With two Avengers Infinity War/Gauntlet films fast approaching, I recently decided to revisit the sensational original Jim Starlin source material from mid-1970s. At a time when I was shaping my own impressions of the moral fabric of the universe these philosophical writings which featured the interstellar explorations of the original Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock and their arch nemesis, Thanos pushed the outer boundaries of time, space, existence and our sentient mortal place amidst all of it.
What I valued most (then and now) is that it was an honest search for a logical, symmetrical truth about creation, existence and infinity…even if it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to hear. Today, the loudest voices attempt to shape God and truth conveniently around what they want the universe to be (or worse still, what generates the largest corporate profit margins). It’s as if we’ve regressed to the notion that the sun revolves around the earth. An honest search must begin with what the creator of our universe intended for its’ creation. The earth is only a tiny spec in the cosmos and it revolves around the sun. When humanity steers wrong, we must find the map to correct our course. If we’re the bad guys we must uncover a means to extricate the evil which resides in our bosoms. And if we find that our swords do align us with what is just and true in the universe, we must combat the enemies of creation’s intent with every molecule of who we are.
Nothing illustrated this point moreso than the early battle Adam Warlock waged against the evil of the Magus….Adam’s alternate future self. When Adam learned of an evil empire marauding its way across the galaxy, he was appalled. But that paled alongside the staggering realization that the monarch and mastermind of this sprawling intergalactic empire was none other than his purportedly illuminated future self. A self who placed little value on a single life because he now measured successes or failures by the billions. Imagine how we would perceive our wiser, older…scarred and cynical selves stripped of idealism, optimism and hope. Future selves forged by the harsh realities and cruel experiences that paved the conciliatory path to survival, prosperity and even peace. From youth’s perspective, Adam was certain this hardened future self needed to be vanquished. The same as the pot smoking, free love 1960s hippie would want to decapitate his future pragmatic pro-establishment corporate attorney self. I can’t imagine what teenage me would make of me today. I’m sure there’d be a lot he’d hate. Adam was so over wrought by the evil he perceived in his future self that to destroy him, he allied himself with an even greater evil…Thanos, the death worshiping mad Titan. Ah youth.
But the point is that the debate was an earnest, raging aneurysm of truth-seeking pursuit. The lies of guiltless hypocrisy were nowhere in sight. In those days so much of fiction andfantasy mirrored our search for a truth that was both transcendent and transformative…no matter what it said…even if we didn’t like the answer. Remember Charlton Heston pounding his fist into the sand at the conclusion of the Planet of the Apes? (For my money, still cinematic science fiction’s finest hour by way of Rod Serling).
Watching the original Star Trek, there were so many instances where the crew found that their own righteous indignation toward a particular confrontation or civilization was wrong. They looked in the mirror and found themselves to be the primitives…the savages…the interlopers lacking wisdom and insight. While touting the gospel of modern humanity, they’d often concede that mankind still had “so much more to learn.” That the nature of our inherent ills was still a driving force behind our ambitions no matter how much, in our myopic ethnocentricity, we wished it otherwise. There were constant revelations and convictions pointing to the fact that in order to improve we must embrace pure and honest introspection.
Like a lot of comic readers, I liked the Silver Surfer because he just looked so cool. But I loved the Silver Surfer because he too, asked the difficult questions about mankind, and his wars and his greed and his cruelty and his savagery and his loveless selfish justifications for glorying in himself. There aren’t many outlets for us to look in the mirror and ask the difficult questions anymore. It’s far more profitable to make us feel good about ourselves just the way we are…and spend beyond our means accordingly. But what’s the point of winning temporal arguments rooted in a foundation of half-truths and lies if they wither in the light of eternity?
In this baffling and sorrowful 21st century dystopia we’ve created, the search for truth has been replaced by the search for justification. That is, crafting narratives which justify our current state rather than possessing the humility to confess that we’re wrong. It is a devilish pursuit in that who would want us to remain satisfied with who we are and ignore our destructive faults? Who would want us to worship and revel in our static morals of convenience and temporal pleasure? Who would want us to love who we are and ignore our flawed characters? Does a creator rejoice in the stagnation of his creations or does he yearn to see them grow and evolve into something greater? It is the nemesis of creation who seeks to have intellect turn inward and revel upon itself ignoring the higher ideals which beckon humanity heavenward. It is the nemesis who tells humanity to place the crown upon its own head rather than acknowledge the sovereignty and wisdom of higher ideals requiring submission, humility and understanding .
This is how Thanos tricked Adam Warlock into vanquishing his future self and marking the entire universe for the mad Titan’s own demented dream of interstellar genocide.
As an aside, I thought I’d always be excited if a live action Adam Warlock ever came to the big screen. Unfortunately, Warlock is fated to debut in the realm of satirical parody with the Guardians of the Galaxy series where no ideal is too grand to be marginalized by a talking raccoon. After so many years it will be sad to see Warlock fitted with a pair of Beats headphones bobbing and dancing with a teenage tree man while espousing libertine millennial philosophies for the salved sensibilities of a 21st century audience. But I’m sure it will make money. (Sorry, I’ll never get over Starlord defeating Ronan by challenging him to a dance-off!)