Welcome to my first installment of MMP, a series that focuses on highly recommended comic trade paperbacks, be it print or nowadays, digital.
My pick for this segment goes to an absolute favorite of mine- Warlock The Complete collection!
- Ever wondered where Gamora made her very first appearance?
- Thanos at his most menacing?
- Or what about those Infinity gems?
- The first Space Opera pulp that preceded both Heavy Metal magazine and Star Wars?
Well, what the hell are you waiting for? Grab this Book!
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Adam Warlock, previously known as “Him”, made his debut in “The Fantastic Four” #66-67 (Sept.-Oct. 1967) Warlock was created by a cabal of scientists who intended to create an artificial being, merely for their own purposes. Warlock, or rather “Him”, quickly realizes their evil intentions and destroys the scientists along with their compound known as The Hive.
Fast forward a few years later in which the character appears in his very own comic titled The Power of Warlock. In this short span of eight issues, Warlock is developed as this great Messiah who pits himself against a “Fallen Angel” called The Man-Beast while trying to persuade The High Evolutionary not to destroy mankind. Although the Roy Thomas and Gil Kane run had interesting concepts when establishing Warlock (I.e. Darwinism, gene splicing and of course, that allegory of Jesus Christ-Superstar), it wasn’t as compelling as Jim Starlin’s cosmic opus, but a decent series nonetheless.
“I had basically taken Captain Marvel, a warrior, and turned him into sort of a messiah-type character. So when I got to Warlock, I said to myself, ‘I got a messiah right here to start off with; where do I go from there?’ And I decided a paranoid schizophrenic was the route to take”.
-Jim Starlin discussed his approach in regard to Warlock’s revival.
Fresh from his stint off Captain Marvel, Starlin had reinvented a very obscure character like Warlock into one of the most groundbreaking space opera comics ever! Jim laid the groundwork of trippy and pulp science fiction that is often utilized to this very day. Here we have this reluctant, yet tragic Hero who is not only faced with galactic despots, Death worshippers and Star Thieves but also struggles against his inner demons.
Based on his stint from Marvel’s Strange Tales #178-181 Warlock’s story arc “The Magus Saga” pits the mysterious protagonist against a powerful adversary known as the Magus, a corrupt, godlike figurehead of a religious cult fellowship called “The Universal Church of Truth”.
What makes this antagonist so defining is that the Magus is actually Adam Warlock’s future self as he would discover in the following issues (…well, the big hint was that Magus’ outfit is very similar to Adam’s. Duh!). Magus utilizes his ungodly machinations to the extent of manipulating Adam in order to secure his rule as the evil emperor of The Universal Church. i.e., Adam using his vampire-like “Soul Gem” to eliminate Magus’ army of 1000 Black Knights, thus drawing our protagonist further into the dark side.
Warlock travels to the outreaches of some parallel continuum in which he will become the tyrannical despot (Magus). After witnessing this event, it’s apparent that Adam must destroy the timeline that will allow the Magus to exist. And in order to do this, he must kill a future version of himself.
This was a just another poignant moment the Adam Warlock of the future deemed his life a failure and allows himself to “welcome death as a friend”. What made this scene so special is that Starlin used it as a template for future storylines as witnessed in Marvel’s “Two in One” as Adam with the assistance of the Avengers attempts to thwart Thanos’ grand scheme. It has to be said that both Avengers Annual 7 and Marvel Two-In-One Annual 2 had set the precedent for “The Infinity War”- series of the 90s that was so popular, that Videogame giant-Capcom had developed two games based on the comics and needless to say, that it will be made into future installments of the Avengers Films.
This book is fascinating for a number of reasons outside of what I had previously listed. It’s an uncompromising attack on organized religion and how man can pervert spirituality. There are a few allegories aside from religion, of how the seduction of power can corrupt absolutely. (Cites the Bak & Grak anecdote told by Adam.) There is drama, dark comedy, pathos, fantasy and crucial storytelling that is similar to Heavy Metal Magazine however, these issues debuted years before Heavy Metal. I love how Starlin’s arc defined Warlock as this tragic hero and who like Christ, had sacrificed himself in order to be mankind’s savior.
The value of these stories were immensely high, especially prior to the character or shall I say “characters” being brought back to life. I foolishly had taken their deaths very seriously without realizing that with Marvel, no one stays dead forever. Maybe except Uncle Ben (for now).
This is why I never really bothered to read much of Warlock post 70s and despite Starling bring him back to life, I’m certain that it was Marvel’s doing. The saga was great as it was, a fantastic blend of Cosmic Opera with Greek Tragedy thrown in for good measure. This is the Warlock I value the most.
The art still holds up to this very day and is perhaps Jim’s best work thanks to mind bending aesthetics and Steve Leiohla’s incredible inks. I often wondered if Starlin was smoking weed while listening to Ziggy Stardust’s music that may have served as inspiration for his work on these issues back in the 70’s.
Far-fetched, maybe but if I should ever have the fortune to run into him at the next NYCCC, I’ll most certainly ask!
Jim Starlin’s incredible run on Warlock had boldly gone where no comic has gone before.
A must read and an essential part of any comic reader’s collection!
You can also find these exciting issues available for digital distribution by clicking the green picture below!