Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of another old, old, OLD Marvel Comics hit continues. This one was written AND drawn by Jim Starlin. (The overrated and over-praised Alan Moore only writes, doesn’t draw.)
FOR PART ONE PLUS A RECAP OF ADAM WARLOCK’S FICTIONAL HISTORY CLICK HERE
Warlock #9 (October, 1975)
Title: THE INFINITY EFFECT
NOTE: The first four installments of The Magus were successful enough for Marvel Comics to re-launch Adam Warlock’s solo series. The previous chapters were published at Strange Tales and this 5th part resumed the Warlock comic book beginning with number 9. The first run of Adam’s solo series ended with number 8 back in October 1973 during his Counter-Earth adventures.
Synopsis: We pick up immediately where we left off. Adam Warlock, Gamora and Pip the Troll have at last come face to face with the REAL form of Adam’s future self, the Magus, instead of the misleading “green like the Soul Gem” disguise he had been hiding behind.
Confusion is still in the air, because though the Magus is Warlock’s future self, his Universal Church of Truth was formed to worship him as its god 5,000 years ago. The explanation for that is at last forthcoming in this Timey Wimey chapter.
Pip comments on the way the Magus in his real form looks just like Adam except for being purplish-gray and having “an electro hair-do” as the Troll calls the Magus’ White Guy Afro. The Magus dismisses Pip as a fleabag, rises from his throne and says that the difference is far more profound than that. He is what “this golden butterfly” (Adam) will become.
The villain further states that he is what the forces of Chaos and Order have decreed that Warlock will become. NOTE: This carries over Jim Starlin’s use (in Captain Marvel’s comic book) of Chaos and Order as his William Blake-styled personifications of cosmic forces beyond human understanding. Starlin had Chaos and Order and their subordinate entities “upgrade” the Kree Captain Mar-Vell to help him against Thanos in the original 1970s Thanos War, covered in 2017 here at Balladeer’s Blog.
Adam calls the Magus a cancer for the way his tyrannical Universal Church of Truth has enslaved or obliterated countless planets, all just to further the Magus’ desire to become the only god worshipped anywhere. The Magus taunts Warlock and in response Adam attacks his future self.
As in their first battle back in Part One, the Magus’ power proves far superior to Adam’s. While the two-in-one combatants exchange threats and insults the villain effortlessly counters Warlock’s every attack, both physical and energy-related.
Beating Adam down into a prone position before him, the Magus taunts Adam that the forces of Chaos and Order have chosen him for the mantle of godhood and he has no choice but to accept. “You are destined to become that which is me, for everything that now transpires I’ve experienced before … as you!”
For young adult sci-fi fans this development would tickle the mind, because it’s a more “realistic” (if such a term could be used here) way of presenting things if the Magus really IS Warlock’s future self. To demonstrate to Adam that he (the Magus) experienced these exact same events as Adam the “last time around” the villain mockingly looks Warlock in the face and SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH ADAM says:
“You’ve forced millions into slavery, while freedom is my life’s blood! You live by terror, violence and deceit while truth and peace are my only lights! You are everything I oppose, yet you claim we are one … How? How can such as this be? WAIT! What are you doing?” (Having the Magus also say the “Wait! What are you doing?” in unison with Adam further cements the fact that he really is recounting the way this confrontation between the past and future selves of one and the same being always plays out. Even right down to exactly when the past self noticed that the future self was reciting his lines along with him.)
In reply to Adam’s question “What are you doing?” the Magus struts around the fallen Warlock and says “Merely repeating words that I once spoke in ignorance.”
As for the how, the Magus operatically recaps the saga thus far from his point of view. He sent a trio of his Inquisitors (including one of the Roclite Blood Brothers who used to serve the presumed-dead Thanos) to kill the unnamed woman who crossed a dozen galaxies to seek Adam’s help against the Church’s thousand-world empire.
After the Inquisitors killed her right in front of Adam, the Magus attacked our hero, but in his “green as the Soul Gem” disguise to mislead Warlock into suspecting that the Soul Gem (later ret-conned into one of the Infinity Stones) caused the Magus’ creation.
Next came Adam’s clash with the Church’s starship The Great Divide, his first meeting with Pip the Troll, the mutiny to seize the starship and the now-sentient Soul Gem’s theft of the soul of the ship’s Captain Autolycus. Arriving on the home planet of the Church’s empire, Warlock and Pip fought multiple super-powered Black Knights of the Church.
Next the Matriarch, the worldly leader of the Universal Church of Truth, lured Adam into a trap and a sham trial which ended with our hero letting his Soul Gem steal the soul of the presiding Judge, Grand Inquisitor Kray-Tor, then blacking out. The Matriarch wanted to rule the Church’s empire alone but dared not kill Adam since doing so might prevent his future self the Magus from ever existing and somehow founding the Church 5,000 years ago.
Warlock resisted the Matriarch’s efforts to enslave Adam through high-tech indoctrination into the ways of the Church. Ultimately this effort failed when our hero circumvented the procedure by yielding to madness and depravity, little dreaming that was exactly what the Magus wanted him to do.
All of that had happened exactly as the Magus “remembered” it happening back when he was Adam. With Warlock now as insane and perverse as the Magus it was at last time for their face-to-face confrontation.
Our master villain now reveals to Adam that a descent into madness and depravity was only the first step in his metamorphosis into the Magus. In grand comic book villain fashion the mad godling taunts his past self by saying “That’s right, Adam, madness is only the first step in becoming that which I am! Your transformation will not be complete until the dark forces of Chaos and Order have whispered their secrets to you.”
Pip, seeing that Adam is still too battered to continue fighting the Magus, asks Gamora what she’s waiting for and tells her to help Warlock. She calmly replies that she can’t just yet, but says that she believes it’s time he (Pip) became involved. Mocking Gamora’s reputation as “the most dangerous woman in the galaxy,” Pip attacks the Magus with the powered-staff he stole from a Black Knight.
The Magus casually swats Pip into unconsciousness, then addresses Adam: “You know, I’ve waited five thousand years for this moment … Now that we’re alone I can finish relating my origin to you. For what I’m about to tell you is best reserved for our ears alone.”
Standing nearby, Gamora thinks to herself that THAT was the line she was waiting for the Magus to say. He clearly does not detect her presence (for reasons that will be made clear next issue) so she telepathically contacts a mysterious “master.” Well, mysterious in 1975. Today, of course, anybody could guess that this mysterious boss of hers is Thanos, not as dead as the Avengers and Captain Marvel thought him to be.
Gamora telepathically informs Thanos that, as he hoped, she is mere feet away from the Magus, but he is unaware of her presence. Thanos orders her to continue waiting for the moment they had previously agreed upon and then she can strike with her God-Slayer knife which will kill even a being like the Magus.
Meanwhile the Magus tells Adam about the horrors that await in his immediate future. He says that by the time he’s done explaining his origin, Warlock will have regained all the strength he (the Magus) drained from him during their battle. Adam will attack him again, in crazed desperation, and eventually the Magus will blast him again, saturating his body with a cosmic radiation which will act as a beacon to summon a servant of Chaos and Order.
That entity is called the In-Betweener (yes, I know that’s silly but hey … comic book). His realm: the space between fact and fantasy, reality and illusion, time and space. Adam will flee but the radiation emanating from his body will guide the In-Betweener to him no matter where he goes.
Exactly three Earth hours after being summoned, that servant of Chaos and Order will overtake Warlock and touch him, instantly transporting him to his bizarre realm. There he floated through that metalogical universe while Chaos and Order whispered their Dark Secrets to him (more on those in a few issues).
Adam resisted being persuaded by those Dark Secrets, just as he resisted the Matriarch’s conditioning last issue, but as centuries went by the captive Warlock never had a moment’s rest from the maddening barrage of those whispers. He even tried to shut them out by reverting to his cocoon form, but to no avail.
Five thousand years after he had entered the In-Betweener’s realm, Adam at last yielded to the Dark Secrets and to the role that Chaos and Order demanded that he play. At last fully transformed into the Magus he burst forth from his cocoon as he had so many times in the past.
After thousands of years in the cocoon he emerged far more powerful than he had been as Warlock and with his new skin color and hairdo. Due to the bizarre nature of the In-Betweener’s realm the Magus had drifted backward in time, not forward. He came out of his cocoon on the Church’s home world 5,000 years in the past.
The beings who witnessed his arrival attacked him with their high-tech weapons and he slaughtered most of them. The few who remained surrendered and took to worshipping him as a god. He formed his Universal Church of Truth and conquered Homeworld within one revolution around its star.
Next he launched a jihad against the other inhabited planets in that solar system, conquering them all and forcing the survivors to worship him as their god. For the past 5,000 years this has been the pattern, always adding to the Church’s empire, always wiping out entire species if they refused to convert to his new religion.
Now, over a thousand worlds worship him as their one true god and the Magus vows he will one day be worshipped as such by every planet in the entire universe no matter how many thousands or millions of years it takes.
But ONLY if he existed in the first place, so he had to be ready for when he finally crossed paths with his past self, Adam. He undertook a long quest to find the Matriarch and finally he did. She worked as a prostitute in the capital city of Homeworld.
In another melodramatic bit which young adult readers would love, the Magus reflects aloud to Adam “She was magnificent! She took control of my Holy Empire as if she was born to do so, as well she might have been. A pity it was pre-ordained that she betray me. Unfortunately every god needs his Judas.”
Soon, with the origin tale complete, Warlock attacks the Magus again as predicted. The villain continues to effortlessly weather Adam’s attacks and toys with him, even giving him a 12 second countdown before he summons the In-Betweener.
Thanos telepathically tells Gamora to kill the Magus when the countdown is done, because he will then be so engrossed with calling forth the In-Betweener that he should be completely helpless against her attack with the God-Slayer knife.
At the last second the Magus’ astral senses become aware that Gamora is there, even though she SHOULDN’T BE, since this never happened all the other times this Infinity Effect has played out. He defeats her and blasts Adam right on time with the radiation that will lead the In-Betweener to him.
Adam despairs and screams at the horrific, twisted fate that lies ahead for him. The Magus departs, telling Adam there is no escape from the In-Betweener, telling Gamora to return to her unknown master and tell him that he will deal with him in due time now that he knows about him, and tells Pip he’d better not ever see him again.
Next the Magus deals with the Matriarch. She is brought before him, berated and then dropped through a trap door to an unseen fate. (We see it next issue.) Just before letting her drop, the Magus assured her that she would be remembered forever as one of the martyrs of the Church – The public explanation for her disappearance would be that she gave her life destroying the violent heretic Adam Warlock.
The Magus then feels he should keep Adam occupied until the In-Betweener’s arrival, so to prevent Gamora and/or her unknown master from interfering with the way events SHOULD play out, he has General Egeus send several of the super-powered Black Knights of the Church to attack Warlock and everyone with him. (Knowing full well Adam is too powerful for them to kill, but they can keep him too busy to try fighting his fate.)
Back with Adam, his allies Pip and Gamora try to convince him that things aren’t hopeless but he refuses to believe it. Next, the trio are shocked by telepathic contact from Gamora’s “master” saying he has no choice but to personally intervene if the Magus’ existence is to be prevented.
As he teleports himself into the chamber, 1975 readers would have been shocked to see that it was really Thanos, believed dead at the end of the Thanos War in July of 1974. Thanos arrives in Room 7, Sub-Level 2 just as the Black Knights of the Church begin their attack.
FOR PART SIX CLICK HERE
I WILL EXAMINE THE NEXT CHAPTER SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY EXAMINATION OF THE 13-PART BLACK PANTHER STORY TITLED PANTHER’S RAGE CLICK HERE
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