This article contains light spoilers for Loki Season 2.
In the 31st century, the scientist known as Nathaniel Richards surveys the landscape around him and feels nothing but disgust. The son of the 20th century time traveler Nathaniel Richards and half-brother to Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Richards the younger knows that he’s bound for greatness. Yet, no one in the bland utopia of his generation can challenge him and give him the chance to prove his greatness. And so, Richards follows the example of his father and seeks power in the future and the past, building an army and taking a name befitting his destiny: Kang the Conqueror.
From his first appearance in 1964’s Avengers #8, Kang and his variants, most notably Immortus and Rama-Tut, have been major threats for the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and any number of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. He has been at the center of some of the greatest superhero stories of all time, including Avengers Forever and The Kang Dynasty. In other words, he was the perfect choice to make the jump to the MCU as the cinematic universe’s next big bad, and brought to life by up-and-coming actor Jonathan Majors, starting with Loki in 2021 as a reimagined He Who Remains.
Fast forward two years and The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Marvel Studios will drop Majors as the MCU’s central villain following yesterday’s conviction on assault charges. It seems that Marvel chief Kevin Feige and his creative team will have to go back to the drawing board and find a new bid bad for its upcoming slate of films. But if there’s one thing decades of Kang stories have taught us, it’s that he never really goes away. He just returns in a different form.
The Rise and Fall of the MCU Kang
Feige wanted Kang to be the next Thanos, the overarching villain meant to bind together the fourth, fifth, and sixth phases, collectively known as the Multiverse Saga. Feige’s plan seemed to pan out when Majors debuted as He Who Remains at the end of Loki‘s first season to critical acclaim. Although the follow up, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, received mixed reviews, most viewers praised Majors’s take on the villain, which assured even skeptical fans that the MCU was in good hands as far as its major antagonist was concerned.
After news about the charges against Majors broke, fans wondered aloud whether Marvel should replace the character with another. Some called for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 baddie the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) to take on a bigger role in future movies, while others declared it was time to finally bring long-awaited villains Galactus and Doctor Doom to the MCU. But Marvel seemed to stand by the actor, even including Kang variant Victor Timely as a supporting character in Loki‘s second season. However, that season ended with Loki rewriting history in a way that seemed to diminish the threat of Kang going forward, setting up a pivot for the MCU, one that seems all but certain now.
Does that mean we’ll never see Kang again on the big screen? That would be a shame. There’s so much more ground that could be covered with one of Marvel’s most colorful villains.
The Once and Future Kang
The great appeal of Kang in the comics isn’t just in the threat he poses to heroes. Sure, as a time traveler, Kang could simply wipe his enemies from existence, something he did do from time to time. But Kang works as a bad guy precisely because he won’t do that. Kang has a desire to prove himself that prevents him from such cheats. He wants to beat the Fantastic Four and the Avengers at their strongest, to silence anyone who would question his right to be conqueror.
If that sounds like a really bad idea, you’re not the only one who thinks so. When not fighting Earth’s heroes, Kang regularly battles himself, past and future versions who have different approaches to conquering. Most notably Kang’s older self Immortus considers his younger self a hot headed fool, while Immortus represents to Kang his ultimate defeat, a fate he will never allow himself.
Confused? That’s part of what comic book fans love about this character. Kang’s twisty timeline adventures defies logic, making him all the more dangerous. No one can be sure they’ve defeated Kang once and for all. Instead, Earth’s heroes know that even when they stop one of his plans, an older or younger Kang will eventually take his place, and the cycle will start over.
In short, Kang is a perpetual motion machine of storytelling possibilities, a constant threat that never overwhelms readers with the universe-shaking scale of, say, Galactus. He remains one of the best bad guys in Marvel history despite Majors wasting the opportunity.
So, what next?
In the wake of Majors’s firing, Marvel are changing their plans for the Multiverse Saga. The next Avengers movie, originally titled The Kang Dynasty, is now simply known as Avengers 5, according to THR. Original director Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) previously stepped away from the project and Quantumania writer Jeff Loveness was replaced by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness writer Michael Waldron. These and other signs suggest that Kang’s reign has come to an early end, as the fifth and sixth Avengers movies change course.
Like most Marvel fans, if Kang is to be completely replaced, I hope that this creates an opening for Doctor Doom, the greatest villain in all of superhero fiction, or maybe the complex X-Men bad guy Magneto. With its popularity seemingly on a fast decline, the MCU needs a big-name character to right the ship, someone who can drive the next few years of storytelling, both in theaters and on Disney+. Moreover, moving away from Kang might also signal a shift from multiverse stories, which have bogged down recent MCU entries.
However, the nature of the MCU multiverse means that Marvel could just as easily recast Kang with a different actor and explain the new face away as another Variant. Because Kang’s unique backstory opens the door for multiple versions of the character to pop up on screen, Feige and the MCU have the opportunity to continue using him without squandering all of the storytelling potential. A recast would allow Kang to do what he does best, return in a new and more frightening form when you least expect it in Phase 6. Then he could fight the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at their best, not in their current struggling form.
A true conqueror deserves no less.
Avengers 5 is currently slated for release on May 1, 2026.