“It should have been you.” – Carol Danvers in The Marvels.
Carol Danvers, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan wore Skrull memory probes together in The Marvels to find Dar-Benn’s coordinates, but the three saw more than just a star map. They also unintentionally shared private memories with one another. That included a moment Monica didn’t know about. While she remained blipped out of existence by Thanos, “Auntie Carol” visited Monica’s dying mother, Maria Rambeau. During their encounter Carol tried to explain why she had stayed away from Earth for so long. Carol also told her best friend she should have been the one who gained cosmic powers.
In the moment it felt like Carol’s way of owning up to and apologizing for her failures, both as a friend and a superhero. She wasn’t good enough at being either, not the way her friend would have been. But after the film’s shocking post-credits scene, that previous moment took on a whole new meaning. Carol Danvers might have been right, at least about the hero part. Maybe it should have been Maria Rambeau who became Earth-616’s Captain Marvel. Her Variants in parallel worlds became Captain Marvel instead. The MCU’s Carol Danvers might be an anomaly.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness introduced the Illuminati of Earth-838. One of the powerful group’s members was that dimensions’ Captain Marvel. She wasn’t a Variant of Carol Danvers but a version of Maria Rambeau.
That reveal was a fun, clever “what if,” the kind of alternate reality inevitable in an infinite multiverse. It wasn’t even hard to imagine why that universe’s Captain Marvel was different. On Earth-616 Carol and Maria were both pilots for P.E.G.A.S.U.S., a government project run by secret Kree scientist Dr. Wendy Lawson (a.k.a Mar-Vell). Carol was in the cockpit for Mar-Vell’s escape attempt. It resulted in Carol gaining immense powers from the Tesseract. But Carol was only flying because she’d taken a shortcut while racing Maria to the program’s hangar. Had Maria beat her there instead Maria would have been the one to become Captain Marvel in Earth-616.
Now the Illuminati Maria, who presumably died during her encounter with the Scarlet Witch, seems far more important than ever. The Marvels‘ only post-credits scene introduced another super Maria Variant. She lives in a world with the X-Men, a dimension that didn’t know about the multiverse before. There she is Binary, an even more powerful superhero persona Carol Danvers took on in Marvel Comics after losing her original powers.
Both Maria Rambeau Variants in the MCU are versions of Captain Marvel. On its own, that is more interesting than telling. But combined with the complete absence of any Variants for her MCU best friend, it stands out like a giant tear in space. We have yet to meet another version of Carol Danvers in any other reality—let alone another super one—even though “Captain Marvel” is proving to be a significant figure across the multiverse. As of now, Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is a major anomaly.
What exactly does that mean? We don’t yet know. Marvel Comics once introduced a cosmic entity known as Anomaly, but despite its connections to Quasar ( and therefore Quantum Bands) it’s not relevant to the MCU’s Carol Danvers. The franchise’s America Chavez is also not a great one-for-one comparison, because there is literally no one else like her in the Quantum Realm. Meanwhile we’ve now met three versions of a Captain Marvel character in three different worlds. And while Miles’ status as an anomaly in Across the Spider-Verse seems most pertinent, that’s a Sony story and it’s never clear what (if anything) it tells us about the MCU.
We do know one important thing: the universe doesn’t make mistakes with its greatest heroes. It gives great power to those it will one day ask to carry a great responsibility. Twice someone spared Tony Stark’s life, and he eventually saved every living being everywhere. The Hulk was seemingly created in an accident that should have killed Bruce Banner so he could use the gamma-ray powered Infinity Stones to bring back everyone Thanos snapped. And a Loki Variant just found the glorious purpose he believed himself born with to be saving every branch of reality to ever exist.
If Carol Danvers of Earth-616 is the Captain Marvel anomaly it’s not because the universe made a mistake. Her friend was not the one who should have been the one to gain those powers. It should have been Carol—along with all her flaws—for a reason we don’t yet know but one we can anticipate. Someday the universe will need that Carol Danvers to do something great, something her whole life will build to. And in that moment she and she alone will be the one, in any universe, who can do it.