Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 4: Warlock Day Two

You know what's fun? Spending forty minutes deleting spambot comments from old posts. I was rereading an old post and noticed the comments and then decided to get rid of all of them on any post. Oh, lots of fun.

But, anyway, I'll finish up my look at jim Starlin's original run on Warlock in the '70s by discussing Thanos' role in the whole thing. He appears throughout, but in two roles: first as Warlock's ally and then as his enemy.

He first appears to rescue Warlock from the Magus, at which point, the two fight side by side (along with Gamorra and Pip the Troll) and only after Thanos has saved Warlock and proven himself an able ally does Starlin actually tell us who Thanos is. If you knew who he was ahead of time, obviously, there's no surprise, but to a new reader who had never encountered Thanos before, this is a bit of a shock. He is introduced as a seeming good guy, but then you learn he's an insane tyrant who wants to rule the universe in order to impress Death. Starlin reveals Thanos' past to us by having Captain Marvel tell us what happened--but also shows us how he is still alive. Last we saw, Thanos was supposedly dead, but after Captain Marvel destroyed the cosmic cube, his consciousness simply returned to his body.

Thanos' role is to distract the Magus and subtly change events, so that nothing can stand in his way. His involvement creates an interesting moral dilemma for the reader as here we have two seemingly evil people in the Magus and Thanos, but they're on opposite sides. We cheer for Warlock and, by association, Thanos--except, as I noted yesterday, we're quie possibly wrong in doing so. Thanos' involvement should immediately suggest that Warlock is doing the wrong thing and should actually embrace his future as the Magus.

Later, Thanos does his standard thing and tries to take over the universe, this time using the six soul gems (or, as they're called now, the infinity gems). Here, he puts them all in one giant gem and doesn't quite realise their potential. Warlock is killed along with Gamorra and Pip. The Avengers, Spider-Man and the Thing all get involved, but are largely ineffectual as they often are. Actually, strangely enough, the only earth hero that really does anything is Spider-Man, who somehow brings Warlock back to life as a fiery being who kills Thanos. It's an odd story that contains lots of action, but most of it meaningless.

This is, perhaps, the only example of Thanos losing where it isn't really his fault. The only blame he can shoulder here is not fully realising the potential of the gems. Otherwise, the temporary resurrection of Adam Warlock by Spider-Man is a complete surprise and not something one would plan for. Something that Starlin himself overlooks in The Death of Captain Marvel is that Thanos isn't actually dead, but trapped inside his stone body. The ultimate tragedy of the character here is that, even in failure, he does not receive Death's embrace. The actual role of Death here is far less than every other Thanos story, but there is the subtle hint at the idea of Thanos' love still going unrequited.

In the end, Warlock is trapped in the soul gem with Pip and Gamorra, content with his life now. He's in an ideal world and no longer feels the pressures of being a universal saviour. His last words to Thanos are that he could not rest while Thanos was a threat to his universe, referring to it possessively--but that's contrasted with his contentment at no longer playing that role. Starlin loves paradoxical characters with conflicting motivations and desires.

I've skipped over a lot of fantastic stuff Starlin does in Warlock, especially the bit with the clowns and the metafiction, but as most of that was covered by Douglas Wolk, no need for me to repeat it.

Sorry for the short posts, but life has just been getting in the way. Tomorrow, I'll cover The Death of Captain Marvel and Thanos Quest since both are short. That will mean Friday will be Infinity Gauntlet day. Oh, the fun.