Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wasn’t exactly overflowing with Marvel Cinematic Universe references, and that’s entirely OK. Director James Gunn was more focused on making it a stand-alone sci-fi romp, an approach that was a refreshing change from the “just wait until you see what happens in the next movie” philosophy of past MCU installments.
That said, it wasn’t completely separate from the rest of the universe, indicated by a handful of subtle connections. Here’s what we saw.
In Marvel’s comics, the Celestials pop up all the time, appearing as godlike beings as eternal as the universe they reside in. The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie even featured Knowhere, a planet colony formed inside the skull of a dead Celestial. In Guardians Vol. 2, Ego the Living Planet makes an appearance, retconned by the MCU as Peter Quill’s father. Odds are, this isn’t the last we’ll see of this ancient race either.
2. Berhert and a subtle Hulk connection
In Guardians 2, we see our heroes crash-land on the seemingly random planet of Berhert. In reality though, it’s not some randomly-selected planet at all. In fact, it’s where the Hulk crash-landed a spaceship of his own in a comic series from the 1960s. Given the fact that we know the Hulk is now operating as a space-gladiator, it wouldn’t be crazy to assume he too fell to the surface of the remote planet, before falling under the employment of the Grandmaster (more on him soon).
3. Howard the Duck
Most Marvel diehards probably remember Howard the Duck from his ill-fated 1986 movie, widely panned as one of the worst comic book movies ever made. The much-maligned waterfowl resurfaced in an end-credit tag following the first Guardians of the Galaxy though, and apparently is still wandering the universe. He shows up in Guardians 2 in a pleasure house on Contraxia, clearly at large and living life to the fullest.
4. Starhawk and the original Guardians of the Galaxy
There was a good deal of theorizing surrounding Sylvester Stallone’s rumored role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As the film finally revealed, he plays Stakar, better known by his comic book alias, Starhawk.
In the original Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy comic series, Starhawk and his team formed the first iteration, and were only swapped out for the heroes we know now circa 2008.
5. Stan Lee’s Marvel cameos finally get the explanation we’ve been waiting for
Despite generally adhering to a strict code of continuity, the one loose thread in the MCU involves Stan Lee’s repeated cameos as an assortment of characters. Guardians 2 finally told us why, crediting Lee as a “Watcher Informant.” For those unfamiliar with the Watchers, they’re basically a race of gods sworn to observe the universe but never intervene. Now, we know they’ve been utilizing Lee to monitor the various heroes of the MCU, with the “jobs” he has in each movie functioning as his cover story.
6. Taserface and a possible connection to Tony Stark
Taserface’s name is the butt of a hilarious ongoing joke in Guardians 2, but in the comics, his connection to the more Earth-bound characters runs far deeper than that. He originated from a primitive planet, where he discovered a cache of discarded Stark technology. After learning to use the advanced weaponry for himself, he and his people renamed themselves the Stark (after their benevolent weapon-provider), and so Taserface was unleashed upon the galaxy at large.
While under the sway of his father, Ego, Peter Quill’s eyes become filled with an imprint of the galaxy, as he utters a single word to describe what he’s seeing: “Eternity.” That could very well be more than a reference to the vastness of the universe, given that that’s the name of a powerful cosmic entity in Marvel’s comics, who appears donning the same galaxy design we see above.
We know that a third Guardians movie will be coming eventually, so perhaps it’s a hint at the next big bad set to challenge our heroes.
8. Adam Warlock
If you hung around for one of the five end-credits scenes, you may have noticed the Sovereign’s high priestess vowing vengeance, utilizing a mysterious cocoon to create the ultimate weapon against the Guardians. The name she gives that soon-to-be-weapon is Adam, and that’s no coincidence.
As many fans may know, Adam Warlock is a comic character known for his propensity to regenerate in cocoons, and is often cast as a key player in defeating Thanos. How he’ll be used in future films remains to be seen, but he’ll be important nonetheless, as the Avengers: Infinity War movie continues to loom on the horizon.
9. Jeff Goldblum makes an appearance as the Grandmaster
In addition to the record number of end-credits scenes at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we also see our various characters dancing among the credits themselves. Guardians mainstays aren’t the only ones who show up, with Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster making a brief appearance as well.
But of course, that’s just the beginning of his character — fans got a healthy dose of him late in Thor: Ragnarok too.
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