Captain Marvel's powers explained – what are they and where do they come from?

Captain Marvel powers
(Image credit: Disney)

Captain Marvel is both one of the most powerful and least well-known superheroes in the MCU, so it's only natural that you'd want to know what Captain Marvel's powers are before seeing her solo flick, which is out this week on March 8. There’s a reason why Nick Fury turned to Captain Marvel in the Avengers: Infinity War post-credits scene – and it’s not because she’s the only other person using a pager in the 21st Century. As Fury knows, Captain Marvel’s powers are impressive and will be invaluable in potentially undoing the Snap and defeating Thanos once and for all in Avengers 4: Endgame.

Read more

Avengers: Infinity War ending explained - everything you need to know after watching

But outside of a few quick shots in trailers and whispers that she’s going to be the most powerful hero in the MCU so far, pinning down the exact arsenal of Captain Marvel powers is tougher than you might think. So, let’s clear that up and make sure you’re fully prepped for what Brie Larson’s binary-fuelled badass is capable of before watching her kick butt in the MCU. 

We’re diving deep into the Captain Marvel comics, as well as combing through every frame of the trailers we’ve had so far, to see which of the iconic Captain Marvel powers made the cut. Just don’t be too disappointed if some inevitably don’t make the jump from comic book panel to cinema screen because, if you believe Samuel L. Jackson, some surprising new Captain Marvel powers might be stepping into the frame instead. Did somebody say time travel?

Captain Marvel’s powers in the comics

While the origins of Captain Marvel’s powers in the comics change depending on which storyline you’re reading, it’s generally accepted that a big explosion involving a Kree spaceship gave Carol Danvers her superhuman powers. She has a whole bunch of Captain Marvel powers, which makes her one of the most adaptable, unique heroes in the pages of the Marvel’s comics.

Flight

From Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1 (image credit: DeConnick/Lopez)

From Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1 (image credit: DeConnick/Lopez)

Many have gone by the name Captain Marvel over the years, and most of them could fly unaided by technology. It’s the same story here. However, none can fly quite as gracefully as Carol Danvers. Whether it’s her time in the US Air Force that helped her refine her soaring prowess, Carol’s sky-bound skills coming in handy more often, her ability to fly is almost as iconic now as her red and blue suit.

Binary

From Captain Marvel #8 (image credit: DeConnick/Lopez)

From Captain Marvel #8 (image credit: DeConnick/Lopez)

Probably the coolest of all Captain Marvel’s powers, it’s also an ability that actually rolls several superpowers into one. Captain Marvel going binary is essentially the equivalent of Goku going Super Saiyan or Sonic going Super Sonic, just without the glowing yellow flames. Seriously, why all the yellow?

After being abducted by aliens and experimented on (which is pretty much par for the course for our extra-terrestrial buddies), Carol began exhibiting new binary powers. Often during times of great danger, or when she’s taken a beating, Captain Marvel will go binary, essentially making her go supernova. Not only does this fiery look greatly increase all of her current abilities, such as a superhero’s trademark strength and speed, but also adds a few new powers into the mix.

While binary, Captain Marvel can survive in space, shoot energy beams from her hands, as well as take a great deal of damage without so much as flinching. Simply put, there aren’t many more powerful Marvel characters than Captain Marvel’s binary form.

Energy absorption

From Captain Marvel (2016) #10 (image credit: Chris and Ruth Gage and Kris Anka)

From Captain Marvel (2016) #10 (image credit: Chris and Ruth Gage and Kris Anka)

Most superheroes can take a licking, but one of the trademark Captain Marvel powers, energy absorption, means she can often return an attack to sender just as soon as she’s hit. If Carol is hit by an energy beam, for example, she can fire one back of equal strength and, in some cases, can even make it stronger.

That’s not all it can do though. As energy makes up a key part of Captain Marvel’s powers, actually hitting Captain Marvel means that you’re only inching her ever closer to going binary, which she can only do thanks to her energy absorption abilities. It makes her a useful figure, too, when taking down the many weird and wonderful cosmic foes that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have faced over the years.

Super strength

From Captain Marvel (2012) #9 (image credit: DeConnick/Bellaire/McKelvie)

From Captain Marvel (2012) #9 (image credit: DeConnick/Bellaire/McKelvie)

Well, duh. You can’t take off your superhero training wheels unless you can pack a mean punch, and Carol Danvers is no different. She might not have to get down into the nitty-gritty of hand-to-hand combat all that often (being an all-powerful space demi-god) but, when push comes to shove, Carol can lay the smackdown with the best of them.

She’s proficient in unarmed combat and, as many a Big Bad’s henchman will attest, getting a kick in the face from Ms. Danvers is only marginally preferable to getting turned to dust by her energy beams. Just look at that image above. Ouch.

Captain Marvel’s powers in the MCU

“She will be by far the most powerful character we’ve ever introduced,” explains Kevin Feige in a 2016 interview with CinemaBlend. But we don’t know the ins and outs of Captain Marvel’s powers just yet in the MCU.

It appears that her origins are going to follow a similar path to the comics, with a traumatic air crash being highlighted more than once in the marketing material. Larson has peeled back the curtain somewhat when it comes to her skillset, telling the Toronto Sun: "She’s crazy strong. She can shoot photon blasts from her hands. She can also absorb energy. Is there anything else I’m missing? I feel like there’s a lot that goes with that. Oh yeah, she can fly.” 

Still, there’s plenty here that might not follow the comic book Captain Marvel powers step-by-step, which is just as interesting.

Hand-to-hand combat

While many of the MCU’s finest can surely kick your ass in hand-to-hand combat, not many ever do so. Captain Marvel has already shown she can do just that by sparring with Jude Law’s character, which shows she’s been well-trained in unarmed combat. Oh, and don’t forget the granny punching. That’s a whole thing. Basically, if she’s going to strike you with a right hand, you’d best get out of the way – and quick!

Photon energy blasts and energy absorption

Captain Marvel normally needs to go full-on binary before really hitting her stride with photon blasts in the comics. Not so here. The trailers have hinted that she can blast anything into ash pretty much willy-nilly, as a sit-down chat with Nick Fury turned into a demonstration of just how quickly Ms. Danvers can make her hand shoot a projectile and melt pretty much anything. Let’s hope that’s not how Nick loses his eye… Away from that, Larson has even confirmed that Captain Marvel can absorb energy, though Marvel has hidden that away from us for now.

Time travel

No, that’s not a typo. Captain Marvel might be able to time travel in the MCU, at least according to Samuel L. Jackson. He tells Entertainment Tonight that “she's one of the few people in the Marvel universe that can time travel, so...” before trailing off, perhaps realising he’s just let a big spoiler slip.

If she can time travel, Captain Marvel will have an even bigger role to play in Avengers: Endgame than we could have possibly imagined. For now, though, file this one down as a juicy rumour but very much unconfirmed.

Flight

Don’t forget that Captain Marvel can lift off at any time and fly through the heavens. No fancy suit, no floating cape, just one superhero who can glide with the best of ‘em. She can do it, seemingly, at a speed far greater than any of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, too. She’s close to hitting the speed of light at times, it seems. Might she be the one, as is so often rumoured, who goes and rescues Tony Stark to kick off Endgame?

Binary

It’s the moment that many wanted to see come to life on the big screen, and the debut Captain Marvel trailer didn’t disappoint. Captain Marvel’s supercharged form zips through outer space, destroying things at a whim and photon blasts coming out of her hands in every direction. She means business – and then some, showcasing abilities that many in the MCU would only dream to have.

In a later trailer, we also saw her transformation from Carol Danvers in a superhero suit to the all-powerful binary form, her hair and eyes radiating light. This is someone that Thanos does not want to mess with.

Don't mind spoilers? Here's what happens in the Captain Marvel ending and Captain Marvel post-credits scenes