Who Is ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’s Villain, Cassandra Nova?

Estimated read time 9 min read

The Big Picture

  • Deadpool & Wolverine
    will likely feature the titular duo facing off against a mysterious new villain named Cassandra Nova.
  • Cassandra Nova is an immensely powerful telepath who holds a dark history of causing tragedy in the X-Men world, making her a deadly foe.
  • Although Cassandra’s connection to
    Deadpool & Wolverine
    remains unclear, her appearance hints at the possibility of other familiar faces showing up.

Deadpool & Wolverine premieres later this summer, but there’s still a lot Marvel fans don’t know about the anticipated team-up film, including the identity of the villain Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman’s titular superheroes will be going up against. In early 2023, it was reported that The Crown and A Murder at the End of the World star Emma Corrin was cast in the film in a leading villain role, but further details about their character have not been officially released. A frequent rumor states that Corrin will portray Cassandra Nova, a villain with a complex backstory that has menaced Wolverine and the X-Men in several Marvel comics since the turn of the century.

Although Marvel Studios has still yet to publicly confirm Corrin is playing Cassandra, information on the film filed with the U.S. Copyright Office does currently list them as the character. Between that and a brief glimpse of someone resembling Cassandra featured in the film’s first trailer, it seems fairly likely the rumors are true. So, who is Cassandra Nova and what kind of threat could she pose to Wade Wilson and Logan?

Deadpool 3 Come Together Film Teaser Poster

Deadpool & Wolverine

Wolverine joins the “merc with a mouth” in the third installment of the Deadpool film franchise.

Release Date July 26, 2024

Studio Marvel Studios

Cassandra Nova First Appeared During Grant Morrison’s ‘New X-Men’ Run

Created by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, Cassandra first appeared in New X-Men #114 in 2001 as the lead villain of a story arc titled “E is for Extinction,” the first in Morrison’s famed run on the title. An immensely powerful telepath, she manipulates Donald Trask III, the last living relative of Bolivar Trask, creator of the mutant-hunting robots known as the Sentinels, to unleash a group of particularly dangerous, large, “wild” Sentinels, which Cassandra herself subsequently takes control of using Donald’s DNA. She uses them in an attack on the island of Genosha, which was at the time a haven for mutants ruled by the X-Men’s on-and-off enemy Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto.

The strike ultimately kills more than 16 million mutants and is arguably the darkest tragedy in X-Men history. During a subsequent battle with the X-Men at the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Cassandra attempts to use Cerebra, an updated version of Charles Xavier’s Cerebro machine, before her neck is broken by Emma Frost, the former supervillain known as the White Queen, who was a teacher on Genosha but survived the attack due to the development of a secondary superpower that allows her skin to transform into a diamond-like substance. Charles subsequently shoots Cassandra to make sure she’s incapacitated. By this point, Henry “Hank” McCoy/Beast theorized that Cassandra was part of a new, third species of humanity different from both humans and mutants.

However, subsequent issues would reveal that not only was Cassandra alive, but Hank was also wildly wrong about her origins. Cassandra had succeeded in using Cerebra to switch bodies with Charles, who she then shot, so he couldn’t reveal her identity. After attacking Hank so he couldn’t reveal to the other X-Men that he had discovered Cassandra shared the same DNA as Charles, she departs Earth with Lilandra, Charles’ lover and Empress of the alien Shi’ar Imperium. Cassandra telepathically enslaves Lilandra as well, using her to launch a self-destructive attack on the Imperium with its own military.

Meanwhile, Emma and Jean Grey telepathically examine Cassandra’s body, where Charles remains comatose. They discover that Cassandra is a being of “living emotional energy” that was born while Charles was still a fetus. The formless Cassandra created a body for herself based on Charles’ cells, making her a twin of sorts to him. While her body was still being formed, she attacked Charles, attempting to strangle him with his mother’s umbilical cord, but he instinctively defended himself with a telepathic blast that caused Cassandra’s body to be stillborn. But her consciousness survived and over the intervening decades was able to create a new body for itself. Jean theorizes that Cassandra views herself and Charles as the only real beings in the universe and thinks she is motivated by an instinctual desire to defeat him and conquer the world.

Cassandra orders the X-Men’s allies, the immensely powerful Shi’ar Imperial Guard, to attack them, but the former team is eventually able to explain to the latter what is really going on and work together to stop Cassandra. While Jean extracts Charles’ mind from Cassandra’s body, the pair realize that Cassandra is really a mummudrai, a parasitic, bodyless alien species described in Shi’ar myth. The legends say every living being has their own personal mummudrai, that they battle in the womb, much like Charles did, and that they are essentially everyone’s complete opposite, explaining Cassandra’s hatred of mutants as the opposite of Charles’ love for them.

When their minds were entangled, Cassandra was able to use Charles’ telepathic powers to create a physical form. At the end of Morrison’s second story arc, “Imperial”, Emma, the X-Men, and their mutant students manage to reduce Cassandra’s mind into that of a child and trap it inside the blob-like body of the Shi’ar shapeshifter known as Stuff. Charles and Jean begin telepathically tutoring Cassandra in the hope of reforming her. The final arc of Morrison’s run, “Here Comes Tomorrow”, depicts a timeline in which they were successful, with Cassandra completely reforming and serving as head of the Institute and a member of the X-Men 150 years in the future, at which time she goes by “Cassandra Nova Xavier”.

Cassandra Has Repeatedly Returned to Menace the X-Men in Comics

However, this timeline (which is otherwise apocalyptic) is erased when a resurrected Jean telepathically convinces her grieving husband, Scott Summers/Cyclops, to continue running the Institute and pursue a relationship with Emma in the present, shortly after Jean’s latest death. Subsequently, other writers used Cassandra in later stories, most of which again feature her as a villain. Of her post-Morrison appearances, probably the most famous is her involvement in Joss Whedon and John Cassady’s Astonishing X-Men run, which served as a mostly direct sequel to New X-Men.

Early issues in this run showed Emma meeting with an unidentified cabal, suggesting that she was a double agent planning to betray the X-Men. At the end of the series’ second arc, “Danger,” the group is revealed as a new incarnation of the Hellfire Club, including Cassandra in her human form, Emma’s former boss Sebastian Shaw, the mutant Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who was a student of Emma’s and presumed dead after the Genosha massacre, and the mysterious Perfection, later revealed to be Emma’s younger self in her White Queen guise. This group served as the main antagonists of Astonishing X-Men’s third arc “Torn,” in which it was revealed that the Club actually only consisted of Cassandra and Emma. The former had implanted a part of her mind in Emma’s before she was trapped in Stuff.

Since then, she had used Emma’s survivor’s guilt related to Genosha to manipulate her into psychically attacking the X-Men with projections of the other Club members, with the ultimate goal of manipulating Kitty Pryde into freeing her from the prison containing Stuff’s body. The other X-Men manage to prevent this and Scott urges Emma to cast Cassandra out of her mind, to which she replies “Go to hell.” It’s not clear whether this is Cassandra telling Scott off or Emma defying her, but immediately after, the group is abducted by S.W.O.R.D. for an outer space mission, during which Emma once again acts like herself. The main, Earth-616 version of Cassandra has made a few additional appearances since “Torn,” including one in the X-Men’s Krakoa era where Emma and Kitty (who now goes by “Kate”) allied with her for a mission before stranding her back in time. An assortment of alternate reality variants of the character have also been introduced.

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Cassandra Nova’s Inclusion in ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ Hints at a Fan-Favorite Appearance

Despite her importance to the X-Men mythos, it’s somewhat hard to see how Cassandra will fit into a film like Deadpool & Wolverine. The character has little to nothing to do with Wade directly in the comics, and although Logan has been involved in the X-Men’s battles with her and hates her for her crimes like most mutants do, they don’t have a special, personal feud. Her presence suggests that Charles himself will likely make an appearance.

Sir Patrick Stewart has said that he at least had discussions to reprise the role in the Deadpool threequel following his MCU debut in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but has not been officially confirmed to be in the cast. There has also been no major evidence of James McAvoy or Harry Lloyd appearing, who played Charles in the X-Men prequel films and TV show Legion, respectively. Interestingly enough, the otherwise obscure Negasonic Teenage Warhead is a member of the Deadpool movie series’ regular supporting cast, with Brianna Hildebrand shown reprising the role in the Deadpool & Wolverine trailer. However, while Cassandra has played roles in both of Negasonic’s most important storylines, this is likely just a coincidence, as it’s improbable that the comedic Deadpool series would adapt a story as disturbing as the destruction of Genosha. Audiences will find out when Deadpool joins the MCU this summer.

Deadpool & Wolverine arrives in theaters July 26, 2024.