As the Marvel Cinematic Universe has started aggressively working towards its fifth phase, Ant-Man 3 recently roped in HBO’s Lovecraft Country‘s Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror. The casting has surely left a lot of fans surprised as M.O.D.O.K. was previously considered to be the major antagonist of the movie.
Fans of the MCU might be hearing Kang’s name for the first time, but for veteran comic book readers, Kang the Conqueror is an existential threat to the Avengers. Consistently ranked as one of the greatest supervillains in Marvel Comics, introducing Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man 3 is a surprising step, considering that Scott Lang has fought relatively minor antagonists in the previous two movies.
However, according to director Peyton Reed, Ant-Man 3 is going to be much bigger than its predecessors, which hints at higher stakes and a terrifying villain. The previous two Ant-Man movies did receive universal acclaim for their humor, levity, and entertainment value, however, both the movies did not quite take the burden of the gigantic Marvel Cinematic Universe on their backs, except the time-tunneling factor in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Before we delve further into what Ant-Man 3 has planned for us, it’s important to explain Kang the Conqueror to the uninitiated. In the comics, Kang the Conqueror is born as Nathaniel Richards in the 31st century. As titles go, Nathaniel Richards might be a descendant of the smartest character in Marvel comics, Reed Richards aka Mister Fantastic. Fascinated by history, Nathaniel discovers Victor Von Doom’s time-traveling technology and decides to take it out for a spin.
Using the time-traveling technology, Nathaniel lands up in ancient Egypt to become the Pharaoh Rama-Tut. As a ruler, Rama-Tut wishes to claim En Sabah Nur, or more commonly known as Apocalypse, the first-ever mutant and a powerful adversary of the X-Men. However, Rama-Tut’s plans are cut short as a time-displaced Fantastic Four defeat him and force him to travel forward in time to the 20th century. In the 20th century timeline, Rama-Tut meets Doctor Doom, picks up the moniker of Scarlet Centurion, and battles the Avengers.
Defeated by the Avengers, Nathaniel tries to return to his original timeline of the 31st century. However, he overshoots by a millennium and lands in war-torn earth. He quickly conquers the planet and expands his dominion to the galaxy too, which in turn made him choose the moniker of Kang the Conqueror.
Despite being the absolute ruler, Kang realizes that the war-torn planet will soon be devastated. As a result, he travels back in time again to conquer a more habitable and fertile earth. As a frequent time traveler, Kang tries to save his adolescent self from a bully. However, the adolescent Nathaniel Richards realizes the horrors caused by his future self and vows not to turn into Kang.
The MCU’s next roster of films and shows are increasingly hinting towards the exciting and refreshing Young Avengers. Disney+ shows like WandaVision and Hawkeye are reportedly laying the groundwork for the future team-up. Similarly, Ant-Man 3 will also pave the path for Young Avengers by introducing Cassandra Lang, aka Stature.
In Avengers: Endgame, Scott Lang returns from the quantum realm to find half of the living population vanished from the planet, including Hank Pym, Janet van Dyne, and his love interest Hope van Dyne. In a bittersweet scene, Scott Lang finds his daughter all grown-up into an adolescent. As Ant-Man 3 is slated to release somewhere in 2022, Cassandra Lang can be introduced as the superhero Stature in the movie.
In the comics, Stature is the primary love interest of Nathaniel Richards. Having discovered his future self and the atrocities committed by Kang, Nathaniel Richards founded the Young Avengers alongside Stature, Kate Bishop, Wiccan, Hulkling, and a few other teenage heroes. As Nathaniel Richards does not possess any superpowers, he used the superior-tech armor from the future and adopted the moniker of Iron Lad.
Despite his best intentions, tampering with time can have disastrous consequences. As Nathaniel Richards tried to alter his future, he killed his future self, Kang the Conqueror. However, it resulted in the death of all the Avengers, the disappearance of Wiccan and Hulkling, and Jessica Jones losing her baby. To set everything right, Nathaniel Richards hesitantly became Kang the Conqueror.
A complicated and genius character, Kang the Conqueror can be a suitable replacement for the Mad Titan Thanos in the upcoming Avengers movie. As a villain who deals with the existential threat of time itself, Kang the Conqueror has the potential to wreak havoc on the Avengers, and not just limited to a single movie.
Having battled the Fantastic Four in the comics, Kang the Conqueror can also be used as a plot device to introduce the much-anticipated superhero family to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Similarly, Kang has also worked alongside Doctor Doom, the arch-nemesis of Reed Richards, which hints at the arrival of the Fantastic Four sooner than we imagined.
In the MCU, Iron Man was the one who decoded time travel in Avengers: Endgame. As a result, Nathaniel Richards can adopt the moniker of Iron Lad after being inspired by the late superhero. As Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne are the few heroes who will once again explore the quantum realm in Ant-Man 3, crossing paths with Kang the Conqueror in the quantum realm is a possibility. Yet, it is highly unlikely that Ant-Man and Wasp can take down such a powerful enemy on their own.
Though Kang the Conqueror is one of the most notorious antagonists in the comics, the MCU has been quite inconsistent when it comes to the portrayal of supervillains. Apart from Thanos, many iconic villains like Mandarin, Malekith, Ultron, and Kilmonger were killed off in a single movie. As Ant-Man 3 is still a few years away from release, only time will tell how Kang the Conqueror will play his part in the future of the MCU.