Warlock Chronicles #5
Issue(s): Warlock Chronicles #5
In Infinity Crusade #5, we saw Thanos transport Adam Warlock out of the Soul World to somewhere else. We see here that he's in the psyche of the Goddess.
This seems like an opportunity to get at some of the nagging problems with the Infinity Crusade series. For one thing, there's the dubious notion that equates Warlock's "good" side with his "feminine" side. That could have been explored here. This also might have been the place to really dig into the contradictions of the Goddess, how she's "good" but she's really bad. And even the equating of (bad) "good" with religion. Barring all of that, it might have expanded on the Goddess' end game. This is something that has been teased as a mystery (for too long) throughout this crossover. We finally learned at the end of issue #5 that she wants to destroy the universe. We can kind of guess, and some of the script in Infinity Crusade #6 will seem to confirm, that the idea is that by wiping away all of life she is also wiping away all sin. But that's pretty simplistic, and in any event this might have been a place to make that idea more explicit. We also could have explored the implications of Warlock's "good" side being in fact a genocidal psychopath.
But to the degree that anything is explored in this issue, it's with heavy symbolism and very little clarity. It's mostly about setting up contrasts between the Goddess and the Magus. And it's pretty basic. The Magus is shown as being a disrupter of beauty (this is very phallic)...
...and the side that Warlock turns to for protection.
The Goddess, on the other hand, is the nurturing side.
Definitely stereotypes but that's probably inevitable if you're doing a feminine/masculine contrast story (which is probably why you shouldn't).
Warlock actually meets another aspect of himself while in this dimension. She's called the Wise Woman.
She tells him that she and the Goddess have been around for centuries, which implies that Warlock was not really created by the Enclave.
But this may all be related to the fact that Warlock's life has been a time loop, which we've seen before. So the "centuries" might not be in a linear sense, although that explanation doesn't explain why Warlock's origin with the Enclave would be put into question.
If Starlin did have something else in mind regarding Warlock's origin, it's not covered here. Warlock agrees that he doesn't have time to delve into that because he's more focused on stopping the Goddess. I can't help note, though, that the Goddess was depicted in a book held by an order of monks in Terror Inc. #13, which does suggest that she might have been around for real centuries.
The time loop (or this portion of it, maybe) ends now, because since Warlock has cast aside his feminine side, it was able to become fully empowered on its own.
So that is something of an explanation. The idea is that because Warlock has always favored his masculine side, his feminine side has become "frustrating" and in fact maddeningly so. So at least we see why the Goddess' plan is nuts. We shouldn't really be thinking of her actions as "good" in any understandable sense. She/it has just been driven mad after centuries of suppression.
I mean, this is fine for what it is. At least i know that i don't have to try to figure out what Starlin is trying to say about good and evil. The answer is basically nothing, because "good" in this case has been corrupted and crazy due to neglect. It's not a very satisfying answer, and it feels like a cop out since in the past it's seemed like Starlin did have some very specific ideas about extremism on either axis.
I'll also say that this is not an idea that feels like it has any validity beyond this very issue telling us it's true. Starlin has been writing Warlock on and off since the 70s. I never got the impression that Warlock was in any way suppressing a feminine side. In fact, compared to many of Marvel's male heroes, he's always seemed more balanced and less overtly macho. So the idea that he's been repressing a feminine side to the point where it was going to come back as a personified psychosis doesn't ring true. Starlin also doesn't do any of the continuity work to prove his point; you could imagine a Roy Thomas or Mark Gruenwald having a couple pages of flashbacks showing scenes from Warlock's history that demonstrate him rejecting the "feminine" path.
Warlock learns the Goddess' plan to destroy the universe, and the Wise Woman says "In her distorted reasoning, it's the only way she feels she can prevail". Warlock says it's an "empty victory... alone with her triumph". The Wise Woman says that "you always had a bit of the nihilist in you, Adam". "You and she have always been blind to the good and saw only pain."
The Wise Woman convinces Warlock to embrace his feminist side. He doesn't actually merge with her at the end of this issue, though. We see him floating in blank space.
In fact, since last issue had Warlock realizing that he was whole without the parts of him that he cast off, the idea of embracing his feminine side probably doesn't require him to re-merge with the Goddess.
So this issue does kinda-sorta get to some of the things that i said it should have done. It's in a very superficial way, in my opinion, and the "she's just nuts" explanation for the Goddess kills any chance of this crossover having any greater meaning than "heroes get together to fight the latest Big Bad". But nonetheless this issue adds some important explanations that are lacking in the core series. And this panel alone is a major contribution to the world.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place during Infinity Crusade #5, after Thanos sends Warlock here after pulling him out of the Soul World. We'll see Adam Warlock still floating in the blackness in Warlock and the Infinity Watch #22, so that takes place after this.
Crossover: Infinity Crusade
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
It's said at some point (in the main series?) that the Magus represents the animus and the Goddess represents the anima, which at least implicitly has a little more complexity than simply masculine and feminine. Starlin's going with the Jungian school here, and I wonder if the idea came from seeing Peter David go Freudian with the Hulk. Of course, the Hulk's psyche division is done with much more pathos, and Savage Hulk / Joe Fixit / Bruce Banner got to show more faucets than "Grape or Orange-flavored zealot."
Posted by: Mortificator | December 9, 2016 3:35 PM
Even as a kid I couldn't stand this, and I still don't. Way too much symbolism, the whole "Warlock has been around for centuries" doesn't make sense...egh.
Posted by: Thanos6 | December 9, 2016 3:47 PM
An idea that could and should have been explored here is that the Magus, Warlock's evil side, actually represents life, going back to the original Magus saga, where death-enamored Thanos opposed him for that reason; while Warlock's good side, Goddess, is scheming, much like the Thanos of old, to destroy the universe--she represents death. But no, this is another logical theme that never arises.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 9, 2016 4:41 PM
Like Thanos6 said, Warlock not being created by the Enclave makes no sense. First, in Avengers 262, the Enclave talk to each other about how Warlock is their creation when nobody else is around. Secondly, what about Her/ Kismet? She's appearing in Quasar and she's basically a female Warlock created by the Enclave. Thirdly, in Warlock and the Infinity Watch 1, Eternity tells the Living Tribunal that Warlock is unfit to wield the Infinity Gauntlet because the Enclave only created him a few years ago. The entire point of the Living Tribunal is that it's an omniscient cosmic judge- you can't lie to it! It's no wonder this idea has been ignored ever since.
Posted by: Michael | December 9, 2016 7:48 PM
It sounds like Starlin might be suggesting Warlock has lived through a few cycles of reincarnation--perhaps his soul didn't originally inhabit the body developed by the Enclave. Warlock does specifically say he thought his "life experiences" began with the Enclave. Warlock's present body is actually a post-Enclave body he possessed and reshaped in Infinity Gauntlet #1. Warlock may have used the Soul Gem to do that, but it's easy to imagine other mechanisms for metempsychosis in the MU. And Starlin did give us a reincarnated character as early as the original Drax.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 9, 2016 8:42 PM
Yes, with all the talk of cycles and making the same mistakes every time, I took it as being about reincarnation. S/he seems to always have a traumatic time after childhood whenever she's born as a woman. Perhaps that's subconsciously why he's shunned his feminine side.
"But I never expected this!" was an instance of Warlock's thoughts spookily mirroring my own.
Posted by: Benway | December 9, 2016 8:53 PM
Who knows what Starlin intended to do by casting doubts on the origin of Warlock here.
It should however be pointed out that after the end of Warlock and Infinity Watch, a couple of years after this story, Warlock was next seen in the Ultraverse. It was eventually claimed that he is actually originated in the Ultraverse of milennia ago.
Whether that corresponds to any degree with Starlin's plans, if he even had any, I have no idea.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 16, 2017 11:07 PM
Regardless of what in-universe retcon for Warlock's origin Starlin may have planned, to me the meta reason for changing his origin seems pretty obvious. Almost all of Starlin's pet characters (Thanos, Drax, Moondragon, Gamora, Pip) were created by him, except for Warlock. So by retconning the character's origin he's reclaiming Warlock for himself. When he says Warlock wasn't created by the Hive, it seems Starlin is also saying he wasn't created by Kirby and Lee. Which isn't a completely unfair thing to say; certainly this incarnation of Warlock is way different from the one Kirby and Lee introduced, so he owes much more to Starlin than to them.
Posted by: Tuomas | April 18, 2017 8:16 AM
@Luis Dantas: The "Adam Warlock in the Ultraverse" storyline did not include a new origin. Warlock had travelled to the Ultraverse in pursuit of Rune and the stolen Infinity Gems. For some reason that was never explained, Warlock did not arrive on then-present-day Ultra-Earth but on the massive alien construct called the Godwheel five thousand years in the past. While there, Warlock fought and was killed by Rune's past self and a cocoon formed around his body. In the late 1990s, operatives working for the Earth intelligence agency Aladdin discovered Warlock's cocoon in (nearby?) space and brought it to Earth where scientists determined that the occupant was quite dead. Then, the Black September event happened and reality was retroactively altered so that Warlock was now still alive within the cocoon. He recovered, escaped and had some adventures before preparing to return to Marvel Earth-616.
Posted by: Don Campbell | April 18, 2017 9:23 PM
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