After months of rumors, Marvel Studios confirmed that Iwuji would indeed portray the cosmic mad scientist, The High Evolutionary, in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3. The actor will make his move from the DCEU, where he played alien-possessed Mr. Murn in the first season of Peacemaker, to the MCU. How similar High Evo will be to his comic counterpart remains to be seen, but Iwuji has the acting chops and screen presence to please both comic and mainstream audiences.
Who is The High Evolutionary?
High Evolutionary is not necessarily an obscure character in the eyes of comic readers, but he is well outside the gazes of passing MCU fans.
Over the years, High Evolutionary has been more amoral than truly evil. He has compassion and empathy, but his life revolves around his experiments. He has fought alongside the Fantastic Four and Adam Warlock, and High Evo has faced some of Marvel’s most powerful characters, including Apocalypse, Galactus, and The Beyonders.
First appearing in 1966’s Mighty Thor #134, he is an intergalactic geneticist with unlimited intelligence but no pesky morals or ethics to slow him down, which makes him a lot of fun. As his name implies, High Evo is obsessed with experimenting with evolution, and his hobby is creating different species across the universe. The hot gossip has been that he will be revealed as Rocket Raccoon’s creator, which fits perfectly with High Evo’s comic book origins.
While High Evolutionary looks like a celestial cyborg, he is actually human. At least, he was human at one point. Born Herbert Wyndham, he was a scientist at Oxford University in the 1930s, and he was a contemporary of X-Men villain Nathaniel Essex before he became Mister Sinister. While conducting genetic experiments, an Inhuman scientist gave Herbert the means to crack the human genetic code, and he was off to the races.
Like any mad scientist worth his weight in bunsen burners, Herbert created humanoid animals in true Dr. Moreau fashion. He even transformed his dalmatian into a weird dog/man hybrid with increased intelligence. Soon after, he moved his operation to Wundagore Mountain, which should sound familiar since that’s where Scarlet Witch made her last stand in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Where High Evo truly became a cosmic threat was when he created his own race of humanoid creatures, dubbed the New Men, and took them into space. He found a planet for them that he named Wundagore II. It was there that he went full comic book mad scientist and created his own world, Counter-Earth. He intended for it to be a paradise, but it was corrupted, and became a copy of Earth-616 but with no superheroes.
The bigger picture
Aside from Rocket and his origin being the foundation for GOTG 3, everything else about the movie’s plot has been kept under lock and key. While Iwuji was confirmed as High Evolutionary for the latest cosmic adventure, we can only guess about his role in the movie at this point, but that’s the fun part.
Given his comic ties to Adam Warlock, the assumption is that Evolutionary will follow a similar path by manipulating the golden god-man. However, High Evo also is connected to the Celestials, and we are far from seeing their last appearance in the MCU. That could pull him into the next Eternals saga, whenever that may be since it wasn’t on the 2023-2025 schedule.
Another possibility is for High Evolutionary to be in the mix with Thor. Being on the cosmic side, it would easily put him in the ballpark with the God of Thunder. What’s more is that many of High Evo’s early appearances were in The Mighty Thor in the 1960s, so these two have a shared history.
One of the more interesting ways Marvel could use High Evolutionary past GOTG 3 would be in the coming X-Men franchise. Besides the animated X-Men ’97, there was no X-related news coming from Marvel’s massive SDCC panel. There’s always September’s D23 Expo, but it doesn’t appear there’s room for the X-Men in the packed MCU schedule, at least not in a feature film. Chances are they will appear one at a time across Phases 5 and 6, and that could be where High Evolutionary fits in.
In the comics, the mutant origin story was retconned so that the Celestials were credited with the gene’s existence. As the MCU builds towards the X-Men entering the fray, High Evo could be the cosmic mad scientist responsible for superpowered mutants existing on Earth.
The short lives of villains
All those are intriguing possibilities, but that’s making a large assumption that he will survive the events of GOTG 3. Being a villain, Evolutionary probably has a brief shelf life. There’s always a chance that he will make it out alive, but most bad guys have one purpose: to die in epic fashion at the hands of our hero, who has morally ascended to the next level.
This isn’t only true for superhero movies. It’s part of the fabled hero’s journey, which is the foundation for basically all storytelling since the dawn of time. The villains don’t necessarily have to die, but they do have to be defeated. In superhero, fantasy, and sci-fi tales, they almost always require the antagonists to bite the dust in spectacular fashion.
If the MCU follows the comics, which is a big if, they could have a built-in plot device to dodge that bullet. Due to his advanced armor, High Evolutionary is nearly immortal. His technology can preserve his life through almost any circumstance, so while he can be killed, it is nearly impossible to do so. That gives Marvel Studios a convenient tool to make it look like he’s dead when his suit is keeping the game afoot.
What it really depends on is how big of a role High Evolutionary will play in GOTG 3. Marvel loves using recurring cameos to tease larger events, and that’s similar to High Evo’s purpose in the comics. Out of all the superheroes in the Marvel Universe, there’s not one who considers High Evolutionary a true arch-nemesis. Usually, he floats in and out of bigger stories, though he does often play a key role, and that could be his job in the MCU.
With all the Marvel content heading to theaters and streaming in the next four years, the anticipation is palpable. Where High Evolutionary fits into the greater story is a mystery. He could be a cosmic puppet master pulling the strings from the stars, or he could prove to be a larger factor in the coming Multiverse Saga. Then again, he may be a one-and-done villain in GOTG 3. We will know more next year.