Ant-Man 3 could introduce villain Kang the Conqueror to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The future of the MCU is taking shape, and the latest reports are that director Peyton Reed will return in Ant-Man 3. It's expected to begin production in January 2021, ahead of a 2022 release date.
This is Marvel's best chance to explore the Quantum Realm, a mysterious dimension that can only be accessed by a Sling Ring or Pym Particles. The Quantum Realm is surprisingly underdeveloped, serving mostly as a plot device to allow time travel in Avengers: Endgame. It serves as an analogue for two realms from the comics, the Microverse and a plane of existence called Limbo. The Microverse is a subatomic reality inhabited by myriad alien races, but Marvel can't legally use the name due to its connection to the Micronauts; meanwhile, Limbo is a place that exists outside the normal rules of space-time, with any traveler passing through it briefly.
Naturally, at this stage there's little information about Ant-Man 3. But, assuming it lives up to its potential and explores the Quantum Realm, one of the best prospective villains for the movie is Kang the Conqueror.
Ant-Man 3 Introduced A Hidden City In The Quantum Realm
Concept art for Ant-Man & the Wasp shows that Marvel toyed with lots of different ideas for the Quantum Realm, but precious few of these made the final cut. One did, though; a brief glimpse of a mysterious city, covered by a dome. It was only visible for an instant, almost concealed in the background because the focus was on Scott Lang and Hank Pym as they flew through the Quantum Realm, but it clearly confirmed that this subatomic dimension is inhabited.
Although the Microverse is inhabited in the comics, there's no comic book equivalent for a domed city. There is, however, one associated with Limbo; a city that sits outside of time called Limbo. Each block of Chronopolis extends to the ends of the Earth in a specific time-period; unless you find the hidden portals connecting the different blocks, you could potentially get lose in Chronopolis forever. More primitive time-periods are on the outskirts, more advanced towards the center, and Chronopolis is dominated by a towering citadel in the middle. Very few comics have ever shown comics from the outside; the focus is usually on the Citadel itself. The handful that have done so have shown a city that appears to match with Ant-Man & the Wasp, futuristic and protected from the harsh, fluctuating reality of Limbo by an atmospheric dome.
Chronopolis Is Associated With Marvel Villain Kang the Conqueror
In the comics, Chronopolis is the center of an empire that spans time and space. It's been the home of various rulers, ranging from Immortus to - most famously - Kang the Conqueror. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Kang is generally considered one of Marvel's greatest comic book villains. He's a tyrannic despot who is dedicated to expanding his control over all of history. Although Kang technically lacks powers, he's used his mastery of time travel to put together an incredibly advanced armor, and to seek out the most sophisticated weapons of all time. As a result, this single villain has frequently been able to fight the assembled Avengers to a standstill - and that's without his army.
Kang's comic book origin story is pretty convoluted, simply because different writers have treated time travel rules differently, leading to a lot of confusion. Still, he's been consistently portrayed as Nathaniel Richards, a possible ancestor of the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards, one of humanity's greatest geniuses. He's embraced a number of different costumed identities, ranging from Rama-Tut to the Scarlet Centurion, but has always been driven by a deep-rooted desire for conquest. The heroes of the modern Marvel universe have earned Kang's particular ire due to their refusal to bow the knee.
It's worth noting that, in the comics, Kang's life and timeline has become incredibly complex. This is largely because of the sheer number of different writers who've penned stories featuring the supervillain, each of whom had a different approach to the "rules" of time travel. If the Quantum Realm city is indeed Chronopolis, then it's safe to assume Marvel Studios will simplify Kang's backstory for sheer narrative convenience.
What Role Could Kang Play In Ant-Man 3 - And Beyond?
Kang is one of Marvel's most prominent villains, and he has the same kind of potential as Thanos himself. What's more, given the MCU's Phase 4 slate is exploring so many concepts related to the Multiverse and time travel, he would be wasted as a "one and done" villain. Rather, Ant-Man 3 could serve to introduce viewers to the next Thanos, a bad guy who becomes the driving force of the next Avengers-scale movie. Ant-Man 3 could help establish Kang as a terrible threat, with the Langs and the Pyms exploring Chronopolis and perhaps on the run from Kang and his forces.
The one question behind a villain like Kang, of course, is just why he hasn't already conquered the MCU timeline. And Ant-Man 3 could potentially explain that; it could be that the MCU version is stranded in the Quantum Realm, and he only learns how to escape by watching how Ant-Man and his team get out. The lesson learned, Kang would be set up to exit the Quantum Realm and begin his conquest of time - meaning it wouldn't take long before he crossed paths with more Avengers. The MCU has recently settled into a habit of jumping around the timeline, and that could serve as a useful narrative tool, given Kang's ability to travel through time. Perhaps Marvel could switch to telling Kang's story in-sequence rather than the heroes', mixing things up a little.
The interesting question is whether or not this could line up with the introduction of the MCU's Fantastic Four. In the Ultimate version of the comics, the Fantastic Four were granted their powers after they accessed another dimension. Given the Quantum Realm is known to "evolve" humans - as proven by both Janet Van Dyne and Ghost - it could serve as the MCU equivalent. If so, Ant-Man 3 could prepare the way for the Fantastic Four, with the MCU version of the team facing off against Kang rather than Doctor Doom.
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