Jesus Christ, Superhero: The Power of Warlock (1972)
Wouldja believe that this month of April marks the 50th anniversary of Adam Warlock's first appearance?
While most comic aficionados can recall his original debut in Fantastic Four known as "Him", it was 1972's Marvel Premiere #1 that reinvented this once obscure character with a more established lore. In this segment of "Paperback," I will focus on the first three issues of Marvel Premiere's " Power of Warlock" which was written by comics scribe, Roy Thomas detailing the reimagination of the iconic gold skinned "Ultimate Avenger."
The early Seventies was rife with counterculture, cynicism and uncertainty, whether its civil unrest, disdain of the Vietnam War, further mistreatment of Black people, and the infamous Watergate scandal. This era was perfect fodder for what began, as the Comicbook's Bronze age! Out was the old guard and in exchange new writers and artists took on experimental, albeit bold storytelling equivalent to the counterculture landscape that was happening during that time.
Writer Roy Thomas had selected the very obscure Silver Age character for his choice when creating a new book, introduced in Marvel's Fantastic Four #66 and #67, Him, now known as Adam Warlock, was a genetically engineered Humanoid with God-like powers, yet had this childlike innocence about him. After realizing that his creators had created him for their selfish purposes, Adam or rather, "Him" destroyed his "fathers" and the entire complex known as the Beehive.
Seeking companionship after being encased within his Cocoon, Him captured Thor's beloved Sif, and incurred the wrath of a vengeful Thunder God! While drifting into the vastness of space, Him was discovered by the High Evolutionary, a super scientist who transcended into a god and then executed "Project Alpha" the creation of a planet from an earth sample thus, establishing what was supposed to be his utopian world called, "Counter-Earth " that would be free from man's brutal and savage nature. Sounds too good to be true? Well, yes!
Feeling exhausted, the godlike scientist rested upon the " 7th day." Okay, I exaggerated a bit, but it fits well within the context of this review. Unfortunately, his first creation a gene spliced Humanoid, what would be known as Man-Beast and his fellow New-Men saw this as an opportunity to sabotage the utopian planet, now a mirror of its counterpart yet without super powered beings to protect the innocent. No Avengers or even Spider-Man to save the day, and as the High Evolutionary was too late to salvage what was done to his creation, he finds himself hopelessly outnumbered by the New-Men until "Him" bursts out of his cocoon complete with "new threads" and does battle against Man-Beast and his minions.
With his dissatisfaction of Counter-Earth and how history once again repeats itself, the High Evolutionary has second thoughts and deemed the artificial planet not worthy of existence. That is, until the gold skinned inhabitant intervened and convinced the scientist, that this second earth was worth saving.
Convinced of how the second earth needs saving, the High Evolutionary gave “Him” his blessing and gifted the golden angel with an ominous jewel upon his forehead, a new purpose, and a name for the savior of a brave new world, Warlock!
Roy Thomas’ 3-part introductory saga reads like an intriguing miniseries with adding much needed depth to what was a z list character. Prior to Jim Starlin's brilliant magnum opus, it was both Thomas and Kane who laid the foundation by reinventing Him, now referred to as Warlock, imbued with theological allegories of a Christ-like savior who befriends four young "acolytes” accompanies him on a perilous journey into mystery whether it’s saving a false prophet, the Man-Beast's armies or even the United States Armed Forces, who initiates Armageddon! Despite his newfound cynicism through trickery, Warlock continues his oath to save the world from Man-Beast's machinations to corrupt and conquer Counter-Earth.
During the 3rd act, we really get to see how the powers of Warlock, manifests via his "Soul Jewel" when faced with dire situations. Thomas was smart to save the best for last, and what hints of things yet to come regarding the jewel.
Thomas' concept was adequate timing when both musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell were all the rage at the time. The allegories are more than obvious but I admired how both Thomas and Kane injected this Super Christ into modern times and while some readers may see the titular protagonist as a contradiction i.e., one who offers to bring peace, then becomes enthralled in combat against the New-Men and humans to the point of killing, however, I beg to differ as this works extremely well within the conjuncture of the storyline.
Gil Kane's pencils add a flair of stark contrasts and dramatic exposition that places the reader into the midst of Warlock's skirmishes. Kane demonstrates various angles and perspectives that further accompanies Thomas' storytelling, but if there's one gripe I have, it's Tom Sutton's inks at times, overshadows Kane’s pencil work giving a few panels, that rough edges feel especially when you compare those pages to Kane's eye-catching covers.
Gil Kane was another exceptional artist who despite his contributions to other books such as Spider-Man or the co-creator of Iron Fist, he did get as much accolades as he so deserved. On a side note, Kane designed Warlock's red tunic and gold boots with lightning bolt, as an homage to DC's Captain Marvel and that's not a bad way of paying respect!
What I admired so much about Warlock, was the biblical undertones with a "God" who creates a new Earth, Adam, as the naïve, but stoic super Jesus who goes up against the Man-Beast whose role was that of a fallen archangel and while this concept alternates post Power of Warlock's saga, it's Adam's true origins that establishes him as the hero we didn't ask for, yet so deserved.
Warlock's Counter-Earth saga is also known for being one of the very first alternate realities or variations of the original Marvel Universe "616", which afterwards served as a precursor for Jim Shooter's New Universe, the What If scenarios, (Created by Roy Thomas) and even Marvel's Ultimates universe. For the most part, Roy and Kane's collaboration albeit a short one, was memorable for its existentialism, and in some areas, optimism. It may not be the "Greatest Story ever told," yet in my opinion, one of the best!
You can find the complete Power of Warlock Collection for hardcover or Kindle, here!