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 #10 (December 1975)
Title: THE REDEMPTION PRINCIPLE
NOTE: This installment of The Magus features what the late Stan Lee might have called “the senses-shattering ORIGIN of GAMORA!!!”
Synopsis: We are rapidly approaching the final installment of Jim Starlin’s masterful hybrid of Young Adult Science Fiction and superhero story. Recapping last issue’s mind-boggling developments regarding Adam Warlock and his vile future self the Magus would require several hundred words, thus blocking the dramatic flow, so I will simply pepper in relevant details as needed.
We pick up right where we left off last time: Room #7, Sub-Level 2 of the Sacred Palace, headquarters of the Magus’ galaxy-spanning Universal Church of Truth. The Magus, that Church’s self-proclaimed god, not only defeated Warlock and Pip the Troll but also thwarted Gamora’s attempt to kill him with her God-Slayer Knife.
Gamora’s mysterious (to 1975 readers) master turned out to be Thanos, not as dead as the Avengers thought he was at the end of the Thanos War in July of 1974. Thanos teleported himself to Gamora’s side to continue trying to prevent the Magus (a potential rival) from ever existing (see the previous installment).
The Magus had left Room #7, Sub-Level 2 after defeating Adam, Gamora and Pip, and thus is not aware that Thanos is involved. With Gamora’s interference having already altered the Magus’ past as he remembered experiencing it as Adam Warlock, the mad “deity” sent a legion of his Black Knights of the Church to attack the survivors in Room #7, Sub-Level 2 to prevent any further significant changes.
The Black Knights of the Church are all super-powered beings, making them forerunners of the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard over at The X-Men. The Magus figured that the knights would be able to kill Gamora and Pip, but not his immensely powerful past self Warlock. He assumed they would be able to keep Adam occupied until the In-Betweener arrived to abduct Warlock to his bizarre dimension to complete his painful metamorphosis into the Magus, thus ensuring his existence.
Thanos, powerful enough to take on entire super-teams, proves crucial to helping Gamora take on the overwhelming numbers of the Black Knights. Pip the Troll is just trying to stay alive and Adam is still overcome with despair over the horrific, twisted future that he now knows lies ahead for him.
While the battle rages, Thanos makes it clear to Adam that not even allowing himself to be killed will prevent the In-Betweener from stealing away his soul to the realm where he will be tortured for 5,000 years into becoming the Magus. IF there is any chance at all of preventing the Magus and his tyrannical Church from ever coming into being it lies in allying himself with Thanos.
Warlock clutches at this slender hope offered by the vile Thanos and helps him and Gamora fight off the Black Knights of the Church. Eventually the mad Titan (Thanos) realizes that the knights are powerful enough and numerous enough that he, Adam, Gamora and Pip must retreat.
Amid the usual joking and bickering between Gamora and the Troll the foursome fight their way to one of the doorways of the Sacred Palace, bursting out and hoping to lose themselves in the night-time crowds of this planet’s bustling capital city.
Our “heroes” realize that General Egeus of the Black Knights anticipated such a move and has the streets around the Sacred Palace overflowing with additional super-powered knights. Thanos volunteers to hold off the swarm of Black Knights as long as he can while Warlock, Gamora and Pip flee through the labyrinthine corridors and tunnels beneath the palace.
Leaving Thanos behind like he asked, Adam leads his two other allies through the maze of tunnels far below Sub-Level 2. Eventually they come across the broken, bleeding form of the Matriarch atop a pile of stones. This is where she plummeted to through the trap door that the Magus sent her through last issue to punish her for attempting to betray him.
The villainous Matriarch weakly tells Adam that she’s glad to see him since she doesn’t want to die all alone. She tells Warlock how the Magus condemned her to a slow, agonizing death from the impact of her fall.
In an artistically bizarre but effective bit by Jim Starlin we get a pseudo-love scene between our protagonist and the dying Matriarch as he comforts and cradles her in her final moments. It’s a nice reminder that Adam is very different now after taking on the mantle of the Magus’ insanity and depravity two chapters ago. That’s why he’s capable of feeling attracted to this wicked woman responsible for tortures and tyranny on a thousand worlds.
Warlock and the Matriarch comisserate over how they both seem to have lost to the Magus and as she expires the duo sadly wish they had found a way of working together to bring down the mad godling.
With that perversely poignant interlude over, Adam mourns the late villainess and operatically screams with wonder about why life must be so cruel and filled with so much pain. Thanos at last catches up with our trio and – foreshadowing themes that will be dealt with in greater detail next issue – tells Warlock that such pain and misery will always be the way of Life.
He goes on to explain that that is why he became a devotee of Death. This is in keeping with Thanos’ “real” nature in the comic books as a worshipper of Death, not the quasi-Neil Breen figure he became in the Infinity War movie with his silly desire to kill off people in order to “conserve the universe’s resources.” (LMAO!)
Thanos dismissively tells Adam that he and all other beings who perversely (in Thanos’ view) seek to extend their lives must accept the fact that the price for living is pain … Never-ending pain until we are granted the sweet release of death.
Next we learn how the Mad Titan survived his seeming destruction at the end of the Thanos War (previously covered here at Balladeer’s Blog). Captain Marvel – with help from the Avengers, especially Mantis – seemed to have ended Thanos’ existence by shattering the Cosmic Cube, which was later renamed the Tesseract and ret-conned into one of the Infinity Stones.
In reality, Thanos simply shrunk down from the size of the entire universe to his normal size. Abandoned by his would-be lover, the female incarnation of Death, he floated unconscious at the center of the universe, slowly healing from his wounds.
Now he has resumed his operations and still seeks to woo and win Death through genocidal violence on a grand scale. The Magus, for reasons we will learn next issue, represents a major threat to his own ambitions, hence his desire to prevent the Magus and his Church from ever existing.
Adam, Thanos, Gamora and Pip are now on board Thanos’ massive space station called Sanctuary to regroup after their exhausting battle. Pip, in his typical comic relief fashion, uses the extraordinary technology of the space station for the mundane task of conjuring up a cigar for himself to smoke. (I think Pip would have been as enjoyable as Rocket Raccoon in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.)
Meanwhile, with time running out before the arrival of the In-Betweener, Warlock warily questions Thanos about why he is helping him. When Adam rejects the Mad Titan’s attempts to convince him he has any sort of decent motives, Thanos decides to speak bluntly.
His ongoing plans to woo Death include the use of certain tools. One such tool will be his space station, capable of wiping out entire planets. Another tool will be Warlock’s Soul Gem (which itself was later ret-conned into another of the Infinity Stones).
Thanos knows that neither Adam nor his future self the Magus would willingly relinquish the Soul Gem to him – Adam because Thanos is himself a vile madman and the Magus because he would consider Thanos a rival. Therefore it is in Thanos’ best interests to prevent Warlock from ever metamorphosing into the much more powerful form of the Magus.
This means that when the time finally arrives when Thanos needs to seize and use Adam’s Soul Gem he will only have to fight and take it from his much less powerful PRESENT self, NOT the Magus, who is even more powerful than he (Thanos) is.
Next, Thanos explains Gamora’s origin. The Mad Titan, in his investigations of the Magus and the thousand-world empire of his Universal Church of Truth, discovered the twisted, paradoxical nature of the Magus’ own existence.
Using his Time Probe, Knowledge I, Thanos researched the way that the Magus wound up travelling backward in time while suffering in the In-Betweener’s realm, winding up 5,000 years in the past. The Magus established his Church and launched his mad crusade to become the only god worshipped anywhere in the entire universe.
To ensure his own existence, the Magus had to eventually interact with his past self Adam Warlock, to ensure that he would fall victim to the In-Betweener, thus becoming the Magus, and thus keeping the cycle going, Infinity Effect-style.
Thanos, hiding in the Time Stream, watched this happen over and over again, looking for any potential weakness in the process that he could exploit to prevent the Magus from ever existing. Since the Magus’ own future was not guaranteed until such time as he irradiated his past self Adam Warlock with the energy imprint that would summon the In-Betweener, THIS was the weakness Thanos sought to exploit.
The Mad Titan felt that if he could use his Time Probe to pluck a figure from the Magus’ not-yet-consummated FUTURE, then that figure might be invisible to the Magus’ senses, thus allowing that future-spawned figure to slay the Magus with the God-Slayer Knife.
Obviously the figure he chose was Gamora. Using his Time Probe, Thanos journeyed into the far future of the Magus. In that future, on one of the planets that refused to surrender to and worship the Magus, the inhabitants – Gamora’s race the Zen-Whobris (yes, an obvious joke about Zen Hubris) were exterminated by the Church’s starfleet. They were all wiped out like countless other races before them for the “sin” of not recognizing the Magus as their god.
When not attending to his other plans and schemes, Thanos lived a lifetime raising Gamora inside his Time Probe, where she grew to adulthood as the Time Probe drifted backward in time like Warlock would drift backward in time in his cocoon in the In-Betweener’s realm.
Thanos endowed Gamora with power enough to equal Warlock himself, then bestowed the God-Slayer Knife upon her when she was old enough.
That was years ago. Since then Gamora had the satisfaction of hunting down and killing off all of the Black Knights and Grand Inquisitors who would have gone on to wipe out her people in the future. Presumably one of the Grand Inquisitors that she slew was one of Thanos’ former operatives in the Blood Brothers/ Brothers B’rzja, hence the reason why only one of them was still alive to battle Adam back in Part One of this story.
(Jim Starlin seems to have forgotten about that little mystery that he planted the seeds for in Part One, but it’s the only explanation that makes sense given the tight, inseparable bond between the Roclite Blood Brothers. And with Thanos presumed dead awhile back it makes sense that the Blood Brothers would have sought out a new master, in this case the Magus.)
Thanos was only partially correct: Gamora’s quasi-existence as part of the Magus’ not yet consummated future DID keep the Magus from detecting her presence at his side but that “cloak” was penetrated when she actively tried to assassinate him last issue.
At any rate, the Mad Titan goes on to explain to Adam that, since not even a mere physical death would prevent Warlock’s soul from being abducted by the In-Betweener and thus becoming the Magus, our hero must use Thanos’ Time Probe to keep his soul out of the In-Betweener’s clutches forever.
While Thanos starts to further instruct Adam the narrative takes us back to the Homeworld of the Universal Church of Truth. In the Sacred Palace, General Egeus has finally faced up to the unpleasant task of telling the busy Magus that not only did Warlock and his allies escape, but the Church has been completely unable to locate them anywhere in the universe.
The infuriated Magus demands to know how that could have happened. General Egeus explains that the teleportational abilities of the one called Thanos made all the difference. The Magus is shocked to hear the name Thanos. Remember, he left Room #7, Sub-Level 2 before the Mad Titan arrived.
The Magus expresses satisfaction that Thanos must be his Secret Foe, at long last revealed! (This remark will not make sense until next issue.) The Church’s intelligence services had kept tabs on Thanos over the years, but only as one of any number of potential obstacles to the Church’s expansion. NOW the Magus realizes that the Mad Titan must be his pre-ordained Adversary.
Ingeniously, that Adversary must be trying to prevent his past self Adam Warlock from becoming the Magus so that he can destroy the much weaker Adam at will someday.
In a near-panic the Magus uses his high-tech instruments to locate the In-Betweener. Next, calculating the new route that the In-Betweener will need to take to overtake Warlock he locates Adam on the Sanctuary space station.
The Magus is wary because Thanos has obviously left his space station’s defensive shields down, almost as if inviting the Magus to send forth a spy-beam to see what is going on on Sanctuary. When the mad godling sends forth that spy-beam his view-screens are filled with a view of Thanos, Adam and the others.
Seeing that Thanos and Warlock are conferring in front of a Time Probe the Magus realizes that Thanos and Adam apparently know that such a probe is the only way of stopping him. In a rage he summons all of his Black Knights of the Church and prepares to teleport himself and all of them to Sanctuary to prevent Thanos and Warlock from negating his very existence. +++
FOR THE SEVENTH AND FINAL CHAPTER CLICK HERE
FOR MY EXAMINATION OF THE 13-PART BLACK PANTHER STORY TITLED PANTHER’S RAGE CLICK HERE
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