Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is soon to hit theaters and is bringing with it the MCU’s next huge threat. Jonathan Majors is set to make his debut as Kang the Conqueror, and while the trailers haven’t revealed much about him or his motivations yet, his impact will reverberate throughout the next few phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those familiar with the comics know that by the end of his run, Kang the Conqueror could be an even more menacing villain than Thanos.
Technically, Kang already appeared in the MCU–well, a version of him, anyway; a variant of Kang known as He Who Remains featured in the season finale of Loki season 1. Warning Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Sophia Di Martino’s Sylvie that, should they break the Sacred Timeline, there are other, far more malevolent versions of him out there in the universe who could infiltrate our world. While he didn’t name names, he did mention a version of himself that was known as a “conqueror,” setting the stage for the Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Indeed, the end of Loki season 1 saw a horrified God of Mischief realizing that Sophie had unintentionally unleashed versions of He Who Remains all over the multiverse, and it was already changing in significant ways.
It’s hard to imagine a villain more dangerous than Thanos, who snapped away half of all life in the universe in a split second. There are few big bads, even in the comics, who can stack up to him. Kang, however, is one of them.
Kang was born Nathaniel Richards in the 31st century. As a distant descendant of Reed Richards’ father, also named Nathaniel, Richards was, like his ancestors, a brilliant and gifted scientist, but his real strength was in his scholarship and his obsession with history. Scientists and scholars are a dime a dozen in the Marvel universe. What set Nathaniel Richards apart, however, and set him on his path to becoming Kang the Conqueror, was his discovery of time travel technology. With it, Nathaniel traveled back and forth in time under a dozen different personas, conquering eras and singlehandedly influencing the unfolding of history. As He Who Remains mentioned to Loki, he’s been known by many names – some good, some bad, and some terrifying.
In other words, while Thanos destroyed one timeline and era, Kang the Conqueror has the ability to destroy them all. In the MCU, Thanos did wipe out half of life, a devastating event that rocked the universe to its core. There were an untold number of other universes, however, where Thanos was defeated in various ways and even some in which he was likely defeated before he was able to accomplish his goal. With his ability to manipulate timelines, Kang has the potential to wipe out not just one universe, but all universes. Potentially even worse, he has the ability to manipulate every single one, shaping them and molding them as he sees fit. It’s impossible to fool him as he can always see what will happen in the future and already knows how the past played out – in every timeline.
Thanks to Tony Stark and Scott Lang, the Avengers managed to cobble together a version of time travel through the Quantum Realm. But their perilous version of time travel is primitive compared to the technology Kang has at his disposal. Though he’s technically just a human, he is godlike in his power – in fact, he was once worshipped by the ancient Egyptians as the god-king Pharaoh Rama-Tut. He also once conquered and ruled over a far-flung future Earth that is torn apart by war caused by humankind using technology they don’t quite understand. Kang finds it all too easy to manipulate and subjugate the people of the future.
How can the Avengers possibly stop a threat that can see the future? One who can also go back and simply rewrite the past as he wants? Doctor Strange saw only one way in 14,000,605 alternate futures in which the Avengers beat Thanos. One. It’s impossible to see a way in which the heroes can beat an opponent who can not only see all those futures, but can also control them. Thanos may have thought he was inevitable, but as it turned out, there was one timeline in which he wasn’t. As for Kang the Conqueror, he’s inevitable and inexorable in all timelines across all universes. If there’s a bigger threat for the Avengers to face in the MCU, they certainly haven’t shown themselves yet. It’s Kang the Conqueror’s worlds – the Avengers are just living in them.