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Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been waiting for years to find out who – or what – would be emerging from that cocoon at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (apart from his/its name being “Adam,” him/it being “more powerful, more beautiful” than the Sovereign, and capable of destroying the Guardians).
Now that it’s been revealed that Will Poulter of The Maze Runner and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch fame has been cast as Adam Warlock for James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, now’s probably as good a time as any to answer the question: Who is Adam Warlock, and what does his appearance mean for the MCU?
Debuting in Fantastic Four #66 in 1967 simply as “Him” (he gets the name Adam Warlock later), the Silver Age Marvel character was introduced as an artificially created “perfect human” who escaped his creators’ control. He was later revamped into an allegorical messiah by writer Roy Thomas and penciler Gil Kane in Marvel Premiere #1 in 1972, where Adam Warlock was gifted with the Soul Stone to defeat an enemy known as Man-Beast.
But the character’s real claim to fame? Being the archenemy of Thanos.
That’s right: Adam is ultimately best known for using the Infinity Stones to stop Thanos from achieving his genocidal goals. In fact, in the comics, Adam serves as the protagonist in such stories as Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity Crusade, and Infinity War. He even teamed up with Gamora in his fight against Thanos, and in 2008, joined the newly formed Guardians.
But since Thanos has been defeated in the MCU, Adam will obviously have to play a different role than he did in the comics. Which is fine; Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has always used the comics as inspiration for the films but has never been shy about making changes that suit his cinematic needs. Although clearly having been set up as the potential big bad for Guardians Vol. 3, Adam could also play an essential role in battling the MCU’s new enemies, such as Kang the Conqueror (introduced in Loki), or even other nemeses yet to be introduced (looking at you, Annihilus and Galactus).
Until Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 premieres in theaters May 5, 2023, we’ve got plenty of time to speculate how Poulter’s Warlock fits into Gunn's film – and the latest phase of the MCU.