Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock #1
Setting the stage for Marvel’s first major “event” story since Secret Empire, Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock serves three purposes: connecting the just-wrapped Guardians of the Galaxy series to the event directly (this picks up from #150’s cliffhanger); teasing the scale of this story for the heroes of the Marvel universe; and reintroducing Adam Warlock to another generation of readers. Written by Gerry Duggan with sublime art by Mike Allred and Laura Allred, this special does a great job of bringing readers into the battle for the new Infinity Stones, while also being a bit of a jarring break from Duggan’s GotG run (for those who have been reading it).
Adam Warlock is a character with one of the most complicated backstories in Marvel history, who started as a villain, then became a hero on Counter-Earth (which isn’t really worth explaining). It wasn’t until Jim Starlin brought the character back in Strange Tales #178, from 1975, that Adam Warlock found his footing. Forming the second half of Starlin’s original Thanos epic, these are the quintessential Adam Warlock stories, and the core focus of this special and some of the threads of Duggan’s Guardians. And while this special was originally slated to be #151 in that series, it makes sense, in retrospect, to change that, as this issue doesn’t feel like part of that series in any way, especially since it only features a single page appearance by the Guardians. That said, it is fully in-line with the legacy of Starlin’s Marvel Cosmic classics, referencing them directly while also carving a new, if parallel, path to the forthcoming “Infinity” event that adds the wrinkle of Kang the Conqueror to the mix.
Of course, with Kang comes time shenanigans, and Duggan doesn’t hold back with his twisty story that takes place at the end of time, in a possible near-future where the heroes of the Marvel Universe are defeated, and in ancient Egypt (smart readers know that will mean an appearance of another incarnation of Kang, and it does).
That said, between recaps and epic teases, there isn’t really much to go on here as a story. Adam Warlock gets little to denote characterization, though he has hardly been the most approachable protagonist, and the teases don’t give much of a sense of where the story is going or how the wide cast of heroes end up getting dragged into it. This feels less like a prologue and more like pure theater, a series of event that seem meaningful but have very little that signifies much other than the spectacle of it on its own. This is actually pretty tragic, because Duggan has been doing the Lord’s work in his Guardians of the Galaxy run, finally giving fans of the Abnett and Lanning series the book they’ve been clamoring for.
That’s not to say this issue isn’t enjoyable: how could it not be with the classic-style art of Mike Allred, who is given the opportunity to revisit classic moments and bring some shocks of his own. Allred’s work, however, is heavily dissimilar to the art of Aaron Kuder and Marcus To, who did the majority of Guardians, and is even more out of step with Mike Deodato, who will do the next chapter in this story. Allred’s so distinct, it’s doubtful anyone would be a good fit alongside him, and this is probably a problem for some readers, especially those who aren’t into Allred’s old school style. That said, Allred’s work is a treat and his style fits the character well, so it’s hardly an issue for all but the least open-minded readers.
Gerry Duggan has done everything he can to breathe life back into the cosmic side of Marvel, even as he’s had to battle against an audience embittered by years of Bendis and his disregarding of both characterization and history. While this relaunch is a little gimmicky, hopefully it will give Duggan the momentum to continue carrying his story forward. It would have been a travesty if he couldn’t, and here’s hoping this new life will bring in plenty of new readers to sustain it.