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There’s a moment in the new trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that might stick out to longtime fans of Marvel’s comic book mythology, and not for the usual, “Oh, cool, it’s [character X]” reasons. Instead, it’s a line of dialogue that might reference an entirely unexpected story — and suggest just what Ayesha is doing in the movie altogether.
“I see it within you,” says Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) early in the trailer, surrounded by a number of similarly golden-skinned figures. “Fear. Jealousy. Betrayal. It is our duty to cleanse the universe of this weakness.”
It’s a line that seems curiously at odds with the comic book version of the character, who is more commonly motivated by the search for a worthy man to mate with than anything else (Sadly, not an exaggeration). That the cinematic version of Ayesha differs from the source material isn’t a surprise; her comic book origins involve her being an attempt by scientists to duplicate a character who has yet to show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after all. But, based on her dialogue and surroundings, this new version of Ayesha might have her roots in another Marvel comics character who is, technically, a relative of hers …
In Marvel comic mythology, Ayesha was created by a group of human scientists seeking to replicate an earlier experiment that created the character Adam Warlock. (Warlock’s original name, when he debuted in 1967’s Fantastic Four No. 67, was “Him”; Ayesha’s, in 1980’s Marvel Two-in-One No. 61, was “Her.”) In 1992’s Infinity War No. 2, it’s revealed that Warlock — who, at one point, possessed the Infinity Gauntlet, which granted its wearer omnipotence — had stripped himself of emotions by creating two separate entities to embody the “good” and “evil” parts of his personality. The evil entity was called the Magus, and the good, the Goddess.
The 1993 final part of a trilogy (launched with 1991’s The Infinity Gauntlet comic book and continued in 1992’s Infinity War, centered around the Goddess), The Infinity Crusade saw the Goddess — who, with her golden skin and armor, looks not unlike Debicki’s Ayesha — embark on an attempt to “take away the pain and suffering” of the universe by essentially removing free will as part of what she believed was a battle against evil.
Certainly, she presented her mission in lofty terms — “Embrace the beauty that is righteous. Pledge yourself to the greater glory of the heavens,” she told followers in the first issue of the series, “Will you be my soldiers of light? Will you faithfully serve me?” — and it’s that positioning that mirrors Ayesha’s talk of a duty to cleanse the universe of negative emotions.
There’s a certain logic in combining Ayesha and the Goddess — two visually similar female characters created as analogs for the same male concept, each one individually lacking important elements (For Ayesha, motivation, for the Goddess, an identity and backstory separate from Adam Warlock) — but just because something appears logical from the outside doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what’s actually happening.
Could Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 lift elements of The Infinity Crusade ahead of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, which adapts the first part of the trilogy that Crusade brings to an end? (The Avengers movie, of course, adapts the first installment of the trilogy, but takes its title from the second; things are already confusing, it seems.) We’ll have to wait until May to know for sure, but for now, it would certainly seem that those looking to study up on comic book lore before the movie’s release have a whole new series to check out, just in case …
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