Warning: Spoilers for Captain Marvel below.
Captain Marvel is the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige: “With Captain Marvel, she is as powerful a character as we’ve ever put in a movie.” And Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo: “It’s always a concern of ours about overpowering characters, because the reason that people relate to these characters is their humanity, and that they’re flawed. And the reason we love working so much with Captain America was that he was limited, and his heart was his superpower, you know? So we’re all acutely aware of the dangers of having an overly powerful character.” It sounds like a silly complaint (“if anything, she’s too awesome!”), but if Captain Marvel can kill all the bad guys (including Thanos) with a single glowing-hands blast, well, where’s the dramatic tension in that? Gotta fill those three hours somehow.
But there’s another character in Captain Marvel, which opened to mostly positive reviews on Thursday night, who could later prove to be equally as powerful. No, it’s not Goose, although those Tesseract-hiding skills may come in handy. It’s Monica Rambeau (played by Akira Akbar), the young daughter of Carol Danvers’ best friend, Maria. Her biggest contribution to Captain Marvel is helping Cap pick her new uniform colors, but she may be essential to future MCU films and provide some much-needed diversity to the Avengers.
It’s a complicated history, but basically, Monica, who was introduced in a 1982 issue of The Amazing Spider-Man Annual, was the first female Captain Marvel (and second overall, after Captain Mar-Vell — like I said, it’s complicated). She eventually becomes the leader of the Avengers, with many of the same powers that we see Brie Larson use in Captain Marvel, “but her position as a main Avenger was cut short following a battle with the sea monster Leviathan in which Monica was severely injured, to the point of being rapidly aged and mostly depowered,” as io9 explained. That led to her retirement from the Avengers and eventually ceding the Captain Marvel moniker to Genis. That’s when she became Photon, but when that jerk Genis also wanted to be called Photon, she adopted a cooler codename: Pulsar. Ever since in 2013, though, she’s gone by Spectrum, a key member of the Mighty Avengers, alongside Luke Cage, Ronin, Power Man, White Tiger, and She-Hulk, among others.