Kang is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next big bad guy, but his appearances in the universe so far haven’t really added up to a clear picture of a character, let alone a series-defining villain. But with the release of Loki season 2, Marvel has another chance to give us a fuller picture of who Kang is and what exactly he’s up to.
But before Kang reappears in this new season, here’s what he (and his many variants) have done in the MCU so far, and his place in the larger story, from Loki season 1 to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Who is He Who Remains?
Loki season 1 introduced Kang as “He Who Remains,” the invisible hand guiding the Sacred Timeline — and the guy that Sylvie, the multiverse’s most put-upon Loki variant, wanted to murder.
Played by Jonathan Majors, He Who Remains explained his own backstory in the season’s climax: He was once a scientist who discovered how to traverse time and contact variants of himself in alternate timelines. But those variants didn’t agree, and eventually the conflict between them spiraled out exponentially through the infinite worlds of the multiverse into an infinite war of infinitely diverse Jonathan Majorses.
He Who Remains was the variant who came out on top, and to make sure it stayed that way, he secretly founded the Time Variance Authority. The Authority’s nominal purpose was to police the “Sacred Timeline,” a single order of events from the beginning of time to the end, as handed down by a trio of godlike entities called the Time-Keepers. Its real purpose was to continually prune the multiverse down to a single universe: the timeline in which He Who Remains came to exist. He Who Remains also created the Miss Minutes artificial intelligence to watch over the TVA and make sure nobody realized that the Time-Keepers were actually just some really lifelike robots.
At the end of season 1, He Who Remains also explained that he’d become tired of living, and presented a choice to Loki and Sylvie: They could take his place as administrators of the TVA, policing the timeline to prevent multiversal war — or they could give in to Sylvie’s goal and kill him, knowing it would unleash infinite time-traveling Jonathan Majorses.
Sylvie, adamant in her goal of returning free will to the universe, took the latter option, and the MCU’s Kang the Conqueror was born.
What about Kang in the rest of the MCU?
Kang’s role in the rest of the MCU has been pretty limited so far. Despite how much we’ve heard about him outside of the movies, like the fact that he’s going to be the next big Avengers villain or have a movie (Avengers: The Kang Dynasty) named after him, he hasn’t actually done anything in the series so far.
The one real encounter our heroes have had with him outside of Loki was in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. In that movie, a Kang variant calling himself Kang the Conqueror got trapped in the Quantum Realm, and tried to escape before being defeated by Ant-Man and (to some extent) the whole Ant-Family.
We don’t learn many facts about this Kang variant during the movie, though Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) tells us that he’s committed unspeakable atrocities to the people of the Quantum Realm — and apparently she means it, since we neither hear or see any specifics.
Perhaps more important than Kang’s quantum conquering is the post-credits scene of Quantumania, which sends us to some kind of multiversal meeting place where thousands of Kangs are congregated, with a council of a few who seem to be plotting war against the MCU’s version of Earth and its particularly effective set of heroes.
Is this anything like the comics?
Sort of, but not in a particularly helpful way. While Marvel Comics stories have dabbled with Kang variants from time to time — like the multiversal Council of Kangs, as seen in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania — Kang has classically been like a time-traveling Taylor Swift. He’s got eras.
There’s his Iron Lad Era in the far future, his Ancient Egypt Era as Pharaoh Rama-Tut, his Conqueror Era, and his ultimate Immortus Era. You can run in to different Kangs, but ultimately he’s just one time traveler, not different variants with different histories.
The MCU seems to be taking Kang in a multiverse-hopping direction rather than a timeline-sliding one. The only question for Loki season 2 is: Which Kang will we get? Trailers — and another credits scene from Quantumania — point to Victor Timely as a Kang living sometime in the 1800s. But in order to find out what his deal is, we’ll have to settle in and watch.