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[This story contains spoilers for Loki‘s season finale.]
Marvel Studios has been teasing a Fantastic Four movie for some time, with Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s Jon Watts attached to direct. The project is officially undated, leaving fans wondering when they’ll get their first glimpse of the property known as “Marvel’s First Family.” This week’s Loki suggested that the Fantastic Four’s story might have already started.
The big reveal in the final episode of Loki‘s first season was the debut of Jonathan Majors’ Kang — or, at least, a version of Kang; time travel and alternate realities are difficult to keep straight. While the version Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) ran into at the end of time, “He Who Remains,” was far from the self-styled “Kang the Conqueror” of comic book lore, he teased the debut of that incarnation more than once during the episode, promising that conquerors would be amongst the alternate timeline versions that would appear in the event of his death. Maybe that will be the Kang already announced for 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania — or perhaps the Kang in that movie will be the teenage love interest of Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie, as introduced in the 2005 comic Young Avengers. (Yes, there are multiple Kangs from multiple timelines in comic canon; enough that there’s an organization made out of them, called the Council of Cross-Time Kangs.)
With such a confusing backstory, there’s a lot that’s purposefully unclear about Kang; one piece of persistent canon, however, is the potential for Kang to be a far future descendant of someone in the contemporary Marvel Universe. In some stories, he’s related to Doctor Doom, but in others, his real name is Nathaniel Richards — named after an ancestor of his, who just so happens to be the father of the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards. Either way, Kang finds himself tethered to the Fantastic Four franchise in such a way that feels not entirely coincidental, considering how tightly planned everything in the MCU traditionally is.
There is, however, a separate clue toward the F.F. to be found in Loki‘s finale. As He Who Remains went into more detail about his origins, and the Multiverse War that has been referenced throughout the series, audiences learned that realities were forced into conflict with each other, forced to annihilate each other in order to survive. Comic book readers might have found that detail particularly interesting, as a variation on it was central to writer Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Avengers franchise from 2012 though 2015.
In the core thread of that run, “incursions” — realities coming to inhabit the same physical space — force a group of heroes to repeatedly commit multiversal genocide in order to prevent their own reality from being destroyed …until all reality is ultimately destroyed. Things didn’t go smoothly, as might be expected, but the aftermath of the destruction of the Marvel Universe was the 2015 series Secret Wars, in which only one world exists, under the rule of a long-lived supervillain. It’s a parallel to Loki‘s Sacred Timeline — one unified world, as opposed to one unified chronology, but created with the same zeal of a villain believing they’re doing the right thing no matter what. (In Secret Wars‘ case, the villain is Doctor Doom instead of Kang, but…well, see above.)
The resolution of Secret Wars sees the Marvel Universe essentially re-created as it was before the war, but with a few differences — one of which being that the Fantastic Four is absent, because they’re exploring the space between realities, and creating a few new ones in their wake.
It’s long been a matter of speculation how Marvel Studios would manage to work the Fantastic Four into the MCU; after all, following more than 20 installments of superheroic adventure that include aliens, gods, and geniuses who can build 40-plus suits of outrageous armor, would a group of friends given superpowers by a scientific accident really seem quite so fantastic…? Not only that, but would the team work so well stripped of their comic book position as being the forerunners of the Marvel Universe?
Adopting the Secret Wars approach allows Marvel the chance to have its cake and eat it, too; if the Fantastic Four were one of the first superpowered beings in the MCU but had left that reality at the end of the Multiverse War — or, more likely, found themselves returning to reality as the result of the end of the upcoming multiversal storylines in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — then there’s suddenly a new historical basis for the team’s existence, as well as a reason that they’ve not appeared in any of the Marvel movies to date. And it’s in comics canon! (Well, almost.)
Kang is clearly one of the threads at the center of Marvel’s Phase 4 plans, alongside the multiverse (and the Young Avengers; there are multiple members spread throughout different upcoming projects). The Fantastic Four movie is forthcoming. Is it really that unlikely that all of these things are related in some way — and that Kang, and the multiverse, are at the heart of bringing the characters into the MCU? Surely there would be no better way to ensure that Marvel Studios has…well, a fantastic Phase 4.
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