories to tell.
When he first debuted in Fantastic Four #66 in 1967, Adam Warlock was simply called Him, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. But unlike so many of the duo’s co-creations, they weren’t the ones to solidify his legacy as one of the single most important characters in the Marvel Cosmos. They brought him back for a four issue arc in The Mighty Thor in 1969, which did see the character head off into space, but afterwards he lay dormant until 1972. That’s when, starting in Marvel Premiere #1, Roy Thomas and Gil Kane gave the character a name, and a purpose: Messiah.
Inspired by (yes) Jesus Christ Superstar, the duo crafted a story that would turn the emotionless perfection that was Him into a cosmic martyr. Bestowed with the Soul Gem by a character named the High Evolutionary, and after a not-too successful run in his own book, his story was seemingly wrapped up in Incredible Hulk # 178. Adam Warlock gave his life to save the world of Counter-Earth.
Then came Jim Starlin.
Much in the same way Thomas and Kane picked up the torches of Stan and Jack, Starlin took what was put to paper before and proceeded to re-envision the character as something even MORE important. Except it would take him almost fifteen years to get there.
From 1977 to 1991 Jim Starlin (and occasionally Ron Lim, who would be instrumental later down the line) helped sporadically lay the final groundwork for what both Warlock and Thanos would come to mean to the Marvel Cosmos. Setting up a continual cosmic gambit that would explore the meaning of life and the purpose of death, it became a decades-long symphony that, while it has occasionally stalled, manages to persist.
Thanos as the python of the four color world and Adam Warlock his apex predator the crocodile. Sometimes the Mad Titan would win out and destroy half the galaxy, sometimes (with the help of so many other heroes of course) the man created to be the ultimate humanoid would prove to be just that and save the day. And the game continued on and on.
And just like the creative teams before them, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning picked up that ball and ran with it in their Annihilation series (I’m calling it now, that’s the name of the fourth Avengers flick-and while we’re at it, that cocoon in the Collector’s room? It’s The Magus).
So, that brings us back to the question: Why should you care?
Because the Marvel Universe is going to need a savior. A perfect being with no allegiances, emotional or otherwise, unparalleled strength, the wisdom of the ages, unsullied and un-wavered by even those that created him. And his name might just be Adam Warlock.
The Infinity Stones, as we’ve seen, are nothing to be trifled with. And any being that can harness them altogether is certainly one that’s not going to be easily defeated. Dying and being resurrected isn’t anything new in comics, but we’ve not really see anything along those lines in the cinematic universe. Sure Coulson “died,” but what we got was more of a retcon (changing the narrative after the fact) than a resurrection.
We’ve been promised a “very different” Marvel Universe than the one we presently have once Infinity War wraps up. Could we see the death of several major characters? Probably.
In The Infinity Gauntlet story line Thanos wiped out half of the population of the universe. In the blink of an eye. That included a number of well-regarded superheroes.
Could Marvel be setting up the death and subsequent rebirth of some of its biggest characters? If so, how do you bring them back? And if Thanos sets about destroying the universe, who can you trust to help defend and rebuild it?
Thanos is a character that subsists on Death, and intends to use the gathered stones to meet his ends. We need someone that will be able to wield them without ulterior motives, as well as guard their power from those who would attempt to abuse it. Only time (and next summer’s movie season) will tell if that person is Adam Warlock.
Even if, much like their comic counterparts, the only common denominator in their origins is that they share a universe, Thanos and Adam Warlock are destined to meet. And it’s going to be one hell of a show.