Sunday Morning Paperback Adam Warlock: The Space Messiah
Welcome to another installment of MMP a series that focuses on highly recommended Comic Trade Paperbacks be it physical or nowadays, digital thanks to Amazon's Kindle store and Comixology.
In honor of Easter, this segment is dedicated to an old favorite of mine, who in many ways, symbolic to a cosmic Jesus, but with angst! I give you, Jim Starlin's Warlock The Complete Collection!
Originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Adam Warlock previously known as "Him" was artificially created by a cabal of scientists whose intentions were to create an super godlike being, merely for their own selfish purposes, like say world conquest?
Warlock or rather "Him" quickly realizes their misdeeds and destroys the scientists along with their compound known as The Hive.
Fast forward a few years later, the character appears in his very own comic titled Warlock of course. The Roy Thomas and Gil Kane run creative innovative concepts that laid the foundation for Adam Warlock, (I.e. High Evolutionary, gene splicing and of course, Thomas feeling inspired by Jesus Christ-Superstar.) It’s interesting of note, of how Warlock's original costume design, was inspired by the DC superhero, Captain Marvel, now referred to as SHAZAM.
Fresh from his stint on Captain Marvel which ended abruptly due to creative disputes with Marvel, writer and artist Jim Starlin was given an opportunity to revive any Marvel character of his choice, and for some bizarre reason he went with Warlock to which I’m glad he did.
Starlin had not only revived a less than established character like Warlock but redefined his mythos, and astonishing worldbuilding into new levels, that would eventually payoff in time!
Based on Jim's stint from Marvel's Strange Tales #178-181 during 1975-1976 and so forth, The main narrative of Adam Warlock's storyline, pits him against a powerful adversary known as the Magus, a Godlike figurehead of what's called "The Universal Church if Truth" along with a few other antagonists and bizarre encounters.
After a brief introduction by Spinxor, our tale begins with Adam wandering through space, only to witness a woman being pursued by three strange alien hunters who has her targeted for extermination for going against the spiritual empire. Despite Adam's heroic intervention, all hope of protecting her lies in vain as she is killed by one of the assailants.
Adam uses his powerful soul gem to resurrect and gather information from the deceased girl via animation as she provides the "motivation" informing Adam of the corruption within the Church of Truth, the Matriarch, and the Magus, thus leading him toward a quest to stop the Universal Church while making slight alterations on his wardrobe for the sake of anonymity.
Personally, I love the red cape with skull motifs, which adds a more distinctive and dramatic design of the character, giving a natural progression from artist Gil Kane's amazing look.
One of the reasons why this arc is so intriguing, is its unapologetic allegories. i.e. how power corrupts absolute, especially when it pertains to organized denominations who abuse their power to control or destroy. The shocking revelation of Magus as Adam Warlock's future self, was Starlin's observation of paranoid schizophrenia, where creating an alternate persona, is used as a coping mechanism after experiencing a traumatic experience.
By glimpsing forward into the future, Warlock witnesses how he became the Magus, and deemed his life a failure allowing himself to be destroyed and yet reborn as a fanatical purple hued demagogue, evolving into something far worse! And speaking of "purple.."
The Magus saga was influential long before the revised origin of DC's Joker courtesy of Alan Moore’s Killing Joke, as in what makes a man turn into a monster. When dealing with the Magus is bad enough, Adam to his dismay, must contend with his soul gem having vampiric tendencies!
This saga is also noted for the introduction of sidekick comedy relief, Pip the Troll and most important, Gamora, the deadliest woman in the galaxy, now a Guardian of the Galaxy! This femme fatale, is not only a cunning skilled assassin, but holds a dirty little secret, her employer is,Thanos!
The Warlock collection is full of memorable highlights, be it Adam's slow decent into madness, him taking on an army of 1,000 Black Knight soldiers, the incredible Star Thief arc, an unholy alliance with the infamous death worshipper who will eventually play a major part in succeeding issues and to top things off, the foreshadowing revelation of our hero's own demise that will occur within the final storyline within the book.
This saga is where Jim Starlin was really on top of his game! If the plot, dialogue, and characterization doesn't gravitate you toward this series, then Starlin's impressive artwork accompanied by Steve Leiahola's inking, will definitely sink you in!
Starlin's opus was retroactively codified as space opera before the likes of Star Wars! Its trippy Science fiction and strange concepts, designs and environments were created prior to Heavy Metal magazine! The stories are nihilistic, groundbreaking and the overall aesthetics are way ahead of its time especially when you factor in how the issues were conceived during the early seventies. The entire collection is a true masterpiece full of bizarre suspense, action, beautiful scenery, poetic yet Machiavellian, like a Greek tragedy.
Adam Warlock may not have made his grand entrance on the silver screen, (Thanks for nothing, James Gunn and Kevin Feige!) but I am more than content to own this brilliant masterpiece, that is practically a cinematic experience within itself.
Thank you, Jim.