Adam Warlock Could Bring the Infinity Stones Back to the MCU

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 offers Marvel a unique opportunity to revive its Infinity Saga with a twist.

The Infinity Stones in Avengers: Endgame
Photo: Marvel Studios

This article contains MCU spoilers

Concentrated ingots forged from the singularities that founded the universe. That’s how the Collector described the Infinity Stones in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Since that introduction, the Stones have only loomed larger in the minds of audiences, especially when Thanos used them to snap away half of all existence in Avengers: Infinity War. But when we last saw Infinity Stones in the MCU, they were a joke, trinkets to be tossed aside by the TVA in Loki. For some, that gag was among the funniest in the show, but others saw it as a real letdown for weapons that deserved more respect. 

If you fall in the latter category, then the latest Guardians of the Galaxy film may be good news. It brings to the big screen Adam Warlock, a mysterious cosmic being played by Will Poulter. In the comics, no character has worked with the Infinity Gems (as they’re known in the comics) more than Adam Warlock, not even Thanos. Warlock’s arrival on the big screen could signal the Stones’ return to a place of prominence in the MCU. 

Who Is Adam Warlock?

When he first appeared in Fantastic Four #66 (1967), Adam Warlock wasn’t Adam Warlock at all. In a story written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, Warlock was introduced as “Him,” a perfect being created by hubristic scientists. Warlock almost immediately turned against his creators, judging them to be imperfect by the same standards they imbued in him. From that point, Warlock has become more of a galactic wanderer and philosopher than a superhero, given to engaging his chief antagonist Thanos in heady debates instead of punching him out. In fact, when Roy Thomas started writing Warlock’s adventures in 1972’s Marvel Premiere #1, he drew heavily from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, even giving the hero a group of disciples and a death and resurrection story. 

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Early in his travels, Warlock became the protector of Counter-Earth, an idealized version of Earth (still within the 616 universe) created by High Evolutionary. To aid Warlock’s quest, High Evolutionary gave Warlock the Soul Gem, embedded in his forehead. The Soul Gem served as a temptation object for Thomas’s Christ narrative, as it made Warlock destructive and vengeful. While that would be bad for any hero seeking inner peace, corruption was a keen concern for Warlock, who regularly clashed against Magus, an evil version of himself from the future with an unlikely purple afro. 

When he took over the character, writer Jim Starlin used the power and peril presented by the Soul Gem to craft an epic about the nature of the universe. Starlin moved Warlock off of Counter-Earth and brought the hero into conflict with Thanos, a character he created while writing Iron Man. As the duo debated issues of life and death, Thanos discovered the Soul Gem to be just one of the Infinity Gems and eventually used them to kill half the universe in the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries. 

Since Infinity Gauntlet, Warlock has mostly been the protector of the Gems, often with the help of Gamora, Drax, and other cosmic characters. Sometimes, Warlock’s embrace of inner peace makes him the ideal protector. But when Warlock’s evil side takes over and he becomes the Magus, it’s hard to think of a worse custodian of ultimate power. 

How Will Warlock Affect the MCU?

Thus far, we’ve only heard Adam’s name spoken in the MCU when Ayesha of the Sovereign names her creation in a post-credit sequence in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. We already know that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will not only feature Poulter’s Warlock, but also Chukwudi Iwuji (Peacemaker) as the big bad High Evolutionary. Leaked set photos seem to feature Counter-Earth, which will likely be the home planet of Rocket Raccoon. 

All of that information suggests that Guardians 3 will likely draw from Roy Thomas’s Jesus Christ Superstar riff, in which the Soul Gem was part of Warlock’s power set. As exciting as those stories are, they are relatively limited in scope. They tell a straightforward story about Warlock trying to control the Soul Gem while stopping the Man-Beast from corrupting High Evolutionary’s creation on Counter-Earth. 

But where the original story presented the Soul Gem as largely a personal struggle for Warlock, MCU viewers know the Soul Stone as the most foreboding of the Infinity Stones, the one that requires a sacrifice on Vormir to acquire. However, death and resurrection are key parts of Warlock’s story, making him an ideal character to retrieve the Gem. Furthermore, as Warlock wrestles with arrogant characters like Ayesha and High Evolutionary, he’ll gain an understanding of power’s corruption, something that will drive him to find the Stones and take them out of contention. 

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But Aren’t the Infinity Stones Already Gone?

In Avengers: Endgame, we learn that Thanos used the Stones to destroy them and that the stones found during the time heist were returned to the original timeline by Steve Rogers. So by the time Warlock makes his MCU debut, there are no Stones to deal with, right? 

If we look at the comics for direction, we’ll see that the Infinity Gems aren’t so easy to get rid of. They have been destroyed a few times in the comics, most recently in the lead-up to the 2015 Secret Wars event, and were remade with the restoration of the Marvel Universe. We know that we’re heading for Secret Wars in the MCU, which may very well see the end of the Universe as we know it and the recreation of a new one. When this universe is recreated, a new set of Stones may come with it. 

But the primordial nature of the Stones suggests that they cannot be fully removed from existence. As long as the universe persists, so also does the material of the Stones. Should that material be concentrated again – something that falls within the abilities of the Celestials, like those seen in Eternals – then the Stones could be reformed. As Warlock travels the galaxy in the MCU searching for inner peace, he will likely find such power sources and would be the first to encounter the new Infinity Stones. But will he be able to control them without turning into the Magus?