Guardian of the Galaxy's Adam Warlock is Better in the Comics - Here's Why
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The following contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, in theaters now.
After being teased in previous films, Adam Warlock has finally debuted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe via Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. There, the character is extremely powerful, matching his comic book counterpart in the strength department. Unfortunately, this and his appearance are about where the similarities end. Adam Warlock characterization in the new James Gunn movie is essentially an overgrown petulant child.
This puts him at odds with his portrayal in the comics as a much sterner, wiser character. In fact, the comic book version was instrumental in the storyline that inspired Avengers: Infinity War, making his changes even more noticeable. What was once a major cosmic character is now a mere lackey who's portrayed far differently. It's part of an unfortunate trend with MCU powerhouses, and it robs Adam of his usual gravitas.
Adam Warlock Is One of Marvel's Most Revered Cosmic Characters
Debuting back in Marvel's Silver Age, the artificial being known as Adam Warlock was originally called simply "Him." After becoming an almost messianic figure and gaining his more typical name, he ran afoul of foes such as the Universal Church of Truth. This group was led by Magus, revealed to be an evil future version of Warlock who had traveled back in time. Joining him in his crusade were characters such as Gamora and evil the Mad Titan Thanos, the latter of whom would become a fierce enemy of Warlock. Adam Warlock would also be a major player in the Infinity Gauntlet story arc and its follow-ups, cementing his role as Marvel's most heroic cosmic presence. In the comics, he's frequently portrayed as a stern, taciturn figure who rarely jokes or emotes in a particularly fun way. This, when combined with his immense power level, makes him something of a godlike figure throughout the cosmos.
Essentially, he's an even stronger and much more respected version of Captain Marvel (with his costume actually homaging Fawcett/DC's Captain Marvel), which is part of the reason why fans have been waiting for his MCU debut. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Adam Warlock is somewhat tied to the High Evolutionary, which actually does match his backstory somewhat in the comics. Unfortunately, everything else about his character is off, and he's arguably played for a joke. The Guardians have their work cut out for them in order to physically fight him, but it all comes off in a less than flattering light for the usually wizened hero. While he's still a powerhouse, Warlock's personality is changed to that of an immature spoiled child. The messianic being is gone entirely, with only his power set and costume still there.
The MCU's Adam Warlock Doesn't do the Comics Justice
This isn't the first time that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has added comedic elements to a character, though it is perhaps the most egregious. The MCU is known for its comedy, and it's been particularly used in the form of its resident powerhouses. Hulk had become a gag, far from the tortured monster/man on the run that he was beforehand. The same goes with Thor, who's increasingly leaned into comedy as his film series has progressed. With how much Adam Warlock was anticipated by fans, doing the same to him feels like a reach, even if it does fall in line with the sense of humor in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The comic book version of Adam Warlock is a better character in how he develops, gaining a more organic reverence for life. This in turn grants him a huge degree of respect, and he's never downplayed or rendered a psychological child to get there.
Doing this with Warlock in the movies would've been a much better choice since his seriousness would've juxtaposed well with the Guardians' comedy. Not doing so renders him just another joke in the series when he could've been much more. With how vast space is, it would've made more sense to have the character already established in his typical heroic role, with the legend of Adam Warlock having already reached the knowledge of the Guardians. There's still a chance to correct this mistake and develop him closer to the comics, especially since the Multiverse Saga is far from over. Likewise, the passage of time could show that Adam has progressed into a far more revered figure, both as a member of the Guardians and as an individual. This might assuage fan disappointment over his more childish characterization heretofore, therefore redeeming him and making him into the hero from the comic books that fans deserve.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now playing in theaters.