How One Of Kang The Conqueror's Variants Could Hold The Key To The Avengers Emerging Victorious In The Multiverse Saga

Kang The Conqueror in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania are ahead!

For nearly all of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’s runtime, there was only one version of Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror causing trouble, but by the end of the latest Marvel movie, he appeared to have met his demise. Unfortunately, Quantumania’s end-credits scene made it clear that there are hundreds, if not thousands of other Kang variants to worry about in the coming years, including Rama-Tut, Immortus, Scarlet Centurion and Victor Timely (who have a special connection to the original Human Torch). This conflict with the various Kangs will come to a head in 2025’s Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and likely wrap up the following year in Avengers: Secret Wars, the final installment of both Phase Six and The Multiverse Saga.

However, there was one notable version of Kang from the comics who was absent from Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania; a young variation of the character born as Nathaniel Richards who goes by Iron Lad. As of this writing, there hasn’t been any indication that Iron Lad will appear in the MCU, and whether we’ll see him someday is one of the Kang the Conqueror-related questions on my mind. Speaking generally though, not only is the possibility on the table, I can also see this version of Kang being the key to the Avengers emerging victorious over the other Kang variants by the time The Multiverse Saga is over.

Marvel Comics artwork of Iron Lad

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Who Is Iron Lad?

The Iron Lad variation of Kang was introduced in 2005’s Young Avengers #1. Living in his home of the 31st century, the 16-year-old Nathaniel Richards (yes, he is a descendant of Reed Richards, a.k.a. the Fantastic Four’s Mister Fantastic) was visited by his older, Kang the Conqueror self mere moments before the young Nathaniel was about to be badly injured by a group of bullies. Kang was hoping to inspire his younger self with his many conquests and push the teen towards killing the bully who put him in the hospital, but Nathaniel was instead horrified by what he saw and used the time travel technology his older self gave him to flee to the 21st century.

Nathaniel Richards then sought to avoid his villainous destiny by becoming the superhero Iron Lad, infusing his advanced technology into a suit of armor and seeking out younger heroes with ties with the original Avengers to form the Young Avengers. He was joined in the original lineup by Eli Bradley/Patriot, Kate Bishop/Hawkeye, Teddy Altman/Hulkling, Billy Kaplan/Wiccan (initially known as Asgardian) and Cassie Lang/Stature. Nathaniel only intended for the Young Avengers to help him defeat Kang the Conqueror when his older self tracked him down and tried to return him to his proper place in the timeline.

The Young Avengers put up a good fight against Kang, and it ended with Nathaniel fatally stabbing the supervillain, but this resulted in a dark timeline overwriting the main reality. Nathaniel realized the only way to return things to normal was by returning to the 31st century and walking down the path that would lead to him becoming Kang the Conqueror, which meant his memories with the Young Avengers would be erased. Nathaniel decided to make that sacrifice for the greater good, but before leaving the 21st century, he left behind his armor, which had been infused with the original Vision’s operating system, as well as Nathaniel’s brain waves and memories. This created a “younger” Vision who went by Jonas and, like Nathaniel briefly did, became romantically involved.

The good news for Iron Lad is that he’d return a handful of other times in the years after that opening Young Avengers arc with his memories still intact. The downside is he has indeed taken steps that are moving him closer to becoming Kang the Conqueror, although he’s claimed he wants to become “better” than Kang.

Marvel Comics artwork of Iron Lad fighting alongside the Avengers and Young Avengers

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

How Iron Lad Could Help The Avengers

So now that we’ve covered Iron Lad’s comic book history, let’s go over how he could be used in the MCU. While I can’t help suspecting that the Victor Timely variant’s goals might not align with what the Council of Kangs are planning, the fact of the matter is that Iron Lad is the most logical character to use as a “good” version of Kang. Along with Victor appearing later this year in Loki Season 2, it stands to reason we’ll be treated to a few more appearances from other Kang variants before things really start getting crazy in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty come 2025. Whatever the lineup of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is by then, while they surely won’t be lacking for sheer power, there’s never been a threat like the Kangs before, with their actions affecting not just all of Earth-616’s timeline, but the entire multiverse. This is The Multiverse Saga, after all.

As such, the Avengers will need every advantage they can get to defeat the Kangs by either the end of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty or, more likely, the year after in Avengers: Secret Wars. That’s where Iron Lad comes into the picture. Just like his comic book counterpart, the MCU could feature a young Nathaniel Richards who’s approached by an older variant, if not the Council of Kangs’ leadership, about joining them. Instead, young Nathaniel decides to defy his perceived destiny and travels to the present day to help the heroes in their time of need.

I’m specifically envisioning a scenario where Nathaniel Richards provides either a crucial piece of information to the Avengers or passes along some advanced technology he swiped from his time with the Council of Kangs. Whatever this is, it’s just the thing that turns the tide of the conflict in the Avengers’ favor, though not necessarily something that automatically guarantees them victory. However, there’s a tragic ending to all this.

Just like how The Infinity Saga wrapped up with the death of Thanos (both versions), I suspect that by the end of The Multiverse Saga, either all of the Kangs will have been wiped from existence or their entire histories are rewritten so that they never embark down their villainous paths. Unfortunately, that would have to affect Iron Lad too barring some kind of deus ex machina that ensures his survival. So within this scenario, by working to stop his variants from controlling all of reality, he must sacrifice his life, though he could still leave a lasting imprint on Earth-616 through the “Jonas” version of Vision, assuming whatever goes down in Paul Bettany’s Vision Quest show doesn’t prevent such a development.

Marvel Comics artwork of Iron Lad

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

What Are The Chances Of This Happening?

Since we’ve only just started the MCU’s Phase Five, it’s too hard to say right now what the chances are of this franchise utilizing Iron Lad. However, it helps that so many Young Avengers characters have been introduced across the Marvel movies and TV shows over the last several years, including Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne as Billy and Tommy Maximoff, and Kathryn Newton taking over as Cassie Lang. Conversely, there’s no indication yet that the Young Avengers themselves will form anytime soon, though they’re obviously not needed for Iron Lad to lend assistance in the MCU. Remember, the MCU oftentimes honors the spirit of the comics more than it does directly adapt certain storylines.

For now, given how many kinds of Kangs we saw at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, my money’s on it being likelier than not that we’ll see Iron Lad in the MCU, although again, he wouldn’t appear until Avengers: The Kang Dynasty at the earliest. Something tells me the younger Nathaniel Richards wouldn’t call himself Iron Lad, and he may not even be wearing a special suit of armor, but the core principle of him taking steps to defeat his evildoing variants would remain intact. This would also give a younger actor a platform to make one hell of an impression on the MCU, just like Jonathan Majors has started to do. Feel free to start fan-casting who would do well in such a role.

If/when the day comes that Marvel Studios announced that the younger Nathaniel Richards/Iron Lad will be introduced in the MCU, we’ll pass that news along. For now, keep track of the upcoming Marvel movies and upcoming Marvel TV shows that have been slated, and use your Disney+ subscription to watch the already-released Marvel movies in order.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.