The definitive issue-by-issue comic book collecting guide and reading order for Marvel’s Adam Warlock (and his counterpart Magus) in omnibus, hardcover, trade paperback, and digital. Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics. Last updated February 2023 with titles scheduled for release through July 2023.
Adam Warlock is Marvel’s cosmic savior and destroyer all rolled up into one. He’s also one of the keys to the formation of the modern Guardians of the Galaxy as we know them from the MCU.
You would never be able to guess that from his first appearance as a gross, throbbing cocoon incubating the lab-grown progeny of a group of intellectual supremacists. The cocoon opens to reveal a naive golden-skinned god with cosmic power, whose early instincts are to flee Earth (though he returns to find himself a mate).
On one of his early flights from Earth, Warlock encounters the man who he would come to think of as a father – The High Evolutionary. Evolutionary had just created his Counter-Earth with its sped up evolution creating a dark mirror of our own history. In an on-the-nose biblical allegory, one from High Evolutionary’s twisted creations, Man-Beast, had descended on the planet with plans to corrupt it. In response, he sent his newly adopted Space Jesus down to defeat Man-Beast – but not before imparting some important philosophy as well as pressing the Soul Gem into Warlock’s forehead.
That is the peculiar status quo of the first half of Warlock’s 1972 series. It is set entirely on Counter-Earth, away from Marvel’s familiar heroes and the potential sales boosts that come from their team-ups (although Hulk manages to drop by twice). Unsurprisingly, the title didn’t last long and was shuffled off into cancellation before it could finish its story, which was later completed in Incredible Hulk.
A year later, Jim Starlin brought Warlock back via Strange Tales, an anthology book on its death bed after the departure of its anchor Nick Fury into his own title. Starlin immediately broke Warlock out of his earthly confines to make him an intergalactic hero waging war on the Universal Church of Truth – inexplicably led by his own dark mirror, Magus.
Each of Starlin’s early issue is a powerful act of imagination and creation as he introduces Pip the Troll and Gamora in quick succession before bringing in his creation Thanos to launch Warlock back into his own series. Yet, once Starlin resolved his initial Church plot, the series meandered and was quickly cancelled for a second time. Starlin bid farewell to the trio of Warlock, Gamora, & Pip the Troll in a pair of Avengers and Marvel Two-in-One Annuals, after which they sat unused (and rarely-referenced) for nearly 15 years.
It was Starlin would would bring Warlock back to the limelight for Infinity Gauntlet, which served as the explosive reintroduction of Thanos to the Marvel Universe after a year of simmering plots in Silver Surfer. With the original Captain Marvel still dead, this solidified Warlock as Thanos’s signature opponent… and, sometimes, friend. Warlock regained his own title spinning out of the event, Warlock & The Infinity Watch, which is recognizable as a sort of proto-Guardians of the Galaxy thanks to includin Gamora & Drax amongst its members.
After the conclusion of Starlin’s Infinity Trilogy and the Infinity Watch series, Warlock once again lost his purpose at Marvel. He returned briefly in 1998, and Starlin used him to support Thanos again in 2002-2004, but there was a sense that Warlock’s character was too power and too unstable to use alongside any other Marvel heroes (though Dan Slott made a valiant effort in his She-Hulk).
That all changed in the wake of 2007’s Annihilation: Conquest. Hot of their second smash hit cosmic event in a row, writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning gathered together a squad of Marvel’s Bronze Age space heroes – including Warlock and Gamora – and dubbed them as the new Guardians of the Galaxy. Warlock was central to this team, and it was the first time he had been written at length by someone other than Starlin in over 30 years. Yet, once again he was shuffled off-stage as being too powerful and too mercurial for heroes to trust.
Warlock has made some occasional returns since 2010, including in a line of Thanos OGNs by Starlin and in the 2018 event Infinity Countdown & Infinity Wars. With renewed focus on the Infinity Stones thanks to the MCU Infinity Saga, event author Gerry Duggan brought back the Infinity Watch concept of Warlock as the shepherd of all six gems (though they may not want him). [Read more…] about Adam Warlock – Definitive Collecting Guide and Reading Order