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High Evolutionary: Everything we know about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3's big bad guy

Let's take a look at the MCU's newest (and worst) villain

The High Evolutionary
Image credit: Marvel Studios

Spoiler warning: This article will reveal secrets from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Read on at your own risk.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 still
Image credit: Marvel Studios

The main villain introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 turns out to have been present behind the scenes of the entire series to date, manipulating events and biology itself to shape the storyline far more than anyone could have expected.

But who is the High Evolutionary? What is his role in the comics, and what is his relationship to Rocket? Here is everything we know so far.

Who is the High Evolutionary?

Illustration of High Evolutionary
Image credit: Marvel Comics

In Marvel’s comic book canon, the High Evolutionary is an alias for Herbert Edgar Wyndham, a British geneticist and 'mad' scientist. He debuted in Thor #134 in 1966. As a young man, Wyndham was obsessed with evolution and the attainment of perfection. Typically, evolution is an eliminatory process, where over the course of eons, positive traits 'naturally select' themselves, and thus reproduce in future generations. Wyndham wished to speed this process along via genetic engineering, and create organisms that functioned at their highest potential.

Oxford University expelled him, at which point he teamed with scientist Jonathan Drew and set up a lab on Wundagore Mountain, which is associated with dark magic and witchcraft within the Marvel universe. (We see Wundagore in Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, where Wanda Maximoff destroys the Darkhold and seemingly sacrifices herself.)

It's an ironic, classic Marvel twist: the High Evolutionary is a hero in his mind, engineering scientific breakthroughs and maximizing potential. But his arrogance and ambition to play God to a new race of people, without fully considering (or caring about) the ethics and consequences, makes him incredibly dangerous.

What are High Evolutionary's powers?

Illustration of High Evolutionary
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Over time, Wyndham becomes isolated, and he disappears further down the rabbit hole of his obsession. He creates a silver plated suit of armor to protect him from werewolves and other dangers, and he begins experimenting on himself, evolving his brain to the point that he has psionic powers, and can manipulate matter—evolving and devolving it—with his mind.

His suit, meanwhile, is technologically advanced to the point that it gives him regenerative powers; anytime he has an injury, he evolves out of it.

All of this comes at a cost. The High Evolutionary's genetic makeup is now unstable, and in some storylines, his abilities vacillate wildly.

What's up with the High Evolutionary's experiments? And who are the New Men?

Illustration of High Evolutionary
Image credit: Marvel Comics

The High Evolutionary's most prominent group of creations are known as the New Men, a group of animals (like tigers, and pigs, and alligators) who Wyndham evolved into humanoids, and then educated and trained to serve him.

It went well, at least at first. The New Men became the Knights of Wundagore, and collectively stopped the evil elder god and demon Cthon. And they were largely loyal to Wyndham, who they respected as their creator. A notable exception was Man-Beast, a red wolf/human hybrid who hated his creator and tried to kill him on multiple occasions.

Does the High Evolutionary factor into any mainstream Marvel plotlines?

Illustration of High Evolutionary
Image credit: Marvel Comics

One recent comics revelation is that longtime mutants Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) and Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver) are not true mutants. They were born as normal children; Wyndham's genetic experiments are what gave them their superpowers.

Other than that, the High Evolutionary's experiments regularly bring him into contact with the X-Men and Avengers—sometimes as enemies, because they try to stop him—sometimes as allies, when they face a common threat or interest—and sometimes as saviors, when they step in to help Wyndham undo the messes he creates.

Who's playing High Evolutionary in the movie?

Chukwudi Iwuji as the High Evolutionary
Image credit: Getty Images/Marvel Studios

Chukwudi Iwuji plays The High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. This is his first major role in a film project of this size and scope. Iwuji first gained notice as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has since played the namesake roles in Hamlet and Othello, and Edgar in King Lear.

Who is High Evolutionary in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?

Simply put, GOTGV3 reveals that the High Evolutionary is someone whose presence has been felt throughout the Guardians series to date, even if no-one knew it at the time.

It’s not simply that he created Rocket as audiences know him and love him (via a series of generic and technological experiments that boosted his evolutionary process and transformed him from a regular raccoon into the genius-level hyperviolent little beastie that he is), the High Evolutionary is also revealed to have created the Sovereign, the golden-skinned aliens that plagued the Guardians throughout Vol. 2, an encounter than has massive ramifications for the Guardians — and the MCU as a whole — in the new movie.

The origins of the MCU High Evolutionary are left purposefully vague, but it’s safe to say that he’s not Herbert Edgar Wyndham, as in the comics — not least of all because he talks about having visited Earth, as opposed to having come from that planet. Instead, he’s an alien genetic scientist and founder of Orgocorp, a galaxy-wide corporation known for its scientific breakthroughs. He’s also someone utterly obsessed with the concept of genetic perfection, and who’ll stop at nothing to achieve it — including committing genocide at least once in order to make it happen.

(We see him destroy Counter-Earth and everyone on it because it’s not perfect; the dialogue implies that isn’t the first time it happened.)

The High Evolutionary
Image credit: Marvel Studios

The High Evolutionary is obsessed with Rocket, who is the only test subject of his that revealed a jump in imagination and intuitive thinking that the Evolutionary believes it essential to achieve perfection. Not that he wants to keep Rocket around to learn from him; instead, he wants to dissect Rocket’s brain, and use it as genetic stock to fold into his ongoing experiments. After all, to High Evolutionary, any living being is imperfect fodder for what he hopes to achieve in the future, and nothing matters more than the promise of perfection that lies ahead.

It doesn’t end well, of course — what kind of movie would it be if it did? — and the High Evolutionary is undone not only from pushing his own staff so far that they rebel against him, but by Rocket seeking revenge, and stopping just short of the final blow. The last we see of him, he’s near-comatose on his ship, which eventually explodes, presumably killing him… although it’s always possible that he survives, and is currently floating in MCU space, plotting his vengeance upon everything imperfect that has ever befouled him.

The final installment in James Gunn’s trilogy (well, trilogy-and-a-bit, with the addition of the Holiday Special on Disney+), Vol. 3 promises to bring the long-running story of the team to a satisfying end after nine years, as well as opening up space just a little bit wider for future Marvel stories to explore. It's a film that Popverse's own Tiffany Babb enjoyed a lot, calling it "the best superhero movie of the past six years" - which is high praise indeed.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 opens in most theaters May 5, 2023. Buy tickets on Fandango or Atom Tickets.

Get ready for the new film with our comprehensive Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 guide.


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