Rereading through that complete Infinity Gauntlet set I bought at Cape Con this year, I think I finally hit on why I've never warmed to Adam Warlock. Sure, being linked to Infinity War and Infinity Crusade (especially the latter) in my mind didn't help, but there's always been something that bugged me about him.
Part of it is he tends to use Earth's heroes as pawns, or even just decoys. Feels a little "villainous grandmaster" for the supposed hero of the story. Part of it is that even having wasted them as decoys, it still doesn't feel like he does much of the heavy lifting, but at the end of Gauntlet, for example, he's the one standing there with all the bejeweled glove on his hand. I guess taking control of the Soul Gem, then somehow using it to take control of the others, doesn't feel terribly impressive, at least not as it's presented. It just sort of happens. This is apparently something Adam Warlock can do, and he does it, and that makes him super-special and awesome.
Which is the real issue, Jim Starlin likes Adam Warlock a whole lot more than I do, and he never sells me on why I should like the character too. Adam shows up and tells Dr. Strange that he (Adam) has to be in charge for the coming battle. Strange gets a look at his soul, and wow, he's just so stunned by what Adam's experienced he's totally convinced. I suppose Dr. Strange would know about such things if anyone would, but all the other heroes sort of fall in line as well. Yeah, some of them worked with Adam before his last death, but they don't know if this is really the same guy, or some charlatan that pulled the wool over Strange's eyes. Even if it is him, maybe he's past his prime. And there are plenty of that haven't worked with him. Even guys like Wolverine and the Hulk, not types to take kindly to being bossed around mostly accept it. Hulk does briefly ask who put Warlock in charge, but once everyone else shows they'll follow him, Hulk goes along with it. The same is true for almost all the big time cosmic entities.
The only two who really openly question Warlock's credentials are Galactus and Dr. Doom. Which, if a writer wants to pick strawmen for the opposing view that can be quickly dismissed, those are pretty safe choices. Nobody's going to take Doom's concerns seriously because he's Dr. Doom, so naturally he has his own agenda. This is true, of course, he does have his own agenda, but that doesn't mean he's necessarily wrong to question Warlock. But nope, no one's going to listen to his arguments. Galactus gets it even worse. He's portrayed as a hothead who lashes out when Warlock disses him (referring to him as a petulant child). Which again, seems like a quick and easy way to dismiss any objections. The person raising them is behaving like a spoiled brat, we don't need to take his concerns seriously.
All we get as explanation for why everyone else, from the Celestials on down the line, is something about Warlock existing outside the realms of Chaos and Order. Oh, well, in that case I'm sold. Sign me up as a clay pigeon in the shooting gallery Warlock's designing for Thanos! I can't wait to have my insides placed on the outside!
There's also something irritatingly condescending about how he behaves towards the Surfer, Strange, and Thor after he gets the Gauntlet. When they express concerns he might be corrupted by the power, use it to rule the universe, Warlock blows them off. They were already at the mercy of some greater power before he says, does it really bother it might no longer be a benign presence (Eternity), and instead more calculating? Maybe they wouldn't enjoy order replacing the chaos of their everyday lives? Ominous, which is reflected in the characters' reactions, and Adam eases off a bit on the next page. Then he sends them back home and goes on with his day, without really addressing their concerns.
Reading this, there's a real sense I might buy into the hype for Adam Warlock more if I read his earlier adventures, the stuff from the '70s. I'm pretty sure Starlin has some specific goal for him in mind, and it probably builds towards this point from that. Except that at the point I've come into things, he's a character I find so unlikeable, so undeserving of this doe-eyes following he gets from everyone else, I don't want to go back and read his early adventures. I'm worried I'll find more of the same.