Explaining Guardians of the Galaxy 3's new character Phyla-Vell
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 spoilers follow.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 might not be the perfect superhero film, but it's pretty damn close, and it turns out that director James Gunn isn't the only one who's striving for perfection when it comes to his cosmic comic-book heroes.
Chukwudi Iwuji's High Evolutionary, that guy with the Robocop face, is obsessed with perfection and does everything he can to build what he deems to be a utopian society. And to do that, he must create the "perfect" species. That's how Rocket ended up the way he is today, and Mr Raccoon wasn't the only one caught up in the High Evolutionary's experiments.
Across numerous scenes in Vol 3, audiences glimpse a strange, white-haired girl played by child actress Kai Zen.
At one point, the unnamed character can be seen running round a giant hamster wheel, and she's showing no signs of fatigue. As the High Evolutionary explains, this girl was engineered to require practically no sleep and yet exert almost no energy either.
Has there ever been a more desirable superpower? Possibly not, but that's not all this girl can do.
In the first of two post-credit scenes, the High Evolutionary's creation returns as a fully-fledged member of Rocket's new Guardians team where he reveals her name to be Phyla-Vell. And during this brief glimpse, we also see her use an energy signature that's not too dissimilar from the kind utilised by Captain Marvel.
That's no coincidence. Who is Phyla-Vell, what's she got to do with Carol Danvers, and why should we expect to see more of this platinum blonde hero in years to come?
Who is Phyla-Vell?
The comic-book version of Phyla-Vell differs from Kai Zen's character in some key ways, and that name drop was pretty brief too, so even diehard Marvel fans might not have picked up on her significance in Vol 3. But don't fret, because that's what we're here to explain.
Back in 2004's Captain Marvel #16, writer Peter David and artist Paul Azaceta introduced Phyla-Vell as the daughter of Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel who used the name before Carol Danvers inherited his mantle.
Neither Phyla nor her older brother Genis-Vell were born in a traditional sense. They were genetically engineered from Mar-Vell's DNA, a bit like the MCU's Phyla-Vell, but things are even more complicated than that.
Genis was created first, so he went on to inherit the Captain Marvel title following his father Mar-Vell, but then Phyla-Vell replaced him after his power of "Cosmic Awareness" drove him loopy.
A few years later, Phyla-Vell switched out her Captain Marvel codename for a new one, Quasar, when she gained possession of the Quantum Bands in the wake of the original Quasar's death.
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Phyla-Vell Quasar soon joined a new Guardians of the Galaxy roster in 2008, which went on to inspire the team who became household names on screen.
During all this, Phyla-Vell fell in love with a hero named Moondragon who's bounced around as both a Guardian and an Avenger over the years.
Eventually, Phyla-Vell ends up in Hell after Thanos kills her, but since then, a different version of Phyla-Vell from an alternate reality has wound up in the main Marvel timeline, effectively replacing the original Phyla-Vell as a new Guardian. So pretty much like the MCU did with Gamora, but before Gamora.
But how does that all connect with this new Phyla-Vell on screen?
So far, Kai Zen's version of the character has barely spoken a word, but what we do know is that she was genetically engineered, just like her comic-book counterpart, and they both seem to share the same kind of powers.
The most obvious difference is that this MCU version of Phyla-Vell is still just a child rather than the adult that fans are used to seeing in the comics.
Cynics might argue that Marvel went down this route to avoid developing Phyla-Vell's queerness on screen, which would be a pretty insidious thing to do, if true.
As one of the more prominent LGBTQ+ characters in the comics, this kind of omission would be nigh on unforgivable, although we're still holding out hope that she may be aged up quickly for her next outing, just like other artificial beings such as Adam Warlock were.
And what of Captain Marvel? As mentioned earlier, that glow around Phyla-Vell's hands sure does look like the same kind of energy that Carol Danvers uses, although we doubt the High Evolutionary got his hands on some Infinity Stones to help create her.
Still though, it's entirely possible that he could have used Kree DNA in the process of making Phyla-Vell, which would connect the two heroes on a fundamental level.
Still, with no direct mention of the Kree in Vol 3, or Captain Marvel for that matter either, you could argue that Phyla-Vell may just stick with the Guardians for now. The timing is pretty suspect though with her debut coming just ahead of The Marvels due out later this year.
Given how that film will directly deal with Captain Marvel's legacy, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine Phyla-Vell, a former Captain Marvel herself, stopping by in what looks like one of Marvel's most cosmic ventures yet.
But without Cosmic Awareness of our own, don't take these predictions as fact just yet. Nobody's perfect, after all.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is out now in cinemas.
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