By Taylor Anderson
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
After a particularly difficult class period the other day, I found myself in the teacher’s lounge staring at a clock for several minutes. Another teacher came in at some point and commented on what I was doing. When I explained I was just enjoying the silence of the moment after my class, they completely understood. Teaching — or any stressful job — is like that. After moments of stress, it’s nice to just rest a moment and let everything sink in. The same goes for when your reading an exciting comic. After a momentous event, it’s nice when the creators give you a moment to breathe and process what just happened. Not sure what I’m talking about? Luckily, the excellent Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock 1 provides a great example of what I mean.
Adam Warlock finds himself in the hands of Kang the Conqueror. Kang has resurrected Adam from his cocoon of life because he needs him to help defeat Thanos, who is trying to collect the Infinity Stones. After showing Adam around the future, Kang sends him back in time so he can capture the Soul Stone before Thanos gets his hands on it. It’s just after he does this that Kang meets his end, presumably at the hands of Thanos, an act that can be classified as nothing but heroic. It’s after this moment that creators Gerry Duggan and Michael Allred give us a moment to pause and reflect on Kang’s sacrifice.
Duggan and Allred spend an entire page reflecting on Kang’s death. It would be so easy to overlook Kang’s death as just another casualty of trying to stop Thanos, but that’s not the case here. By letting this moment linger, Duggan and Allred ask us to pause and consider the cost of defeating Thanos and the heroic acts needed to stop him. This is a wonderful change of pace from many comics that treat the death of ancillary characters as nothing more than grist for the larger story being told. Here though, in this quiet moment after all the action, we’re asked to stop and reflect, and frankly, it’s beautiful.
Of course, this moment is made all the better by the way Allred suffuses it with deeper meaning in his artwork. As the camera pulls away from Kang’s desk with each panel, the silhouette capturing the moment of Kang’s death is revealed. The third panel, in which we first see Kang’s silhouette, also reveals a skeleton of some version of Wolverine (help me out here nerds!). The symbolism of this skeleton superimposed on Kang’s image is no mistake, as it shows that he is truly gone and now one of the dead. In this way, Kang has ironically become just another trophy in his own collection of vanquished heroes.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
Allred just mentioned on twitter that the desk belonged to none other than Jack “King” Kirby himself: http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2012/05/tumblr_m3pumnuKin1qex4cso1_1280.jpg
This moment was truly beautiful. Just the way it hung gave Kang’s death such poignancy that is so rarely achieved in the fast pace of comics. It single handedly redeems a truly terrible issue, with possibly the best sequence in a mainstream comic so far this year. Everythign comes together perfectly, and this is proof that Allred is the perfect artist for Kang.
He most certainly isn’t the perfect artist for Adam Warlock, though. He is such a poor fit for Warlock that, despite my great love of Allred’s work, he was a major problem throughout this issue. Allred is amazing at cosmic, but a very specific type of cosmic. The Kirby style craziness of something like Kang is the exact sort of thing that Allred does, but that isn’t the sort of art that plays to Warlock’s strengths. The defined lines, the solid colours and the cartoony look is completely wrong for Adam Warlock. He needs less Allred, and more Irving. The type of cosmic you should be aspiring to with Adam Warlock is more ethereal, more mystical. Soulful. For some reason, Star Wars is coming to mind, and the idea of the different types of Jedi – namely, the Jedi Guardian and the Jedi Consular. The Jedi Guardian is the action hero very of the Jedi, the defender of the weak and champion of the oppressed. A Jedi Guardian story would be about fighting some giant evil (Anakin, Luke and Rey are all Guardians). And Allred is perfect for this sort of thing. But Adam Warlock is a Jedi COnsular. The Consulars are mystics and philosophers of the Force. Characters like Yoda, and you wouldn’t tell a Yoda story with Allred’s art. Quite simply, Allred is a very poor choice for a character built on a more mystiicsm based approach, like Adam Warlock.
Though the problem with saying that the art should be like this is that I’m half lying. THat sort of soulful, ethereal brand of cosmic is the best choice of art to fix Adam Warlock, but in truth, the sort of art that truly encapsulates Adam Warlock as a character is a blank page, with the artist snoring out of sheer boredom. Adam Warlock is, quite simply, a crap character. Banal and boring, and in desperate need of a story to fix him and turn him into something worth reading about. There has never been a good Adam Warlock story (the original Infinity Gauntlet is utter garbage), and things like DnA’s Guardians of the Galaxy were good in spite of Adam Warlock, who was the biggest problem. THere is the potential to turn him into a mystical figure, Marvel’s answer to Yoda. But he isn’t Yoda. Not yet. Just a banal, crappy character that doesn’t really work.
And so, a story that essentially exists to recap and reintroduce Adam Warlock – rarely the most interesting story in the first place – just becomes an exercise in forcing the reader to hear the story of the world’s most banal character.
Thank god for the wonders of Kang. Because urgh, this was horrible