Warning: This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame!
Avengers: Endgame may not be the first MCU movie to deal with the concept of time travel, but it certainly makes full use of that popular sci-fi trope. And as Marty McFly will tell you, the problem with time travel is that it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. Now that the Avengers have bent the MCU timeline to their will, they may be dealing with the ramifications and unintended consequences for a long time to come.
With that in mind, we can’t help but wonder if this is the first step toward introducing one of the biggest Avengers villains of them all. Could Kang the Conqueror be joining the MCU? Here’s why we think Endgame could be setting up Kang for a major role in Phase 4 and beyond.
The State of the MCU Timeline
The MCU timeline isn’t in great shape in the aftermath of Endgame. As much as Bruce Banner would have you believe it’s impossible to actually alter the past (because the present becomes your past and the past becomes your future and all that nonsense), that’s kind of what the Avengers did. They traveled back in time and altered history in subtle but key ways. The thing is, this resulted in the creation of alternate timelines. So in one newly created timeline, Captain America told his past self Bucky is alive and made Brock Rumlow think Steve Rogers is a Hydra agent. That’s also where Ant-Man and Iron Man accidentally let Loki escape with the Tesseract. In another, Nebula killed her younger self. And Gamora may well be detached from time entirely.
As much as Cap tried to smooth over these rough patches when he went back and returned the Infinity Stones, the damage has probably been done. And based on what directors Joe and Anthony Russo have said, Cap did create an entirely different branching timeline when he stayed in the past.
That’s why we think time travel will continue to play an important role in Phase 4 of the Marvel Universe. These mistakes will have ripple effects. Loki’s escape alone will almost certainly play into the upcoming Loki series on Disney+. Even as the Avengers restored the half of the universe Thanos obliterated, they may have caused an entirely new crisis in exchange.
Kang’s Big Debut
And that could be where Kang steps in. This powerful villain is infamous for having weaponized time itself. He freely travels between past and future and manipulates the course of human history for his own ends. He ruled in ancient Egypt as a god, and he lords over the distant future as an all-powerful tyrant. And no matter how many times Kang is defeated and seemingly killed, his mastery of time means there’s always another version of him ready to strike the Avengers when they least expect him.
The events of Endgame could easily serve as the catalyst for Kang’s debut. Perhaps Endgame serves as his origin story. When a young Kang sees how the Avengers were able to manipulate time in order to achieve an impossible goal, he’s inspired to do the same. Or maybe Kang has always been lurking behind the scenes in the MCU, and the Avengers’ actions make him feel threatened enough to finally reveal himself. It could be that the events of Endgame leave time itself broken, leaving Kang an opening to work his mischief on an even grander scale.
Then there are Kang’s ties to the Young Avengers. Marvel is showing every sign of introducing this teen superhero team in the near future, with Endgame setting up Hawkeye’s daughter Lila as his possible successor and introducing an older version of Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie. The original Young Avengers team was formed by Iron Lad, who just so happens to be a young, idealistic version of Kang the Conqueror. Not only does Kang’s MCU debut seem very likely, but we could very well see multiple incarnations of the character battling each other.
This illustrates two of the biggest advantages to having Kang replace Thanos as the prime villain of the MCU. Kang ties numerous characters and franchises together. And because he’s a man who exists in many different incarnations across thousands of years, he’s less likely to wear out his welcome after appearing in multiple movies. Why settle for just Kang when you can also have Rama-Tut, Nathaniel Richards, Iron Lad and the Scarlet Centurion? Time is always on his side.
For more on Avengers, read our Endgame review, learn about the post-credits scene in Endgame, our biggest WTF questions, check out our helper on the movie’s most complicated part, find out who that mystery character was, or let us explain the Endgame ending for you!
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.
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