Monday, December 03, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 8: Warlock & The Infinity Watch #1-7

[In which I continue my look at Jim Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel with the beginning of Warlock & The Infinity Watch, the ongoing series spun out of the events of The Infinity Gauntlet. These posts are published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

When The Infinity Gauntlet ended, Adam Warlock was God, possessing the gauntlet. The first issue of this odd series has the case of Eternity V. Adam Warlock in front of the Living Tribunal. Eternity had already lost his case against the gauntlet when Thanos had possession, but he makes an interesting case here, arguing that Warlock is not fit to be God, because he's an artificial creation and not mentally stable enough to handle the stresses of the position. Once again, Starlin returns to his pet character flaw: mental instability--of course, it would be poor writing to ignore that element of Warlock as it has been so emphasised in Starlin's previous work on the character. The first issue spends a lot of the time just retelling Warlock's past, but the added fall-out from IG also works as it spurs on the series itself.

Ultimately, the Living Tribunal decides that the Infinity Gems must be divided up and Warlock can choose the people who will get them. The second issue has him choose the Infinity Watch, and it's filled with the characters you would expect it to have: Pip the Troll gets the Space Gem; Drax the Destroyer gets the Power Gem; Moondragon gets the Mind Gem; Gamorra gets the Time Gem; an unknown person gets the Reality Gem; and Warlock retains the Soul Gem.

The issue contains a couple of nice moments like Drax thinking the Power Gem is a jelly bean and swallowing it. Or, Pip... er, placing the gem in a completely different oriface--one that GUARANTEES someone would have to be pretty damned determined to retrieve.

Despite the fact that this group of characters seems so obvious a team, the issue ends with Warlock leaving them to do whatever they want to do while he figures out who and what he is.

The next four issues work at slowly bringing the team back together as Warlock finds himself protecting the High Evolutionary from evil forces that want to kill him. The Evolutionary is now mentally challenged because he witnessed the birth of a Celestial, which was too much for him to handle. At the same time, this same evil force is kidnapping the other members of the Infinity Watch to steal their gems. Ultimately, Warlock confronts the mastermind and it's Man-Beast, his former enemy on the High Evolutionary's Earth-2 or whatever it was called. He defeats Man-Beast and the Watch finds itself on Monster Island.

There's nothing that spectacular about these issues. The only page that made me take notice is in issue five where Angel Medina depicts Warlock infiltrating Man-Beast's base and taking out guards with the same panel lay-out Starlin used in his initial Warlock run. The original Starlin-drawn page and Angel Medina's homage page. I don't know whose idea it was, but it works wonderfully and stopped me dead in my tracks as I was reading. I knew I'd seen that page somewhere and began hunting through my Warlock issues for that page. One thing to notice is the lack of sound effects in the second one--I have to wonder if the lack of them helps or hurts the page.

This four-issue arc works only in giving Warlock his confidence back by having him defeat an old enemy and a reason to unite with the other guardians of the Gems as it shows that alone, they are easy prey while they work well together. Although, the group never becomes a typical team with a tension underneath the entire endeavor. We get the idea that these people don't really like each other that much, except for Gamorra and Adam, Pip and Adam, Drax and Adam--wait, everyone seems to like Adam. Odd.

Issue seven finds the group on Monster Island and dealing with the Mole Man who offers them the island and his services in exchange for friendship. An odd direction, but a nice one. The issue also marks an appearance from the Magus, the alternate future version of Adam long thought destroyed. And the issue ends with an appearnce from Thanos, leading into The Infinity War, which I'll begin looking at on Wednesday.

Honestly, these issues aren't the greatest way to begin this series, but they are typical of the series as a whole. For some reason, Starlin never seems all that comfortable or confident with this book. As we'll see, the best issues are tie-ins to larger stories where Starlin can emphasis the small character moments in the grand epic, which is where he really shines. Left on their own, these characters flounder, much like the interlude between the two Thanos stories in his first Warlock run.

Tomorrow, I begin by issue-by-issue analysis of Joe Casey's Deathlok and then, on Wednesday, part one of my two-part look at The Infinity War, which is Starlin's last great work at Marvel until his return in 2002 with The Infinity Abyss.