For Marvel Comics fans, each new Marvel Cinematic Universe film (or Disney+ show) brings the possibility of seeing another of their favorite characters brought to life. While origin stories are often updated and tales altered to fit the larger narrative, one area in which these adaptations have been remarkably faithful is the realm of superpowers. Iron Man has high-tech armor, Captain America is a super-soldier, the Hulk is big and green and smashes things — for the most part, the mighty MCU superheroes can do the same things their comic book counterparts can do.
Here’s the thing, though. Most of these characters have been running around the world of comics for decades, and their lengthy histories in this expansive medium have resulted in a lot of bizarre powers over the years. And of course, the MCU is always going to favor having its characters defeat the latest world-threatening force of evil (and sell movie tickets) by going up a level and pulling out some new abilities.
Digging up the things Marvel characters have done in print has long been a decent blueprint for what they might do on the screen, so we did some research: What superpowers do current MCU heroes possess in the comics that we haven’t yet seen in the movies?
Spoiler warning: We will be discussing details of multiple MCU films and shows, so this is your last chance to avoiding learning anything you don’t want to know!
Monica Rambeau’s energy form
The adult version of Monica Rambeau has never appeared in an MCU movie. She is introduced in "WandaVision," getting her powers from passing through the boundary of the Hex surrounding Westview, and "WandaVision" only gives us the barest taste of what those powers might be. She is scheduled to make her film debut in 2022, however, in the "Captain Marvel" sequel "The Marvels," and we hope we’ll learn more then about the range of powers she actually has.
In "WandaVision," Monica absorbs the kinetic energy of bullets, causing them to drop harmlessly to the ground, and actress Teyonah Parris has talked about energy absorption as Monica’s primary superpower. In the comics, however, her main superpower is that she can literally take the form of any kind of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum, including light, X-rays, microwaves, electricity, and even neutrinos. She can fly at light speed, alter her size and appearance, and emit destructive bursts of whatever energy form she’s taken.
In fact, for large portions of her history, Monica transcends her humanity entirely, becoming an immortal being composed of pure energy and one of the most powerful characters in comics at large. It’s true that she can absorb energy, but we suspect the image of her body taking on a strangely liquid form when she stops the bullets in "WandaVision" is just an appetizer, foreshadowing the feast of superpowers to come.
Captain Marvel’s seventh sense
While we’re on the subject of "The Marvels" characters, we might as well discuss Captain Marvel herself, Carol Danvers. Played by Brie Larson, by the time she appears in her prequel film and shows up to throw hands with Thanos in "Avengers: Endgame," she’s already among the MCU’s most powerful characters. This makes it somewhat terrifying that the movies haven’t even come close to showing us the full range of her abilities. And though the comics open up a wide range of further applications for her energy manipulation powers, perhaps the most interesting weapon in Captain Marvel’s arsenal is her seventh sense.
Inherited from her predecessor, Mar-Vell, this ability operates in two ways. Primarily, it functions as a limited kind of precognition, usually used during combat — if an opponent is throwing a punch, Danvers subconsciously knows which way to dodge. It is, however, an extremely unreliable power that doesn’t always work and even disappears completely for a while.
In more recent comics, the seventh sense also presents as a larger awareness of how the universe is structured and the cosmic mechanisms that define reality. MCU Carol having the power to see her enemies’ attacks coming ahead of time would be cool, but given the direction the MCU has been taking lately, particularly in the wake of "Loki," it would almost be more interesting to see her gain an understanding of the burgeoning, rapidly splintering multiverse.
Scarlet Witch’s elemental powers
Until 2020, Wanda Maximoff represented the biggest discrepancy between a character’s superpowers in the comics versus the MCU. Wanda in Marvel Comics is a literal witch with magic powers who manipulates probability and has been known to rewrite all of reality when she’s having a bad day. In the MCU, she starts out as basically just a telekinetic with a dash of unexplained nightmare telepathy.
That changes with WandaVision," which fleshes out Wanda’s powers along with her origin and character, finally turning her into a recognizable version of the Scarlet Witch. She’s set to return in 2022’s "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness," and while that will almost certainly mark the feature film debut of the new abilities she displays in "WandaVision," we’re betting she’s also going to pull out some new stuff. One option from the comics would be her control over the elements.
Aside from Thor’s mystic lightning, the MCU to this point hasn’t really dealt in elemental powers. We haven’t seen anyone throw fire or ice around, for example. The Scarlet Witch, however, can manipulate both those things, along with air, earth, plant life, lava, even light and darkness. Anything derived from the natural world is historically under her sway, which only increases her formidability. There are any number of powers we could have chosen for Wanda, but we would love to see somebody in the MCU finally take command of the elements. At least until the X-Men get here.
Bucky’s cybernetic arm (but better)
James Buchanan Barnes is a master assassin, martial artist, and all-around combat machine, but he really only has one superpower. And honestly, does a bionic arm even count as a superpower? In the MCU, not really — the arm gives Bucky some extra strength, and these days it’s made of vibranium from Wakanda, but that’s basically it. Even "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" refuses to give Bucky’s arm any upgrades, which is a shame, because in the comics, it does all kinds of stuff.
For one thing, the arm contains advanced computer and sensor technology, enhancing Bucky’s throwing ability and helping him detect hidden people or objects in his immediate vicinity. For another, it can emit bolts of electricity and an electromagnetic pulse, either of which would have been helpful in several of his fights in the MCU. In 2017, when Bucky begins leading the reformed supervillain team known in the comics as the Thunderbolts, the genius mechanic Fixer provides additional upgrades, including a retractable knife, an automatic gun-reloading system, and a flamethrower.
If Bucky were walking around the MCU with the same arm he has in the comics, he would be right up there with most of the other Avengers in terms of firepower — and he could have even more! In a world where Iron Man and Black Panther can make their power suits out of nanoparticles and wear them around their necks, why shouldn’t Bucky’s arm have a tank in it or something?
Despite being (canonically) the strongest Avenger, the Hulk takes some beatings over the course of his MCU career. The Abomination gives him a run for his money, he has multiple battles with Thor, and he’s pummeled into submission by Tony Stark’s Hulkbuster armor. Most famously, he’s beaten effortlessly by Thanos in "Avengers: Infinity War" before barely surviving his encounter with the Infinity Gauntlet in "Avengers: Endgame." We know MCU Hulk is tough. What we don’t know is whether he’s literally immortal. Because in Marvel Comics (at least so far) he is.
Hulk has already died numerous times in the comics — gunned down, stabbed, poisoned, blown up, decapitated, and shot through the head with a gamma-irradiated arrow. Most of these demises are explained away in typical comic book fashion. In the pages of "Avengers" #684, however, writer Al Ewing reveals that actually, the Hulk simply cannot die, no matter how thoroughly you kill him.
Ewing goes on to prove it in his 50-issue story "The Immortal Hulk." The writer spends the entire run finding various ways to kill the Hulk in increasingly grotesque and creative fashion, but Bruce Banner just keeps coming back. In the first "Avengers" film, Banner talks about being unable to take his own life. But if he can survive having his heart ripped out of his chest and being turned into a smoking skeleton as he does on the panel, we haven’t yet seen it in theaters.
Mantis’ astral projection
Mantis has only had a couple appearances in the MCU, and she’s mostly been played for laughs. She’s also been limited in her superpowers, possessing strictly empathic abilities. As a result, it might surprise the film viewer to learn that Mantis predates almost every other member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, was briefly an Avenger back in the 1970s, and has a wealth of superpowers at her disposal.
Mantis’ full history and her role within the cosmic machinations of Marvel Comics are far too complicated to explain here, but in addition to being an empath, she has powerful telepathic abilities and at one point acquires wide-ranging precognition. She’s demonstrated control over plant life, as well, and this ability is tied into her tendency to throw herself around the universe: Using astral projection, she can leave her body behind and travel to distant planets, where she uses local plant life to form a new body for her consciousness to inhabit.
This is perhaps the flashiest of her abilities, and the one we’d most like to see in the MCU. Not only would it make for a great visual, but it would allow Mantis to go on her own adventures by visiting strange new worlds in plant form. We certainly hope that the woman known in comics as the Celestial Madonna has a lot more power and agency coming her way onscreen.
Another character who hasn’t had a ton of screen time in the MCU, but who seems destined for bigger and better things, is Shuri, whom we meet for the first time in 2018’s "Black Panther." Shuri is a genius, but as of this moment, doesn’t have superpowers. If her path in the MCU in any way follows her path in Marvel Comics, however, she won’t have to wait long.
It’s not yet clear how Marvel Studios is going to deal with the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman in the upcoming "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," but there has been some inside talk about Shuri taking on a larger role. In fact, Shuri at one point becomes the Black Panther in her own right in the comics — but that’s just the beginning of her journey. In the 2016 "Black Panther" series written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Shuri (who had died in an earlier series) is resurrected by T’Challa after spending time training in Djalia, a plane of existence composed of all the stories of Wakanda.
Shuri can now draw on the stories for power, gaining the ability to transform into a bird or a flock of birds, turn her body to stone, and raise an army of Wakandan dead. She can also gain new abilities by communing with her ancestors and hearing additional stories, as depicted in her own 2018 series written by Nnedi Okorafor. Shuri’s future in the MCU remains a mystery, but the possibilities are staggering.
Valkyrie’s death sense
There are a lot of reasons to love "Thor: Ragnarok," but one of the biggest is its introduction of Valkyrie, an Asgardian warrior played by Tessa Thompson whom Thor and Loki encounter while trapped on the planet of Sakaar. Valkyrie is a fantastic character who, despite her issues with Asgard, ends up reclaiming her sword, armor, and winged horse in time for "Avengers: Endgame" and even ruling over the remaining Asgardian people. She doesn’t have superpowers per se, relying on combat training and the physical gifts that come with being a magical alien. The only thing missing is … any ability that would actually characterize her as a Valkyrie.
In the comics, the Valkyrie are responsible for transporting the dead to Valhalla, meaning that Brunnhilde — Valkyrie’s real name — has the power to teleport between realms, speak any language, and most importantly, divine when a person is close to death. This death sense takes the form of a glow surrounding the person in question that only a Valkyrie can see, and it allows her to take action to prevent that death in the moment.
It seems like that would have been useful at several points throughout Valkyrie’s MCU career. Granted, in the MCU the Valkyrie seem to be more of an elite combat force than death guides, and the death of Odin and destruction of Asgard render their role pretty much entirely obsolete. But we’d still love to see Valkyrie with the death sense.
Thor’s hurricane breath
In contrast to some of the other characters we’ve mentioned, Thor Odinson enjoys plenty of screen time in the MCU, with Chris Hemsworth portraying the God of Thunder in three of his own films and all four "Avengers" movies. He enjoys a full-on character arc regarding his superpowers, not to mention gaining a second mystical weapon in the form of the axe Stormbreaker. And yet, there is one power that MCU Thor hasn’t pulled out yet, and it dates back to his earliest appearances in Marvel Comics.
Thor debuted in 1962 in the pages of the series "Journey into Mystery," and the extreme silliness of those first Thor comics has been well-documented. In "Journey into Mystery" #86, Thor encounters the time-traveling villain Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man. While under assault by one of Zarrko’s futuristic inventions, Thor regains the upper hand via the use of … his breath weapon?
"He draws in a great breath," the narration proclaims, "and then he exhales it, with hurricane force!" Not only does this mystical wind send Zarrko scurrying, but "the supernatural fury of the gale pierces the dimension-veil before it can be fully closed," meaning Thor’s breath can literally travel across dimensions. Hopefully he didn’t eat any garlic.
This is, as far as we can tell, the sole instance of Thor’s hurricane breath, and it’s easy to see why — it’s a bit goofy. Still, with Thor’s next appearance coming alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy in a movie directed by the notoriously zany Taika Waititi, you never know.
Sam Wilson’s bird telepathy
If you’re a Marvel Comics fan, you knew this one was coming. In theory, we understand why Sam Wilson, formerly known as the Falcon and serving as the new Captain America since the events of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," hasn’t been given superpowers in the MCU. He’s been primarily featured in the Captain America franchise, which is generally the most grounded and realistic part of the MCU. And even if that wasn’t the case — even if Sam was a Thor guy or a Black Panther guy — we’re not sure there’s any plausible scenario where the MCU grants him the powers he has in the comics. But they should, because it would be amazing.
In the comics, thanks to the machinations of the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube, Sam Wilson has the ability to communicate telepathically with birds. He can see through their eyes and summon them as allies — and Redwing, portrayed in the MCU as a combat drone, is an actual falcon with whom Sam shares a telepathic bond.
Now, is all of this kind of ridiculous? Yes. Is it more ridiculous than a talking space raccoon with a thing for cybernetic body parts, or Scott Lang’s ant friends, or literally anything that happens in "Thor: Ragnarok"? Absolutely not. We don’t care how you do it, Disney, but give Sam Wilson his bird telepathy! We want to see Captain America leap into action alongside an army of bald eagles.