Nebula, Mantis, And Drax In ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy 3,’ Explained

In the third and final installment of Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, director James Gunn reserved the lion’s share of the characterization for anthropomorphic characters, as seen through the saga of Rocket and his friends. Whatever little was accorded to humans or humanoids was mostly reflected through the trio of dunderheads: Nebula, Mantis, and Drax. Not only were these characters quite influential in the lore of the Guardians during the Infinity Saga, but their arcs were significantly more interesting than that of Star-Lord, the lead protagonist of the series. James Gunn had previously stated that he would end the journey of the current team of the “Guardians” by concluding the trilogy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t see them in the MCU ever again. In this article, we will go through the actions and character arc of the trio in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 to assess what the future might hold for them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


Spoilers Ahead

Nebula Quite Possibly Had The Best Character Arc In The MCU

From being abducted at a young age and turned into a soulless killing machine thanks to the Mad Titan Thanos’ dastardly machinations to making amends for her past, turning a new leaf, and finding a family of her own, Nebula has come a long way throughout her seven appearances in the MCU. The viewers were introduced to Nebula during the first Guardians movie as the adopted daughter of Thanos, who was turned into an intergalactic assassin, just like her adopted sister Gamora, but unlike her, she was experimented on numerous times by her adopted father. Despite the cruel treatment she had received from Thanos, she spent her life seeking his approval, which led her down a dark path. To make matters worse for her, Gamora was never there to assist her, and Nebula lived a life of ignominy as the neglected adopted sibling. The rough upbringing never allowed Nebula to connect with her emotional side.


Initially, as Gamora defected from Thanos’ universe-balancing plan and formed the Guardians, the team and Nebula found themselves at each others throats. It was not until the second Guardians movie that Nebula got some solace when Gamora conveyed her apology, and the two sisters reconciled. Since this point, Nebula has started reflecting on her actions more. During the events of “Infinity War” and “Endgame,” she joined the heroes in the battle against Thanos, faced her past self, who was still pursuing a lost cause of gaining validation from the oppressive adoptive father and killed her, thereby burying the hatchet on her demons and starting a life she finally has control over. Nebula joined the Guardians and continued to assist them in their adventures.

Nebula joins the team when they are in a precarious situation due to the death of the present-time version of Gamora. In an alternate version of the past timeline, Gamora still exists, but she is not the same person and has a life of her own, separated from the Guardians, which results in Peter Quill, the leader of the team, who was in a relationship with her, falling into drunken depression. With time, Nebula, who erstwhile hadn’t experienced tender feelings from anyone in her life, grows attached to the Guardians family and starts considering them her own. Among all, she could relate to Rocket Racoon the most, given how both of them were the results of experimentations and were torn apart and joined over and over again by their oppressors, resulting in their initial emotional blockage and vulnerable psyche. So it’s no wonder that when Rocket was grievously injured by Adam Warlock in Guardians of the Galaxy 3, she did every possible thing she could to help her best friend and called for Gamora’s help in the altered timeline, despite knowing it would create an awkward situation for the team.


Nebula learns about the kind of brutality Rocket has gone through in the past and is immediately horrified, claiming it to be more extreme than anything Thanos has ever subjected her to. For the first time, she is able to show utmost sincerity for someone in her life, and she isn’t willing to lose that person once again to others’ machinations. As Rocket gets revived, Nebula is hit by a strong wave of happiness and relief, strong enough to make someone like her cry tears of joy.

Although Nebula has grown fond of the team and is trying to open up, she is still not used to sharing her feelings and accepting others most of the time. Something Mantis points out to her, which, although it comes as a reality check, ultimately helps Nebula come to terms with her own self. As Rocket takes a final stand against the High Evolutionary at the end, it’s Nebula who joins his side at once—something that was inconceivable during the character’s initial assessment years ago. Along with her Guardians family, Nebula rescues numerous creatures, including children who were being experimented upon by the High Evolutionary, and through this act, Nebula almost rescues herself by saving them from a fate similar to her own.


After everything is said and done, Nebula decides to form the Guardians HQ, a sanctuary for abandoned children, and quits the direct combat team to be instead a protector of the place. Starting from a lonely, broken state of mind to finding a purpose, finding a family, and at the end, dancing with them with a big smile on her face, the character growth that Nebula went through remains unparalleled in the MCU, and we wish to see more of her misadventures in future MCU projects. If there is an MCU character who deserves another chance at life, it is her.

Will Mantis And Drax Reunite In The Future?

One of the founding members of the team, Drax the Destroyer, although he had a somewhat less impactful addition to his arc in the final Guardians movie, still had a strong presence in the team. The clueless himbo who unwillingly finds himself at the butt end of the jokes and quips, as appropriately stated by Mantis, is the only member of the team who is not at odds with himself. What seems to be his lack of complex brain activities is, in turn, his earnest simplicity, which allows for a far better understanding of matters that are not guided by the heart but by the wits.


It is hinted in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 that Mantis and Drax have fallen for each other, and although Mantis’ occasional usage of emotion-altering powers might feel ethically questionable, her feelings for the person whom the team considers a nincompoop is genuine. In a sense, the pair complement each other pretty well: an emotionally sound simpleton and an empath. However, it seems fate might have assigned different trajectories for them, as by the end of the movie, they part ways.

Drax, who all those years ago formed the Guardians to hunt down a common enemy, Ronan, who was responsible for the deaths of his wife and children, has since found a family in the members and is deeply protective of them. In order to save Peter and Groot from the clutches of the High Evolutionary, Drax leads Mantis and Nebula to board the Arête, but the trio gets themselves trapped instead. While imprisoned, they meet the Star Children, another species created by the High Evolutionary in his strive for perfection. We learn the father in Drax has still not left him when he connects with the Star Children and manages to convey a message to them, something that even a strong empath like Mantis can’t do. Nebula takes notice of this and, in the end, asks Drax’s help in creating a sanctuary for the abandoned across the galaxy. Mantis states that Drax was always meant to be the father, the protector, and not the destroyer like his vengeful past made him believe. After years of being exploited by Ego, the living planet, for her powers, Mantis wants to seek out her own journey and knows Drax can’t be a part of it, as he, too, has a purpose to serve among the Guardians. Although the movie ends with Mantis and Drax going their separate ways, and Drax actor Dave Bautista has remarked about not returning for the role in the future, it has been confirmed that the journey of Drax and Mantis in the MCU isn’t over yet, and fans are going to be all too happy to know that.


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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