By all indications and preview videos and trailers, actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw's Ravonna Lexus Renslayer has a key role to play in Disney Plus's new streaming series Loki, but the first two episodes might only scratch the surface - and might even mislead - viewers as to what her actual may ultimately be.
Spoilers ahead for Loki episodes 1 and 2.
Renslayer has been positioned as both a judge and jury (but at least as of yet, not executioner) and chief executive for the Time Variance Authority (or TVA).
But like almost all Marvel stories, things aren't always what they appear to be in the early going, and because of the character's Marvel comic book history and Marvel Studios' often faithful regard for the source material, her early and impressive first appearances in Loki have the potential to be deceiving. Yes, our suspicions are already raised.
Both her executive and judicial roles in adjudicating violations to what's referred to as "sacred timeline" at the bequest of the ancient cosmic entities the Time-Keepers are somewhat ironic, given that during her Marvel comics history she's been one of the biggest offenders of disturbing timelines. And that's not even mentioning her romantic ties to Kang the Conqueror, the Marvel Universe's preeminent time travel supervillain.
With a history that has seen her go up against the likes of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and more, Ravonna has the potential to be much more to Loki and maybe even the greater MCU than her scenes have suggested so far.
And if all that history and potential feels intimidating, we feel you. That's where Neewsarama comes in. So if you let us, we'll break down exactly who the comic book Ravonna Lexus Renslayer is and what it might mean for Loki and her full impact in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Who is Ravonna Lexus Renslayer?
Introduced way back in 1965's Avengers #24 from Stan Lee and Don Heck, Ravonna is the daughter of King Carelius, the ruler of an unnamed kingdom in the far-flung future of the 40th Century, whose empire was conquered by Kang.
A quick TL:DR on Kang, cause he's gonna stay relevant: Kang is one of many pseudonyms for a time-traveler who conquers numerous eras and empires throughout Marvel's history by way of his time powers, and who has a burning desire to defeat the Avengers in combat on his own terms.
After conquering her father's kingdom, Kang fell in love with Ravonna, though she spurned him for taking over her home and forcing her father to serve him. Blinded by his love for Ravonna, Kang allowed her kingdom to enter open rebellion against him until he had no choice but to use his vast empire to fight back.
Coming up with a fairly roundabout and honestly kinda typical for Kang plan, the conqueror brought the Avengers to Ravonna's kingdom to witness its downfall, believing, through his own twisted logic, that Ravonna would fall for him if he exercised his strength over both her homeland and the mighty Avengers.
If you can believe it, this totally flawless plan to win Ravonna's heart failed, and Kang was eventually forced to team up with the Avengers to fight his own soldiers, who felt he had betrayed them by falling in love with Ravonna. Turning to Ravonna's kingdom for aid, Kang and the Avengers freed Ravonna from the dungeon Kang had placed her in, and they all fought together against Baltag, Kang's mutinous general.
Baltag tried to kill Kang as the fight was ending, but Ravonna, deciding she actually DID love Kang, sacrificed herself to save him, with Kang placing her dying body in stasis and departing, vowing to restore her and save her life.
That's not the end of Ravonna's association with Kang or the Avengers though - not by a longshot. And we'll tell ya, things aren't gonna get less complicated from here.
Ravonna Lexus Renslayer in the Marvel Universe
Following his defeat, Kang, reeling from the mutiny of his army and seeking to revive Ravonna, entered a game with the Grandmaster (known to MCU fans for his role in Thor: Ragnarok, though the comic book version is even more cosmically powerful) in which his chosen champions, the Avengers, were forced to fight the Grandmaster's champions the Squadron Supreme.
Grandmaster promises Kang that if Kang wins, he'll be granted the power to save Ravonna from stasis and kill the Avengers.
Kang lost through his own hubris, losing his chance to save Ravonna - but not all was lost.
Through a set of bizarre time travel-based circumstances, a duplicate of Ravonna from another point in time becomes Kang's new lover, before revealing she's actually in the employ of one of Kang's biggest time-traveling rivals - Immortus, his older self.
OK, it's not so fair to Ravonna to keep talking about Kang the Conqueror while explaining her backstory, but a bit more history is needed for everything that comes next - including some ridiculous plotting and scheming on Ravonna's own part.
As we said, Kang has many aliases, some of which he has used at different points in his life, or which have been used by versions of him from other timelines - including some who also go by the name Kang. In this case, there's just one other version of him who becomes relevant - Immortus.
Immortus is a much older version of Kang from a time when he has relinquished his conquest and begun working for the Time-Keepers, a group of beings depicted as the three enigmatic statues and described as "lizard-people" in the first episode of Loki. Immortus actually hates Kang (his own younger self) and blames him for screwing around with the timestream.
This all leads to a long, evolving saga of time-tossed duplicates of Kang, Ravonna, and more, all culminating in Kang hunting down and killing many of his duplicates, while Immortus's ally Ravonna reveals she's actually the original version Kang fell in love with, rescued by the Grandmaster only to vow revenge on Kang for not saving her himself.
If we're talking about a tangled web, the rest of Ravonna's story may as well be a web of webs all tangled together in a veritable Gordian Knot.
Taking her revenge plans on the road, Ravonna takes on the identity of none other than Nebula, the comic book and MCU daughter of Thanos, using the disguise to subvert and mind-control Dr. Druid of the Avengers, a Z-List sorcerer whose history is almost better left unsaid, who rises through the ranks of the Avengers to become the leader under Ravonna/Nebula's influence.
When this scheme to manipulate the Avengers and the Council of Cross-Time Kangs (a group of Kangs from numerous timelines all working together) into destroying each other fails, Ravonna, still disguised as Nebula, moves on to trying to trick the Fantastic Four into helping her steal the Ultimate Nullifier, a cosmic weapon which erases its targets from existence.
Failing again, Ravonna moved into what may be called a downward spiral of manipulating Dr. Druid (still him???) through a series of cascading identities of her own such as 'Temptress' and 'Terminatrix' - a scheme which, miraculously, leads to Ravonna taking on Kang in combat and defeating him to become ruler of Chronopolis, his time-spanning empire.
Ravonna revives Kang - doing what he never could for her - and takes him on as her consort as the new ruler of Chronopolis until the empire itself is destroyed in Avengers Forever, a time-traveling story in which Kang and Immortus actually go to war.
And sadly, along with the fall of Chronopolis came the final death of Ravonna - for now.
Ravonna Lexus Renslayer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
As we say, Gugu Mbatha-Raw's Ravonna only appears relatively briefly in the first two episodes of Loki, and in the premiere, she appears to be on the up-and-up as a judge and authority figure to Owen Wilson's Mobius M. Mobius in the TVA.
That said, given the comic book Ravonna's history as a manipulator, liar, schemer, and outright villain - and considering the ambiguity of the true villain or villains of Loki - there's more than enough room for the MCU Ravonna to take a similar turn, and Loki episode 2 begins to suggest there is more (or less?) to Ravonna than meets the eye.
More often than not, Marvel Studios is very faithful to the Marvel Comics source material, especially when it provides MCU twists and turns, so the question marks raised in episode 2 bear watching.
In comic books, Ravonna has little to no association with the TVA or Time-Keepers, aside from working with Immortus. But it's that juxtaposition right there that may have the most interesting implications for Loki, and/or for the larger MCU.
The Time-Keepers are seen in Loki as three alien figures in and also as three busts above Ravonna's podium (which are seen in abundance in episode 2); both of which resemble their alien appearance in comic books ... "lizard people" as they're called. The TVA appears to be more directly connected to the Time-Keepers in the MCU than they are in the Marvel Universe.
Ravonna actually explains their connection in her exposition-heavy first scene. According to her dialogue, the Time-Keepers "dictate the proper flow of time," and the TVA "dictates the proper flow of time based on their dictations."
So with that connection established, could Immortus be lurking somewhere up the Loki food chain?
It's not that far-fetched - Kang himself is already scheduled to debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the villain of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, played by Jonathan Majors. Although it should be noted Majors has said he's not appearing in Loki.
Not to sound like a broken record (or maybe like folks throwing endless coins in a bottomless wishing well), but if Immortus and Kang both wind up in the MCU in a phase that seems to be increasingly focused on alternate timelines and different worlds in the Multiverse, well, we can't help but itch at the chance to see an adaptation of Avengers Forever brought to the screen.
Not just an epic tale that spans the past and future of the Marvel Universe, Avengers Forever features a roster of Avengers plucked from across the Marvel timeline - a premise that, if adapted to film, could allow for classic MCU Avengers characters (and actors) to return, who btw, are all over the first episode of Loki.
But back to Ravonna. In episode 2 it is revealed that she has a penchant for "trophies" from the timestream and has (or at least claims to have) a close, personal connection to the Time-Keepers. In a meeting with Mobius, she suggests she meets with them personally and knows their day-to-day activities and interests.
Her scene with Mobius also reveals she apparently works closely with at least one other TVA analyst Mobius is aware of but does not know. This little nugget of information could have important implications down the road, and it's always worth noting, that in the MCU if you have a somewhat hidden agenda, it's almost always not a very good one.
A pen that appears to have come from a very specific place also figures prominently in the same scene.
The pen and her meeting with Mobius could also have wide-reaching implications and close watchers of the MCU are certainly supposed to be speculating as to its implications.
And not for nothing, it might also be worthwhile to be asking ourselves why Mbatha-Raw and fellow British actor Wumni Mosaku who plays Hunter B-15 are both affecting American accents for their roles? If the TVA is really what it has been revealed so far on the surface - created by ancient god-like beings who watch over all of existence, a switch from their natural British to American accents makes little to no sense, unless them both being American is somehow important to what the TVA really is.
Avengers Forever is one of the best Avengers stories of all time.