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After a long dry spell on the Marvel Cinematic Universe news front, there’s finally been a new casting, and it’s major. Jonathan Majors (Da 5 Bloods, Lovecraft County) is joining the cast of Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man 3 as Kang the Conqueror. Kang’s history in the Marvel Universe is complex to say the least, but in the grand scheme of things, the time-traveling despot is a big deal in terms of his connections to Marvel heroes and villains alike. In fact, when it comes to being a constant thorn in the Avengers’ sides, he’s right up there with Ultron and Thanos. Majors’ casting as Kang doesn’t just suggest the stakes of Ant-Man 3 are going to be a lot bigger than the previous two films, it also paves the way for an expansion of the MCU’s narrative in both the past and the present.
Peyton Reed said earlier this month that, Ant-Man 3, written by Jeff Loveness (Rick and Morty) will be a much bigger film than the previous two, and have a different visual template. Fans were already speculating that the third film could pave the way for the Young Avengers, with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) serving as a mentor for the next generation of Earth’s greatest heroes. After all, the world is currently without a team of Avengers, and Nick Fury’s plans to assemble a new collection of heroes in Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) went off the rails before it even got started.
With Scott’s daughter, Cassie (Emma Fuhrmann) aging into a teenager in the course of the time-jump in Avengers: Endgame (2019), and her comic book history as superhero, Stature, that Young Avengers theory has always held merit. Now, with what we know about Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ series, and the arrival of Kang, it’s looking more and more likely.
Created by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, the Young Avengers, first united under Iron Lad in an effort to defeat long-standing Avengers villain, Kang, in attempt to prove themselves to the remnants of the original Avengers who had been torn apart in Avengers Disassembled (2005). In a twist, it was revealed that Iron Lad is an adolescent version of Kang pulled from the time-stream. Iron Lad is forced to deal with the consequences of wanting to be a hero in the present but knowing he’ll become a villain in the future, an arc that could be fascinating on film with Majors’ skills.
Due to the multiple personas of Kang, pulled from different timelines, it’s possible that Majors could be playing multiple versions of one person, which sounds like an actor’s dream. Peyton Reed could certainly make use of steadily improving de-aging technology again to create a teenage version of Kang. With that in mind, the very real possibility of Cassie becoming Stature, and the Disney+ series paving the way for other members to show up Kate Bishop (Hawkeye), Patriot (Falcon and the Winter Soldier), Kid Loki (Loki), Speed and Wiccan (WandaVision), it seems the stage is set for Ant-Man 3 to introduce the Young Avengers.
While Kang’s time as a hero is certainly a fascinating film prospect, it’s difficult to not dream up all the villainous schemes he could get up to with his time-travel abilities. Kang isn’t simply a one and done villain, it seems safe to assume his role won’t begin and end in Ant-Man 3. Reed has previously noted that he’s interested in further exploring the Quantum Realm, which played a major role in the time-travel of Avengers: Endgame. It seems likely that Kang’s time-travel powers would see him able to harness this energy. Endgame also introduced the concept of a multiverse, and with Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness set to follow that thread, it’s possible that Kang involvement in Ant-Man 3 sets the stage for him to become the big bad of Marvel’s next phase, with story elements from Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern, and Carlos Pacheco’s Avengers Forever, which pulled Avengers from different eras and timelines together, forming the basis of his master plan.
Kang’s addition to the MCU could also stretch beyond the Avengers. Reed has long been angling to direct Fantastic Four, a job he was in running for before the MCU was even conceived. Kang has close ties to Doctor Doom and Reed Richards, and is possibly related to both characters. Kang’s alias is Nathaniel Richards. That’s also the name of Reed Richards’ father, who is also a time traveler, a fact that has created a lot of confusion over the years. But as of this moment in comics, Kang is not Reed Richards father, though the unification of the two time traveling Nathaniel Richards would be interesting.
Beyond the Fantastic Four, Kang has also displayed interests in mutants. Another one of Kang’s egos, Rama-Tut, once tried to make En Sabah Nur, the world’s first mutant who would later become better known as Apocalypse, as his heir, giving Kang a potential connection to the MCU’s X-Men as well.
Kang isn’t just potentially the next “Avengers level threat” but also a possible bridge that introduces the Fantastic Four and mutants into the MCU. While fans have wondered how mutants and the Fantastic Four would be folded into MCU continuity, and if their existence would be a recent happening, Kang’s ability to work across time means that they could have already existed and Kang could have already defeated them, removing them from the timeline and memory, until they reemerge that is. There is an unlimited amount of twisty potential when Kang is involved. With Jonathan Majors’ casting as Kang the Conqueror, Ant-Man may have just gone from Marvel’s smallest franchise to the key to its ever-expanding inter-connected narrative.
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The Gilded Age