No matter how popular Iron Man and Black Panther were, the MCU really came together for most casual viewers when the primary villain took center stage. After years of cameos and hints, Thanos the Mad Titan fully emerged in Avengers: Infinity War, giving the previous decade of movies renewed focus and purpose.
Although we know that Jonathan Majors’s Kang the Conqueror will be the overall bad guy in Marvel’s Phases 4 through 6, aka The Multiverse Saga, he’s very much in the nascent stages. We met a variant of Kang in the finale to Loki, the chatty He Who Remains, who warned about an evil counterpart on his way. And we know that Kang will arrive in full in next year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. But it doesn’t look like he’ll take his place as a major MCU villain until Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton releases Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, the first of two Avengers movies announced for 2025.
Who Is Kang the Conqueror?
Hold on, because Kang is the most comic-book-y comic book character you’ve ever encountered. Introduced in 1964’s Avengers #8 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Kang the Conqueror is a time-traveling villain from the 31st century, who often clashes with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. His early clashes with the Avengers were standard supervillain stuff, holding the team for ransom or sending them to various points in time. Equally important, he’s very good at looking evil while lounging on a futon or a divan.
Over the years, Kang’s escapades through time grew increasingly tangled, to the point that he has many variants running around. In addition to Kang Prime, the most notable are Egyptian Pharaoh Rama-Tut, Immortus the Lord of Limbo, and Iron Lad, a teenage Kang who designed Iron Man armor and formed the Young Avengers. Adding to the confusion is Kang’s secret identity as Nathaniel Richards, a descendant of the time-traveler Nathaniel Richards, father of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Comics, right?
Among the many plots that Kang has launched against the Marvel Heroes, one of the more notable occurred in the pages of Avengers #41-55 (2001 – 2002). Written by Kurt Busiek and penciled by a team of artists – including Alan Davis, Kieron Dwyer, Manuel Garcia, and others – the 16-part “Kang Dynasty” storyline sees Kang present Earth with an offer. After viewing the downfall of Earth in various realities, Kang determines that the one way to not only protect the planet but ensure the continued flourishing of humanity is to become its sole ruler.
Unsurprisingly, the humans reject his offer. But Earth’s defenses whittle away to nothing after non-stop attacks from Atlantis, Eternals enemies the Deviants, and the Master of the World (a super-evolved caveman who mostly fights Canadians. Again, comics!). With an army of reprogrammed mutant-hunting Sentinels, Kang conquers Earth and puts all of humanity into servitude. Months later, the Avengers lead a resurgence, climaxing with a gargantuan Captain America and Kang having a kaiju battle in space. Ladies, gentlemen, and others, I say to you again, COMICS!
How Does The Kang Dynasty Connect to Secret Wars?
As we know from Phase 4 and the announcements concerning Phase 5, turmoil wracks the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The world still has not recovered from the loss of Iron Man, Black Widow, and Steve Rogers, nor has it fully dealt with the consequences of half the universe returning after the five-year blip. New heroes enter the fray, but they are either mistrusted by the public, as is the case with Sam Wilson as Captain America, or wracked by internal division, as with the Eternals. The proud nation of Wakanda has done its part to share its advanced technology and culture with the rest of the planet, but the loss of King T’Challa and an onslaught from Atlantis in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will surely leave them crippled, all the worse for the world if indeed Dr. Doom is secretly involved.
Things do not appear to be going better in Phase 5. Secret Invasion will deal with shape-shifting Skrulls already attacking the planet and further sowing mistrust among the heroes. Kang the Conqueror will make his presence known in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which may bring his Immortus variant into play for The Marvels (which hopefully won’t involve a comic book storyline in which Carol Danvers is assaulted by and then gives birth to Marcus, son of Immortus. Comics aren’t always good, people). All of this will build to Thunderbolts, featuring a black-ops team put together by Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, who’s been busy gathering shady characters like USAgent and Yelena Belova to create a darker version of the Avengers.
In short, Earth’s defenses will be stretched thin over the next couple of years. Public trust in heroes will be at its lowest. As in the “Kang Dynasty” storyline from the comics, the time is right for Kang to attack and conquer the planet. We will likely see Kang come to the battered and beaten Earth with an offer – they can either accept his rule and be safe or rebel and face even worse threats, threats that could destroy the universe. Kang will win and rule for a while, but as in the comics, the Avengers will come together and lead a counter-attack – hopefully, one that also ends with a kaiju fight between Kang and Captain America.
But he funny thing about a time-traveling baddie is that they may not always be lying. What if Kang really is using his extreme methods to prevent the destruction of Earth?
In the MCU, we’ve already seen signs of a universe-destroying threat in the distance. During the mid-credits sequence of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Clea arrives to warn Strange about “incursions.” That word set off alarms in the mind of countless comic book fans who know that incursions occur when Earths from parallel realities collide. In the comics, incursions destroyed the multiverse, leading to a major event called… (wait for it) Secret Wars. Which is also the grand finale of Phase 6.
Basically, Kang could be the Earth’s only hope against incursions, but when the Avengers inevitably return to depose him at the end of The Kang Dynasty, they may inadvertently bring about the end of the universe, kicking off the climactic Secret Wars. So, in a way, the big bad of The Multiverse Saga may end up being the Avengers themselves.
Avengers: The Kang Dynasty comes to theaters on May 2, 2025.