Sunday, 28 October 2012

Marvel Essential Warlock - part 12

Warlock #12-#15

After defeating Magus, where next for Warlock? We find him (or Him) and Pip at a sleazy dive in downtown Homeworld, enjoying a bit of local colour. Pip’s clearly in his element, but Adam isn't in the mood for partying.

The events of the recent past are praying on his mind. Reciting his problems gives him a chance to provide the most concise recap we have yet seen. In fact, he decides he needs a little time to get his head back in shape so flies off into space and vacates the issue. 

What we get instead is an adventure of Pip the Troll. 

It’s a kind of swashbuckling tale where Pip saves a prostitute from her violent pimp. The pimp has hilarious magical assistance in the shape of his jewellery – that’s right, magical vice rings.

If you think it over it’s a story Marvel would never touch in its super-hero titles at this point in their history. Somehow giving it a swords and sorcery gloss – calling the woman a courtesan and dressing her up like a geni – makes it okay, although I guess Frank Miller wasn't that far away by this time. There’s also a little Cheech and Chong level drug humour at the end of this issue.

I guess this also seemed okay to the Comics Code Authority when hidden behind the fantasy fig leaf.

Issues #13 and #14 present the Adam versus the Star Thief. The Star Thief is the disembodied mind of Barry Bauman, which is reaching out into the void and switching off stars. It’s his act of revenge against the human race, who he blames for not curing him of the condition that has left him a human vegetable.

Warlock heads back to Earth to stop Bauman by killing his human form. The Star Thief uses his mental powers to throw obstacles in Warlock's path – animated rock men, a pack of space demons, a giant space shark. Warlock is too tough to be distracted for long and soon makes bit back to Earth.

However, because the universe expands at a different rate in different regions, Warlock has expanded until he’s bigger than the Earth itself. Warlock is seemingly defeated by the laws of physics, or the laws of Marvel physics, anyway. He’ll never now be able to return to Earth and confront Barry Bauman!

However, Warlock’s battles with the Star Thief have been sufficiently distracting for Barry Bauman to lose control of his mind-controlled aid. The aid, who knows of Bauman’s part in the stellar destruction, shoots Bauman in the head. The universe is saved. 

Warlock doesn’t know how he defeated the Star Thief but he’s willing to take that as a job well done.

Issue #15 is a kind of swan song. We catch up with Thanos, who drops some hints about his plans...

... with Pip who escapes with the loot...

... and with Gamora who apparently comes to a sticky end.

Warlock, meanwhile, continues to seek a purpose. He comes across an old alien who gives him some of that cryptic old alien wisdom, and has a tussle with the soul gem. The soul gem tries to take him over, but Warlock reasserts control.

Resigned once more to his fate, Warlock launches off into space and that’s the end of this revival of his own series.

I think the lack-lustre tale of the Star Thief shows that Starlin wanted to move on at this stage. Or perhaps the title was, once again, stuck with bad sales. Without the support of the wider Marvel Universe, perhaps there just wasn’t enough interest in Warlock or Starlin to keep the title afloat.

It’s a demonstration of how different the comics market was from today. It’s not just about the way creators are valued over properties these days, it’s also about the expectation of what good sales looked like. In the 60s Marvel was used to selling hundreds of thousands of copies of each title: even as a niche hit, Warlock wouldn’t have been able to maintain corporate support. Why bother with selling fifty thousand copies of Warlock (that's a total guess - I’ve no idea of what the sales actually were, NB) when anything with Spidey on the cover sold a quarter of a million?

So, Starling heads back to where the money is, the gold mine known as the Marvel Universe. And, as we shall see, he takes Warlock with him.


  1. Everything's just jake!

    This is the first time I've seen "jake" in the wild. About a year ago it was in heavy rotation during games of Trail of Cthulhu, because we'd found it in a list of 1920s slang.

  2. Often used by my granddads and great uncles. I find my self falling back on a lot of these sorts of words as I endeavour to curb sweariness in front of the kids. Whacko the billyo!


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