Marvel Studios usually keeps things pretty close to the vest when it comes to new characters making their Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, but not when it comes to Adam Warlock. We've known ever since the post-credits scene of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that this cosmic messiah's reign is close at hand, and we even got a brief glimpse of Will Poulter's character in the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
But who is Adam Warlock, and why is he such an important addition to the MCU? Read on to find out everything you need to know about this powerful but unstable Marvel hero. Here are the topics we cover:
- Who Is Adam Warlock?
- Adam Warlock's Origin
- Adam Warlock's Powers and Abilities
- Is Adam Warlock a Villain in Guardians of the Galaxy?
- Adam Warlock in TV and Games
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Every Upcoming Movie and TV Show
Who Is Adam Warlock?
Adam Warlock is one of the major players in Marvel's cosmic landscape. His innate, energy-based powers already make him a force to be reckoned with. But when he wields the awesome might of the Soul Gem, Warlock becomes one of the most powerful warriors in the universe. Warlock has been a frequent ally of teams like the Fantastic Four and the Guardians of the Galaxy, often fighting to protect the universe from villains who seek to rule it.
However, Warlock is both one of the greatest threats to the Marvel Universe and one its most valiant defenders. That's because he has a darker side known as Magus. While Warlock has done his best to suppress or destroy this darker side, the universe is never quite safe from this tyrannical villain as long as Warlock himself survives.
Warlock is both one of the greatest threats to the Marvel Universe and one of its most valiant defenders.
Adam Warlock's Origin
Like a great many cosmic Marvel characters, Adam Warlock was originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four (specifically in issues #66-67 in 1967). At the time, though, he was simply known as "Him," and it wasn't until later when writers like Roy Thomas and Jim Starlin got their hands on the character that Warlock's back story and ongoing role in the Marvel U. was truly fleshed out. In these early stories, Warlock was treated as a messianic savior, with Thomas drawing heavy inspiration from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
Starlin in particular played a major role in shaping the character. It was he who linked the character to the Soul Gem and established the ongoing rivalry between Warlock and the fanatical Church of Universal Truth, led by Warlock's insane future self, Magus. Starlin even killed off the character when Warlock traveled forward in time and drained his own soul to prevent himself from ever becoming Magus. Warlock eventually returned, and several different incarnations of Magus have followed.
The Infinity Gauntlet storyline served as what is arguably Warlock's most important act in the Marvel Universe, as he helped Earth's heroes overthrow the all-powerful Thanos and took possession of the Infinity Gauntlet for himself. That paved the way for a new series called Infinity Watch, where Warlock and his allies (Pip the Troll, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Moondragon and Thanos himself) safeguarded the Infinity Gems to prevent another villain from reassembling the Gauntlet.
Warlock again rose to the forefront of the Marvel Universe during 2007's Annihilation: Conquest crossover. He returned to help shepherd a new incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy (the one that would go on to inspire the movies) and prevent the already fragile fabric of the Marvel Universe from being further damaged. Most recently, Warlock has been featured in several Thanos-centric graphic novels written and drawn by Starlin.
Adam Warlock's Powers and Abilities
Warlock was genetically engineered by a group of scientists called the Enclave, who desired to create a genetically perfect, synthetic human. Warlock has your standard superhero abilities like strength, speed, durability and flight, as well as the ability to absorb and channel cosmic energy via "Quantum magic." Warlock also has the ability to retreat into a regenerative cocoon and heal his body from mortal wounds.
Much of his power, however, is derived from the Soul Gem. One of the six gems that make up the Infinity Gauntlet, the Soul Gem allows Warlock to absorb the souls of other beings. It's this Soul Gem that caused a future incarnation of Warlock to become insane and transform into Magus.
Warlock also briefly wielded all six Infinity Gems in the aftermath of 1991's Infinity Gauntlet storyline, making him one of the most powerful beings in existence.
Is Adam Warlock a Villain in Guardians of the Galaxy?
This is a tricky question! Let's just say he has multitudes in the comics, where he works for the protection and betterment of the universe these days, but also, as noted above, has a second version of himself from the future called Magus who is… yeah, a villain. Like, total bad guy. We'll see if we get both versions of the character or not in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Adam Warlock in TV and Games
Adam Warlock has made a number of small cameo appearances in various Marvel animated and video game projects. One of his first multimedia appearances came in Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems, which loosely adapts the Infinity Gauntlet storyline and features both Warlock and Magus. Warlock has also appeared in animated series like Silver Surfer, The Super Hero Squad Show, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes and the direct-to-DVD animated movie Planet Hulk.
As the Guardians of the Galaxy have become a more prominent fixture in Marvel's various multimedia projects, so too has Adam Warlock. He recently appeared in the second season of the Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon (voiced in adult form by Eric Bauza and in child form by Tara Strong). He's also a playable character in the mobile game Avengers Alliance. But by far his biggest role to date came in 2021's Guardians of the Galaxy game, whose finale adapts some key Adam Warlock stories from the comics.
Expect plenty more Warlock on TV and in Marvel's games as the character begins to leave his mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warlock sort of already made his MCU debut in 2013's Thor: The Dark World, as director James Gunn has said the cocoon seen in The Collector's trophy room did indeed house Warlock's body. Warlock was originally planned to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but Gunn elected to leave him out rather than cram too many characters into one film. That's why the film only teases his eventual appearance.
Instead, Warlock will make his debut in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, where he'll be played by Midsommar and Dopesick star Will Poulter. If the comics are any indication, Adam could be the Guardians' worst nightmare and their most powerful ally rolled into one. He may also have close ties to Chukwudi Iwuji's villain, The High Evolutionary.
This story originally ran in May of 2017. It was updated with the latest information about Guardians Vol. 3 on May 1, 2023.