Like every MCU movie, Eternals takes what it wants from the comics and shapes it into a cinematic spectacle. With much less source material to take from, Eternals actually does a great job translating some of the most vital parts of the comics to screen. But there is one unexpected focus in Eternals that we think could hint at big things for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it all comes down to Gemma Chan’s Sersi and her radical powers.
What Are Sersi’s Powers in the Comics?
Like any character who has been around for 40+ years, the answer to this is complex. In the original 1976 Jack Kirby Eternals series, all the Eternals had similar powers. Super strength, fighting prowess, generic magical abilities. It’s all very undefined but in those stories, we did see Sersi take on a trickster role. Her powers often had a gimmicky, almost magic-trick like appearance. In Eternals #5 (which we got a nice nod to in the movie) readers saw Sersi utilize a matter transmutation-like power when she transformed a Deviant’s hand into wood. In that original series, she also used her “magic” to transform men into pigs! Fun. That would also be a recurring punishment that Sersi used on her enemies for years to come.
During the 1985 Eternals series, Sersi mostly took a back seat. While she would sometimes transform people’s costumes, they were essentially visual transformations that fit in with her tricker comic book persona. In fact, in Thor #285, Thena calls Sersi a “purveyor of illusions,” supporting the idea that she’s essentially a magic character. It was probably her turn in Avengers which alerted most readers to Sersi. And there her powers were tweaked once again. Avengers #309 reveals she’s a powerful telepath. During the series Sersi occasionally continues to create illusions and tricks that could be seen as transmutation. Moreso, her powers similar to Ikaris were on display during this run: flying, super-strength, and shooting lasers from her eyes.
How Does Eternals Shift Sersi’s Powers?
Sersi’s comic book history clearly shows that she can transform things. Though the question is: how often was it a temporary illusion and how regularly was she literally changing them? Also, during that ’90s Avengers run she states she can’t change things without a “molecular structure,” indicating a supernatural limit to her powers.
After leaving with Black Knight in Avengers #375, Sersi was pretty much only an occasional guest hero until 2006’s Eternals Vol. 3. There Sersi harks back to her funtime party girl origins. When she does rarely use them, her powers start to look closer to what we eventually see in the film. But even as she manipulates molecules, her telepathy is also present. In Eternals Vol. 4, Sersi supposedly receives a power upgrade from the Celestials, though little is done with it. Saying that, though, she does describe her powers using the word “transmute” when speaking of a plan to transform herself into Makkari.
In the MCU Eternals, Sersi’s powers are dedicated solely to the transmutation of matter. It’s a very specific focus that has often been lacking in her comic book backstory. Not only is Sersi talented at matter transmutation but she literally uses it to transform a Celestial into stone. After transforming a Deviant into a tree, Sersi and her team realize she can transmute sentient beings, something she’d never done before. In the film, this is never alluded to or implied to be magic. It’s always about changing things at a base molecular level. This focus on such a specific and underutilized part of her comic book powerset could hint at a huge story arc for Sersi going forward. And it all connects to one of our favorite topics and current theories: Secret Wars.
How Does This Tie into Secret Wars?
Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribić’s 2015 Secret Wars miniseries was most concerned with streamlining the Marvel Comics universe. Over the decades the publisher had created multiple offshoots and universes. In this massive event, Doctor Doom and Molecule Man face off against the Beyonders in order to save the Multiverse. After worlds collide, Doom becomes God Emperor Doom, making Battleworld from the remnants of the Multiverse.
As this is a Doom story, the Fantastic Four plays a large role. And the eventual outcome was one singular Marvel Universe known as Earth Prime. That seems like something that the MCU could be aiming for post Multiverse of Madness as a way of introducing new heroes like the X-Men, Miles Morales—who joined Prime Earth from the Ultimate Universe after Secret Wars—and the Fantastic Four. But what does Sersi have to do with any of this?
In Eternals—and some of the comics—Sersi’s powers are essentially exactly the same as Molecule Man. Her ability to transform matter, both sentient and not, could easily be substituted if, as we suspect, Secret Wars comes to the screen. Another interesting thing to note is that in Secret Wars the Beyonders were using multiple Molecule Men throughout the Multiverse as a way of destroying the new worlds. That’s very similar to how, in Eternals, Sersi had been party to the destruction of millions of worlds throughout history. If we do meet Doom soon in the MCU, then he’ll likely take part in some kind of shenanigans to exploit the MCU’s multiversal chaos. And if he does then he’ll need a matter manipulator to do it…
Featured Image: Marvel Studios