(This article actually does NOT contain any “Loki” spoilers.)
We are still in the very early stages of the fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so the big picture remains pretty foggy. “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter” didn’t shed much light on things. And otherwise we don’t know what’s coming aside from a list of titles and bits of casting news.
One thing we’ve known for a while, though, is that the MCU’s version of the multiverse is coming. It’s a major factor in “Loki” on Disney+, and it will of course be key in the “Doctor Strange” sequel that literally has the word “multiverse” in the title.
And it makes sense for the emergence of the multiverse to be the next big long-term issue in the MCU for the foreseeable future, similar to how the Infinity Stones were at the center of the first three phases. There aren’t a lot of great options for following up on a story as cosmic at the one we saw across “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame,” and so laying the groundwork for a big multiversal conflict is a natural fit. And as a bonus, that would definitely be the easiest way to bring mutants into the MCU without doing major retcons.
While “Endgame” served as a sort of backdoor intro to the multiverse — even though that word is never used in that movie, the Avengers were creating new multiverse timelines when they time traveled — “Loki” provides a more proper introduction.
With “Loki” dealing with the multiverse directly, we couldn’t help but wonder if that means we’re going to meet at least one new, major MCU figure who hails from some other part of the multiverse. Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four is a distinct possibility — in the comics, Richards is able to develop tech that is far beyond anything we ever saw tony Stark do on the big screen.
Back in the 1960s, he even invented faster-than-light travel, using a dimension called subspace — or hyperspace, as it’s more often called these days — as a shortcut to any place he wanted to go, and he tested it by paying a visit to the Kree galaxy. So any time there’s multiverse stuff going on, Mr. Fantastic is always gonna be a candidate to show up until he actually does.
But while there are more than a few candidates who could show up on “Loki,” one stands out as by far the best candidate: Kang the Conqueror, a multiversal powerhouse who will be played in the MCU by Jonathan Majors. He’s supposed to debut in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” which is out in 2023, but Kang is such a heavy hitter in the comics that I’m assuming he’ll be the Thanos of this cycle. At a minimum, he’s far too significant to only be an “Ant-Man” villain. Some kind of cameo here makes a lot of sense.
We do have a more concrete reason for suspecting him, though — we’ve already met a character on “Loki,” Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, pictured in the header image at the top of this article), who is inextricably linked to Kang in the comics. On the show, Ravonna is the judge that Loki has to face when he arrives at the Time Variance Authority (or TVA) — but in the comics, Ravonna has no connection to the TVA.
This major change for that character probably isn’t arbitrary, though of course they could have reasons for making this change in the adaptation that have nothing to do with Kang. Whatever the case, this connection is too obvious to ignore.
Since there’s not much more to discuss from the “Loki” premiere itself — Ravonna is only in it for a couple minutes — below you’ll find a little bit of a rundown about Ravonna and Kang.
First and foremost, Kang is one of the main villains of the entire Marvel Comics prime universe — and yes, he’s an adversary of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) too. Created by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema, he debuted in 1963’s “Fantastic Four” #19, in which FF traveled back in time to Ancient Egypt and were captured by Pharaoh “Rama Tut” — who claims to be a time traveler from the year 3,000.
It turns out however that he isn’t just from the future, he’s also from another universe entirely, a native of Earth-6311 (the main Marvel universe is Earth-616) named Nathaniel Richards. On that version of Earth, what we call the dark ages never happened, and technology advanced without interruption until a utopia was established. By the year 3,000, Nathaniel is driven crazy with boredom at how safe and boring things are and travels back in time to find thrills in the form of battles and conquest.
As the history of Marvel Comics goes on, it gets really hard to keep track, but the barest version is that due to his constant time traveling, Kang ends up forming vast interstellar empires and several time travel duplicates — or as they’re known on “Loki,” variants — and some of those variants even end up opposed to whatever the “original” Kang is up to. He also adopts his signature purple and green costume along the way.
He would regularly conquer different kingdoms and realms, and he and the TVA often got in territorial disputes over the multiverses. Kang was one of the few beings that could match the scope of their power, despite controlling a smaller territory. He also travels back in time to our era again and again trying to defeat various superheroes, most often the Avengers or the Fantastic Four. And by the way, it’s often implied he’s either a descendent of Doctor Doom, or a distant relative of Fantastic Four leader Reed Richards.
Assuming the MCU version of Kang resembles his comic book counterpart — and the fact that we know he’s coming — we have to assume the TVA is aware of him.
And then there’s Ravonna Renslayer, created by Stan Lee and Don Heck and introduced in “Avengers” #23 in 1965. There, she’s a princess from 2,000 years in the future whose father, Carelius, rules one of the last kingdoms not conquered by Kang.
When we meet her, Kang has allowed that kingdom to remain free because he’s in love with Ravonna and wants to marry her. Unfortunately, she turned Kang down for being a commoner, so Kang brought the Avengers into the future, hoping that by defeating them in battle he could win Ravonna over.
The rest is pretty convoluted but, basically: The Avengers join forces with Carelius, but are defeated by Kang, who immediately sets out to marry Ravonna, only to be betrayed by one of his generals for showing mercy to defeated enemies. In the chaos, Ravonna changes her mind about Kang and sacrifices her life to save him, which leads to Kang spending years trying to save her from that fate by time traveling.
This is what eventually results in the creation of Kang’s multiple time travel duplicates — and several for Ravonna as well. Again, we warned you this is convoluted.
Now obviously, we know Marvel cherry-picks concepts from the comics and adapts them into the MCU without adhering strictly to any given story. But introducing a very specific love interest of Kang the Conqueror and then not eventually introducing the man himself seems like a waste of time, or at least a wasted opportunity.
Of course so far, with the exception of Don Cheadle in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” Marvel’s Disney+ TV Shows have been lacking in big cameos. And we all remember how instead of bringing in literally anyone of note, “my guy” turned out to mean absolutely nothing at all in “WandaVision.” So maybe we’ll get to the end of “Loki” and it turns they just randomly picked the name of Kang’s famous love interest out of a hat and it has no greater significance.
Sure hope not.