The Loki season finale highlighted the separation between Kang the Conqueror and Thanos and how different a foe the time-traveling villain can be for the MCU in Avengers 5. A fifth installment in The Avengers series isn’t currently on Marvel’s slate – nor has Kang’s involvement been discussed – but he’d be the obvious choice for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ next opponent.
Given his comic book history, it would be a big surprise if Loki and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania were the only Marvel projects planned for the MCU’s take on Kang the Conqueror. After all, the 31st century time traveler has a history as one of the Avengers’ greatest enemies, with his name often being spoken in the same breath as characters like Ultron and Thanos. As a villain capable of single-handedly challenging entire teams of heroes, Kang has appeared as the main antagonist in multiple Marvel Comics crossovers involving the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and more. All things considered, it makes sense that Kang’s next MCU appearance after Ant-Man 3 will be Avengers 5, where a gathering of heroes will have to work together to put an end to his time-travel shenanigans.
Marvel provided a tease of what to expect from the character in the Loki season finale through its secret villain reveal. As it turned out, the man behind the curtain of the Time Variance Authority in the MCU is He Who Remains, played by Ant-Man 3’s Kang actor, Jonathan Majors. Apparently, He Who Remains is a less villainous, alternate version of Kang who controls the timestream by pulling the strings of the TVA. According to him, it was he who was keeping all of his variants at bay. And now that’s he dead, the MCU may have its hands full with numerous versions of the character, chief among them being Kang the Conqueror himself. Here’s why Kang will be entirely different from the MCU’s last big bad.
As an Eternal, Thanos possesses a tremendous amount of raw power, making him one of the strongest characters in both the MCU and the comics. Kang, on the other hand, is a mere human with no real powers of any kind. That being said, his physical limitations haven’t held him back from being a force to be reckoned with. In Loki, He Who Remains had so much knowledge of the future that he could easily avoid attacks. Since Kang is younger, he may not have this same advantage, but he’s sure to have other useful tools at his disposal. On top of being able to travel wherever he wants to go in the timestream, the comic book version of Kang has an arsenal of futuristic weapons, including high-powered energy guns strong enough to hurt Thor, devices that can manifest protective force fields, and more.
Using them in conjunction with one another, the incredibly powerful Kang is capable of holding his own against multiple super-powered opponents at once, even if Thor or Hercules are among them. What separates him from Thanos in this respect is that technology can only get him so far. Beating Kang in combat is consistently challenging for the Avengers, but it’s still easier than fighting a hard-to-bring-down powerhouse like Thanos, especially when he has some of the Infinity Stones.
Loki writer Michael Waldron recently explored what sets the two apart by describing Thanos as a “measured and principled” character with “monk-like evil aspirations,” whereas He Who Remains is what he called “a squirrelly, chaotic, narcissistic presence”. Kang won’t be the same as He Who Remains, but Waldron’s point still applies, and it may drive the Avengers to unite across the Multiverse. Kang may not have the same carefree feel, but he’s likely to share his narcissistic qualities. In the comics, Kang’s actions are guided primarily by two things: hatred and ambition. Because of his advanced weaponry, time travel capabilities, and intellect, Kang has a huge god complex. Not only does he desire to have the world under his thumb, but he believes wholeheartedly that having this power is something that he deserves. In contrast to that, Thanos’ motivations are less about serving his ego and more about bringing balance to the universe. As Waldron says, Thanos is very “principled” in his pursuit of this goal. Kang doesn’t really have principles. He’s undisciplined, impulsive, and hateful. These aspects of his personality have a lot to do with why he causes so much chaos in the Marvel Universe, with much of it not even being intentional.
How Kang’s character is defined in the comics sets expectations for what the Avengers may be up against if it’s true that they’ll be fighting him in their next movie. Looking at who Kang is, the conflict they’ll have with him may be much more personal than the one they had with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. When Thanos and his Black Order hunted down the Avengers, it was because they were obstacles to his Infinity Stones plan. Some of them were in the possession of established MCU characters, so taking them down was something he had to do to get what he wanted. Thanos had no real vendetta or animosity for them, but the situation could be quite different if and when the Avengers meet Kang after Ant-Man 3 involving the Quantum Realm.
As noted above, hatred is a powerful motivator for Kang the Conqueror. Being stopped by the Avengers severely hurt Kang’s ego, enraging him to a point where getting his revenge became a life goal. In fact, he hated the Avengers to such a great degree that he once gave up a chance to resurrect the woman he loved in favor of killing the team. What all this means is that the MCU’s Kang could target Earth’s Mightiest Heroes just out of a desire to end (or ruin) their lives. As for why he wants that in the first place, it could be a consequence of something that happens in Ant-Man 3 or perhaps an early defeat in Avengers 5.
Regardless, the high-stakes fight that could play out between them in Avengers 5 won’t be a repeat of Infinity War or Endgame, thanks to the fundamental differences between what they bring to the table. Kang is formidable indeed, but battling such a large assortment of heroes isn’t exactly his style. Tracking him down in the timestream and undoing his schemes will be at least half the struggle. And as Kang has occasionally done in the past, he may rely on competent, time-displaced allies to help him win his war with the Avengers.