After what feels like years of anticipation, one of the most important heroes in Marvel’s Infinity Saga is finally coming to the MCU: Adam Warlock. Midsommar’s Will Poulter has been cast as the cosmic hero for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Need to brush up on just who he is? Why is he coming to the MCU now? We’ve got you covered.
First appearing as “Him”—an artificially created “perfect human” who rebelled against his creators and fled into space to find his own path—in 1967's Fantastic Four #66 from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Adam Warlock wouldn’t really become the character most fans know him as until Roy Thomas and Gil Kane got their hands on, well, Him, in 1972's Marvel Premiere #1. There, Adam was, after an encounter with the High Evolutionary, transformed into the hero Warlock (he’d get the name Adam during his first mission) and given the power of the first of the Infinity Stones, the Soul Stone, to help save the artifical planet Counter-Earth from a villain known as Man Beast.
From there, Adam’s relationship with the Soul Stone and the rest of the Infinity Stones was inextricably linked. Over the years Adam teamed up with cosmic figures like Gamora, Pip the Troll, and even Thanos himself, and battled Magus, revealed to be a future version of himself driven mad by the Soul Stone’s power to capture people’s souls within it. Eventually Adam himself found his soul captured in the stone too, and was temporarily freed from it to help the Avengers battle Thanos’ first attempt to wield all six Infinity Stones. Adam returned once more for the iconic Infinity Saga, resurrecting himself alongside Gamora and Pip to help the heroes of Earth stop Thanos’ plans of erasing half the population to impress his would-be muse, Death. At the climax of Infinity Saga Warlock took the gauntlet himself for safe keeping, but after the cosmic entities of the Living Tribunal declared that no one being should handle every Infinity Stone themselves, he kept the Soul Stone and passed on the gems to what became the other members of the Infinity Watch, an attempt to prevent someone like Thanos ever amassing their powers ever again.
Since then, Adam’s major appearances have mostly been connected to the re-emergence of the Infinity Stones, but he does have important connections to the Guardians of the Galaxy beyond his prior relationship with Gamora. After the events of Annihilation: Conquest in 2007, Adam joined the newly rebooted Guardians of the Galaxy series by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the team that ultimately formed the basis for the version of the Guardians we now have in the MCU, where he once again was forced to confront his dark alter ego, Magus, and entangled in further attempts to bring together the Soul Stone with its fellow Infinity Stones in series like Infinity Wars.
While the first three “phases” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were all about laying the groundwork for a loose adaptation of Infinity Saga in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, plans to include Adam within the world of the Marvel movies were always being considered outside of his own connection to that classic storyline. Guardians director James Gunn, who has long professed himself a fan of Warlock as a character, has previously said he had contemplated introducing the character in both the first and second Guardians movies. But we’ve known since 2017 that Marvel and Gunn alike had ultimately decided that Adam would be a part of Volume 3. “[Adam Warlock’s arrival] will not be until Guardians 3,” Marvel’s Kevin Feige told io9 in 2017, citing a desire for the then-upcoming Avengers: Infinity War to tell its own take on the Infinity Stone story rather than skewing closer to the events of Infinity Saga. “Adam is not a part of Infinity War, which of course he is in the comics, but James [Gunn] did always really like Adam Warlock, and our version of Infinity War is the culmination of all the stories we told up to this point.”
The character was first teased in one of several post-credit sequences for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, released that same year. In the sequence, Adam’s creation is largely similar to his comic origins as “Him”—even if he is referred to as Adam explicitly, rather than as “Him”—but instead of being the product of the Earth-based scientists of the Enclave that “Him” was, the MCU’s Adam is a creation of Ayesha, Golden High Priestess of the Sovereign, as the ultimate weapon in her quest for revenge against the Guardians, after they betrayed her during the events of Vol. 2. While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was always intended to be a post-Endgame movie in Marvel’s plans, its long road to release was impacted by director James Gunn being removed from the project in 2018, in the wake of a social media campaign by far-right campaigners who dug up old tweets in which Gunn made crude sexual comments as part of a bad-faith harassment campaign for the director’s outspoken criticism of then-current President Donald Trump.
Production was subsequently paused on the film. In 2019, Marvel re-instated Gunn as Vol. 3's director—but in the intervening months Gunn had publicly been revealed as the director of Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad follow-up, The Suicide Squad. Gunn confirmed that he would complete production on his DC project, which released in August, before returning to Vol. 3, and the director also filmed HBO Max series spinoff Peacemaker, starring John Cena’s titular Squad character. Production begins on Guardians “in a couple weeks,” according to Gunn’s confirmation of Poulter’s casting on Twitter.
Well, the honest answer is that we don’t know—and we don’t really know much about the film in the first place, for all that matters. Aside from Adam’s status as a creation of the Sovereign—which means that, presumably, he’ll open the film as an antagonist to the Guardians—the most interesting thing about his part in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is that we do know that one defining element of his comics self (probably, without some significant weirdness) won’t be in the movie: the Soul Stone.
The Soul Stone as the MCU knew it was destroyed during the events of Avengers: Endgame, when Thanos used the gathered Infinity Stones’ collective power to destroy them and prevent anyone from undoing the cosmic snap that he enacted in Infinity War, culling half of all sentient beings across the galaxy. The Avengers undid it anyway, because that’s what they do (and because they figured becoming a riff on time travel movies would be fun), gathering past versions of the Infinity Stones to undo Thanos’ crimes before returning them to their places in the past. The Soul Stone, earned on the planet Vormir through the sacrifice of Natasha Romanoff, was returned to the planet around 2014.
But that’s not to say it’s completely off limits to grant Adam his comic book connection to the Soul Stone. Loki, and What If? have since gone on to not only establish the Marvel Multiverse as a concept in the MCU now, but that also different universes have different sets of Infinity Stones. The TVA was seen gathering different timelines’ versions of the gems and, well, idly stuffing them in office drawers in their own little pocket of time. Meanwhile the evolved Ultron of What If’s finale had secured a version of the Infinity Stones for himself after breaking free of the confines of his own Earth and confronting Uatu the Watcher. Now that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is coming into play in that post-Multiverse world, there’s still a chance Adam could be tied to a version of the Soul Stone—if not the one we would’ve had in mind if he’d joined the MCU when we first thought he might.
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