The first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 sets the stage for what fans can expect from the closing chapter of James Gunn’s trilogy of cosmic superhero epics (at least at Marvel), and offers some tantalizing glimpses at what’s in store. It might be offering something more than that, however — it might reveal the latest example of Marvel Studios managing to merge disparate elements of comic book continuity into one unified cinematic whole.
Well, I say “disparate,” but such is the crossover between two wholly separate parts of Marvel’s comic book mythology used in Vol. 3 that it actually creates a little bit of confusion about the opening to the trailer. Specifically, just where are the characters in the opening scene, as they land on a planet that certainly looks like Earth… except it’s an Earth featuring a bunch of animals acting like people.
On first glance, it only stands to reason that a planet full of anthropomorphized animals would almost certainly have to be Rocket’s home planet Halfworld — especially given that we get a brief peek of an otter who almost certainly has to be Lylla, Rocket’s comic book girlfriend, later in the trailer. Except, of course, that there’s an entirely separate world of anthropomorphized animals in Marvel’s comic book universe, and one connected to a character Marvel Studios has already revealed will be part of Vol. 3: Wundagore II, home of the High Evolutionary’s New Men.
The Old New: Rocket Raccoon's Halfworld and High Evolutionary's Wundagore II
Although there are obvious similarities between Halfworld and Wundagore II — they’re both full of animals that walk and talk like humans, to start with — both have entirely separate origins, at least in comic book terms. The New Men of Wundagore II came first, by some distance; they first showed up in 1966’s Thor #133, the result of creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby providing a wild comic book update on H.G. Wells’ Island of Doctor Moreau from the previous century — except that the Moreau stand-in in this case, the High Evolutionary, succeeds where Wells’ character fails: he doesn’t just successfully uplift the animals’ intelligence permanently, he also manages to permanently change their physical form to more closely resemble the human physique, as well. Admittedly, there is some cosmic radiation involved, but that was the norm back in the Marvel of the '60s.
The New Half: The Shrinks, the Loonies, and the New Men
The New Men are, ultimately, dedicated to one thing: scientific exploration. (Mad science, sure, but still.) They were created as an experiment, and now their purpose is to assist in the creation of further experiments. That’s still partway true of the citizens of Halfworld, whose origins are slightly more nebulous — the world was created by a group of human-like beings who wanted to study the insane members of their society; the groups were loosely referred to as 'Shrinks' and 'Loonies,' with the Shrinks eventually retreating from the planet and leaving it in the care of robotic replacements. It was these robots who, seeking to better the care of the remaining Loonies, genetically modify animals to take over the care of the Loonies while they, the robots, went off to pillage the natural resources of the planet in the name of industrial revolutionaries. They showed up in 1982, in Incredible Hulk #271, more than a decade after the High Evolutionary’s experimental beasties.
(This origin was later retconned into something else entirely in 2011’s Annihilators miniseries; it is now seemingly in the process of being retconned back into continuity, as part of the Strange Tales anthology on Marvel Unlimited.)
Both the New Men and the Halfworld citizens, then, were created in the service of science — medical science, in the case of the latter, if we’re getting technical — raising the question… what if the two were connected? Or, more bluntly: what if the MCU’s New Men and Halfworld citizens are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing?
The hybrid of Rocket Racoon and the High Evolutionary's origin stories
There are clues in the trailer to support this, if we wish to see them. We get to see the High Evolutionary, most obviously, with Chukwudi Iwuji looking suitably imposing. We also get to see what appears to be a flashback to a young Rocket, with a notably not robotic hand reaching towards him, suggesting that the comic book origins aren’t being faithfully followed. The seeming appearance of Lylla would suggest that we are indeed going to get to see Rocket’s origins in the new movie, but that opening scene doesn’t look like an alien insane asylum staffed by animals — and what are the odds that the movie will feature two entirely separate races of anthropomorphized animals, really?
We’ve seen Marvel Studios compress Marvel’s comic book mythology into something more streamlined before — Ultron being created by Tony Stark and an Infinity Stone, for example, or folding Thanos into the origin of the Avengers — and Guardians as a series has gleefully played with the roots of its characters throughout its entire run: Star-Lord became the son of Ego, Drax most definitely isn’t a former human who loves the saxophone. So why not fold the High Evolutionary into Rocket’s backstory as the man responsible for creating the little grouchy monster who is certainly not a raccoon that we know and love, and combine the New Men and Halfworlders into one band of alien animals who talk and walk like men…?
Whether or not this turns out to be the case, or merely excitable speculation informed by too many years of reading comics, is something that we won’t know until the movie’s release on May 5, 2023. For all we know, that planet at the start of the trailer might be in the movie as a gag to reintroduce Howard the Duck into proceedings. Stranger things have happened, especially when James Gunn is involved…!
Of course, the High Evolutionary might be up to more than just than playing with Rocket’s DNA, as it turns out…
We get it; you’re excited about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. But do you know everything you need to about it? There’s only one way to check, and that’s by looking at our guide to the movie.