If I had to put together a list of my top ten favorite storylines from when I was a kid the Warlock/Thanos arc across AVENGERS ANNUAL #7 and MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #2 (from way back in 1977) would certainly be on it. First off, let me say that I used to love Annuals and Giant-Size issues. As a kid I’d buy annuals for books I didn’t even regularly read, like Thor and Hulk, just because they were "GIANT SIZE ANNUALS!" and usually involved a cool crossover of some kind – a self-contained crossover, not one of those messy deals that force you to buy 12 other titles to figure things out. Back in the day the stories in these annuals were actually pretty good, not the showcase for extra-continuity crep they seemed to have become later. (Update: just picked up my the ULTIMATES 2 Annual – more on that later.)
The Warlock/Thanos saga had been going on for some time prior to wrapping up in these two annuals. But after the great Marvel title purge of the mid-seventies Warlock lost his own book forcing Jim Starlin to finish up the story here. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read much Warlock or Captain Marvel and really didn’t even know who Thanos was, everything was pretty well explained in first 10 pages or so of AA #7.
We pick up the story as Adam Warlock, following a trail of devastation, finds Thanos’ right-hand wench Zamora, dieing. He then sucks her soul into the Soul Gem and takes off “on quest most would find as difficult as casting a shadow on a mirror,” to stop Thanos’ effort to please Death by killing off all the stars. And we’re not talking Hollywood here. This naturally leads him to the Avengers. Unless this had been a Fantastic Four Annual, then it would have lead him to them, or the Defenders, or, well, anyway…
So it appears that Thanos’ armada is headed right for Earth and the Avengers are the only ones who can stop it (because it’s their Annual). Of course by this time Warlock has disappeared, leaving the Avengers to figure things out for themselves:
But hey, this is the 70’s – let’s just fly out there in MoonUnit’s ship and beat holy hell out of them anyway. Hopefully they are actually with Thanos and not the Universal Telefloral greeting committee. We do get one page of rather turgid contemplation:
I’m trying to figure out how Vision would “think”.
After a few panels of deep introspection, WHAMMO! We are kicking some alien tail. I think Starlin had fun drawing this page:
While the Avengers battle the minions, Warlock faces off against Thanos, which ends quick as we discover that Warlock made a little side trip to Taco Bell before heading out to meet Thanos:
And Warlock is dead. Now I’m sure Starlin wanted us to think it was Thanos that killed Adam Warlock but when Thor and Iron Man show up a few seconds later Thanos has to battle them hand-to-hand. So I’m pretty confident it was the Taco Bell. When Thanos’ Star Gem is destroyed he gets huffy and disappears. Meanwhile, Warlock gets absorbed by his own Soul Gem and gets to join all his past soul acquisitions in peace and harmony, which apparently involves foothills and purple skies.
Nice wrap up, Starlin. If you happen to miss MTIOA #2 you probably don’t feel shortchanged; the bad guy’s thwarted and we get a little emotional decoupage to send Warlock off with. Very well done. But wait! There’s more! Be sure to read part two later this week where we’ll fully explore…er…part two of the epic Thanos war.