The events of Avengers: Endgame left the Marvel Cinematic Universe without a Big Bad, ending with Thanos self-owning himself and his entire army into dust. However, Thanos’ death was only the end to the “Infinity Saga” era of the MCU, which consisted of the first three phases. Phases 4, 5, and 6 will chronicle the “Multiverse Saga,” as the heroes attempt to survive amidst dueling timelines and warped realities. While Phase 4 wrapped up with The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special last year, Phase 5 is set to kick off with a bang when the new “big bad” Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) faces off with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
While we got a brief tease of an alternate version of Kang at the end of the first season of Loki, Kang’s appearance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will surely set up the events that bring the remaining heroes back together. It’s unclear at this moment which projects Kang himself will end up appearing in (as Thanos would occasionally pop up to remind us of his power), but it would be odd if 2025’s Avengers: The Kang Dynasty didn’t feature Majors in a significant capacity.
Kang’s Backstory In the Comics
First and foremost, Kang is not a villain to be messed with. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1964’s Avengers #8, Kang made his first appearance by arriving from another timeline and declaring Earth to be his, then absolutely bodying the Avengers when they tried to stop him. The dude got annoyed with fighting Captain America and sent him back to 1945. That’s not a metaphor. He just tossed Steve Rogers back into the ’40s.
Time travel is kind of Kang’s whole thing. A scholar born in the 31st-century on the prosperous, peaceful Earth-6311, Kang discovered time-travel tech designed by Victor von Doom and hopped on over to ancient Egypt on Earth-616 — the “prime” timeline of the Marvel Universe — where he rose to power as the brutal Pharaoh Rama-Tut. That’s just one of the many identities adopted by Kang across multiple timelines; he had a brief stint as a super-villain named the Scarlet Centurion, with armor once again inspired by Doom. But it wasn’t until he accidentally traveled to a wartorn 40th Century and witnessed the destructive potential of technology that he officially adopted the name “Kang” and started a crusade to conquer the galaxy.
But here’s the key thing: Before all that name-changing, time-traveling nonsense, Kang was simply named Nathaniel Richards. As in allegedly descended from Earth-6311’s legendary, peace-bringing benefactor, also named Nathaniel Richards, who just happens to be the father of Reed Richards, founding member of the Fantastic 4. Yes, Kang the Conqueror making his first appearance in the MCU is exciting not only because it’s a legendary villain making his live-action debut — played by an extremely talented up-and-comer, to boot — but also because there’s a direct line leading to Matt Shakman’s Fantastic Four film, slated for release on February 14, 2025.
Kang in ‘Loki’
In the final installments of Loki, we’re introduced to the first Variant of the scientist Nathaniel Richards that connected with Variants in other universes. Unlike Kang the Conqueror, who resides in the primary Marvel timeline, this version of Richards simply goes by the moniker “He Who Remains.” In order to restore justice to the timelines, Richards created the Time Variance Authority to ensure that the Sacred Timeline was protected. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) ultimately track down Richards to the Citadel at the End of Time; despite Sylvie’s attempts to kill him, Richards invites them to his chambers for a personal meeting where he explains the creation of the TVA and the Multiversal War. Richards informs them that should Sylvie actually kill him, the Sacred Timeline would collapse and chaos would sweep into the Multiverse. Their only other option is to remain as the new leaders of the TVA.
This kickstarts a duel between Loki and Sylvie; Loki knows that he must choose a path of heroism, and ironically end the type of mischief he is known for. Unfortunately, he’s unable to prevent Sylvie from killing Richards, which ensures that the evil Kang in the core timeline can take over.
Kang In ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’
Based on the trailers released thus far, the third installment in the Ant-Man series seems to be the tiny superhero’s most serious adventure yet. During the time that he missed during the blip, Scott lost the opportunity to see his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) grow up. He missed the chance to connect with her, but a new mission calls for his abilities when Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) reveals a secret in the Quantum Realm.
Scott, Cassie, Janet, Hank (Michael Douglas), and Hope (Evangeline Lily) venture into the Quantum Realm, where they inevitably run into Kang. Kang’s control over time gives him leverage over Scott; could he give him the years of his life to spend with Cassie that he so desperately wants?
We’ll have to wait and see when Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania releases on February 17th.