Warlock 1-4 (Vol. 2) 1998 Tom Lyle script & pencils
All characters & art, @ Marvel Comics
I usually expect more of this character, this series. I suppose you can’t expect Jim Starlin to script all of Adam Warlock’s adventures, but the depth of characterization, the strange worlds he’d encountered on his watch is sorely missed here.
I suppose my greatest disappointment with this miniseries was with Adam himself; he was always a calm man, rational yet passionate, plagued by the consequences of his actions and the harm this brought to his allies. Here Adam is on an emotional roller-coaster since recovering his Soul Gem [again]. At times he’s his old rational self, at others a screaming memmie that would be perfectly at home in any ’90’s comic. Saddling Adam Warlock with a temper tantrum syndrome somehow renders him…ordinary. A quirk that could apply to this miniseries in particular.
Bringing me to Plot Failure #1. It has been re-iterated time and again that Adam Warlock would die without the Soul Gem. But if past experience is anything to go on, that thing gets popped off his brow with alarming regularity. Recall that the High Evolutionary just handed it to Adam in Marvel Premiere # 1 in 1972, which raises the question of where HE got his frisky paws on it. [That business where a sacrifice is required to acquire the Stone, by the way, insofar as I know is purely an adaptation for the movies.]
The villain for the day is Syphonn, another overlord from the anti-matter universe of the Negative Zone. He is a being gifted with an impractical tentacly suit, whose motives…yeah well, we never get to hear his backstory, so we have to take it at his word that he has a good reason for wanting to destroy the positive universe–our universe. There’s no rhythm or reason for his actions. He’s a bit like Maxwell Smart’s Siegfried: “It’s like this, Mr. Smart. There are goot guys unt there are bad guys, unt I am a bad guy.” Indeed he is a being so all powerful, so full of awe-inspiring mojo…that we never hear from him again.
His overly elaborate plan is to raise the dead body of Captain Marvel so that he may bring his Nega-bands to Drax the Destroyer. Drax’s living body will then be a conduit to open a portal from our universe to the Negative Zone. The energies released in the destruction of our cosmos would funnel to something called a Conqueror’s Wheel, which theoretically would be used to turn Syphonn into a god.
For reasons unknown this involves Mar-Vell’s corpse committing five murders across the galaxy, including that of Mar-Vell’s grieving widow Elysius at his gravesite on Titan. Each murder leaves a distinct calling card, a staff adorned with a craved head of Drax. Which brings us to the 2nd Plot Lapse: surely a plan like this would best succeed if the guilty parties did not go out of their way to attract attention to themselves–not to mention the vengeful wrath of not one but TWO protagonists, Adam Warlock and Mar-Vell’s grieving son Genis-Vell.
This also leads me to question Adam’s state of mind. He knows Drax; he called him to bear the Power Stone in the Infinity Watch. After all their dealings together, you would think he could take a moment to consider whether Drax was the object of an elaborate frame-up, instead of rushing to judgment like a damn fool human.
Familiar faces abound. Pip the Troll at least is practically writer-proof; it’s very hard to get his character wrong. Drax the Destroyer is along as well, first as the falsely accused and then as a tool. The son of deceased Kree warrior Mar-Vell, Genis, is not ready to step up as the new Captain Marvel. At this point he’s still a whiney ’90’s brat.
Gamora has very little to do here besides kick random thugs and intergalactic policemen’s fannies, and to pine over her unrequited love for Adam. To Gamora’s question, “Why did you even ask us along to “help”?”, Adam brusquely replies, “I’ve wondered that many times recently myself!” Traditional Negative Zone baddies Blastaar and Annihilus barely rise above the level of cyphers. All they contribute to the master plan is to bluster and get their asses handed to them by Drax and Genis.
Syphonn undoes his own scheme first by unintentionally blasting his own Conqueror’s Wheel; and second by foolishly engaging Adam after he goads Syphonn into using the Soul Gem against him, a plan that backfires predictably. If the moral of this series was that anger is self-destructive and counterproductive to one’s own ends, it demonstrated that point admirably. If the intention was to showcase the outlandish adventures of a cosmic entity from beyond the stars, this was a lackluster showing.
A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Michael Robbins has been the author and a contributor to six books. BUTTERFLY & SERPENT, the first book in a series, was published in 2012. Mike takes pride in being part of the American labor force for over 40 years. In his prose he strives for unity, not division; humor over prejudice; and heart over heartlessness. His art page can be found at Deviantart.com
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