Warlock: Second Coming

I found this book in my Kindle. By this I mean I was going through my downloaded library on my Kindle a few days ago and came across this, which I do not remember buying. Checking Amazon, it shows that I bought it on April 26th of this year, but I honestly have no recollection of doing so, or why I got it on Amazon instead of Comixology, which is where I usually order my digital versions of comic-books from (saving my Kindle for prose novels). Another reason that this is odd to me is that Adam Warlock, the lead character, is not a character that I’ve ever been interested in before, I am aware of him, but I don’t recall ever reading any comics that he starred in. But something about this series compelled me to buy it.

According to Wikipedia Adam Warlock was originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1967, and has starred in several of his own ongoing series and miniseries over the decades, as well as participating in many major crossover stories. Nevertheless, this particular series, which was originally a 4-issue miniseries, was published in 2004, is completely self-contained and therefore no prior knowledge of the character is required. As a new reader, I was easily able to follow along.

This series takes place what appears to be the “real world,” as opposed to the mainstream Marvel Universe. Or at least it’s an approximation of the real world, in which there are no known superhuman beings, and reference is made to some Marvel superheroes as fictional characters. But this world is a little darker than ours (although it was written when 9/11 was still relatively recent so maybe not so much darker than I remember). There’s a lot of talk of terrorism and riots in different parts of the world, as well as natural disasters (Venice is being evacuated due to flooding) and when the story opens in New York, pollution is said to be so bad that we see people walking around the streets with gas masks on. Our lead character is Janie Chin, a young college student who’s just gotten a great new job for the summer. She’s been hired by a movie studio to work on character and concept designs for an upcoming big-budget superhero movie. The character is Adam Warlock, and she’s told that the plot of the movie is that he comes to Earth to solve all of our problems and establish a “utopian dictatorship.”

So Janie flies to Costa Perdita, a little South American country that’s been in the midst of some social unrest lately, which seems like an odd place to work to her, but that’s where the headquarters for the production of the film is based. And she’s introduced to the rest of the creative team, which includes four older scientists who specialize in various fields. It’s explained to her that the studio wants the science in the film to be as realistic as possible, which is what the scientists are for. So Janie shows off her designs for the character, which includes many changes to the original designs that she was given. And that’s when we get to the first major PLOT TWIST of the series: this is real!

Janie is shocked when she finds out that this is not a movie production, it’s a real scientific project to create this super being, and with the aid of Janie’s designs, they succeed, and soon a real living breathing version of Adam Warlock exists and is standing right in front of her. And as it’s clear that Adam’s purpose is to actually create this utopian dictatorship on Earth, Janie is horrified at the implications of what that means, and the reality of this superhuman being with almost unlimited powers but a limited understanding of humanity and concepts like good and evil. Not trusting Adam’s creators or their motivations, Janie attempts to influence Adam on her own.

And that’s when this story really gets interesting.

I won’t say too much more for fear of spoilers, but trust me when I saw that I haven’t revealed the biggest plot twists in this story, which are still yet to come (the biggest of which is at the very end). And while this story has plenty of action, it also has exactly just the right amount of character moments, mostly in the form of interactions between Janie and Adam, that get into some particularly deep discussions of humanity and godhood, and free will, and personal choice, about justice and freedom, and how even the most “evil” people can have good sides to them, and vice versa. Questions about whether or not any one person, no matter how powerful, has the right to judge humanity’s fate. It’s pretty heavy stuff, but it all flows smoothly, so the story keeps moving forward without ever feeling like it’s getting preachy, despite the subject matter.

Greg Pak is the writer, and before this, I’d heard of him but wasn’t familiar with his work. But this was his earliest work for Marvel and it’s easy to see why he’s gone on to the critical acclaim that he has in the years since this. Likewise, the art is by Charlie Adlard, who around this time had just recently taken over as the artist for The Walking Dead comic-book series, of which he just recently completed a long and acclaimed run. If you’re a fan of either man, I’d highly recommend checking this book out. Adam Warlock: Second Coming is everything you could want in a mature and thought-provoking superhero story.



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