Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania brought Kang to the MCU. It also brought a whole lot of Kang the Conqueror’s Variants to the franchise. The only thing the movie has more of than versions of Jonathan Majors’ character is unanswered questions. Some of them are obvious, like, “Where the hell was Judy Greer?” and “How could you not include Judy Greer?” But because most of the story—like Loki before it—takes place outside of normal time, it’s not even clear what we should be asking. Things work differently in the Quantum Realm, and that means we have to approach Quantumania differently, too. The challenge is figuring out exactly what we don’t know. And these are the right questions to ask to do just that.
What Comes First: the Events of Loki or Quantumania?
The Quantum Realm exists “outside time and space,” same as the domain where He Who Remains built his Citadel. (We’ll get to whether or not they’re the same place a little later.) We can’t use a linear understanding of time to easily place events occurring at either location in a normal chronological order. We have to forget everything we know about how time usually works.
That’s easier said than done, of course. We can’t fully comprehend the concept of existence without time. The best we can hope to do is understand where the events of Loki take place relative to the events of Quantumania. Right now we have no idea.
What we do know is the correct sequence will have huge ramifications on the entire MCU. It will also affect Kang’s future in it. Assuming He Who Remains told Loki and Sylvie the whole truth, He Who Remains won the first-ever Multiversal War and defeated all his Variants. He then organized all realities into the neat, closed circle of the Sacred Timeline. That prevented his Variants from ever rising up again, risking all of existence in every reality via an apocalyptic incursion.
If He Who Remains did all of that before Quantumania, the third Ant-Man movie likely showed us the start of the second Multiversal War, the one that results in Kang taking over the TVA. (That will mean Loki season one started before Quantumania but technically ended after it.) This is the easier of the two possibilities to follow, as it also explains why the Council of Kangs now oversee a fractured, messy connection of realities. He Who Remains’ death caused the orderly Sacred Timeline to fracture and branch.
If instead, though, Sylvie killed He Who Remains after Quantumania then we have total chaos and no idea what’s going on. In that scenario we can’t even begin to guess at a timeline of events within the MCU. We can’t even know the real number of Multiversal Wars ever fought. Neither can we place the creation of the Council, Sacred Timeline, nor He Who Remains’ reign in any sort of chronological order.
All we know is that the possibility suggests the most dangerous Kang ever is about to be unleashed. He would have more experience than any of his Variants, because he was the only one exiled outside of time while they didn’t exist at all. His memories and knowledge are all intact.
Confused? That just means you’re paying attention, because when it comes to the timeline of Multiveral Wars there’s so much we don’t know. And that includes not even fully knowing everything we don’t even know to ask.
Is Kang the Exile the MCU’s Answer to Marvel Comics’ Prime Kang?
The story of Marvel Comics’ Kang is so complex it’s nearly impossible to untangle. But there does seem to be one clear difference between him and his new MCU counterpart. In Marvel Comics, every Kang Variant is the byproduct of Prime Kang, the original Nathaniel Richards. Nathaniel’s time hopping creates alternate realities, which in turn creates alternate versions of him. This leads some of his more famous Variants, like Immortus, to try and ensure Prime Kang’s further actions leads to their eventual creation. (The ramifications and rules of this kind of time travel would make Scott Lang cry.)
He Who Remains (who we are again are assuming was telling the truth) explained why Kang Variants are different in the MCU. The MCU is a world with infinite parallel worlds, and these worlds contain infinite Variants. You don’t need to travel between them to create new timelines like Kang in the comics, they already exist. (Like how Doctor Strange had Variants without multiverse hopping.)
But is Kang the Exile the live-action equivalent of the comics’ Prime Kang, the one Kang who matters above all else?
Considering Quantumania raised the very real possibility (some would argue near certainty) that its main Kang is not dead, all while showing the Council of Kangs fears him, the Exile might very well be the MCU’s own type of Prime Kang. And if that’s true, the story of every Kang Variant still runs—and ends—through him.
Is Victor Timely Actually Kang the Exile?
Quantumania‘s second post-credits scene is from the upcoming second season of Loki. In it Mobius and the God of Mischief watch a Kang Variant during the early part of the 20th century. This Variant performs on stage under the name Victor Timely, a character we also know from Marvel Comics.
The comics Victor Timely is really Prime Kang who went to Wisconsin in the year 1901 to show off his amazing technological advancements. There he founded the city of Timely, Wisconsin, which also contained Chronopolis, “ a crossroads into virtually every era in human history” that “lays just out of phase with the timestream and is therefore undetectable.”
Loki believes Victor Timely is the terrible Variant that He Who Remains warned him about, the one that took over the TVA. We don’t know for certain if Kang the Conqueror is the new TVA leader, but if Loki is right about Victor there’s a good chance Timely is also the Exile. We’d just need to know how and why Victor Timely ended up in that exact spot in the timeline following his defeat to Ant-Man. And also how he plans to build his new Empire from there.
What Exactly Does the Council of Kangs Do and What Are They Readying for War?
Quantumania‘s first mid-credits scene featured an arena of Kang Variants. That included three of the most important ones from Marvel Comics: Immortus, Rama-Tut, and (we think, even though he doesn’t wear red) Scarlet Centurion. Those three, who appear to be the Council’s leaders, meet outside time and space, just as He Who Remains did from his Citadel. Only the Council oversees an interconnected, chaotic blending of realities, a far cry from the previously neat and ordered Sacred Timeline.
What exactly is the group’s purpose? Are they a de facto TVA? Did they ban the Conqueror to the Quantum Realm? Is that why the Council formed originally, to team up against him? And if they fear him, why are they so mad an Avenger killed the Exile they couldn’t? What exactly is the harm in others traversing the multiverse if it’s already a mess? Why would they risk calling all of their Variants to war when they believe their greatest enemy is already dead?
In Marvel Comics, the Council of Kangs exists in Limbo, outside time and space. What they didn’t know was that Prime Kang set up the group as a form of control. He used the Council as an easy way to kill his Variants and control every reality and timeline. If that’s also why the Council exists in the MCU, it raises even more questions about its role in the franchise.
Do the TVA and He Who Remains’ Citadel Both Exist in the Quantum Realm?
We know, we’ve already tired of hearing it too, but the phrase “outside time and space” is essential to understanding the MCU’s new existential threat. He Who Remains, Kang, and their Variants operate outside the confines that bind other beings. When they exist they exist outside a timeline that never ends. It’s also a timeline they can freely move about into any world they please. They don’t age, either, and they have access to all forms of technology.
And the only places in the MCU where we’ve seen living people exist like this is the Quantum Realm, the Void at the End of Time where He Who Remains sent pruned Variants, and the place where he built his Citadel.
After Loki‘s first season we theorized his Citadel existed in the Quantum Realm. After Quantumania that seems all but certain. Both places share physical traits, like their notable blue and purple skies. The Quantum Realm was also the only place that could “hold” Kang, just as it was the only place where He Who Remains could oversee all realities and the Sacred Timeline.
Janet said the Quantum Realm exists below “the void.” It was a noteworthy phrase to describe a place considering He Who Remains sent pruned Variants to “The Void” where Alioth ate them. The Void existed at “ the end of time,” and the Citadel existed past that. The Disney+ show also revealed that outside the TVA sat a complex world full of bustling cities and civilizations. Same as the Quantum Realm.
That’s a lot of evidence for the TVA, Citadel, and Council of Kangs all existing in the Quantum Realm. But if that is true, it raises questions about how the same place could serve as both prison for Kang the Exile and kingdom for He Who Remains. It also means we don’t actually know if the people of the Quantum Realm are now free. They defeated Kang, but when did they do that? And does/did/will He Who Remains rule them when the Conqueror doesn’t?
For now those answers exist outside time and the space in our brains.
Did Janet Only See Kang’s Past Memories or Were Some From Kang’s Future?
Initially it seemed obvious what happened when Janet Van Dyne read Kang’s mind via his neurokinetic ship. She saw the Conqueror’s past where he wiped out entire realities, killing trillions. That’s what led to his banishment.
But Kang himself did not know exactly what she saw, suggesting she saw something he doesn’t know about. And since his life is not bound by the normal passage of time, we can’t rule out the idea Janet also saw “memories” from his future. If she did it means the Exile is not dead. He might be regrouping in a universe below the Quantum Realm. He might already be Victor Timely. Or he might also be an infinite number of other people we haven’t even met yet.
Yeah, it’s all a lot. Trying to figure out what Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania means for Kang’s future in the MCU is like entering a probability storm. Only, this storm is a lot more fun than the one Scott Lang got stuck in.
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.