Kang's role as Marvel's Phase 5 villain explained in Ant-Man 3 and beyond
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania spoilers follow.
There are countless MCU villains now, running the full gamut from menacing (Dormammu) to alluring (Hela) to bland (Malekith) to cringe (Whiplash). To keep things interesting, Marvel's Big Bads have to keep getting bigger with each passing phase, but how do you up the ant(e) five Phases in?
The answer is you bring in Kang, a villain who is actually multiple villains. Like Jonathan Majors' muscles, the number of Kang variants who exist across timelines are practically limitless, so even when one dies, plenty more will rise up to do what Thanos couldn't and defeat Earth's Mightiest Heroes for good.
It's funny then that Marvel's biggest Big Bad yet has been introduced in the oh-so tiny Quantum Realm as part of Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. Or wait... Didn't we first meet Kang the Conqueror in Loki? Or at least someone who looked very much like him?
And what about that glimpse of a Quantum Realm city we saw back in Ant-Man & The Wasp? Has Kang been hiding in plain sight all along?
Just like in the comics, Kang's history is a messy one, so strap in as we break down everything you need to know about Kang, aka He Who Remains, aka the guy everyone should fear ahead of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.
Who is He Who Remains? Kang's Loki role explained
Loki's first season played around with time a heap, so it was only fitting that the self-proclaimed Master of Time would show up by the end.
But confusingly enough, this wasn't the regular old Kang who brought the Avengers and the Fantastic Four to a standstill time and time again in the comics. This was an eccentric variant of Kang called He Who Remains, who was named such because he's the only one who remained at the Citadel at the End of Time.
Waiting for everything he knows will happen to happen has driven the guy a bit bonkers, just like us after re-reading this sentence back. But He Who Remains was still savvy enough to break things down for Loki and Sylvie, explaining his backstory in a forced yet entertaining scene full of apples and intrigue.
Kang was once a scientist living in the 31st century, where he discovered technology that enabled him to journey through time and space. On his travels across the multiverse, he soon encountered other versions of himself.
You'd think meeting multiple versions of Jonathan Majors would only be a good thing, and at first, it was. However, some of the Kangs turned to conquering, and that's when the Multiverse War broke out.
He Who Remains eventually won that battle by weaponising Alioth, that smoke monster thingy in Loki, and in the end, he was the only one left who remained. Because of course he was. In the aftermath of the war, this variant created the TVA (Time Variance Authority) to prune timelines and prevent the multiverse from returning: "Without the TVA, everything burns."
As if that weren't enough, He Who Remains then explained that they're reaching a point in the timeline where he no longer knows what's going to happen. Desperate to be free of all this, bonkers Kang gave Sylvie and Loki a choice: Take over as masters of the Sacred Timeline or kill He Who Remains.
Doing so would bring back the multiverse and an infinite number of Kangs along with it, which is great news for fans of Jonathan Majors, but not so great for Marvel denizens who might be keen to avoid another multiversal bloodbath.
Loki, the so-called God of Mischief, wanted to take over in order to prevent all the deaths that would ensue otherwise. But Sylvie's gonna Sylvie, so she decided to kill He Who Remains and preserve free will in a new multiverse no longer held back by the TVA.
The season ended with Loki back at TVA HQ, except this wasn't the TVA he knew from personal experience. The Sacred Timeline had branched out into infinite variations, countless timelines, and the one Loki now found himself in just so happened to be ruled by a more menacing version of Kang.
Or at least, we think. The statue sure did give us fascist vibes and then there were those words that He Who Remains said near the end, words that will reverberate throughout the entire MCU in Phase Five and beyond: "If you think I’m evil, just wait until you meet my variants..."
Who is the new Kang in Ant-Man 3?
He Who Remains remains no more, so who is Jonathan Majors playing now in Ant-Man 3? It's one of those pesky evil Kang variants, of course, and this one is not content to sit idly by and munch on apples as the world burns around him.
This version of Kang has been trapped in the Quantum Realm after he was exiled out of space and time by the Council of Kangs. They sabotaged his ship – which could take him anywhere and anywhen – to make sure he couldn't escape.
Unfortunately for them, Kang met Janet in the Quantum Realm and she helped him repair his ship. However, when she touched it, she saw all the evil that this Kang had done (because the ship is connected with Kang's mind, obviously), so she used Pym Particles to expand his ship's core to make it unusable.
Kang then spent decades building up his rule over the Quantum Realm and when Scott finds himself back there, Kang knows he's got exactly the right person he needs to shrink his core back to size and escape.
For those who haven't kept up with the 800 or so films Marvel has released over the past decade, Pym Particles are a rare group of subatomic particles that can alter one's size and mass.
Long story short, Kang does look ready to escape the Quantum Realm, having threatened the life of Cassie to make Scott help him. However, Scott fights back in time to stop Kang's plan and Kang's core is blown up again and this time, he gets sucked inside.
So Kang is dead, right? As the mid-credit scene with the Council of Kangs shows, he's far from the only Kang. And if the Kang in Quantumania is correct, these Kangs could spell the end for the multiverse.
Speaking to Digital Spy and other press ahead of Ant-Man 3, Jonathan Majors revealed that the MCU's next Big Bad is actually a Nexus being, just like Wanda Maximoff AKA The Scarlet Witch.
"Who is Kang?... I think the quick answer to that is Kang is a time-traveling supervillain who is also a Nexus being, which leads to this idea of variants. There are multiple versions of Kang. 'Versions' being variants.
"They occupy different universes, multiverses, they have different intentions," Majors continued. "They are all different beings. And yet something that we're still – and I'm still – working on, and continue to refine and refine and refine, is something that's a through line between them. And that, to me, is the Kang gene in a nutshell."
Kang's time travel capabilities would have already given the Avengers a run for their money. Throw in his Nexus potential, a gift that enables one to manipulate reality itself, and you're looking at a villain who makes Thanos look like Ant-Man in comparison.
Maybe Doctor Strange should have tried harder to save Wanda in Multiverse of Madness because things are about to get a whole lot madder and a whole lot more multiverse-y too in the worst way possible.
Kang's comic book history makes him the perfect MCU villain
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Kang technically appeared first in 1964's The Avengers #8, but his timeline actually spans millennia. And yes, it is just as confusing as that sounds.
Born in the 30th century, Nathaniel Richards grew bored of utopia so he decided to travel back to Ancient Egypt and take over as a new pharaoh named Rama-Tut. The Fantastic Four, led by his ancestor Reed Richards, kicked Kang's butt, and so did the Avengers a bunch of times too.
Kang didn't go down easily though. Even without any powers to call his own, the Conqueror's futuristic weaponry and knowledge of the timeline makes him one of the most formidable figures in the whole Marvel universe. And that's before you even take into account his greatest gift of all.
Thanks to all his timeline meddling, Kang is now essentially immortal. Sure, one of this variants could snuff it, but there will always be another Nathaniel Richards biding their time, ready to pop up again like a human Whac-A-Mole.
Since his comic-book debut, Kang has used many other names beside Rama-Tut, and each have been more pompous than the last. Immortus, the Scarlet Centurion and Mister Gryphon are just some of the aliases he's gone by, and you might have spotted them in the mid-credit scene.
One that MCU fans should pay particularly close attention to, though, is Iron Lad. In 2005, the first Young Avengers run introduced who we thought was Tony Stark's descendant, but he actually turned out to be a teenage version of Nathaniel Richards from a splintered timeline.
This mini-Kang despised the man he would become, so he decided to fight evil with his new team, who included familiar faces like Patriot, Wiccan, Kate Bishop and even Stature, who just so happened to make her superhero debut onscreen now in Ant-Man 3.
The Young Avengers' arrival on screen in the MCU is a matter of when, not if, and the same is probably true of Kang's romantic future with Ravonna Renslayer too. In the comics, Kang fell in love with a princess who shares this exact name, so don't be surprised if Gugu Mbatha-Raw's ex-TVA agent becomes intertwined with his journey in Phase Five.
The same could also be true of the Scarlet Witch, especially now that we know Kang is a Nexus Being, just like her.
In Avengers West Coast #48 (1989), a Kang variant named Immortus manipulated Wanda's grief over the loss of her family, using her powers to help take over all of time. Sounds familiar, right? It wouldn't take much for Kang to find a Wanda variant to call his own in the wake of her death in Doctor Strange 2.
Have we already predicted the plot of the next Avengers movie? Quite possibly, but without Kang's time travel tech, we'll just have to wait and see just how much of this actually plays out ahead of 2025's Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is out now in cinemas.
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