How Does Kang The Conqueror Measure Up To Thanos After Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania?

The character of Kang the Conqueror, as played by actor Jonathan Majors, has now appeared in the TV series "Loki," and the 31st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Peyton Reed's "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania." If Marvel's most recent proposed slate of films is released according to plan, audiences will also be seeing much more of Kang going forward. Indeed, one of the upcoming films already scheduled for release on May 2, 2025, will be called "Avengers: The Kang Dynasty." Everything, it seems, will climax with Kang. He will serve as the "big bad" for the entire current phase of MCU movies. 

In that regard, one can easily compare Kang to Thanos (Josh Brolin), the "big bad" of the previous Marvel phases. Thanos originally had a cameo in Joss Whedon's 2012 "Avengers" film, and appeared in larger and larger roles in several subsequent sequels before appearing as the central villain in 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War." Many fans liked Thanos as a villain, as the character had a clearly stated motive based on genuine problems. Thanos was concerned with universal overpopulation and the persistent poor allocation of resources. Rather than address those problems humanely, though, Thanos figured that depopulation was the only feasible solution, and proceeded to collect six magical stones that would allow him whatever he wanted. His wish was to wipe out half of the universe's population in a single instant. He was successful. 

More than being well-spoken, Thanos was also threatening. He was played by Brolin, but motion capture effects inflated him into a nine-foot, over-muscled super-alien. When he punched the Incredibly Hulk in the gut, the Hulk crumpled to the ground. My, my, that's strong.

Kang vs. Thanos

One might say that Thanos' villainy stemmed only from his lack of imagination. Raised a military man, Thanos only knew how to look at value through conquest, death, and weapons of destruction. He fought in the name of balance, hoping that mass death would serve as a solution to the universe's problems. As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, every problem resembles a nail. And when all you have is a military background, you tend to see a cosmic wishing gauntlet as nothing but a weapon of death. It's very much a pity that when the ostensibly clever and weapons-averse Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) managed to take possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, he, too, could only think to use it as a weapon. Odd that Thanos' actual grievance about overpopulation was never actually addressed by the Avengers. If only Iron Man had briefly possessed something that could have more expertly reallocated resources throughout the universe. 

If Thanos was motivated by genuine problems, Kang is quite the opposite. In the mythos of Marvel Comics, Kang is a time-traveling descendent of Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four who was born in the 31st century, and who travels through time to take over earlier epochs. Another notable feature of Kang is that there are multiple parallel versions of him, and he is motivated — like an immortal from Highlander — to be the last Kang standing. One of his central goals in comics — and perhaps in the MCU — is to travel to other dimensions and slaughter all his parallel selves. The version of Kang seen in "Loki" is not the same one as in "Quantumania." 

Kang, then, is motivated by an even more destructive urge than righteousness: ego.

Righteousness vs. ego

Although Thanos was a mad nihilist hellbent on death, one gets the sense that he could have been talked out of his schemes. He was imposing and terrifying but may be one intense coffee klatch away from changing his ways. Indeed, in an episode of "What If...?," Thanos was depicted as a righteous member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, having been turned from his evil ways by the gentleness of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). Really, Iron Man, you didn't have to use the Infinity Gauntlet to kill thousands of bad guys. You could have solved so much more. 

Kang, meanwhile, is so personally powerful, and so unknowably ancient, that he is seemingly unshakeable in his goals. His hands are equipped with weapons that can instantly vaporize attackers, and his ship allows him to traverse time and dimensions with ease, taking over world after world, all in the name of being the only person ... the only thing ... left in existence. Little of Kang's motivation is stated out loud in "Quantumania," sadly, but one might hear more of his personality in later MCU installments. 

What audiences are left with is an impressive performance from Majors who projects calm to the point of horror. He is easily miffed but is also endlessly patient. Seemingly immortal, Kang has likely learned to be patient. What's several decades in prison to one that does not age? Thanos may have been threatening, but Kang has the potential to actually be scary. 

It may be unfair to compare the characters, as one has had far more screen time than the other, but so far, Kang is shaping up to be a more dynamic, threatening villain. Thanos only killed half of one universe. Kang wants to wipe out entire timelines.