After eight years and 14 films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has slowly-but-surely introduced the majority of elements needed to do a big-screen adaptation of the seminal comic book storyline called Infinity Gauntlet, which saw Thanos attain all six Infinity Gems (or Stones, as the movies call them) and become, for all intents and purposes, a living god who has dominion over all of the cosmos.
There has still been one crucial piece missing from this mythological puzzle, however: the character of Adam Warlock, who was originally introduced in the comics in the 1960s and who has gone on to become one of the most powerful – and one of the most convoluted – denizens of the Marvel Universe.
Now, it seems like Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 could be changing all that, finally setting the complete stage for next summer’s end-all, be-all event, The Avengers: Infinity War (or, just maybe, its second act, the still-untitled Avengers 4).
Who is Adam Warlock?
Before getting into the cinematic specifics, we’ll first need to do just a quick comic primer.
Adam Warlock is introduced into the Marvel Universe as an artificially-created lifeform designed to be the perfect being by a group of highly advanced scientists on Earth (who have absconded to a remote corner of the planet to create a land ruled only by science and logic). Initially dubbed “Him,” the golden-skinned man quickly rebels against his autocratic overlords and decides, in a move straight out of Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, that outer space is the only suitable environment for him.
While on his interstellar travels, he comes across another significantly-advanced being known as the High Evolutionary, who has created a replica of Earth, replete with a duplicate human race, in order to attempt a second crack at utopia. When the plan backfires and all hell breaks loose, the High Evolutionary recruits the newly-renamed Adam Warlock to come down from the heavens and free mankind of its sins, using the aid of the Soul Gem to do so (the Evolutionary obtained and then employed several of the Infinity Gems to help him assemble his so-called Counter-Earth in the first place).
With his mission (mostly) successful, Warlock wanders the cosmos once more for a new purpose. When he encounters Thanos and learns of his plans to collect the Gems for himself, Adam has found it: prevent the Mad Titan from becoming powerful enough to lay waste to huge swaths of the galaxy. It is a task that he ultimately fails in, but in so doing finds an even grander destiny as the leader of the united Marvel pantheon, who has joined forces in order to stop the near-divine Thanos.
Along the way, there are a number of twists and turns, which typically result in Adam’s death and – usually through the Soul Gem – rebirth. He encounters a future version of himself named the Magus, who has travelled back in time to rule a cult-like interstellar religious order after having been corrupted by the Infinity Gem; he ultimately claims the complete Infinity Gauntlet for himself, resulting in the spinning off of his consciousness into separate, rival entities. He joins the Guardians of the Galaxy and repeatedly staves off the advances of the similarly-golden-skinned Her, a female version of the perfect being that his creators back on Earth fashioned after his departure. This, however, doesn’t stop Her from continuing her efforts at finding the perfect mate in the Marvel Universe, and it doesn’t prevent her from constantly changing her name, starting with Kismet and eventually ending with Ayesha.
How Adam can appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Ayesha, as it transpires, is a character featured in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, though – in typical Marvel Cinematic Universe fashion – in a slightly reworked role.
On the big screen, actress Elizabeth Debicki’s version of Ayesha serves as the Golden High Priestess of a people known as the Sovereign, a self-sustaining race that perpetually bioengineers themselves in order to become the living embodiment of perfection (and which come out of their birthing tubes being completely golden in color). When we spoke with writer-director James Gunn at a recent set visit, he described these new aliens as being pompous and overly sensitive and revealed that they’re the ones who recruit the now-(in)famous Guardians of the Galaxy to help out with a certain situation.
In case all these nods to the source material are enough to make you think that Adam Warlock could burst onto the scene at any moment, perhaps as a member of the Sovereign, Gunn wants any future narrative scenario to remain as ambiguous as possible. When asked point-blank about Adam’s grand debut, all the filmmaker would say is that it is “totally possible. [The Sovereign are] created in pods.”
Additionally, it should be noted James Gunn also let slip that he has his eye on another Marvel Comics stalwart, Annihilus, as a potential villain for either Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 or whatever possible spinoff that Marvel Studios opts to go with down the road. This is a pertinent development: the extremely powerful alien supervillain has recently starred in a series of cosmic crossover events that saw the likes of the Guardians, Thanos, Ronan the Accuser, and the Skrull (better known as the Chitauri in the MCU) become entangled in his latest intergalactic conquests – which also resulted in the most recent resurrection of Adam Warlock. Given all these clues, and given the central role that the golden artificial lifeform played in both opposing an Infinity Gem-powered Thanos and in dismantling his Infinity Gauntlet afterwards, the odds seem good that Warlock will soon be seen on the silver screen with the likes of Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans).