Characters Appearing: Adam Warlock, Autolycus, Count Abyss, Darklore, Dr. Druid, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Kray-Tor, Maxam, Maya Teraxtola, Meer'lyn, Moondragon, Pip the Troll, Zalkor
Warlock and the Infinity Watch #29-33
Issue(s): Warlock and the Infinity Watch #29, Warlock and the Infinity Watch #30, Warlock and the Infinity Watch #31, Warlock and the Infinity Watch #32, Warlock and the Infinity Watch #33
Starlin leaves in the middle of the Count Abyss storyline that he's been building towards since at least issue #14. The reason for Starlin's abrupt departure is very much an example of what was going on at this time. After seeing the success of Image, Starlin left Marvel to do a creator-owned project, Breed, for Malibu, which was starting a new line called Bravura. Per Sean Howes's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story:
The glut of new launches continued through 1993... and by summer, two new creator-owned ventures found themselves making naively hopeful announcements to an industry that was approaching panic...
Breed lasted 12 issues (2 miniseries) before Malibu went under in 1995, disrupting plans for the final mini. Marvel actually wound up purchasing Malibu, but didn't keep the creator-owned books going. (Starlin was able to conclude Breed at Image in 2011.)
Starlin had some very legitimate complains about creator rights, but the flash-in-the-pan success of Image, while it definitely made Todd McFarlane wealthy, may have misled creators in terms of what was possible. Still, Marvel should have been able to keep the architect of their three recent line-wide crossovers happy. I also wish that Starlin could have left on amicable enough terms that at a minimum he'd finish the story he'd been building towards. Preferably he could have done a general wrap up for his characters, allowing for a clean hand-off to the next writer. Instead, several things are left open beyond the Abyss confrontation, including the mystery of Maxam and the warnings that Eternity gave to Warlock.
This begins with the Infinity Watch interrogating Maya. The bottle of wine that she brought has been scanned and has been determined to not be drugged (despite what Abyss told Maya when he had her bring it here). Maya acknowledges that she comes from a plane of existence ruled by Count Abyss. This revelation sets off some fighting, but Maya shuts it down with a "Dance of Unreality" that leaves everyone but Warlock temporarily stunned. Warlock says he's unaffected because he has "a very special sense of reality" (but Thanos still has the Reality gem, right?). Warlock then kicks everyone else out of the room to talk to Maya alone. Gamora is jealous. Maya tells Warlock that she was sent by Abyss to spy on him, but that she's really part of the resistance movement on her planet (Egolix-7). They agree to work together, and drink the wine to seal the alliance. The wine turns out to be a magical love potion. Maya is supposed to have an antidote for herself, but Count Abyss actually gave her a placebo. The rest of the Watch return to the room to find Warlock and Maya making out.
Meanwhile, Darklore and Meer'lyn resurface in Count Abyss' dimension.
The Watch members try unsuccessfully to break the love curse.
They try to call Dr. Strange, but get Dr. Druid instead (hate when that happens).
Druid can't do anything (bet Strange could've). After he leaves, a portal opens and demons pour out, distracting the watch while Abyss retrieves Maya.
So the Watch are forced to follow to Abyss' dimension. But first, Warlock gets information about Abyss from his Orb of Eternity. So we learn Abyss' origin. He was a (non-Earth, but human looking) scientist named Milos Abyss who clearly by his name alone was bound to become a super-villain one day. While on a scientific space expedition, he found a legend about a mythical creature called the Zalkor, who was said to grant wishes. He killed his co-workers and searched for the Zalkor, a giant drooling creature that was sitting just out of reach of his food source, a plant called Skrimblatt. In return for feeding the Zalkor, and for giving up his soul, Abyss would be granted his wish for power.
Count Abyss was given near godlike powers. The only real limitation is that the powers fade outside of Zalkor's sphere of reality; i.e. they are weaker outside of his dimension. Abyss was happy with all of this until he recently decided that he missed having a soul, and so he's been seeking out Adam Warlock and his Soul Gem.
Having provided the origin of Abyss, Starlin exits the series just as the Infinity Watch enter Count Abyss' domain and have a Misunderstanding Fight and Team-Up with Darklore and Meer'lyn. Richard Ashford's scripting efforts are hacky (the old "man about a horse" chestnut?)
Maya sounds like the love potion also caused her to speak as if she were a character in a 1950s romance comic.
The Watch and Darklore and Meer'lyn break up into teams and seek out Abyss. But Abyss has been re-charged by the Zalkor. They each find a version of him, and fight him separately all at the same time.
All of the heroes are defeated and imprisoned. Count Abyss takes possession of the Soul Gem. That wreaks havoc for the denizens of the gem.
The little fairy Meer'lyn was thought killed, but it turns out to be part of a plan, and it turns out that Warlock isn't even the hero of this story.
The Watch escape their prison and fight Abyss, who is intoxicated with the rush of power from the Soul Gem. Meer'lyn is able to get the gem back to Warlock. Hooray!
Warlock then gives Abyss what he wants, a Soul. But not Kray-tor's soul! Not everyone's favorite dude!
Kray-tor's soul is the "soul of a virtuous man". So that causes Abyss much guilt after all the evil and murdering he's been doing. He runs to the Zalkor to get more power, but with the new soul the Zalkor no longer recognizes him. Warlock gets to Abyss before he can trade his new soul to the Zalkor. In the final fight, Count Abyss is defeated and sent through a portal far away from the Zalkor (who is left alone, begging for Skrimblatt). Kray-tor's soul is restored, but he doesn't come back the same.
Look, do whatever you want to the Infinity Watch, but leave Kray-tor alone!
After all that, the love potion is not neutralized. Maya stays in her home dimension and marries Darklore for political reasons, but neither she nor Warlock are happy about it.
I peeked ahead to see the final fate of Kray-tor (it's... not good, people) and in doing so i noticed that 4 issues from now this love potion stuff is still in effect. The love potion is a fine, if cliched, short term plot device, but it's weird to not resolve it at the end of this arc.
You can't really blame the later writers for the underwhelming ending, given the circumstances, but that doesn't change the fact that it's underwhelming.
Pat Oliffe's art is nice, especially after Tom Grindberg...
...and it's a shame that Starlin didn't stay on the book longer with him as artist. The writer of issue #33, John Arcudi, will be the regular writer for the remainder of this series (excepting a fill-in on #36), which lasts until issue #42.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: In issue #30, it's said that Maya and Warlock met "less than ten minutes ago", meaning that this arc begins not long after the last one. That also means that Warlock and Drax's appearance at Rick Jones' wedding in Hulk #418 shouldn't go in between. Takes place after Secret Defenders #15.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Doctor Druid must get sick of hearing "Well, we were trying to contact Stephen Strange, but he's off in another dimension or something, so we decided to check in with you." I swear that every 1990s appearance of Doctor Druid went like this.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 2, 2017 4:38 PM
Speaking of Eternity's warnings, one thing that Starlin COULD have spelled out in his final issue was whether Maya was the person that would touch Warlock's heart. I mean, that seems to be the intent- I guess she was a danger to the universe because Warlock's obsession with rescuing her enabled Abyss to get ahold of the Soul Gem. But it would be nice to have some confirmation.
Posted by: Michael | November 2, 2017 7:53 PM
I assume, that Kray-tor is the one who was betrayed. He fits the bill better than anyone else.
When I first read these issues I was horrified that Starlin was gone and was sure it would be a train wreck, but was really impressed despite myself. I actually rate this as a great ending to the storyline, plus Pat Olliffe improves the standard of art on the title no end and gives a feeling of consistency for the first time. Compare the dialogue free sequence of Adam after being hit by Moondragon to the pages of Warlock vs Triax art that added nothing in the last story.
I take Skrimblatt to be a drug rather than food, with the idea being that a priesthood tamed their god by addicting it to narcotics and controlling the supply. That's a pretty cool idea and not one I've come across before. This was my first introduction to Darklore and Meer'lyn and would it have killed them to let us know who these people were? It's not like they'd even appeared in Infinity Watch before! That's my only gripe though (well okay, that "man about a horse" line is poor) and this is, to me, a worthy continuation of Starlin's Warlock, which was not at all something I was expecting.
Posted by: Benway | November 5, 2017 7:15 PM
Like Benway I was expecting the worst but was surprised that the change in writers isn't as bad as expected. And the addition of Pat Olliffe after Grindberg is very welcome (loved him in Untold Tales of Spider-Man).
Posted by: Multiple Manu | December 31, 2017 5:28 AM
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