Essential Warlock Vol. 1

First Published: August 2012

Contents: Marvel Premiere #1 (April 1972) and #2 (May 1972); Warlock #1 (August 1972) to #8 (October 1973); Incredible Hulk #176 (June 1974) to #178 (August 1974); Strange Tales #178 (February 1975) to #181 (August 1975); Warlock #9 (October 1975) to #15 (November 1976); Marvel Team-Up #55 (March 1977); Avengers Annual #7 (1977); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Mike Friedrich, Bob Brown, Gerry Conway, Herb Trimpe, Jim Starlin, Steve Leialoha, and others

Key First Appearances: David Carter, Jason Grey, Ellie Roberts, Eddie Roberts, Brute, Magus, Matriarch, Autolycus, Pip the Troll, Gamora, In-Betweener, Gardener

Overview: Do you remember Him? That’s Him with an uppercase H, as in a proper name. He first appeared many moons ago in Fantastic Four #67, then was brought back for four issues in Thor. He’s an interesting guy but he needs a better name. How does Warlock sound? Even better, let’s make it Adam Warlock. This is Essential Warlock Vol. 1!

Warlock has been found by the High Evolutionary, who takes in Warlock as a new project. Embedding the Soul Gem in his forehead, Warlock is sent to Alternate-Earth (which is located on the far side of the sun from Earth in the same orbit) to become a hero for a heroless world. Warlock befriends a group of teenagers trying to find their way in the world, and that way eventually leads the group to the White House. There we find that the President is actually the Man-Beast in disguise, who is looking to take over the world.

Warlock tries to stop the Man-Beast but it can’t be done before the cancellation bug brings his book to an end. So the final battle takes place over in the pages of the Incredible Hulk. The green giant finds himself on the Alternate-Earth and encounters Warlock being held prisoner by the Man-Beast. Warlock makes the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – to stop the Man-Beast but is resurrected a few days later in a new, more powerful form.

When Warlock returns to his own title, after a quick run in Strange Tales, he starts to find a new set of friends, as well as new enemies. Now traveling the galaxy, he meets Gamora and Pip the Troll, who end up tagging along on his adventures. He also meets Magus, a would-be god in the future who just happens to be Warlock. Our hero must destroy his future self in order to save the universe of today.

Now, this collection would not be complete without mentioning Thanos, the big bad heavy of the Marvel Universe. Warlock and Thanos have been linked together for a long time, and it starts with the issues in this collection. Thanos finds that he must work with Warlock to defeat Magus’ army, but once that battle is done, they go their separate ways. Thanos hatches a new plan to rule the universe, and it takes the combined efforts of Warlock and his crew, along with Spider-Man, the Thing, Captain Mar-Vel, and the Avengers to stop Thanos for good — for now at least.

What makes this Essential?: This collection makes for an interesting look at religion. With the initial arc from Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, the writer was inspired by the then-current Jesus Christ Superstar musical. Sharing a name with the first man in the Bible, Adam Warlock is sent to Earth (albeit Alternate-Earth) to help save the people from a false prophet. During the Jim Starlin arc, Warlock must battle a future version of himself who has been set up as a god across the universe. Given the teases for Warlock in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I anticipate the demand for this book to increase as he joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Footnotes: Incredible Hulk #176 to #178 were also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 5.

Marvel Team-Up #55 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

If you like this volume, try: The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series from 1991. Written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lim, Thanos has acquired all six infinity gems and mounted them onto his glove. Seeking to win the affection of Death, Thanos kills half of the galaxy, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The remaining heroes are given a chance to stop Thanos, but they are unable to prevail. Transcending into a god-like being, Thanos leaves his body unprotected, and his reported granddaughter Nebula steals the glove and restores the universe to how it was before. When things have settled, the recently returned Warlock takes possession of the glove, which led into a new ongoing series titled Warlock and the Infinity Watch.

Essential X-Men Vol. 5

Essential X-Men Vol. 5

First Published: July 2004

Contents: First Edition: Uncanny X-Men #180 (April 1984) to #198 (October 1985), and Uncanny X-Men Annual #7 (1983) and #8 (1984); Second Edition: Uncanny X-Men #180 (April 1984) to #198 (October 1985), Uncanny X-Men Annual #8 (1984), and X-Men/Alpha Flight #1 (December 1985) and #2 (January 1986)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Romita, Jr., Paul Smith,  Barry Windsor-Smith, and Steve Leialoha

Key First Appearances: Amiko Kobayahsi, Forge, Adversary, Nimrod, Angelica Jones/Firestar, Fenris

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 6

Overview: The X-Men return from the Secret Wars to face new adversaries, including one by the name of Adversary, in this next Essential from Marvel Comics.

The team is going through some change. Storm loses her mutant abilities after being shot by a gun designed to take down Rogue. Rachel Summers travels from the future to join the team, only to discover that her future cannot be, as her mom no longer lives. Kitty Pryde and Wolverine take leaves from the team, but soon return back to the fold.

The X-Men cross paths with Selene, an energy vampire who craves their mutant blood. Selene puts herself in position to be named the new Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, longtime enemies of the X-Men. In a battle against Kulan Gath, first seen in the Conan the Barbarian comic, and his attempt to change reality, the X-Men, the Avengers, and Spider-Man are brought together to stop him.

Two issues stand out, both from Claremont and guest artist Barry Windsor-Smith. Lifedeath (Issue #186) and Lifedeath II (issue #198) deal with the powerless Storm looking to come to grips with the loss of her mutant abilities. Issue #186 finds her confronting the inventor of the gun used to strip her of her weather controlling abilities, Forge. As much as she wants to hate him for what he has done, she finds herself attracted to him and his story. In the sequel story, Storm has travelled back to her home lands in Africa, to reconnect with who she once was, and to explore who she could become.

What makes this Essential?: Not that there is ever any truly “normal” time for the residents at Xavier’s mansion, but this really seems like the calm before the storm – no pun intended. We get a lot of one-and-done stories. If they do spill over, it’s just for one more issue. A lot of going back-and-forth with the kids from New Mutants. Beginning with the next Essential volume, it becomes one event after the next, with hardly a moment of quiet time to be found in the books. Enjoy these moments while you can, because nothing is the same following issue #200. If you are a fan of the epic stories across multiple titles, skip this volume and move onto Essential X-Men Vol. 6.

Footnotes: In an ongoing move to include additional material, Marvel adjusts the content listings between the first edition and the second edition of this Essential volume. The first edition contains annuals #7 and #8, while the second edition contains annual #8, along with X-Men/Alpha Flight #1 and #2.

If you like this volume, try: the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine miniseries from 1985 by Chris Claremont and Al Milgrom. Following the X-Men’s return from the Secret Wars event, Colossus breaks things off with Kitty in Uncanny X-Men #183. She needs a break from her environment and takes a leave of the team to visit her parents. Returning to Chicago, Kitty finds that her dad is in Japan under mysterious circumstances. Following her father halfway around the world, she encounters a mysterious figure from Wolverine’s past, which provokes our favorite Canadian to join up with Kitty in Japan. During this series, Kitty matures into a young adult and settles on the codename of Shadowcat, which has been her costume name ever since. This is an excellent series and has remained in print for years in both trade paperbacks and hardcover collections.