Nebula is an assassin and an adoptive daughter of Thanos in the MCU, but as she found out over her time with him, that fact came with many downsides. Despite being one of the most ruthless assassins in the galaxy, Nebula often disappointed Thanos, leading to cruel treatment and punishment. In today’s post, we will examine the relationship between Thanos and Nebula and uncover what Thanos did to her throughout her life while she was in his service.
Thanos subjected Nebula to extensive cybernetic enhancements as a form of punishment, replacing much of her body with machinery and turning her into a living weapon. He also often pitted Nebula and Gamora in combat, and the one who lost the fight would be subjected to more punishment. Often Nebula was on the losing side. Thanos also had a tendency to take Nebula apart and put her back together to punish her. Overall, Thanos tortured Nebula often and extensively.
Now that we’ve covered the extent of Thanos’ cruel treatment of Nebula, it’s time to analyze it in more detail; if you’re interested in more, stay with us and keep reading!
Nebula was a villain until we found out about her tragic story
Nebula was introduced to the MCU as a villain in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. She is Gamora’s adoptive sister and ended up with Thanos much in the same way as Gamora.
Thanos razed Nebula’s Luphomoid planet and killed half of the population to maintain a natural balance with the resources. Thanos often tended to take in orphans from different planets whose populations he purged; thus, the Black Order was born.
Despite both being the adoptive daughters of Thanos, there were significant differences in how Thanos treated Nebula and Gamora. Gamora was always his favorite, leading to Nebula developing an unhealthy rivalry with her sister and always feeling inadequate.
This, however, is only the start of Nebula’s problematic relationship with Thanos, and it’s not even the worst thing he has done to her.
Thanos often pitted Gamora and Nebula against each other in fights
Thanos pitted Nebula and Gamora against each other in combat as part of their training to become deadly warriors. The loser of the fight would likely be extensively tortured, and it was, more often than not, Nebula, which led to her resenting her sister and Thanos.
Thanos believed that this intense competition would make both Nebula and Gamora stronger and more capable of carrying out his genocidal mission to wipe out half of all life in the Universe.
Thanos cared about Gamora truly, but he saw Nebula as a tool to be used in his pursuit of powers, rather than as an individual with hopes and dreams. He conditioned Nebula to see Gamora as a rival rather than as an equal to her.
Thanos also despised weakness, and losing in a battle was the ultimate form of weakness for him, which leads us to our second point, Thanos tortured Nebula often.
Thanos replaced most of Nebula’s body with cybernetic implants
Thanos turned Nebula into a living weapon by replacing much of her body with cybernetic implants, including her arms, legs, and parts of her face. Until the point where she became a half-cyborg. We never found the full story of her enhancements and their exact use, but we do know that they have left her with visible scars and a metallic appearance.
In one scene from Avengers: Infinity War, Nebula reveals that Thanos would routinely “take her apart and put her back together again” as punishment for her failures in battle.
Even though those enhancements gave her an advantage in battle, they served as a permanent reminder for Nebula how Thanos considered her weak and that she needed to be physically improved.
In one scene in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Nebula explains that Thanos even replaced her eyes.
Thanos often left Nebula to fend for herself
During a mission to find the Orb on Praxius IX, Nebula ventured ahead of Gamora and was caught in a trap. The trap was an impenetrable Laser Thorn Energy Net that left Nebula helpless and at the mercy of the inhabitants of the Cloud Tombs of Praxius. Luckily, Gamora arrived to rescue her, but Thanos, who never tolerated failure, ordered Gamora to abandon Nebula and leave her to die in the trap. In a moment of desperation, Nebula was forced to amputate her own arm in order to free herself and escape.
In one instance, Gamora threw Nebula over a cliff which likewise demanded extensive cybernetic replacement just so she could survive.
Despite everything, Nebula eventually became a hero
We can argue that Nebula eventually betrayed Thanos not because she knew the difference between right and wrong but because she hated him and realized that he would ultimately fail, and she wanted to secure her spot on the winning side.
Still, after Thanos’ death, she could have parted ways and never again seen Gamora’s face. Instead, she maintained contact with a younger version of her deceased sister and joined Guardians of the Galaxy.
Of course, the real extent of Nebula’s character transformation was visible in the last installment of the franchise when Nebula decided to take care of High Evolutionary’s experimental children on Knowhere along with Drax.
She is cold, cynical, and incredibly rude, but she is not self-serving despite what her demeanor sometimes signals. Despite all her torture, Nebula eventually learned how to get past it.