As with the last time around, Warlock is reduced again to conducting the final episodes of his story in the pages of comics. It begins with Marvel Team-Up #55. This is one of those books that takes a popular character and has a revolving cast of guest stars around them, in this case Spidey and in this issue Warlock.
We still see this today at Marvel – Spidey is the sauce that goes with everything.
He's in The Avengers and, improbably, The Fantastic Four, and The Avenging Spider-Man follows a similar format to Marvel Team-Up, with an Avengers angle. It's the same for any character that's had a successful movie - Wolverine is in so many teams it's a running joke. Marvel are definitely making hay while the sun shines - we’ll never see Avengers vs X Men in the movies, but we can read it every month in the comics.
In this story, Spidey has somehow found himself trapped in a rocket shooting out into space, and now faces certain death. Fortunately, Warlock is nearby. Even more fortunately, the problem of growing too huge to return to Earth in The Power of Warlock #15 has reversed itself in some mysterious fashion.
Warlock takes Spidey to a beautiful garden in the Blue Zone on the Moon, the oxygen rich crater where the Inhumans and the Watcher live. I still think of Spidey as the guy who takes on thugs from Kingpin or the Maggia, lone lunatics like the Lizard, Doctor Octopus and Sandman or the Spider-Slayer robots of Spencer Smythe. Getting used to him hanging out in a magical garden on the Moon takes a bit of expexctation adjustment, but Spidey handles it all with his usual indefatigable style.
This one's not written or drawn by Starlin and you could easily ignore it if you wanted. It's the sort you can only really enjoy if you’re a Marvel fan. At their best, comics plots have the urgency of the best melodrama, as if the fate of everything the hero holds dear hangs on the forthcoming; this is the sort of story that doesn’t even try at that.
There’s a bit of banter, and a big old fight with a cosmic character who claims ‘Men call me …THE STRANGER!’ He’s looking for soul gems and fights Warlock for his. In the course of their battle they manage to destroy the garden and send the beatific gardener to seek pastures new among the stars. Warlock is sad.
The two part company with Warlock planning to head off to Counter Earth. And that’s it for now.
Well, we don’t find out what happened on Counter Earth. Instead, we next catch up with Adam in The Avengers Annual#7.
The story opens on a desolate planet far from our solar system, seeking the the final fate of Gamora. I’m not sure how much time is supposed to have passed. I guess this means it was only a matter of days since the we saw her destroyed and left for dead in The Power of Warlock #15. Looking at that panel now, I’ve got to say that the shadowy figure looks a bit like The Stranger, but could also be the Magus and if anything looks a lot The Visison.
Anyway, she isn’t – dead, that is – but she lasts only long enough to reveal Thanos’s plans. Before she dies, Warlock takes her spirit into his soul gem so she can live on in him. This generates some classic Warlock angst.
After this prologue, we switch scenes to the Avengers mansion, where the team’s just kind of hanging around for no reason as super-heroes often are at the beginning of stories. Captain Marvel and Moondragon with a similar itchy feeling about some impending crisis and when Warlock finally arrives to put everyone on track for the plot.
Although the story concludes in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2, Warlock dies in this issue. Before he dies, the words of his future self in The Power of Warlock #11 come to pass. Gamora is dead, and Pip suffers a similar fate. We get the fantastic death scene replayed form the other side, but the words have an extra bitterness to them this time around.
Marvel Two-In-One is a similar title to Marvel Team-Up, where Warlock began his voyage into the Marvel Universe. In this series, the Thing is the repeating character, although he seems a less likely sales booster than Spidey. I guess he was popular with comics fans back in the day – I’ve been reading Marvel Essential Two-In-One vol 4, and the stories are quite fun.
This issue’s special guest is Spidey, so it could just as easily been Marvel Team-Up with the Thing as the guest star, but never mind. These titles were important props to the idea of the Marvel Universe, blurring the edges between the street-level style with the more far-out elements. Without them it’d be hard to believe that a cosmic super-god like Warlock could exist in a world of armed robberies and petty crime that Spider-Man deals with.
And so Warlock’s story comes to an end. We learn that the soul gem is actually home to a garden paradise where all those who have been consumed by the gem live in harmony. This seems a little at odds with the malevolent nature of the gem during the Magus saga, but it’s been quiet since then so perhaps it learned better.
Starlin gives Warlock him a nice send off in a panel that recalls the underground comix stylings of the great era of The Power of Warlock.
Well, it does if you cut off the Avengers from the bottom third, as I have done. This story’s a fitting end for Warlock, but I have mixed feeling about the way he’s been mixed back into the the mainstream Marvel Universe. It’s brilliantly done, and Starlin handles the characters and art faultlessly, but I kind of resented their presence. The Magus Saga worked so brilliantly as a stand alone tale, I just felt that I wanted to see Warlock’s story conclude away from the whacky guys in tights.
Starlin would later pursue this idea in the space opera comic Dreadstar for Epic, and Adam Warlock returns from time to time, when Thanos rears his ugly head. Both have been characters in Guardians of the Galaxy recently, which is also the next movie that Marvel studios are making. We’ve already seen Thanos in the Avengers – perhaps we’ll see Adam Warlock in Avengers 2?