Monday, November 14, 2016

When You Wish Upon A Void...


Name This Marvel Villain??

We have writer/artist Jim Starlin to thank for this twinkling light show here--an evil visage of a man who intends to take vengeance on the entire human race (and a good portion of the universe as well) for consigning him to a hospital bed for his entire life and not caring enough to work to cure him so that he could live as any other person. Our budding villain is Barry Bauman, who was born sans the vital connections between his brain and nerves to produce the five senses that the rest of us take for granted; stated simply, Bauman is a blind deaf-mute without any sense of smell, taste, or touch.

Bauman's condition leads us to Adam Warlock, who is 420 light years from Earth and begins noticing that the stars have begun to rapidly vanish. Using his soul gem to probe the source of the disturbance, Warlock discovers that the mind of a single Earthman is responsible--a man that Starlin appropriately dubs the Star Thief. What we see of him here represents Bauman's mental presence, having gained enough power to free itself of his body and begin wreaking havoc on the world of his birth; but as Warlock discovers, Bauman eventually set his sights on the stars in order to terrify the human race, and when discovered by Warlock began toying with him and daring him to put a stop to his plans.

Warlock's cause seems hopeless, since he cannot hope to reach Earth in time to halt the Star Thief's progress--ordinarily. Bauman also taunts Warlock with the implication that, even should Warlock reach Earth before it's too late, he would be powerless to interfere.

Warlock determines that his only hope is to fly into a black hole and use it for transit to our solar system--which, you've probably guessed, works like a charm, as easy and uncomplicated as if you or I took a shortcut. Leaving nothing to chance, though, the Star Thief has once again sent his consciousness into space to monitor Warlock's progress; but in doing so, he's had to release control of his bedside companion, who isn't at all happy about his mental enslavement by Bauman.

As for Warlock, he arrives in our solar system ready to put an end to the Star Thief's threat--but he soon discovers the reason why Bauman was not at all worried about Warlock's direct intervention.

Naturally, this development is a sure-fire contender for a place of honor in the category of

First we have to assume that Bauman is getting his reading material on the expansion of the universe from the same place the rest of us are--i.e., the planet Earth--and the conclusions of that research can be summed up with just a few bullet points:

  • Other galaxies are moving away from us;
  • The galaxies furthest away are moving the fastest; in fact,
  • Space itself is moving--and since the universe has no center, everything is thus moving away from everything else;
  • Based on recent data, the universe is expanding 5-9% faster than expected, with an uncertainty level of only 2.4%;
  • It becomes more difficult to probe these galaxies, since their expansion away from us means that it will take longer for their light to reach us.

Yet the story appears to equate expansion to growth, though we can turn to an analogy to understand the difference in this case:

"Imagine the universe like a loaf of raisin bread dough. As the bread rises and expands, the raisins move farther away from each other, but they are still stuck in the dough. In the case of the universe, there may be raisins out there that we can’t see any more because they have moved away so fast that their light has never reached Earth."

In other words, just because objects like planets and moons and suns and... Warlock... are in areas of space that are moving faster away from us, that doesn't mean that they're growing in size--just receding. (Though try telling that to the populations of the planet Rhun or Gigantus.) Kudos to Starlin for noting that the rate of expansion isn't uniform, though that's true only insofar as the second bullet point and has nothing to do with whole galaxies of worlds and races actually growing to humongous sizes. Otherwise, assuming the human race will explore space in the generations to come, we're going to have quite the shock the further out we go.

As for the Star Thief, it's too bad that mind of his hasn't learned to multitask--because while he's playing his trump card with Warlock, there's trouble brewing at his bedside when his "nurse," Tom Vocson, decides to free himself once and for all of Bauman's control.

We aren't told exactly how Bauman mistreated Vocson (and maybe we shouldn't ask), aside from using him to spend countless days in libraries acquiring the knowledge that Bauman needed--and we can only assume that Vocson got ahold of and stashed away a gun during one of Bauman's mental diversions. But with Bauman's death, the stars that had disappeared are restored, though Warlock's predicament remains.

Fortunately, Warlock's circumstances are given a more reasonable explanation in subsequent stories in separate team-up books. First, in Marvel Team-Up, Warlock inexplicably finds himself shrinking back to normal when he saves Spider-Man from perishing in a runaway rocket:

But Warlock's speculation is off the mark, because the full explanation of what happened to Warlock is given in Marvel Two-In-One when the High Evolutionary confronts a group of "space movers" who were contracted by a mysterious race to move the planet of Counter-Earth for placement in a museum.

The problem with this explanation is that the Star Thief wouldn't have been affected by the movers' deception of Warlock--yet Bauman also believed that Warlock had grown in size. He also was under that impression while Warlock was still light-years away from the system, before the movers had even put their plan into play.

There would be other stories featuring characters who would also be called "the Star Thief." Given their predecessor's fate, we can only hope they had the foresight to hire a bodyguard or two.


Colin Jones said...

The "big bang" (which was neither) occurred about 13 billion years ago but the universe might be infinite according to some scientists. Now that sounds like weird science and so does quantum physics...but that's real science. I remember reading another story in which the stars disappear one by one but I can't recall the details.

Comicsfan said...

Colin, I suspect the origin of the universe will remain a mystery to everyone. Whatever theories are floating around out there (heh heh, get it?), none of them appear to address the real issue on the table, perhaps the only issue: Where did everything come from? What was the starting point--and what came before the starting point? Even nothingness had to have a beginning. Better minds than yours and mine will hopefully take a crack at that one someday.

Colin Jones said...

I've read that the big bang was possibly caused by "quantum fluctuations in the energy field"...whatever that means. But, as you say, where did the "energy field" come from ? Surely that is the most obvious argument against the existence of God - if God created the universe then where did God come from ?

Anonymous said...

What makes me mad is that everybody talks about the expanding universe, but nobody does anything about it!
M.P., angry voter

johnlindwall said...

I am batting 0 on your "name that villain" posts so far. Sad, because I have actually read the issue that featured this one!! And fairly recently... I never read the Warlock book as it was coming out though I did dig the character and enjoyed his appearances in other comics (like Marvel Team-Up and Giant Size Avengers). I bought a pack at a local shop[ containing Warlock 9-15 a few years ago though and really enjoyed it.

I am a huge Starlin fan so seeing his art always makes me happy. Nice work as always Comicsfan!

Comicsfan said...

John, I remember getting a few of those "grab bag" comics myself. They were fun to pick up, even if they didn't carry the same title; they were usually a "mixed bag" of different comics, and it wasn't always possible to tell which ones were between those you could see through the packaging until you got the bag home and opened it. Sometimes you were pleasantly surprised; but sometimes it was apparent that the store was trying to move some comics that had been on the stand for awhile. :) Still enjoyable, though!

ZIRGAR said...

Colin, I could be wrong, but I believe the story about the stars going out is the Arthur C. Clarke short story, The Nine Billion Names of God. The very last sentence in that tale is quite eerie:

"Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out."

johnlindwall said...

Yeah, I used to have a love/hate relationship with those grab bag dealies myself! Usually we'd be on one of our cross-country camping trips and we'd stop at some store or gift shop. I'd run in looking for a spinner rack, and sometimes be stuck with choosing from a pile of those bagged packs. Usually as I recall there would be three comics, 2 you could see and the mystery comic in the middle. Well, of course you try to pry apart the books to figure out what was in the middle but that was not always successful. So you'd end up with 2 decent super-hero books (or maybe a Star Trek or Twilight Zone) and get stuck with something lame like Josie and the Pussycats or Little Lotta.

Of course I was such voracious reader that I'd still read the junky one!

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