(Please be aware there are spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
If you’re a devoted Marvel comic fan, or if you’ve spent the last few years tuned into the Marvel Cinematic Universe rumor mill, the on-screen arrival of Adam Warlock is a long-anticipated moment. And while we’ve still got a wait before we’ll see the character in full, James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 finally put the wheels in motion for the birth of the cosmic superhuman who traditionally wields the Soul Gem – one of six Infinity Gems that can be wielded by incredibly powerful entities to shape the reality of the universe – and who may just have a major role to play in bringing down Thanos once in for all. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The Guardians of the Galaxy picked up a few new friends in Vol. 2, but they made one dangerous new enemy along the way: Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), High Priestess of the Sovereign. After suffering not one, but two defeats at the hands of the Guardians, one of Vol. 2’s five post-credits scenes (you can read a full breakdown of all five here), picked up with Ayesha in a disheveled state of rageful disarray as she concocts a way to defeat the Guardians for good, anticipating the repercussions from her fellow Sovereign leaders after destroying their fleet and failing to avenge the Guardians’ disrespect towards their people. But not to worry, Ayesha insists, she has devised the next step in the evolution of her DNA-obsessed race with the creation of a new birthing pod. Sitting next to a gorgeous golden egg emitting a swirl of glowing lights, Ayesha promises to create a warrior “more capable of destroying The Guardians of the Galaxy,” and she decides to call him Adam.
So who the hell is this Adam, anyway? The character has a long and complicated history in the Marvel universe, but it all began in 1967 when the character first appeared in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby‘s Fantastic Four #66-67 under the name “Him,” a man-god created by scientists as to be the perfect being. That appearance was short-lived, but Roy Thomas and Jim Starlin reintroduced Him as Adam Warlock in 1972’s Marvel Premiere #1, envisioned as a messianic superhuman with super strength and speed, flight, and the power to manipulate cosmic ability to do all kinds of wondrous things. He can even spin a cocoon to self-regenerate.
So yeah, Warlock is a super powerful cosmic being, most commonly associated in the comics with Gamora, the Mad Titan Thanos, and a troll named Pip, and like I mentioned before, the Soul Gem. He has possessed and protected the Gem frequently throughout his comic book run, and if you’re keeping track, that’s the one Infinity Gem that hasn’t been introduced in the MCU yet. His connection with the gem, and his incredible power, makes him a key component in the Infinity Gauntlet arc, which sees him help defeat Thanos and ultimately wield the Gauntlet himself briefly, before disseminating the stones to a number of superheroes for protection in Warlock and the Infinity Watch.
But if all that has you thinking Warlock’s got a role to play in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, don’t get your hopes up. When we caught up with MCU chief Kevin Feige, he was very clear that while Adam has a big role to play in the future, he was introduced “Not to tease anything in regards to Infinity War”, but as a lead-up to future Guardians films. Gunn has echoed those statements in the press, emphasizing that he has plans for the character, and has also revealed he was *thisclose* to including Warlock in Vol. 2 before realizing it was just one character too many. Gunn has also confirmed that Vol. 3 will take place after Infinity War and Avengers 4, so will Marvel opt to leave the character out of his biggest comic book narrative? Maybe, but I have doubts. Feige says they’re not teasing anything for Infinity War, but he didn’t say anything about Avengers 4. It’s possible that he’ll be properly introduced at some point in Avengers 4, just in time to bring down Thanos, and set up Guardians 3 at the same time.
So if he’s such a big hero, why is he being introduced as a the ultimate warrior to battle the Guardians? Well, there’s a few things to keep in mind. First of all, both Guardians films have focused on foes that become friends, and ultimately, family. Warlock may very well begin as a threat to the Guardians, before earning a spot on the team. What’s more, the character does have a history of going bad, and bear with me because this is a little far-out, when his interactions with the Infinity Gems cause a villainous future version of himself called Magus to create a time-travelling cult. Now, if we’re just getting to Warlock, I have a feeling Magus would be way down the road, if they’re planning to use that incarnation of the character at all.