James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy introduced the masses to some of the more obscure characters in the Marvel Universe but one of the more interesting and complex characters from the Cosmic roster has yet to make his debut.
Created by scientists to be a perfect being, the next step in human evolution, Adam Warlock has journeyed through spacetime and served as both protector and tyrannical overlord of the universe. Warlock’s ability to manipulate the quantum energies around him has evolved over time to give him a near limitless set of magical abilities. Warlock, in fact, believes himself to be a Quantum Magician and has used his abilities to manipulate and reform matter, emit powerful force fields and concussive blasts and create and travel through wormholes in spacetime. While he has died several times, Warlock has been reborn each time so, for all intents and purposes, he is immortal. His intricate connection to the Soul Gem, one of the 6 Infinity Gems, has made his own soul so powerful that not even Death herself can stake claim to it.
Warlock’s origin is tied to the Enclave, a group of scientists, led by Dr. Jerome Hamilton, who strove to improve life on Earth by creating a race of perfect beings. Warlock was one such being, created by the Enclave at their hidden lab called the Beehive. Warlock, originally referred to only as “Him”, quickly sensed the bad intentions of his creators and escaped. As he flew away from the Beehive, the energy he emitted destroyed the remote lab and the scientists within.
Now on his own, “Him” chose to explore space where he had an unfortunate encounter with Thor that resulted in him being nearly killed by the Odinson after he kidnapped and attempted to “mate” with Lady Sif. Following his encounter with the Odinson, Warlock retreated to the safety of his regenerative cocoon which was set adrift in space until discovered by Herbert Wyndham, the High Evolutionary. Wyndham gave him the name Warlock and took him under his wing, imbuing him with purpose and helping him understand the world around him. Wyndham also gave Warlock the object that would most define his role in the universe: the Soul Gem.
Under the tutelage of Wyndham, Warlock became the champion and savior of Counter-Earth, one of Wyndham’s failed experiments, after defeating Man-Beast on several occasions before finally devolving him permanently.
It was roughly at this point that the character was reinvented by Marvel’s Comsmic guru, Jim Starlin. From here Warlock’s adventures actually took a turn for the weirder and it’s this weirdness that potentially intersects with his inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Following his adventures on Counter-Earth, Warlock came into contact with the Universal Church of Truth, a powerful religious entity bent on universal conversion to its doctrine, that used the faith energies of its believers to power its ships, its home world and even its Cardinals, the enforcers of its doctrine. The Universal Church of Truth worships is headed by the Matriarch and worships a supreme being called the Magus.
The Magus, a being of pure malevolence and power, is revealed to be a crazy future version of Warlock with a white afro. With the help of Thanos, the Mad Titan, Gamora and Pip the Troll, Warlock eventually defeated the Magus by wiping out the entire timeline that lead to his transformation into the evil counter-being and then using the Soul Gem to hold his potential future-self prisoner.
This interaction with Thanos began a cycle of events that eventually saw the entire Infinity saga play out. After dying attempting to help Earth’s Mightiest Heroes prevent Thanos from destroying our galaxy, Warlock was once again reborn from the Soul Gem in order to kill Thanos, who was too powerful for even the combined might of the Avengers and Captain Marvel. Warlock, along with his allies Gamora and Pip, returned to the vast world inside the Soul Gem and lived there peacefully for a time until Thanos hatched his ultimate plan: the collection of the Infinity Stones and the destruction of all there was.
Through Warlock’s planning, Thanos, who possessed all the gems in the Infinity Gauntlet, was distracted and defeated by Nebula. Warlock gained possession of the Gauntlet for a time and restored the universe to peace before giving up the Gauntlet and dividing the gems among 6 friends (himself, Gamora, Pip, Moondragon, Drax and Thanos) which came to be known as the Infinity Watch.
The Infinity Watch prevented many Infinity Gem related disasters during their time, including schemes by the Magus and the Goddess, the purely evil and purely good sides of Warlock which he rid himself of while in possession of the Gauntlet. Warlock and Thanos became close friends despite their different world views and worked together almost as frequently as they opposed one another over the course of their time. As it stands, Thanos and Warlock are the only two beings whose souls remain outside of the reach of Death and each have had chances to reshape the universe in their images given their unique roles in it.
As it stands, Warlock always serves as the ultimate foil to Thanos and, for that reason, but it appears his presence in the MCU will have a different purpose. Recently James Gunn revealed that Adam Warlock played a major role in an early draft of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but was removed because the movie seemed to have too many characters. Kevin Feige then confirmed that we will see Warlock in future cosmic films saying, “He’s not in Infinity War. But he will be a part of the future Marvel cosmic universe and a pretty important part of that,” and later clarifying “if he appears anywhere in the future, it’ll be in Guardians.” So while he may not play the role that many are expecting, it seems we are finally going to meet one of Marvel’s strangest characters, possibly as soon as May, 2020, if not sooner (perhaps in one of the 5 post-credit scenes for Vol. 2).
Though many hardcore fans have long thought we’d seen him hinted at through his cocoon in Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn refuted those claims, stating that the look of the cocoon was based on Warlock’s but was NOT the actual cocoon of Warlock. Having Warlock in the MCU could lead to his eventual appearance in a third Guardians of the Galaxy film, calling back to his time on the team following the events of Annihilation.
During his time as a member of the Guardians, Warlock and the team fought against the Universal Church of Truth, became involved in the Kree-Shi’ar War and repaired a giant fissure in spacetime that would have swallowed the entire universe. Following this, Warlock’s evil counter-self, the Magus, returned and possessed the body of the powerful Quantum magician. After battling Star-Lord and the Guardians, the Magus was eventually defeated by the alternate Cancerverse Captain Marvel and the body of Warlock remained without a soul until recently teaming up with Thanos once more.
Given the relative obscurity of the majority of the Cosmic-based characters James Gunn works with, it seems he’s been given license to freely change them as he sees fit to make them serve the story best and is not bound to any sort of comic-based origin stories (the origins of Drax and Star-Lord seem highly-altered and the Nova Corps, which exisits and an extremely powerful entity in the comics, is entirely de-powered in the MCU). With that as the accepted standard, it becomes very tough to try to predict how Adam Warlock will be portrayed on screen. I’m not sure that general audiences are ready for all the madness that would come with the Magus and explaining evil, future counter-selves, but a religious empire bent on converting every being in the galaxy to belief in its doctrine through any means necessary certainly seems worthy of the Guardians’ attention, so perhaps Warlock’s MCU counterpart will maintain some connection to a version of the Universal Church of Truth. Given the appearance of Ayesha in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as the high preistess of the genetically perfect race known as the Soverign, it’s possible that Gunn has mashed up the Unviersal Church of Truth and the Enclave in order to bring us closer to an Adam Warlock story.
Just how Marvel Stuidos chooses to portray the origins and powers of Warlock will be interesting as will what relationship, if any, will exist between Warlock and the Soul Stone, the only remaining Infinity Stone we have yet to see introduced into the MCU. If Warlock’s mystical abilities remain intact, he serves as one possible bridge between the Cosmic-based heroes of Guardians and the Earth-based Avengers. In the comics, Warlock and Doctor Strange have had several shared adventures as they deal in the same realms of power. In the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy run, Warlock’s mystical powers were revealed to stem from his abilities to manipulate and transfer energies, energies which were at one point absorbed and used against him by Vulcan, an energy-manipulating mutant. This sort of explanation seems very similar to how magic was explained to us by the Ancient One in Doctor Strange.
It will be interesting to see how Gunn, who has said he likes the character, intends to use him in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Could we see the Magus, or does Gunn have something incredibly unique in store?