The latest Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania trailer introduced the offer Kang will make Scott Lang. If Scott helps free him from the Quantum Realm, Kang will give Scott something he can never get on his own: time. However, that trailer also suggests Scott won’t follow through on that exchange. Since we know The Kang Dynasty is coming to the MCU, the Conqueror is getting out somehow. So who might release the biggest threat to the multiverse? Hank Pym’s sad comic book history and his movie counterpart’s tragic past point to him unleashing the MCU’s next big villain.
Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym shares significant traits with his comic version. The MCU scientist and former superhero is moody, difficult, proud, and quick-tempered. He also helped inadvertently create his greatest enemy. In the MCU that was Darren Cross, his protégé-turned-foe. In Marvel Comics’ Hank—a founding member of the Avengers originally celebrated as a great hero—created Ultron.
That storyline went to fellow genius Tony Stark in the MCU, but Iron Man dealt with movie Ultron in a single movie. Comic book Hank Pym is in a decades long battles with his killer creation. Worse, his guilt over fathering the sentient killer robot (with his own brain patterns) plagued Hank with debilitating guilt that has nearly destroyed him countless times. That also contributed to his other mental health issues like bipolar disorder and severe depression. A simple lab accident with poisonous gasses even led him to develop schizophrenia, which in turn led him to adopt multiple personas. At different times the original Ant-Man was also Giant Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, and even the Wasp. (Not to mention a litany of other aliases he adopted over the years.) He’s long been a man in search of an identity, respect, and internal peace.
Hank’s comic’s history is also a sad one because frequently his best intentions blow up in his face. When he tried to do something right, or atone for his mistakes, he tends to cause major problems for the whole world. His is a life is also one of desperately trying to prove his worth while failing to live up to his own impossible standards. His incredible creation of Pym Particles was never enough for him. In fact, he hated himself in large part for never living up to his great discovery. He’s a wannabe hero who often times isn’t very heroic and most of the time isn’t very likable. In fact, he’s often detestable.
His backstory is so bad it includes an incident that was never supposed to take place on the page. (Which is really hard for a fictional character!) Miscommunication between writer and artist led to a 1981 issue of The Avengers where Hank hit his then-wife Janet Van Dyne. Once the scene of domestic violence made it to print there was no coming back for Hank. Attempts to rehabilitate him have never really worked. (How could they?) And as a result, modern stories have often leaned into his worst qualities.
From Avengers court-martials and accidentally helping his greatest enemy, to unknowingly dating a Skrull and multiple failed attempts to rekindle his relationship with Janet, Hank Pym’s comic adventures amount to a life of disappointment and downright disaster. (And that only accounts for the Hank Pym of Earth-616 and not his Variant’s many issues and outbursts.) His is an existence forever spent staring into the abyss of a complete breakdown. And the greater his failing the greater the price paid. Like how Ultron ultimately fused with his creator, turning Hank and his memories into a cybernetic meat puppet.
That’s not the story of the MCU’s version, of course. Michael Douglas’ character might be rough around the edges, but he’s ultimately a good guy we both like and root for. Yet, the big screen version’s own tragic past makes him especially vulnerable to Kang the Conqueror’s offer. And that’s why, just like on the page, it could lead him to do something he thinks is good, but will result in a threat to all existence.
Thanos’ Snap cost Scott Lang five years with his daughter. Meanwhile, Hank Pym’s own creation cost him decades with his wife. And during those many painful years his relationship with his daughter suffered. If Scott won’t free Kang to get back his lost time, Hank might. Especially if it means saving Scott’s life. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania‘s trailer shows a battered Scott willing to “lose” if it means preventing Kang from winning.
Getting back a lifetime and love squandered because of your own invention? All while saving someone you care for? It’s not hard to imagine Hank Pym accepting that offer without fully appreciating what it means. That’s exactly the type of thing his character has long done in Marvel Comics. It’s also the type of thing the MCU itself has primed its audience to know is possible. A vengeful Variant Hank Pym unleashed a zombie apocalypse in an alternate reality on Disney+’s What If…?
Kang the Conqueror is coming to the MCU. (Some would argue he’s already here.) But first he has to free himself from the Quantum Realm. Scott Lang, one of the MCU’s most likable, most righteous heroes probably won’t be the one to do that. Instead Kang might need help from a different Ant-Man. One with a history of not being able to help himself.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.