Marvel Cinematic Universe fans have already seen a few Celestials drop by in the films. Power Stone wielder Eson the Searcher is briefly seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy," and one of the most prominent locations in the movie, Knowhere, is a hollowed-out head of a dead celestial. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" introduces us to Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) Celestial father, Ego (Kurt Russell).
With "Eternals" now in theaters, viewers are further introduced to the Celestials and some of their strange plans. These gigantic cosmic figures are the creators of the titular Eternals, so it only makes sense that the entities themselves make an appearance. Without spoiling anything, it probably goes without saying that their sheer size is a sight to behold … and their power is nothing short of terrifying.
As such, you could easily argue that the most prominent Celestial character in the movie, Arishem the Judge (voiced by David Kaye), is the most major player "Eternals" introduces in the MCU. But who, exactly, is he? Here’s the history of Marvel’s Arishem explained.
A powerful Celestial leader
In the comics, Arishem the Judge is basically the highest-ranking of the Celestials that are involved with anything Earth-related, and a pretty big shot among the Celestial ranks in general. In fact, he’s one of the two members of his species who may decide whether civilizations survive or fall, which effectively gives him the ability to rain destruction on a planetary scale … as befits his cheerful moniker, "Killer of Planets."
The MCU version clearly retains the judging tendencies of the comics Arishem, and while his exact powers are still somewhat up in the air, it’s highly likely that the Celestial leader is significantly stronger than the other prominent MCU member of the species, Ego. Considering that Ego outright states that he’s able to spread his influence across space with the aid of another Celestial — or, for that matter, a Celestial hybrid — this means Arishem is pretty surely one of the most powerful entities in the MCU.
Builder of cosmos, flooder of Earth
Arishem is a prime example of legendary Marvel artist Jack Kirby’s cosmic imagination. The character debuted in the second issue of "Eternals" in 1976, but in-universe, his band of Celestials have been around for a while longer. As the Marvel Database notes, the Marvel comic book multiverse tends to give itself a hard reboot every once in a while, and Arishem and his crew first started tinkering with Earth when they were preparing this change in the days of the Sixth Cosmos — the multiverse system that existed before the current one.
In his role as the judge, Arishem flooded the Earth when he felt the Eternals weren’t protecting humanity from the Deviants, thus causing the great flood that’s mentioned in many legends. As such, he’s the character who destroyed the mythical lands of Mu, Lemuria and Atlantis in the Marvel comics, which gives you a rough idea of just how dangerous he can be when he wants to.
A war with the Watchers
Arishem the Judge seems to have a knack for picking a fight with prominent figures. The Celestial and his subordinates have battled significant cosmic forces like Knull, a dark entity who created the Venom symbiote and who enjoys attacking Celestials (and pretty much everyone else) whenever he manages to sneak out of the void he rules. Given that Knull’s connection with Venom presumably puts his film rights in the Sony domain, we’re unlikely to see that clash happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe any time soon. However, another one of Arishem’s ancient enemies is already part of a particularly strange corner of the MCU.
The Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) is the narrator and eventual central character of the animated Disney+ MCU show "What If…?" The character is part of a powerful race of cosmic observers, but when he eventually has to demonstrate his powers, he’s a terrifying force that actually survives a battle with an infinity stone-wielding Ultron (voiced by Ross Marquand). In the comics, the Watcher’s people and Arishem’s group of Celestials warred in a corner of space that’s presumably not in the best shape anymore. With both super-powerful cosmic entities now firmly in the MCU, who knows? Perhaps they find themselves on collision course at some point down the line.
Arishem and the Dark Celestials
Powerful as he may be, Arishem is not invincible, nor is he the strongest character in the Marvel comics multiverse. The Celestials are unfathomable and frankly creepy, but ultimately, they’re an important creative force … and the Yang to their Yin is the destructive Horde. One of the insectoid Horde swarm’s nastier powers is its ability to infect, corrupt, and even kill Celestials. Loki (Who else?) finds one of these tainted Celestials, hatches a particularly inspired plot against Earth, and before you know it, a group of Horde-corrupted, angry, zombie-like Dark Celestials are on their way to tear the planet apart … after they’ve already done away with the rest of the Celestials, and hurled Arishem’s corpse at the planet as a formal greeting.
The Avengers are ultimately able to defeat the Dark Celestials, and the normal Celestials are restored to life. It appears that sometimes, even the most powerful entities in the multiverse need the Avengers to assemble.
Arishem has an X-Men connection in the comics
Before the fans knew more about "Eternals," there was a theory that it could introduce the X-Men into the MCU. While the movie doesn’t quite do that, it’s worth mentioning that "Eternals" does have a stealthy connection to the X-Men: Yep, it’s your boy Arishem.
In the comics, an X-Men faction known as X-Factor — basically, a reunion tour of the five original X-Men — meets Arishem the Judge in a multi-issue story called Judgement War, which takes place on a distant planet that the Celestials are currently surveying. As the title implies, the possibility that Arishem’s crew might unleash an apocalypse soon puts the mutants and the Celestials on a collision course. The results are somewhat embarrassing to Arishem: By working together, Jean Grey and Cyclops are able to optic blast the judge’s hand off in order to prevent a fateful thumbs-down. Luckily for the very small, very squishy X-Men leader, the Celestials take this in stride.
To be fair, a previous encounter with Cyclops and a Celestial goes somewhat differently, as the gigantic entity nearly crushes the superhero like an insignificant ant. Still, the end result probably counts as a big, old "L" for Arishem — one that might get a fun movie call-back at some point down the line when the X-Men inevitably enter the MCU.