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Why Nebula Is Even More Important Than We Realized

This post contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.

Avengers: Infinity War is less of a movie than an onslaught on the senses, throwing 40 different characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the same threat in an unprecedented crossover. With so many fan-favorites jockeying for attention in the fight against Thanos, one unassuming character — Karen Gillan's Nebula — may prove to be the most important of all.

When audiences first become acquainted with the blue-skinned, black-eyed character of Nebula in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, she seems like little more than a minor foil for the good guys. Driven by borderline-psychotic hatred for her adopted sister Gamora, she assails the team as a powerful nuisance. 

By the end of the 2017 sequel, Nebula has reconciled with her sister, instead turning her murderous tendencies toward her true enemy — Thanos, the Mad Titan, who raised her and Gamora as a part of his sadistic sect of child-warriors. 

Nebula's quest for vengeance in Infinity War brings her to the brink of destruction, as Thanos takes her prisoner and tortures her with cruelty. But by the time the credits roll on the 19th movie in the MCU, Nebula is one of the lucky 50% of people left standing — and if the comics history is anything to go by, Thanos will have to watch his back for her in the next entry. 

Infinity War pulls most of its inspiration from the 1991 six-issue series The Infinity Gauntlet, which similarly pitches every Marvel Comics hero against Thanos as he works to wipe out half the universe. In that story, Nebula is also a target of Thanos' torture, being kept barely alive as a part of his sadistic tribute to the living embodiment of Death. 

Thanos' biggest mistake turns out to be keeping her alive at all. As anyone who's seen her in the movies knows, Nebula is a character who is fueled by nothing but rage and vengeance. 

In the comics, Thanos' horrible disdain for her gives her all the motivation she needs to turn the tide. In an unexpected moment, barely clinging to life, Nebula snatches the Gauntlet from Thanos' grasp, becoming a being of immense power

While getting the Gauntlet away from Thanos is a momentary relief, having Nebula of all people be the most omnipotent being in the universe is a pretty dire state of affairs. The power of the Gauntlet proves far too potent for her scarred psyche to safely wield, and in a way makes her even more dangerous than Thanos. Once Nebula is in control of the Gauntlet, the Marvel heroes actually team up with Thanos to get the Gauntlet back from her.

When the universe's remaining heroes confront Nebula to retrieve the Gauntlet, she uses the properties of the Time Gem to turn back the clock 24 hours, resurrecting everyone who was neutralized by Thanos' fateful snap in the process. She then moves to consolidate power for herself, creating a new world order with her as ruler

Fortunately, she's slightly too insane to wield the power of the Infinity Gauntlet as effectively as Thanos was able to. The element of chaos introduced by her lack of certainty is all the heroes need, as they regroup and attack her in a mad dash for the Gauntlet

The Gauntlet ultimately ends up in the hands of Adam Warlock, a character who has yet to appear in the flesh in the MCU. While Adam's ultimate victory likely won't happen in 2019's fourth Avengers movie, it is possible that Nebula could fulfill a similar purpose in the movies as she does in the comics, introducing a chaotic element to the struggle for the Gauntlet that the heroes can use to their advantage. 

Whether the Infinity War will end with everyone teaming up to attack a superpowered Nebula remains to be seen, but her history in the comics means everyone should keep an eye on her going forward. She's stronger, more capable, and much crazier than she looks. From a storytelling standpoint, she's got to be alive for a reason, right?

Avengers: Infinity War is in theaters now, but the story of the Gauntlet is just getting started. Marvel Studios is set to take audiences on a journey with Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6, introduce Captain Marvel on March 6, 2019, and finally cap off the story with the untitled fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019.