After Warlock's simple-minded beginnings as the brutish, egotistical and immensely horny Him, and following his metamorphosis into the ultra-groovy Jesus Christ Superstar inspired Adam Warlock, Jim Starlin took control of the golden-skinned perfect man. Instead of focusing on Warlock's past need to get it on, or his past Messiah leanings, Starlin instead sends Warlock into space as a self-doubting lone explorer unsure of his place in the grand scheme of the cosmos.
|Warlock and his new costume. Magus looms in the background.|
During his travels,Warlock learns of the Universal Church of Truth, a brutal space-spanning religious empire, led by a supposedly all-powerful being known simply as Magus. While he explores the reaches of space, Warlock becomes increasingly leery of the Soul Gem, a green vampiric jewel given to him by the High Evolutionary, and that is parasitically affixed to his forehead. Warlock also meets two beings who ultimately become two of his closest friends, Pip the Troll and Gamora--the lovely green-skinned assassin known as the most most dangerous woman in the universe.
|Gamora - The Most Dangerous Woman in the Universe|
|Pip the Troll and a hot blue woman.|
The story immediately rockets forward with Warlock meeting his new friends, Pip and Gamora, and the trio openly opposing the Universal Church of Truth and the demagog, Magus. Warlock then meets the Titan, Thanos, Gamora's employer, and--unknown to Warlock--an incredibly evil, power-hungry being in his own right, who seeks to further his own schemes.
Thanos and Warlock develop a camaraderie and possess enough power to pose a threat to Magus's rule, or so they believe. When Magus eventually reveals himself, no one expected to find that he is actually a futuristic alter-ego of Warlock himself. Possessing grey skin to Warlock's gold, and a purple and silver version of Warlock's older costume, and a formidable afro to boot, Magus may very well be all-powerful. There is, however, a variable in his plan that he did not foresee...Thanos.
|Magus, complete with 1970's afro. He also looks like the character of Walter from the TV show Fringe.|
Thanos exists outside the boundaries of normal time and space and was thus never a part of Magus's past. Together with Gamora, Pip and Thanos, Warlock escapes his original destiny and succeeds in eradicating the timeline that would produce his diabolical alter ego, reshaping entire universes to a reality that never bared witness to the Magus or witnessed the rise of the Universal Church of Truth.
The group all go their separate ways, and Warlock finds himself in increasingly odd situations as he continues to search for his purpose among the stars and to control his vampiric Soul Gem and learns that the jewel has siblings. It is during this brief interlude where the pacing and excitement of the series falters, just a little, before picking up the momentum once again with the reintroduction of Thanos.
|Warlock with Thanos and Magus squaring off.|
After mastering control of the Soul Gem, Warlock learns first hand of Thanos's treacherous nature when he finds Gamora dying from grievous wounds inflicted by the mad demi-god. He also discovers Pip lying on the floor, alive but permanently mindless. He absorbs his friends' souls so that they can be with him forever. Thanos has acquired five of the six Soul Gems and the gold-skinned man returns to earth to enlist the aid of the Avengers to stop Thanos from destroying star after star.
The heroes descend upon the demi-god in full force, but in the midst of the battle Thanos mortally wounds Warlock and steals his Soul Gem. Another spacefaring Avenger, Captain Marvel, finds the dying Warlock lying in the rubble, when another out-of-timeline Warlock, steps up and takes Warlock's soul into his Soul Gem, where he finds himself in a Utopia and in the company of Pip, Gamora and all of the other beings who's souls he had taken; he has finally attained love and belonging. When all seems most dire, Spider-man releases Warlock's soul from the Soul Gem to save the day, before he returns to the peace of the emerald paradise within the jewel.
|This page was difficult to read.|
Jim Starlin's re-envisioning of Adam Warlock made him somewhat of a cult hero among comic fans with his original issues finding reprints in Warlock Special Edition in 1982, then again in 1992 with the Warlock Limited Series, and finally in a hardcover Marvel Masterworks Warlock Volume 2 edition that is somewhat pricey and not that easy to find; here's hoping that a trade paperback is released someday soon. Plus, these are not the only instances of work with the characters of Warlock, Thanos and the rest that Starlin created. Like a butterfly, that bursts from its own cocoon, Warlock is literally a figure defined by metamorphosis and rebirth. Each time he emerges from his own cocoon, he evolves, for better or for worse, into a newer different being.
Although I loved such tales as Starlin's The Infinity Gauntlet (I will definitely write about that one someday) and the current use of Warlock and Thanos occuring in Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Thanos Imperative, which sees Warlock taking on the guise of Magus once again and a third time (?) reborn Thanos joining with heroes to stop him, I always return to Jim Starlin's original run. I loved the only-one-of-his-kind golden man, desperate to find his place not just in the world, but in the grand scheme of everything, and the tormented loneliness that pursues him until he does find friendship in Gamora, Pip and even Thanos for a fleeting moment. When he does find purpose, it is to protect everything from the worst evil that has ever threatened the universe...himself.
Jim Starlin's Warlock is the ultimate of cosmic drama, or space opera, or whatever term is popular to use these days, but it is the hero epic at the core, with impossible quests, attempts to return home, love, treachery and the inevitable tragedy. This is not to say that the series is all doom and gloom, for there is adventure, excitement and at times Warlock succeeds in prevailing against all odds. In the end he actually does win in the paradise within the Soul Gem.
I lump Warlock in with The Micronauts as one of my oldest favorite comics and it continues to be an immensely fun and engaging story. Also worth noting is Starlin's incredible artwork, which beautifully tells the tale and consistently gives a sense of urgency that I had not seen in any work prior to Warlock. At times the layouts border on psychedelic when dealing with Warlock's madness, but those scenes only help the story progress and help the reader understand this rich and complex character. I also appreciated Starlin's thoughts on the perils of fanatical religions, the quests for power and how the two often times move in tangent, which are views that coincided with my own even when I was a very young teenager.
Warlock is one of the all time greats, that I recommend to all comic fans who love science fiction and space dramas.