Friday, June 01, 2012

Defeating Death

Today, I'm continuing my Avengers theme with a post that has been percolating in my head for a long time. Warning, there be spoilers ahead!

So far I have covered Iron Man and the Hulk. But today I want to key in on possibly the most powerful character to appear in 'The Avengers' movie. Did I mention there would be spoilers?

I figure just about everyone has seen the Avengers, having grossed more than a billion dollars, so you've had your opportunity.

At the end of the first credits sequence (the animated one, not the traditional scroll) we are introduced to a character who is warned that to take on Earth and the Avengers is to "court death." The character then turns and smiles at the camera. No, it's not Hellboy or the Red Skull as those in the audience less nerdy than me speculated (hey, Marvel, just seeing the reactions online tells me you need to do some work post-processing to make this guy purple, not red!). But is instead the character Thanos.

That name doesn't mean much to the casual fan, but to those of us who have been paying attention, we have been anticipating his introduction since 2010 when the Infinity Gauntlet was shown off at the San Diego ComicCon as one of the Marvel movie props. The Gauntlet later showed up in the movie 'Thor'. So even though I knew he would be making an appearance in 'The Avengers' I still got chills when I heard those words, "court death," because I knew exactly what that meant. You see, Thanos has an obsession with death, even "courting" a woman who is the personification of death in the comic book universe. Thanos also makes sense as an adversary in the movie universe because his first story in comic books involved his pursuit of the Cosmic Cube (called the Tasseract in the movie). He later rose to fame in the 90's through the mini-series The Infinity Gauntlet and its many spin-off stories. For more on Thanos, check out this write-up from Comic Book Resources and also his wikipedia page.

So far, we know that he won't the villain in either Iron Man 3 (who will be the Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley- seriously, how cool is that!) or Thor 2 (who has not yet been identified, but execs have been explicit it will not be Thanos). So Marvel studios have their work cut out for them to introduce this character and give him a meaningful arc.

Which brings me back to the Infinity Gauntlet and the real subject of this post. (for more on the Gauntlet, check out the wikipedia page) You see, there isn't yet a character in the movies who can stand toe-to-toe with Thanos. The Silver Surfer was instrumental in taking down Thanos in the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, but the rights to that character are still owned by Fox because of his appearance in 'The Fantastic Four'. So that leaves us with the Surfer's partner in that story, Adam Warlock. (The golden person behind Thanos with the red cape above; again, check out his wikipedia page) Will he be somehow introduced into the Marvel movie universe? I sure hope so.

So what does Warlock, the Surfer, and Thanos have to do with the subject matter of this blog ("Public Christianity" in case you forgot)? Well personally, I have always been intrigued by Warlock's character, from his introduction as a man-made "perfect human" called simply "Him" all the way through his first death (more on this in a minute) and up to his adventures following his defeat of Thanos. About that first death... Adam Warlock has a bit of a God-complex. So much so that in order to save the people of "counter earth" he allowed himself to be crucified. By the power of the Soul Gems (one of the baubles on the Infinity Gauntlet- see how this all ties in?) he rose himself from the dead and a cult religion would later rise up to worship him (and try to take over the universe, but that's another story).

In my comic reading peak in the 90's, I loved to read both Warlock and the Silver Surfer. They complemented each other perfectly. Though the silver sentinel was conceived as a Christ-like cosmic figure when he was introduced in the 60's, he is written in more of a philosophical tone. Warlock, on the other hand, because of his background is written as much more theological. So when paired together to take on some cosmic foe, this often led to very deep and worthwhile conversations.

Now I am anxiously anticipating how this may be handled on the silver screen, especially after (in my opinion) the Silver Surfer wasn't given his full due in the Fantastic Four movie. And all the bluster about Loki pontificating about the weakness of humanity and the slavery of freedom, coupled with the writer's open atheism, led some to denounce 'The Avengers' as anti-Christian and secular. So is it possible that the movies would dare take on a character whose main story arc involves being crucified, buried, and risen from the dead? If the Avengers have any hope of defeating Thanos, we better hope so.

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