Sunday, August 10, 2014

Not Really Off-Topic: Thanos & Adam Warlock

I find the dichotomy and relationship between Thanos and Adam Warlock to be eminently fascinating, and have throughout my life. Thanos has been, through most of his life, the champion and consort of death, and worships and is in love with the living embodiment of death herself. A terrible being, Thanos is despite his great evil not a villain you can bring yourself to hate. His reasoning for his actions is too powerful, his mind and capabilities too impressive. Yet it is all but impossible to deny that Thanos is the worst kind of evil. He is a monster that must be opposed at every corner.

Yet Thanos himself is beyond death. It is doubtful he can ever truly die for very long, for his loyalty to death earns him her favor. Until he has dealt out the horrors death deigns him to, he cannot truly and finally die. And so Thanos is essentially a fact, a fixed point in the universe you have to learn to deal with. There have been times when Thanos has turned against death, though never for the right reasons. What makes Thanos interesting is that he always plants the seeds of his own destruction, because Thanos' grand ego hides a terrible insecurity complex and self-hatred that ensures he will always plant the seeds of his own destruction. His love for death is part of that self-hatred, for Thanos has set himself up to love the one being incapable of love.

Adam Warlock is the champion of life. Thrust into this world by the machinations of evil scientists, Warlock is literally a cosmic Frankenstein's monster. Yet something about him has made him the champion of Lord Chaos and Master Order, which are themselves the polar opposites of Lady Death. Warlock is constantly being called upon to either stop Thanos, or to find some way to use Thanos to further Life's ends. Like Thanos, Adam Warlock cannot truly stay dead, though for opposite reasons.

The problem is that Warlock has found over and over again that the only way to defeat Thanos, in fact to defeat death, is to enter into death and overcome it. In other words, Warlock is stuck in an endless Christ-cycle of death, crucifixion, and rebirth. So often has this happened to the being that he has at least on some level gone insane, much as Thanos had. The irony is that Warlock and Thanos probably have more in common with each other than with any other beings in the universe, and this pushes them in the direction of mutual respect and even friendship, at least at times, despite the fact that the two exist to oppose one another.

In the end, the thing that is missing from all of this is love. The Old Testament (rightly) identified God with life. But it is the New Testament that fully identifies life and love as two sides of the same coin. The God that calls us to life, and sacrifices so we can have it, does not do this out of some abstract moral principle, as Warlock does, but does it out of a concrete love for all and every being and reality. God is Love, and His Word is life.

Yet as abstract principles of ultimacy and worship, Adam Warlock and Thanos remain two endlessly fascinating case studies. Of course, Warlock is my favorite hero and Thanos my favorite villain. The relationship between the two is infinitely complex and open-ended. You never know where it will take you next. And that makes for great story telling, and great theological reflection.

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