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Who Is Phyla in Marvel Comics?

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 marks the end of an era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s the final installment of James Gunn’s Guardians trilogy and the last time fans will get to see the original team on the big screen together. The film ends with many of the team members going their separate ways, along with the start of a new team of heroes. Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) now finds himself as the leader of the new team of Guardians consisting of Cosmo (Maria Bakalova), Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Groot (Vin Diesel), Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), and Phyla. Phyla is one of the children liberated from The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) near the end of the movie. Based on her given name and look, she’s clearly the MCU adaptation of the Marvel Comics character Phya-Vell. But who exactly is Phyla in the comics? Well, her backstory in the comics is far more complex than the rather simplified version she’s given by Gunn for the purpose of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. This means it’s a good time to take a look back at the comics’ history of Phyla-Vell.


Phyla-Vell Is the Daughter of Marvel

Phyla-Vell in Marvel Comics
Image via Marvel Comics

Now buckle up because things are about to get weird. In Marvel Comics 616 lore, there is the hero Captain Marvel, who is actually a humanoid alien from the planet Kree named Mar-Vell. In the 1982 comic, The Death of Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell died after succumbing to cancer. His lover Elysius, an artificially created sentient being similar to the Eternals from planet Titan, wished to have Mar-Vell’s child. Using the advanced technology of her race and some of Mar-Vell’s genetic material, she impregnated herself and gave birth to Mar-Vell’s biological child. Their son, Genis-Vell, later inherits his father’s title and abilities, becoming the new Captain Marvel.

Genis also inherits his father’s Cosmic Awareness in addition to his already vast superpowers. Cosmic Awareness grants Genis a universal level of omniscience, and he can see potential threats and terrible futures before they occur. Unfortunately, after his powers grew, Genis was unable to focus his Cosmic Awareness power, and the scope of the omniscience drives him insane. Under the manipulation of the cosmic entities Entropy and Epiphany, Genis destroys the entire Marvel Multiverse. He does restore it later, but the restoration comes with some changes. In the rebuilt Marvel 616 universe, Elysius not only bore one child from Mar-Vell’s genetic material but two. The second child was a daughter, Phyla-Vell, who also inherited her father’s powers, including his Cosmic Awareness. Elysius, with the help of Phyla, Rick Jones, and Starfox aka Eros, are able to walk Genis-Vell back from the ledge, get him to abandon his conquest of annihilation, and help restore his sanity to some degree.

During her first appearance, Phyla-Vell is already a full-grown adult and incredibly powerful. She is able to fight toe-to-toe against her brother, wanting to inherit the title of Captain Marvel over Genis. And while Phyla has the same Cosmic Awareness as her brother, she’s able to focus and control it better since, as her mother puts it, “Girls mature faster.” Over the course of her history, Phyla is primarily a cosmic-level Marvel superhero, appearing in the Annihilation event books and also in the Guardians of the Galaxy, where she became a recurring team member. Besides the title of Captain Marvel, she’s inherited the title of the cosmic hero Quasar and has also gone by the moniker of Martyr. Not long after her debut, she formed a romantic relationship with the telepathic cosmic hero known as Moondragon.

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What Will Phyla’s Role Be in the MCU?

So, most of that backstory regarding Phyla-Vell, Cosmic Awareness, Titans, Elysius, Captain Marvel, Genis-Vell, etc. has been tossed out the window for the purposes of the MCU. Phyla is introduced as an innocent genetic experiment by the megalomaniacal High Evolutionary. He creates a race of new childlike beings called the Star Children to populate his new interstellar colony. High Evolutionary wants to harvest the traits and knowledge from Rocket’s brain to use in his new genetic experiments, the Star Children, who do not appear to have the intellect to spontaneously think and invent things on their own as Rocket did. Unfortunately for the High Evolutionary, his plans fail and are thwarted by the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians also free all the Star Children, Phyla included, and take them in as orphaned refugees in their home base of Knowhere.

In the mid-credits sequence, Phyla is depicted as one of the newest members of Rocket’s new Guardians team. She has learned English, or at least a more common language different from the one she was speaking earlier in the film, and she’s also become a fan of Britney Spears. Phyla appears to be a valued friend and member of the new team, and by now, it’s likely that they’ve already been on multiple missions.

In the MCU, Phyla seems to have no connection to the previously established versions of Mar-Vell, Titan, and the Eternals. Mar-Vell previously appeared in the first Captain Marvel film, portrayed by Annette Bening. Mar-Vell was a former scientist who turned against the tyrannical Kree Empire, using the Tesseract to engineer technology to help the innocent Skrull refugees find safety from the Kree. In the MCU, Mar-Vell never became the hero Captain Marvel and succumbed to cancer. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), who worked for Mar-Vell under her human identity of Wendy Lawson in the PEGASUS Project, is the first hero to take up the title of Captain Marvel in the MCU. Mar-Vell is killed by the Kree soldier Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) in the incident that gave Carol her superpowers and caused her to suffer amnesia.

The world of Titan exists, but it is now a wasteland. The High Evolutionary naming Phyla’s race the “Star Children” does appear to at least reference her cosmic abilities and powers from the comics and background as an inheritor of the titles Captain Marvel and Quasar. The High Evolutionary indicates that the Star Children are capable of running for hours without getting tired and survive on about only 30 calories a day. Although they have very high programmed IQs, they seem to lack the ability to think and create individually. However, it appears possible now that the Star Children have broken free from High Evolutionary’s captivity, they might be capable of further developing their individual personalities. Phyla already possesses a keen intellect, superhuman endurance, and durability. Whether or not Phyla will somehow develop the vast powers and Cosmic Awareness of her comic book counterpart remains to be seen.

Until that time, fans can still see the first appearance of Phyla in the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is playing in theaters now.



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