This post contains spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
“Oh, I’ve been dubbed many names. A ruler. A conqueror. A jerk. But it’s not so simple as a name.”
That speech given by He Who Remains at the end of Loki‘s first season encapsulates Kang the Conqueror, the primary villain of not just Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but of Phases Four, Five, and Six of the MCU.
Played by Jonathan Majors (at least for now), Kang the Conqueror brings to live action one of the most confusing characters in comic book history — and that’s truly saying something. Introduced in 1964’s Avengers # 8, written by Stan Lee and penciled by Jack Kirby, Kang was initially just an evil time traveler. Since then, he’s been reimagined and retconned, to the point that he is one of many variations of a 31st-century scientist bent on world domination.
With even just a single tv episode and a movie under his belt, Kang already boggles the minds of some viewers. But never fear! Here’s a quick primer to explain Kang and his many, many Variants.
He Who Remains
By the end of Loki season one, the titular trickster god and his Variant Sylvie have defeated the Time Variance Authority and revealed the Time Keepers to be mere decoys. Their rebellion earns them an audience with the true master of the TVA, an affable man dubbed “He Who Remains.”
“I keep you safe,” he promises, telling the duo a tale of a 31st-century scientist whose investigations into the multiverse resulted a massive war and nearly destroyed all reality. Against his power-mad Variants, He Who Remains found peace by establishing the TVA and pruning all Variant timelines. While he understands why Loki and Sylvie may disagree with his methods, He Who Remains warns that all of his other Variants are much, much worse. Without him, those Variants would come rushing into our universe.
Then Sylvie kills him.
Kang the Conqueror
As warned, a dangerous Variant arrives in our universe in the form of Kang the Conqueror. He doesn’t initially seem very dangerous in the early moments of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, as flashback scenes find Kang contrite and soft-spoken, ready to work with Janet Van Dyne so they can both escape the Quantum Realm. Even after Janet learns about Kang’s conquering ways before his exile, he promises to help return her home and to spare her world.
That connection with Janet shows just how dangerous Kang truly is. Yes, he has at his disposal an arsenal of the multiverse’s best weapons, allowing him to blast away at his enemies and control victims with telekinesis. But it’s his haughty attitude that drives him to use those weapons against anyone who fails to accept his rule. So unimpressed with his challengers is Kang that he can’t be bothered to remember the names of the alternate reality Avengers he’s killed.
Despite his confidence, Kang falls at the hands of Ant-Man and his friends, apparently disproving the warnings of He Who Remains.
Then again, that Kang isn’t the only Kang. During Quantumania‘s mid-credit sequence, three more Variants discuss the failure of the fallen Kang, who they dismissively call “The Exile.” Leading the trio is a raspy-voiced man wearing regal purple robes and an imperious headpiece.
The movie does not name this character, but comic readers recognize him as Immortus, an older Variant of Kang. Introduced in Avengers #10, just two months after Kang made his debut, Immortus is less a conqueror and more of a manipulator, and he often works to preserve his version of the Sacred Timeline. While the MCU put He Who Remains largely his comic-book role, Immortus will surely be a major threat to the Avengers, thanks to his advanced technology and intelligence.
The end credit scene of Quantumania offers a clip from Loki‘s second season, which includes an appearance by another Kang Variant. This Variant, an eccentric 19th-century inventor called Victor Timely, fails to intimidate Mobius M. Mobius, but the terrified expression on Loki’s face reveals that he more than meets the eye.
In the comics, Victor Timely is a pseudonym adopted by Kang shortly after an early defeat by the Avengers. To play the long game against his foes, Kang went to 1901 Wisconsin to form a city called Timely (a reference to Marvel Comics precursor Timely Comics). There, he became the mayor of the city and awed residents with his inventions, secretly turning the town into his new home base, the Chronopolis. He also became involved in the creation of an android that would later become the synthezoid Avenger Vision, giving him an advantage over his future foes. The MCU version of Timely is likely to have other plans.
Timely’s appearance in the MCU may be an extension of the lesson Immortus learns from Quantumania. If Ant-Man and the Wasp can beat The Exile, then the Kangs will need to cooperate to defeat all the heroes of our Earth.
Immortus shares this revelation with two other Variants, one dressed in Egyptian clothing and the other in cybernetic tech. The former is Pharoah Rama-Tut, a Variant whose quest for power drove him to ancient Egypt. The latter is the Centurion, a tech-based cyborg Kang. The trio calls for the support of “all” of the Kangs, ending the mid-credit scene with a sweeping shot over a crowd of Kangs played by Majors, chewing different amounts of scenery.
Comic fans may recognize some of the faces in the crowd, but a few notable Variants fail to appear, like Iron Lad, a teenage Kang who tried to stop his older self by coming to our time to form the Young Avengers. The other absent Kang is the original; the 31st century scientist described by He Who Remains. In the comics, that scientist is called Nathanial Richards II, half-brother of Fantastic Four leader Reed Richards.
With the Fantastic Four kicking off the start of Phase Six, Reed’s familial connection to Kang may be what our Earth needs to defeat the Conqueror and his deadly Variants.