Who is the High Evolutionary in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?’ The villain’s powers and origins, explained

guardians of the galaxy vol. 3 high evolutionary
Image via Marvel Studios

Less than a week after The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special debuted on Disney Plus, Marvel just made the fandom’s Christmas all over again by surprising us all by dropping the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 at CCXP. The exciting inaugural look at the long-awaited threequel delivered a lot of firsts, including a glimpse at Adam Warlock and Rocket’s new love interest Lylla. And, not to be forgotten, the movie’s arch-villain, the High Evolutionary.

The character in question is played by a familiar face to those who watch everything James Gunn makes — Chukwudi Iwuji, previously seen in Peacemaker. Not much can be gleamed about his antagonist from the trailer, though, except that he looks to be a pretty intense and unpleasant individual. So, what do we know about the High Evolutionary? Here’s everything you need to learn about the latest cosmic creep to give Star-Lord and his crew a hard time.

Who is the High Evolutionary?

High Evolutionary Marvel Comics
Image via Marvel Comics

The High Evolutionary began life as a brilliant human scientist named Herbert Wyndham, living in Oxford, England in the 1930s. Inspired by the work of geneticist Nathaniel Essex (better known as X-Men villain Mr. Sinister), Wyndham became obsessed with the idea of “evolving” animals into higher beings through genetic manipulation.

Donning an armored suit of metal, Wyndham set up a base of operations on Mount Wundagore (as recently introduced in the MCU in Doctor Strange 2) and succeeded in his ambitions to create a new race of animal/human hybrids he dubbed his New Men. The creatures, which he viewed as his creations and children, in turn called him “Lord High Evolutionary,” thereby giving him his new name.

The character’s Marvel comics career is a long and complicated one, tying him into the familial histories of multiple heroes, from Werewolf by Night to Spider-Woman. Most notably, however, he is somewhat responsible for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s powers (although they were thought to be mutants for years).

How powerful is the High Evolutionary?

High Evolutionary Marvel Comics
Image via Marvel Comics

Feeling limited by Earth, the High Evolutionary took his New Men with him into the stars and established the artificial world of Counter-Earth. While there, he captured the Hulk and attempted to evolve him into a different being, too, but the Jade Giant escaped. Instead, Wyndham used the serum he’d developed for Bruce Banner on himself and transformed into a godlike entity.

Although this allowed him to become one with the cosmos, the High Evolutionary still prefers to take human form, with his elevated state of being leaving him able to manipulate matter at a subatomic level, allowing him to evolve and devolve other lifeforms at will. When Galactus came to consume Counter-Earth, he even managed to battle the World-Devourer, and while he ultimately lost, he succeeded in holding his own longer than most.

In addition to his knowledge of the Infinity Stones (more on that in a moment), the High Evolutionary has likewise been known to use his scientific knowhow to best mystical threats, including developing a lance that could damage the Darkhold. What’s more, his Darth Vader-like armored suit acts as a life support system that protects him from harm, although by the looks of things, the MCU’s version will be less reliant on this than his comics counterpart.

What is the High Evolutionary’s connection to the Guardians?

Rocket in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3'
Image via Marvel Studios

So, this is all well and good, but how does the High Evolutionary connect to the Guardians? From what we can gather, he will have two major links to the team, one pulled from the comics and the other invented for the screen.

In the source material, the High Evolutionary adopted Adam Warlock and was responsible for gifting him the Soul Stone. While his history with the Infinity Stones appears to be removed for the MCU, Will Poulter’s version of Adam could well still be loyal to the High Evolutionary in Vol. 3, after his birth at Ayesha of the Sovereign’s hands in the Vol. 2 post-credits scene.

Secondly, it’s been confirmed that the High Evolutionary is the creator of Rocket Raccoon, being responsible for transforming him from an ordinary animal into one of his forcibly evolved creatures. This is an original take for the MCU, although it’s a smart move from James Gunn to merge Rocket’s own origins — he comes from the planet Halfworld in the comics — with the concept of the New Men.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 enters theaters from May 6, 2023.