We’re still more than five months away from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” hitting theaters, but signs so far point to it setting up some big cosmic stories, including Peter Quill/Star-Lord finally finding his long lost dad, who just happens to be a certain living planet (Ego, as played by Kurt Russell).
As great as this movie is looking (and it really does look amazing, just check out that trailer!), there’s even more excitement to be had for what fans could get when the inevitable Vol. 3 comes around. There have been some truly epic stories in Marvel’s cosmic canon — “Annihilation,” “War of Kings,” “The Kree-Skrull War,” etc. — but there’s one that hand down needs to be brought to film: “The Magus Saga” from Jim Starlin’s classic 1970s run on “Warlock.”
While it may not be well-known to modern audiences, The Magus Saga, which unfolded over 1975’s “Strange Tales” #178-#181 and “Warlock” #9-11, was not only one of the greatest stories Starlin ever told, it was also one of the high points in ’70s comics. It pitted Adam Warlock against his own dark future self, the Magus, while diving deep into questions of destiny; the lines between government, religion, and the individual; and the nature of the self. Plus, Starlin’s psychedelic-inspired imagery is some of the best art of the decade.
Even better? The Magus Saga is a perfect fit for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”
Adam Warlock has long been associated with the Guardians of the Galaxy. He fought alongside the future Guardians during “Annihilation: Conquest,” and was a founding member of the modern team when it launched. It would make sense for Vol. 3 to add Warlock to the team, especially if he shows up in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.”
The Guardians of the Galaxy have even deeper ties to the Magus’s theocracy, the Universal Church of Truth, which has been an enemy of both the classic (31st century) Guardians and the modern team. The Universal Church of Truth makes a great antagonist because it is an evil empire led by zealots who think they are doing the right thing. Given that villains have by and large been the weak points of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the potential for antagonists with genuine nuance is a huge selling point, even if the Magus himself would probably be evil in a more obvious way.
Another huge selling point is that while the Magus Saga was not a Guardians of the Galaxy story, it would be easy to adapt for the team because it co-starred Gamora, as well as Thanos (in his first turn as an antihero). Warlock could not defeat the Magus alone, so it would make perfect sense for him to team up with the Guardians to take down his dark self.
An added bonus: the story would shift the focus away from Peter Quill, who looks like he will be at the center of the first two films, and towards Gamora, who has been underserved so far (to the point that she has had no speaking lines in either the trailer or “sneak peak” released in October). Pratt’s Quill is lovable, but it would be fantastic if he could share the screen time with his fellow Guardians.
The Magus Saga would be a truly solid foundation for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” But could it happen?
One major sign the answer might be yes is that director James Gunn teased Warlock in an Easter Egg in the first Guardians movie. Hidden in the background on the Collector’s ship was a large orangish cocoon that looked remarkably like the one(s) that gave (re)birth to Warlock. Gunn has since stated that it is not actually Warlock’s cocoon, suggesting he (or Marvel Studios more generally) has a specific plan for Warlock.
Vol. 2’s main antagonist provides an even bigger hint that we might be seeing Warlock soon. Elizabeth Debicki plays Ayesha, who Gunn described as “the golden High Priestess of a genetically-perfect people called the Sovereign. She’s not a woman to be screwed with — she, and her entire world, are extraordinarily deadly.”
The comics character Ayesha is based on — also known variously as Kismet, Her and Paragon — is strongly connected to Adam Warlock, though the two have only rarely appeared together. Ayesha and Warlock were both created by a group of evil scientists who wanted to create a super-powered servant they could use to conquer the world. (Even her longtime name, “Her,” was a reference to Warlock’s initial title, “Him.”)
From what we know so far, Ayesha’s movie background is significantly changed from the comics. She’s from a alien culture rather than the result of a science experiment on Earth, though she’s still a perfect, golden being with immense cosmic powers. The MCU Warlock will probably share this updated background, making it easy to bring him into future movies without having to spend time explaining his convoluted backstory. Plus, Ayesha’s title of “High Priestess of the Sovereign” suggests that perhaps we might be seeing the MCU version of the Universal Church of Truth in Vol. 2, which could easily set up for the Magus Saga itself in Vol. 3.
The Magus Saga is such an incredibly well-written and important story in comics history that it practically demands to be adapted as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has a truly cosmic scope, while being deeply thought provoking. James Gunn could do a lot worse for inspiration for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”
Of course, that’s still an unknown number of years away, but “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” will arrive in just a few months: May 5, 2017.
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