The 12 Best Kang The Conqueror Comics You Need To Read

Kang the Conqueror is one of the most formidable figures in Marvel Comics' stable of supervillains. He's also one of the most complicated to explain, but I'll try my best to untangle his history (and future) here: He was once an academic named Nathaniel Richards, who hailed from the distant future. With a deep obsession with the past, Richards' studies led to him stumbling on Doctor Doom's time machine, which he uses to explore various periods in history, each time resulting in a different version of himself. Among those versions are the Pharaoh Rama-Tut and the Scarlet Centurion, as well as his most famous form, Kang.

The character has been around since the 1960s, has taken on the Fantastic Four and the Avengers on countless occasions across space and time, and continues to make life difficult for our heroes. His passion for time has set him on an eternal quest to rule over every timeline that's ever existed, which means he gets to plague the good guys in every dimension. He (or at least a version of him) made the jump to live-action at the end of "Loki" as He Who Remains, which helped set up Kang's role as the main villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Multiverse Saga. Here are 12 great Kang comic book stories fans need to read.

12. Strange Tales #134 - The Challenge of ... The Watcher!

This story opens with Uatu the Watcher appearing at the Baxter Building, the home of the Fantastic Four. Though he's vowed to never interfere in human affairs, Marvel Comics fans know that's all he pretty much does. Anyway, he needs the help of Marvel's First Family, but because Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman are out, Uatu has to settle with the Thing and the Human Torch as the Fantastic Two. Their mission is to foil Kang the Conqueror's plan of world domination, which this time involves going back to the time of King Arthur, besting Merlin in combat, and becoming the supreme ruler of that era.

So, you can probably guess by this description that this is a pretty wacky and dated story. Why the Watcher — who can teleport to any location and time period with a thought — wasn't able to track down the other half of the Fantastic Four for their help is beyond me. Also, it's not exactly clear why Kang was so interested in conquering England in the Middle Ages; it seems like a pretty easy time and place to plunder since they didn't even have indoor plumbing. Maybe this was a practice conquer to prepare him to invade another, more challenging era, like feudal Japan or something. Jokes aside, this is a charming story that Kang fans should check out. While it's not his first appearance, it was where his time-traveling exploits were fully portrayed.

11. The Celestial Madonna (Avengers #123-125, #129-135, and Giant-Size Avengers #2-4)

The former supervillain the Swordsman has not only become a hero, but an Avenger as well, and even brought along a powerful, yet mysterious, female friend, Mantis (who would later join the Guardians of the Galaxy). As she and the others try to figure out her past, she becomes the target of three versions of the same man: Kang the Conqueror, Pharaoh Rama-Tut, and Immortus. They believe that she may be the mythical Celestial Madonna, who's prophesied to give birth to the Celestial Messiah, who the three warring men plan to control for their own nefarious needs. But wait, is Mantis really the Celestial Madonna? Perhaps it's the Scarlet Witch, who's been transforming into an actual witch, or maybe it's her witchy instructor, Agatha Harkness.

It's "The Bachelorette" meets "The Avengers" in this classic storyline. Seeing Kang compete with two other versions of himself to win the hand of some girl is pretty silly, but it's also a perfect demonstration of just how intricate and layered a character he is. Yes, it's quite long and complicated, but there's so much time travel and mystical wackiness that it's no wonder why it's become one of Kang's, as well as the Avengers', signature stories. While there is quite a bit of plot to get through, it actually makes for a decent jumping-on point for new readers, as it recounts a fair amount of backstory for many of its characters.

10. Timeless #1 (2021)

Anatoly Petrov is an academic specializing in superhuman figures and their role in society. But to Kang the Conqueror, Petrov is really an expert on the concept of supervillainy, and when the scholar writes a manuscript concluding that Doctor Doom is the ultimate villain, Kang decides to visit him and prove him wrong. Kang takes Petrov on a quest through time and space, demonstrating his ruthlessness and power all along the way, ending with a meeting with a variant of Doom, an alternate version of Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. This Doom is the last person alive in a timeline that's floating around in the continuum, and he's trying to attach it to the primary continuity. However, Kang isn't happy with someone else playing god with the timelines ...

"Timeless" is another great starting point for casual comic book readers or those interested in learning about Kang the Conqueror without picking up a thousand other issues. It captures so much of what has made him such a powerful and complex villain over the decades, while still adding new layers to his motivations. While he's out to prove that he's the ultimate supervillain, he also demonstrates that he doesn't see the world or himself in such simplistic terms as good and evil. It's his arrogance that's truly revealed here, his determination to prove that he's the best at everything, operating (in his own mind, at least) above the moral binary.

9. Let the Game Begin (Avengers #69-71)

Tony Stark is in critical condition in the hospital. Luckily, he's got his Avenger buddies to keep him company during this difficult time. However, they're all whisked away by a massive creature to the throne room of Kang the Conqueror in the year A.D. 4000. He's brought them there to send them on a mission: participate in a chess game against the Grandmaster's heroes. If Kang and the Avengers win, then the Grandmaster will revive Kang's paramour Ravonna, who's in a coma. However, if the Grandmaster wins, then all of Earth may be in trouble. The Avengers agree to this fateful game of chess, but only under the condition that Kang will send them and Tony back to their original time and place.

To be honest, Kang the Conqueror doesn't exactly play a major player here, as he's not really the main villain and mostly sticks to the sidelines for much of the story. Still, it's yet more proof of just how powerful he is, as he's able to manipulate Earth's Mightiest Heroes into participating in a giant board game just so he can spend some time with his lady. Kang certainly has many dangerous abilities at his disposal, but it's really his superior intellect that makes him such a threat to time and space. On a side note: This issue also marks the first appearance of the Grandmaster, who was played by Jeff Goldblum in "Thor: Ragnarok."

8. The Council Of Kangs (Avengers #267-269)

This storyline opens with the Avengers receiving a mysterious package from Iron Man, which explodes and kills them all. Iron Man then reveals himself to be Kang the Conqueror, only to then be transported to Limbo and killed. However, this is not the real Kang, nor were those the real Avengers. Well, not real in the primary 616 continuity; they're alternate-dimension versions of the characters we know and love. You see, the real Kang has gotten together with two other versions of himself to eliminate all the other iterations of themselves and replace them with robots under their control, part of a plan to rule all timelines. But even three Kangs might be too many ...

Kang the Conqueror hadn't appeared in comics for a number of years, so it was up to writer Roger Stern and artist Sal Buscema to bring him back in glorious fashion. One of the standout scenes in this storyline is the complete eradication of the Avengers and the Kang variant's reveal. It was a ballsy introduction to the plot, as it not only generated some confusion with a different Avengers lineup than the one we're used to (this dimension's Avengers included Storm and Colossus of the X-Men) but delivered shock after shock that established just how wide-ranging and high-stakes this tale was.

7. Only Myself Left to Conquer (Kang The Conqueror #1-5)

This limited series opens with the eponymous villain going back to the past to visit his younger self, Nathaniel Richards, who's right on the cusp of finalizing his invention that allows for time travel. The two then go on a wild temporal trip, making stops in ancient Egypt, the far-flung future, and the time of dinosaurs. While the young Richards marvels at how mighty and all-knowing his future self is, he begins to realize how his youthful curiosity will eventually transform into a ravenous and neverending search for power, and the cost it will inflict on him.

This series came out just as Marvel Studios was preparing for the MCU debut of Kang the Conqueror, what with his wonderful variant, He Who Remains, making quite the splash on "Loki." The timing of the release of "Only Myself Left to Conquer" may seem like a cynical attempt to cash in on the villain's increased awareness, but it's so good on its own that it doesn't even need the support of a big-budget movie or show behind it. Kang's first solo series does a terrific job explaining his vast background while also cleaning it up, making its quantum physics-level complexity easier for legacy fans to recall and new fans to understand. However, the series' greatest strength is its approach to imbuing the typically megalomaniacal villain with a touch of tragedy that never feels out of character.

6. The Avengers Vol. 1 #23-24

As Captain America is out cultivating a career as a professional boxer in his Steve Rogers identity, the other three Avengers — Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye — are hanging out at their headquarters. They're soon tricked by Kang the Conqueror into a room with no way to escape and are whisked away into the far-flung future of the 40th century. However, Kang didn't capture the Avengers as part of his usual world-dominating plans — he did this to impress his crush, Ravonna Renslayer. Unfortunately, casually kidnapping Earth's Mightiest Heroes isn't enough to thrill Ravonna. Desperate to win her heart, Kang does what any dude would do to get a girl to date him: He invades her father's empire.

This early story wasn't the first time that Kang the Conqueror took on the Avengers, but it was their first big fight together, spanning across a surprisingly wide backdrop of time and space. While there are plenty of hoaky elements that come off as pretty cheesy by today's standards, and most of the characters are fairly one-dimensional, this three-issue storyline further fleshed out the tragic romance between Kang and Ravonna Renslayer, adding a dash of pathos to the time-hopping supervillain. Comic books from this era were generally pretty simplistic in plot, but there's actually quite a lot going on here, giving the story a more epic feel.

5. Kang War One (Avengers #1-6)

Following the events of the crossover event "Civil War II," the latest iteration of the Avengers features Thor, Hercules, Captain America, Vision, Wasp, and Spider-Man, whose alter-ego, Peter Parker, is bankrolling the team. However, this new group doesn't have much time to work out the kinks, as right off the bat they must take on Kang the Conqueror, who's arrived in their present to settle a score. Apparently, at some point in time, the Vision attempts to foil one of Kang's plans, leading to a timeline he's not too happy with. But Kang isn't alone, as he's brought along the Scarlet Centurion — one of his many future variants — to hunt down the Vision.

As wild as this storyline is in many ways, it still has a comforting familiarity to it, as it harkens back to the Avengers adventures of old. Before this series, Jonathan Hickman's run on "The Avengers" titles saw a massive team split up on separate missions, whereas this one features a return to the small-team dynamic of yore. The addition of Kang, as well as the Scarlet Centurion (who's only made a handful of appearances in the comics since first debuting in 1974's "Giant-Size Avengers" #2), makes this all the more nostalgic. Still, there are many fresh ideas and new surprises on tap that make it feel fresh. The scope is massive, and there are time paradoxes aplenty, just like any good Kang story should have.

4. Seconds Out (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 #19)

Previously, the Guardians of the Galaxy went on a mission in the 31st century. Luckily, they find a time machine to send them back to the present but are accidentally sent through various versions of the future, and end up in one that's ruled over by Magus (the evil counterpart of Adam Warlock) and the Universal Church of Truth. Someone unexpected comes to their rescue in the nick of time — and that someone is Kang the Conqueror. Kang agrees to send the Guardians back to their rightful era, but only under the condition that they kill their teammate Adam Warlock; the time-traveling tyrant believes that the Magus' timeline will consume all of the other timelines, and that's something that Kang ain't gonna tolerate.

It's not often that Kang helps out the heroes. Of course, when he does lend them a helping hand, it's only for his own benefit. Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's run on "Guardians of the Galaxy" is noted for its wacky humor and plots that thrust readers into the absurd, while still keeping the stakes high and emotional core intact. Kang fits right into the time-hopping escapades, with Abnett and Lanning perfectly capturing his powerful presence without sacrificing the zaniness of the story. In fact, Kang fits so well in this world that one wonders why he rarely — if ever — appeared in more "Guardians of the Galaxy" comics, considering how much time travel factors into their adventures.

3. Sidekicks (Young Avengers #1-6)

A group of superpowered teens has arrived on the scene, determined to protect the world just like their older, more experienced counterparts. Among this group of youthful heroes is Iron Lad, who reveals that he is actually a younger version of the supervillain, Kang the Conqueror, from a thousand years in the future. Iron Lad explains that Kang came to him from even further in the future to give him a head start toward villainy and even gives him his advanced tech armor. However, Iron Lad decided against this and transported himself to the 21st century to recruit help for his showdown with Kang. Just as Iron Man and Captain America of the "old" Avengers are about to call the Younger Avengers' parents, guess who comes crashing into their timeline?

Iron Lad is one of the more beloved variants of Kang, and seeing him not only reject his destiny but set out to build a better one is an absolute blast. Kang has done some pretty horrible things throughout his long and storied history, but seeing that he was once an innocent young boy gives his fall into malevolence and megalomania a tragic dimension. Because Kang and Iron Lad can't be in the same timeline together for very long, we get a startling glimpse of just how fragile the fabric of time is (at least in comic books).

2. Kang Dynasty (Avengers Vol. 3 #41-55 and Annual 2001)

Kang the Conqueror has arrived on Earth in the present with his son Marcus in tow and makes the reason for his presence clear: He is here to save the planet. By conquering it, of course. The time-hopping warrior announces to the United Nations and the rest of the world that anyone who claims another territory in his honor will be allowed to rule under his reign. Numerous enemy populations immediately declare war on Earth, which is all part of Kang's plan; he knows that if he were to present himself as a singular threat, then the heroes and villains of the world would unite against him. But by pitting them against each other, Earth will be left in a vulnerable position for his taking.

Legendary comic book writer Kurt Busiek ends his terrific run on "Avengers" with one of the biggest Kang the Conqueror stories ever published. Here, he causes a level of mayhem rarely seen by any other villain, and he comes extremely close to succeeding with his plan of world domination (I'd put a spoiler alert here, but you didn't really think Earth's Mightiest Heroes would actually lose, did you?). The massive, global scope of "Kang Dynasty" brings this stunning tale closer to a Roland Emmerich disaster movie, and is a must-read for anyone wondering just how dangerous Kang really is.

1. Avengers Forever (12-issue limited series)

It's revealed that everyone's favorite sidekick Rick Jones is in possession of a powerful source of mysterious energy called the "Destiny Force," which Immortus is on the search for. However, Jones gets some help from an unlikely person: Kang the Conqueror. But he may not be enough to stop Immortus' armies, so Jones uses the "Destiny Force" to reach across time and put together a team of Avengers from various eras, including Captain America from the time of the Secret Empire, Hawkeye from right after the Kree–Skrull War, Captain Marvel from the future, and others. Together, they must team up with one of their deadliest foes to take on an even deadlier version of himself.

"Avengers Forever" is filled with references to past "Avengers" stories, making it the most daunting run for a new reader to dive into. However, for fans of Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Kang the Conqueror, this 12-issue limited series is a total blast, as it serves as an action-packed love letter to everything that has come before. Not only do we get to revisit the history of the Avengers from a different angle, but this tale also helps to flesh out the messy backgrounds of Kang and Immortus and their complicated connection to one another. Though this is perhaps the best Kang story ever, it's probably best appreciated after reading some of the other stories on this list first.