Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Classics - Strange Tales #178

Writer and artist Jim Starlin made his reputation during his original run on Captain Marvel (we're talking about the Marvel Comics version of that hero, of course - the first version).

In a relatively short time, he created a new villain - Thanos - who would become one of Marvel's biggest menaces, he brought the cosmic back to Marvel, and he created an epic that stands today as one of the all-time best.

So what could he do to top that? The answer was Warlock, which (for some reason) was sandwiched into the revived title, Strange Tales, in 1975.

As with Captain Marvel, Starlin was faced with the challenge of remaking a character who had been through the mill. Starlin devoted four pages right off the top to recapping Warlock's history, from his creation as an experiment by evil scientists in Fantastic Four, to his battle with Thor, his encounter with the High Evolutionary, his adventures on Counter-Earth and an encounter with the Hulk.

Whew! So, it was a mess. Starlin solves this by promptly ignoring all that had gone before and dropping Warlock into a murderous attack by alien members of the Universal Church of Truth, and an encounter with the powerful entity behind the church and the shocking secret that creature hides.

It was a stunning start to an amazing adventure. Sharply written, tackling a taboo subject (how did he manage to talk Marvel into letting him base a story on an evil religious movement?), loaded with fantastic artwork, crackling with energy and darkness and subversion - it was like nothing being published in the comics mainstream.

He also gave a new twist to Warlock's Soul Gem, as he transformed it into something out of a Michael Moorcock story.

And it was just the beginning! Starlin would use the series to tackle adult issues, challenge comics traditions, and provide an ending that stunned the reading audience.

There aren't many comics that still have a powerful impact 40 years later. This one does!

Highly, highly recommended!

Grade: A+


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