In Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is one operative phrase: “I am inevitable,” spoken by the Mad Titan Thanos. The warlord says this a couple of times, and it is a ringing theme for the character. He is the final boss the heroes must defeat to find a semblance of peace. Each film that he is even slightly hinted at builds on this premise, making it clear that everyone is prepping for him. Now, Phase Four‘s major antagonist is described by a similar, but less bluntly said phrase. If Thanos is inevitable, then Kang the Conqueror is omnipresent.
Honestly, it’s thanks to Loki for giving us a context clue-laden path to the ultimate variant. Seriously, we get encounters with the Time Variance Authority—oh you mean the people who tangle with Kang all over time? Their lead judge is Ravonna Renslayer—who becomes a lover, and successor, of Kang in the comics. Time variants are an indicator, because of the many Kangs running around from other timelines. Kang’s dynasty isn’t based in one place but in time itself.
In his entrance in the comics, Kang gets bored of his time in the 30th century, travels to ancient Egypt, and becomes a pharaoh, who then gets ousted by the Fantastic Four. Born Nathaniel Richards, he is a constant foe of Marvel’s first family and the Avengers. By using technology from his future to shift through timelines, he builds an empire with a capital in Chronopolis, a city-state sitting in Limbo. Kang is the first Marvel villain to physically take over the world, in the Avengers early 2000s storyline, “Kang Dynasty.” His technology, and personal army, are lightyears ahead of his competitors, so he is constantly a step ahead because he’s already seen the next step.
This leads to the fact that Loki had “He Who Remains” (Jonathan Majors) at the end. This is important since he openly admits to being one of many variants at war with one another. Again, Kang is the ultimate variant—there are enough versions of him running around to cause trouble. The pharaoh mentioned before? A variant that becomes Immortus, which HWR is based on. There’s Victor Timely, who helps create the original Human Torch. Young Avengers’ Iron Lad is a teenage Kang who doesn’t want to become Kang, so he travels back in time to stop his possible future. Hell, there’s a council of Kangs—they’re similar to the council of Ricks, with less self-hate and no Mortys.
Kang is the man of many faces, able to be anywhere and you may not know which one you’re dealing with. You can get rid of one, but does it actually get rid of him entirely? This complexity makes him such a compelling villain. His MCU introduction has established he can control the butterfly effect, in essence. You don’t just get statues of yourself because you’re cool. My one request: 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has the potential to continue being fun. The MCU loves a retcon. Give me a Ken Jeong-Kang variant, to further close the loop on the Community/MCU crossovers. It’d be worth it.