Kang the Conqueror: What the New Villain Means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Kang the Conqueror is coming to the MCU in Ant-Man 3. Here's what his arrival could mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel's Kang the Conqueror
Photo: Marvel Photo: Marvel Comics

Jonathan Majors has reportedly been cast as Kang the Conqueror and will make his debut in Ant-Man 3. Considering that Kang is a time traveler, it’s probably to let Paul Rudd know how many decades he has left until he starts showing signs of aging.

Other than the fact that Peyton Reed will return to direct, there aren’t many official Ant-Man 3 details yet (it doesn’t even have a release date at the moment), so we don’t know how major Kang’s appearance in this film will be. Is he the full-on villain of the movie? Is he a glorified cameo like Thanos in the first Guardians of the Galaxy or Klaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron? Still, a high profile announcement of an actor making waves in a hot property (Majors is currently starring in HBO’s Lovecraft Country) makes him seem more than post-credits fodder at least.

If they choose to go this way, Kang could be the MCU’s next Thanos, a recurring mega-baddie who keeps upping the threat level until it’s time to bring everyone together to take him out. Kang remains the most high-profile Avengers villain to not show up in a movie to date and can potentially be the focus while we wait for MCU versions of Dr. Doom, Magneto, and Galactus to eventually make their presence known.

So what does Kang the Conqueror’s arrival in the MCU truly mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

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The Backlash of Time Travel

Avengers: Endgame opened Pandora’s Box with its time heist. For such a high-profile, climactic story, it was strangely casual about the invention of time travel. Sure, there were only a limited amount of Pym Particles and that meant they only had one shot at pulling off the plan, but they had endless prep time and now that everything is copacetic with the post-Thanos universe, there’s nothing preventing the use of more time travel.

Granted, according to the movie’s rules, they can’t outright change the past, but they can still create alternate timelines to deal with the future. By the conclusion of Endgame, Steve Rogers had all the time in the world to send back the Infinity Stones because Hank Pym’s back and that means no more shortage of Pym Particles.

The upcoming Loki series on Disney+ is showing that there are going to be some resistance to willy-nilly time travel thanks to the Time Variance Authority. That’s right, we’ll be seeing time cops soon enough.

Kang antagonizing Ant-Man could honestly hit either extreme when it comes to time travel use. On one hand, Kang could be some kind of ominous authority figure out to oppose the man who ultimately helped invent time travel to begin with. On the other hand, Kang could be the horrible look at what’s possible now that the genie is out of the bottle and skipping through eras is easier than it should be.

Scott Lang saved the universe, but at what cost?

Young Avengers

Outside of the time travel connection, the biggest link between Scott Lang and Kang is the creation of the Young Avengers. In the comics, a younger version of Kang dated Scott’s daughter Cassie. Kang already represents how confusing time travel is, but having a good Kang vs. an evil Kang at very different ages? That’s some cross-eyed, head-spinning storytelling right there!

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Could this lead to an MCU New Avengers or even Young Avengers team in the future? In the comics, the Young Avengers also came to be in the aftermath to the regular Avengers disassembling as well as Wanda Maximoff’s super-powered meltdown. And much like Young Avengers co-founder Kate Bishop showing up, that development is on its way thanks to the various Disney+ series.

Reed Richards and The MCU Fantastic Four

Much like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were deemed just as much X-Men characters as they were Avengers characters, Kang the Conqueror is as much an Avengers villain as he is a Fantastic Four villain. Kang has many alter-egos due to the absolutely bonkers complications that come from time-travel and alternate timelines. There are lots of contradictions in there and a lot of developments that are hard to keep track of.

The main thing here is that Kang’s real name is Nathaniel Richards. The original idea was that Nathaniel is presumably a descendant of Reed Richards, Dr. Doom, or possibly both of them (I mean, he’s from the 31st century. He’s going to have a LOT of ancestors). He travels time and becomes the ancient pharaoh Rama-Tut before eventually going to the 41st century and doing the Kang thing.

But Reed’s father is also named Nathaniel Richards and he too does time travel. He’s even considered one of Kang’s many counterparts. It’s a huge headache.

Anyway, this means that putting Kang in the Marvel Cinematic Universe can also work as the first step in setting up the Fantastic Four. The connections to Reed and the rest can come in any direction (after all, this is a movie series that turned Star-Lord’s father from a jerk space king to a literal planet). They can even pull a Captain Marvel and have them from a different decade if they wanted!

That might end up being the best solution. The Fantastic Four are the first family of the Marvel Universe, and turning them into newcomers might feel like they’re being shortchanged. But if, like Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym in the Ant-Man films, they were heroes of an earlier era who perhaps disappeared into the timestream thanks to Kang’s antics, that might open some new storytelling possibilities.

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In any case, we won’t be seeing Ant-Man 3 until at least 2023 at this rate. Marvel currently has four dates reserved in 2023 with no titles attached: Feb. 17, May 5, July 28, and Nov. 3. Any of those would be a good fit for Kang to make his presence known.