The Girl Loves Ink | Nebula & Gamora

I‘m hanging out at work alone right now—between COVID and other stuff, there’s now room to enjoy being at work and being able to do other stuff since I’m not socially obligated to look like I’m working.

Irresponsible? Maybe a little bit. C’est la vie.

So I am spending my gifted solitude today watching Avengers movies and, obviously, writing. Last month I tried to start tackling a subject that’s been near and dear to my heart since Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2: Nebula and Gamora. I derped it up—JGFEiC rightly called what I sent him unfinished (because it was—sorry!) and so I set it down to get some distance from the subject. After writing my last column, I’ve been wondering if I should write more about Sam—I know, I know, Inklings, you’re sitting there thinking: Are you writing another column about Sam Wilson? AGAIN? Let me assuage your annoyances: I am not, I am setting Sam down for a second. BUT. I’m sure he’ll be back—I love him so. <3

No, I want to talk about Nebula and Gamora, the only two children of Thanos who aren’t complete, 100% assholes.

When we meet Nebula and Gamora in the first Guardians movie, the pair couldn’t be further apart. Gamora is Thanos’ favorite war treasure, the daughter he always wanted, and Nebula is the daughter who was never good enough—Thanos finds her so lacking that he continues to modify her, continues to take the living being out and replace it with machinery piece by piece until maybe she has a chance to compete against Gamora. Gamora has always reminded me of my older sister—or, at least, my perception of my sister from the time that I was a youngster and well into my 20s: cool, confident, fierce, always armed with a back-up plan (like selling the “Orb” to a third party in Guardians Volume 1 to keep it from all of the bad guys), coy, intelligent, and tough.

Those bits about Thanos and his infliction of perfection on Nebula to try and bring her up to Gamora’s level has always made me think of my own father and how much I heard from him when I was growing up about needing to be better than my older sister, whom I idolized, and how much my mother never argued—but that was par for the course in my family.

And thinking about that definition of normalcy will always be a lot of weird and a lot of painful—that’s my family, though: weird and tragic and more than a little rage-inducing, at times. And this is why (it’s not the only reason why, just a very pleasant perk) I live in Colorado and they all live… East, somewhere over there.

Anyways.

We don’t see a lot of siblings in the Avengers movies. (There’s… Wanda and Pietro, Nebula and Gamora, and…?) We see relationships that imitate siblinghood, “brothers” (never “sisters”—until that A-Force homage in Avengers: Endgame which always makes me squeal) like Sam and Steve, Steve and Bucky, Steve and Tony—Steve gets platonically around, doesn’t he? Anyways, Nebula and Gamora are the only pair of sisters we see (even if Gamora is adopted—it still counts!) so their relationship within the universe gives audiences another look-in point, and as much I latch onto Sam and Steve…

I latch harder onto Nebula and Gamora.

There is a scene between Gamora and Nebula in Guardians Volume 2, after the Guardians have landed on Ego’s planet, that has Nebula appearing to try to kill Gamora. This particular scene always makes me tear up—somebody’s always cuttin’ onions when I watch Guardians Volume 2—because at its climax, Nebula cries out to Gamora, “YOU WANTED TO WIN AND I JUST WANTED A SISTER.”

And, y’all, that hits too hard. Every single time.

I feel like it is nearly impossible to describe the dynamics between siblings in abusive households. You are forced to exist in this space that sees you taking on the mantle(s) of abusers, victims, protectors, negotiators, and, hopefully, survivors. That last one is the trickiest, for damn sure, because without the presence of abuse, what are you left with to share with those who also survived? How do you rebuild, or build anew, a relationship with someone whose existence has been so antagonistic that you’re unsure whether you want to punch or hug them every time you have to go through your childhood trauma checklist with a therapist?

Oh, is that just me?

We get that tricky space from Gamora and Nebula at the end of Volume 2, in one of the most overdue make-up hugs in the MCU before Nebula goes off, dressed in Ravager threads, to kill Thanos—which is what the girl has been trying to do since Guardians Volume 1. I get that rage—gosh, I do—and I think that Nebula probably regrets not spending more time with Gamora. I’ve been half-lucky in that endeavor because I have a younger brother who, like me, managed to endure and survive and make it out—and we’ve managed to create something great out of that whole mess of a mess. My sister and I, however, continue to mirror my favorite MCU siblings.

When we reach Infinity War, Gamora and Nebula are separated, and they remain that way for the rest of the MCU so far. Part 1 sees Gamora being sacrificed for the Soul Stone—this is probably the only time I really resonate with Gamora; I feel like my own Dad would totes shove me off of a cliff for a shiny rock that would help him destroy the universe—and Nebula, along with the rest of the Guardians, dealing with the aftermath of her death. Part 2 is where it gets really good because the timey wimey things see MCU 1 Nebula interacting with MCU 2 Gamora and showing her that together, if they trust each other, they can (and do) help the universe bring down Thanos because he can snap half of it away.

MCU 2 Gamora vanishes after Thanos is defeated. Nebula, and the rest of the Guardians, strike back into space to get back to doing their thing—and while the movie only shows Star Lord trying to track Gamora, I know that Nebula will be looking, too. Because that tricky space we inhabit as surviving siblings means that we’ll always care—even when we don’t want to, even when we’re trying to push each other away and out, even when we think we’re each other’s enemies.

Or, at least, I will always care, but I am an obnoxious and eternal optimist. | Catherine Bathe

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