When we first saw Thanos outside of a post-credit scene cameo, he snapped Loki’s neck and beat the Hulk to a pulp. It was a fitting introduction for a character who served as the franchise’s greatest villain, and the destroyer of half the universe. The same can’t be said for his successor, Kang.
Kang is the MCU‘s next era-defining villain, as the franchise likes to keep reminding us. First seen in Loki season 1, He Who Remains hinted at the existential threat posed by Kang and all his variants. In Ant-Man 3, we were told something very similar. And in Loki season 2… you guessed it, we kept getting told to be very concerned about Kang.
Now, Loki season 2 was pretty brilliant. In fact, we think it’s the best TV series in the MCU so far, thanks to the titular trickster’s charm and some genuinely clever time travel storytelling. But it just made the underwhelming, unintimidating Kang even more underwhelming, and even more unintimidating. That’s really bad news for upcoming Marvel movies as Marvel Phase 6 promises to spotlight the character even further.
So far, we’ve seen all three main Kang variants die. Kang the Conqueror was killed by the Ant-Gang; He Who Remains was killed by Sylvie; Victor Timely was turned into space spaghetti. At every single turn so far, Kang has proven to be beatable.
To be fair, the case of He Who Remains is slightly different. His death was part of his own plan, and he gave Loki time-slipping powers in the knowledge that the Norse god would travel back in time to prevent Sylvie from killing him. Sounds clever, right? Well, not really.
As it turns out, He Who Remains’ decision to turn Loki into one of the most powerful beings in the world backfired, and badly. Loki didn’t stop his death, and instead took a third option, sacrificing himself to stabilize time and reality across the multiverse. Where did this leave the big HWR? Decomposing in his throne as Loki became stronger than ever. It was a farcical error.
There are, of course, endless other Kangs scattered throughout reality. But Marvel has given us no reason to worry about them at all and has instead done the opposite. That would be fine (though not ideal) if the Kangs were secondary Marvel villains, but when we’re continually told that Kang is the biggest threat to the multiverse, it leaves the franchise lacking direction, and oomph.
Perhaps it’ll all be fine. Perhaps Kang’s role in the next Avengers movie (Kang Dynasty, which will lead into Secret Wars) will fix it all, and turn Kang into a villain worthy of Thanos. But based on what we’ve seen so far, that truly seems impossible. The damage to the audience’s perception of Kang has already been done.
We’d love nothing more than to be proven wrong. Please, Kevin Feige, defy our expectations. Let Kang threaten us, and let him — for once — win. We dare you.