Who Is The Main Villain In Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3? The High Evolutionary Explained

After saving the world with a dance battle, (mostly) conquering their daddy issues, and joining the Avengers, everyone's favorite rag-tag space crew is finally returning to conclude their epic trilogy. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is set to arrive in summer 2023, with faces both familiar and new. Former Ravager Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) will be joined by muscle man Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista), anthropomorphized trash panda Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), teenaged tree dude Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and their enemy-turned-BFF Nebula (Karen Gillan). If they're really lucky, they might even get to hang out with warrior woman Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who has absolutely zero recollection of them. But no worries because even when they're complete strangers, this crew always finds a way to take down their enemies.

At this point, the Guardians have defeated a Mad Titan and a Living Planet, so when it comes to a new archnemesis, where exactly do they go from here? After many months of speculation, fans finally got an answer during Marvel's panel at San Diego Comic-Con, where Chukwudi Iwuji stepped onstage as the villain that comic fans will recognize as the High Evolutionary. But who exactly is this purple suited bad guy? And what does his appearance mean for the past and future of the Guardians? You'll find some answers below.

The High Evolutionary's humble beginnings

The High Evolutionary was first introduced in 1966's Thor #134, created by the great Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He begins his story as a human scientist named Herbert Wyndham, who specialized in genetics and as a student, developed a controversial serum to alter genetic code. The series of events that followed will sound very familiar: his discovery was frowned upon and he was expelled from school but instead of giving up, Herbert became even more obsessed. So he made it his life's mission to artificially accelerate mankind's evolution. That's a supervillain origin story if I've ever heard one!

Eventually, Herbert developed a genetic accelerator that could evolve any living thing and — as all fictional scientists have the bad habit of doing — used it on himself. This enhanced his mind greatly, making him insanely intelligent and giving him superhuman abilities like telepathy, telekenesis, and the power to manipulate reality on a subatomic level. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Herbert went as far as to make himself a home base, in a place called Mount Wundagore where he would experiment on animals and "evolve" them into human-like beings. He called his hybrids "New Men," wanting to push "evolution" as far as possible, whether the life-form in question wanted to evolve or not.

In his first appearance, Evolutionary has the God of Thunder face off against his "Man Beast" creation. After that he went on to form ties with plenty of other Marvel heroes, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and even Wanda Maximoff. Over the years, he even caught the attention of the Celestials. But there's a good reason why he makes the perfect fit for a Guardians-centric story.

The High Evolutionary makes his MCU debut

If you think about it, the High Evolutionary is a very fitting villain for the Guardians of the Galaxy — yet another ambitious lunatic with a God complex! Plus, while Thanos has harrowing connections to Drax, Gamora and Nebula, Ego the Living Planet was revealed to be Star Lord's terrible absentee father. Their villains have a tendency to mix world-shattering maniacal plans with upsettingly personal connections. As for the High Evolutionary, he might have a comparable relationship to Rocket Raccoon. Doesn't all that business about genetic rewrites sound familiar?

The little we know of Rocket's MCU backstory is that he was genetically and cybernetically enhanced, which involved suffering years of abuse and genetic rewrites. Beyond that, James Gunn (via MCUExchange) has hinted that his backstory is "a little bit more horrible than what it is in the comics," and promised to explore it further in the third Guardians movie. Given the work that the High Evolutionary is known to obsess over, he seems a natural fit to have had a hand in Rocket's past. In which case, this will be painfully personal for Rocket. And it certainly doesn't help that Gunn identified our Raccoon friend as "the saddest creature in the universe."

The third Guardians movie also introduces another candidate for an Evolutionary connection. Will Poulter is set to star as a newborn Adam Warlock, a perfect sovereign created by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) to exact her revenge on the Guardians. She referred to him as "the next step in [sovereign] evolution," so perhaps the High Evolutionary will have a role in his creation. Unlike with Rocket, there's actually some precedent for this — in the comics, the High Evolutionary is the one to give him the name "Warlock" and bestow the Soul Stone on the hero.

The future of the High Evolutionary

Chukwudi Iwuji is set to suit up as the High Evolutionary, fresh off his time working with James Gunn in the HBO Max series "Peacemaker." The Evolutionary will be a mighty big change from mercenary Clemson Murn and when asked if he'd describe his Guardians character as "shady," Iwuji confirmed that the mad geneticist is worse that we could imagine... but also more charming than fans may assume. Iwuji told Collider:

"Shady doesn't touch it. He is narcissistic, sociopathic, but very charming. I couldn't have thought of a better character that uses [a] skill set better to join the MCU with. Because there's something very Shakespearean about him, there's something very emotionally dark about him, and he's a lot of fun on top of all that."

Whether or not the High Evolutionary will be a one-and-done villain remains to be seen. His complicated history in the comics means that there are plenty of other characters he could forge connections with, especially as the movies begin to embrace the cosmic and magical side of Marvel. Thanks to his powers, the High Evolutionary has always straddled those two worlds well: he's known to interact with demons, clash with Galactus and in one story, he's even revealed to be the puppet master behind X-Men, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff getting their powers. While the MCU has credited this to Hydra and the Mind Stone, it certainly would't be the first case of retconning their origin story. In fact, he already has a notable MCU connection to Wanda; his base at Mount Wundagore was seen in "Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness" as the site of her (spoiler alert) untimely death. Maybe his Guardians entry will be just the beginning of the High Evolutionary's saga ... or maybe he'll suffer the fate of most Marvel villains and perish by the movie's end.

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is in theaters on May 5, 2023.