Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’s High Evolutionary explained

The enigmatic High Evolutionary was revealed as the villain of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the final film in director James Gunn’s Guardians trilogy, to be portrayed by Chukwudi Iwuji – who appeared in full costume at Comic-Con International: San Diego 2022 for the announcement.

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And Iwuji’s dramatic entrance is right in line with the pompous and twistedly brilliant High Evolutionary, a longtime Marvel Comics villain who first clashed with Thor in 1966’s The Mighty Thor #134 (opens in new tab)before taking on the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and even Galactus – and who is directly connected to the modern revised origins of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

Needless to say, the High Evolutionary’s involvement in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 could have a huge impact on the MCU, and we’ve got all the comic book answers to your questions about the big new cosmic villain.

Who is the High Evolutionary?

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The comic book origins of the mysterious High Evolutionary are complex to say the least, involving the Inhumans, the X-Men villain Mister Sinister, and even Mount Wundagore, the birthplace of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and the home of the Darkhold as seen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

To boil it down, he started life in the ’30s as human geneticist Herbert Wyndham, a scientist looking to continue the work of 1800’s geneticist Nathaniel Essex, a secret mutant who went on to become the villainous Mister Sinister (and yes, the pair have worked together and also quarreled over the years).

When Wyndham was reaching a dire roadblock in his genetic research, an Inhuman scientist named Phaeder visited him in secret, providing him the key to unlocking the hidden mysteries of the human genome. Phaeder would continue to influence Wyndham and provide him with secret knowledge for years to come.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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However, when Wyndham’s experiments resulted in him evolving his pet dalmatian into a humanoid dog, he was fired from his university job. This led him to join up with fellow geneticist Jonathan Drew (whose own genetic experiments would later lead to his daughter Jessica Drew gaining her Spider-Woman powers) and set up shop on Mount Wundagore, the magical mountain haunted by the demon Chthon.

If the name Wundagore rings a bell, that’s because it’s the mystical mountain that was home to the spells of the Darkhold in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – and is the place where the Scarlet Witch seemingly died after bringing down the walls of the evil temple there.

Soon, Wyndham was alone in his research on Wundagore, surrounding himself only with his animal/human hybrid creations he called the ‘New Men,’ and wearing a suit of advanced armor to protect him from the magical horrors of the mountain.

There, his secret experimentation on the population of the surrounding villages led to the birth of Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, whose inborn powers were believed to be the product of a mutant X-gene from their real Marvel Comics debut in 1963 until the High Evolutionary revealed the secret in 2015’s Uncanny Avengers (opens in new tab) title.

After leaving Wundagore, the High Evolutionary took to space to continue his experiments unhindered, first taking over an existing planet he called ‘Wundagore II,’ before eventually creating his own planet known as ‘Counter-Earth’ which shares Earth’s orbit, but on the opposite side of the sun.

The High Evolutionary in the Marvel Universe

The High Evolutionary in Marvel Comics

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

To say the High Evolutionary’s years in the Marvel Universe have been eventful is an understatement – but there are some specific stories that connect the dots to his involvement in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

High Evolutionary’s own super-evolution resulted from an experiment he actually planned to conduct on the Hulk, who he captured with the intent of evolving him to a perfect lifeform one million years more advanced than modern humans (or, ya know, Hulks).

The villain’s own New-Men henchman betrayed him, forcing him to use the machine he built to evolve the Hulk on himself, becoming a being far beyond the intelligence and physical capabilities of baseline humans.

Although the newly super-evolved High Evolutionary first willed his own existence to end to join the infinite reaches of the cosmos, he did eventually return to humanoid form, and what he did next changed the destiny of the Marvel Universe.

After returning to his humanoid form following his ascent to becoming super-evolved, the High Evolutionary found the being known as ‘Him’ floating in space after a battle with Thor.

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The High Evolutionary dubbed him Adam Warlock (as in Will Poulter’s long-awaited Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 character), and granted Adam Warlock the fabled Soul Stone of the Infinity Stones, enlisting him as the protector of Counter-Earth.

It’s in this era that the High Evolutionary first encountered Galactus, who wished to devour Counter-Earth, and in turn in which he first met the Fantastic Four. He also ran afoul of the Beyonders, the beings responsible for creating the Multiverse and for destroying it in 2015’s Secret Wars (which is of course about to be an Avengers movie).

Adam Warlock finally turned fully against the High Evolutionary in the story The Evolutionary War, in which the High Evolutionary attempts to destroy all life on Earth and replace it with beings of his own creations.

And this is where the High Evolutionary’s actions wound up having a massive, unforeseen toll on the Marvel Universe, as his former protégé Adam Warlock and his Soul Stone, given to him by the High Evolutionary, became central figures in the comic book event Infinity Gauntlet , in which Thanos performed the comic version of his fateful ‘snap’.

The High Evolutionary himself later appeared again in the limited series Annihilation: Conquest (opens in new tab)in which High Evolutionary implants Ultron’s consciousness into Adam Warlock’s body.

Warlock’s return at the end of the story led in part to the founding of the comic incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy that were later adapted to film, including Rocket, Groot, Drax, Gamora, and Star-Lord.

The High Evolutionary in the MCU

A logo for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.  3

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Reports of the footage from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 which was shown at Comic-Con International: San Diego, along with bits and pieces of the High Evolutionary’s comic book lore seem to line up to potentially indicate some aspects of how the character will fit into the film’s story and the MCU at large.

For one thing, having Adam Warlock in the film hints at the likelihood they’ll share some connection in the film, as they did in comics where the High Evolutionary was once Adam Warlock’s mentor.

And then there’s the reported footage of baby Rocket, possibly indicating that his origins will lie with the High Evolutionary, who, in comic books, often creates human-animal hybrids in his genetic experiments.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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Aside from those big points, we’re left with a lot of speculation, and a handful of potential comic book based connections to draw from for the character’s future involvement in the MCU.

There are the obvious connections between Scarlet Witch, Wundagore, and the High Evolutionary, which may or may not come into play. And the connection between the comic book Guardians and the High Evolutionary thanks to the Annihilation: Conquest event.

But there are also the long shot connections to big cosmic ideas such as Galactus (and the accompanying Fantastic Four, whose MCU debut was just given a 2024 release date), and of course the Beyonders – not to mention his connections to the origins of Jessica Drew, the original Spider-Woman.

With all that history, and all that potential, we’ll have to see how things – what’s the word? – evolve, until Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 comes out in 2023.

Will Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 elevate the High Evolutionary to the status of one of the best Marvel supervillains ever?

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