Sunday, December 28, 2014

The New and Improved Gamora

We've taken a brief detour in learning of the story of Gamora, looking in on her childhood as she celebrated (perhaps "observed" is a better way to put it) the terran holiday of Christmas at the side of her guardian, Thanos. Gamora, taken under the wing of Thanos after the rest of her people were wiped out, first appeared during the conflict between Warlock and his future self, the Magus--and with the resolution of that affair, Gamora finds herself craving new diversions. That happens to work out for Thanos, who must continue with work which he cannot afford to divulge to his operative--and so Gamora is sent to rejoin Warlock:

What Gamora finds, however, is a deadly diversion, indeed--one that will prove nearly fatal to her, since her association with Thanos now makes her a target of a being whose name describes his sole purpose:

This issue of Warlock would be the last of that series--and since the Destroyer's strikes usually mean business, Gamora's fate would seem to be sealed here. It would be a year later (our time), as Thanos prepares to initiate his plan to use Warlock's soul gem to extinguish our star, before we'd be able to follow up on Gamora, whom we (and Warlock) find dying amongst the wreckage of her craft, with the Destroyer presumably moving on after assuming she died from his collision. But in this prelude to Avengers Annual #7, it seems that Gamora now owes her death to Thanos:

From appearances, writer Jim Starlin has discarded his original ending which saw the Destroyer bringing an end to Gamora's life, in favor of arranging for her discovery of Thanos's plan of stellar genocide off-stage and thereby forcing Thanos to silence her. The end result works for the Avengers story, since it now moves Warlock in the direction of opposing Thanos and subsequently folding the Avengers into the mix; otherwise, Warlock would now be hunting the Destroyer, leaving only Captain Marvel to mobilize and join the Avengers against Thanos. We can only assume that Starlin felt that this slight alteration in the events occurring after Gamora's departure to find Warlock would fly, given that Gamora had been off the grid for a year. In any event, he manages to connect the dots during Warlock's conversation with the Avengers:

Leaving Gamora in death, though, leaves a great deal of her background unaccounted for. We've had a glimpse of Gamora's childhood--and what we saw wouldn't lead one to believe that this timid, directionless girl would eventually become someone known as "the most dangerous woman in the whole galaxy." It's time to look at one more incident from Gamora's days as a youth, which would change her perspective, toughen her spirit, and bind her more than ever to the man she calls "Master."

As she's grown older, already we can see the potential in Gamora as she trains under Thanos's watchful eye. It's Gamora herself who guides us through this retrospective, set in motion in her thoughts when she reunites with Thanos while part of the "Infinity Watch" led by Warlock.

Thanos has come to the Tartoonla spaceport to pursue a lead on the Cosmic Cube, and has instructed Gamora to stay within the safety of the ship. Yet her solitude on board Thanos's vessel prompts her to wander the area on her own, driven by both the curiosity of youth and a need to expand her horizons.

If we were to take a guess as to what lies ahead, things would seem to be shaping up to give us a look at Gamora's baptism of fire--seeing how this girl responds to a clear and present danger, and watching her tap into her resourcefulness and skillset for the first time outside of the training room. But, in this case, Gamora's overconfidence, not yet seasoned in the field, proves insufficient to the danger which stalks her.

The relationship that unfolded between Thanos and Gamora since his initial appearance in comics frankly came as a surprise to me, given that the only feeling he'd shown on a personal level up to that time had been toward the personification of Death. His behavior during the Cosmic Cube episode gave every indication that this man was a monster, seeking an end to life on a universal scale. It's difficult to see that type of man evolve from the Thanos who raised Gamora; on the other hand, he slew Gamora when she discovered his plans, indicating he's able to clearly choose between his priorities, and that, for him, life will never take precedence over death.

And so, with Gamora still alive by a thread, Thanos moves to protect her from future such incidents, while, in the process, also giving him a more able and valuable operative. It falls in line with Thanos's character to seek something to gain in Gamora's "upgrade"--but I wonder, would he strive to save her life if the technology were not available to bring her back beyond a shell of the person she was?

Gamora's reference to the word "human" (by way of Starlin, who has written this tale, as well) is curious, given that Gamora isn't human and has no reason whatsoever to feel a loss of humanity that doesn't exist for her as such. It's as odd as Starlin injecting Christmas into Gamora's childhood, since Thanos also is not human and wouldn't be familiar with or care about an Earth religious ritual, and certainly wouldn't think of introducing it to Gamora.

Still, despite Gamora's resolved words to the contrary, it's obvious that she regrets the loss she's suffered this day, even though that loss is pushed aside to clear the way for the path she's chosen:

Which brings us reasonably up to date with this character. We know from the Infinity Watch series that Gamora (along with Pip and Warlock) returns from "death" from within the sanctuary of the soul gem, by merging her soul with a new body (which of course renders these "improvements" of Thanos to her original body moot), and going on to become one of the Guardians of the Galaxy.  If you're curious to continue your reading of stories featuring the character outside of the GOTG arena, you can find her present in some of the Infinity-themed series as well as Annihilation.


david_b said...

Love Starlin's Mar-Vell.., I'm said many times that, much like Gerber's Howard, Mar-Vell didn't have much presence without his creator.

That being said, I also have a soft spot for Starlin for remembering to include the Swordsman in nearly all his Avengers appearances in CM (while Swordy was alive..). Just a nice touch.

Comicsfan said...

david_b, that's a fair point about Mar-vell not having much "presence" outside of Starlin's handling of him, though I thought Al Milgrom's run on the title (with Steve Englehart) retained a good deal of the character's fighting style.

Anonymous said...

Those starlin warlock stories are just a joy to behold. Simply beautiful.

Mirko yeahaw!