26th Aug2021

‘Kang the Conqueror #1’ Review (Marvel Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing | Art by Carlos Magno | Published by Marvel Comics

Kang has always been one of those villains that should be an absolute A-lister, right up there with Loki, Doctor Doom, Magneto and Kingpin. For some reason or other, he’s never quite got there. Sure he’s been a regular down the years, popping up in usually very entertaining stories, mainly in The Avengers and Fantastic Four books. He’s always been a cult favourite, but I suspect his pretty convoluted origin has something to do with that. Kang was originally meant to be a descendant of Doctor Doom when first created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He was Rama-Tut, then an alternate universe Nathaniel Richards, then Immortus, Iron Lad, Scarlet Centurion and so on…. A lot to take in. Still, time travel is always fun, and I’ve always loved Kang’s costume.

His cameo in the recent Loki TV show has obviously prompted Marvel to try and shove him back into that limelight, although he’s featured here and there in Marvel animated shows in the past, and this book is the result. Written by the tag team of Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, with art by Carlos Magno, this certainly looks promising. Meet Nathaniel Richards. Born in the 31st Century, into a time when nobody wants for anything, everyone has access to technology and every need is catered for, Some people think it Heaven, Nathaniel finds it Hell. He felt caged, trapped in an era with nothing left to conquer, no advance left to discover. Civilization had apparently peaked. So Nathaniel looked backwards. Outside of the cities were the old areas, relics of the past, and Nathaniel managed to access these off-limits areas.

Perhaps a little nod to the Dr. Doom connection I mentioned earlier, Nathaniel is nearly taken out by a Doombot that still works after all these centuries, but saved by Kang himself. After an interesting conversation, Nathaniel asks the obvious. Why is Kang there? Who is he? What is he? Turns out of course, Kang is Nathaniel Richards, but an older one who has lived many lives compared to his younger self. He has come back to his beginning, to show his younger self the wonders that await. Which he does. He spends many months taking Nathaniel on a tour of his victories and defeats through time, teaching Nathaniel how to be strong, ruthless, smart. Perhaps too well. Nathaniel starts to think he sees flaws in Kang himself, which is probably all part of the cycle. If every Kang goes back to every Nathaniel in a permanent cycle, then Nathaniel must get stronger every time. I think. My head hurts.

Then Nathaniel goes off-road, emotionally speaking. Kang had impressed on him that the only weakness that could ruin him was emotion, love. He takes him back to the death of Ravonna, a 40th century princess with whom Kang had fallen in love. Nathaniel, though, ignores the advice and falls in love with a tribal princess in this era that Kang has taken him to in the distant past. It doesn’t end well. Kang destroys the village, hinting this was also part of his rite of passage. Nathaniel decides this is the time to deviate from Kang, to not follow his advice. His future self was one of failure, perhaps listening to his advice would merely lead to more failure? Nathaniel decides to strike out on his own. He takes the Kang suit and leaves, leaving Kang to die in the meteorite crash that kills everything on Earth. He jumps forward in time, to the time of Rama-Tut. This should be good.

So, was this always the way things were destined to go? Do all Kang’s kill their predecessor and take over, or is this Nathaniel truly unique? Is he breaking the wheel? It’s hard to know, but incredibly rewarding to read. This is by far the best interpretation of Kang I’ve read, really allowing the reader to get in Kang’s head and understand who and what he is. The writing and internal monologuing are top notch throughout, giving us an intriguing lead, a lot of fun revisiting Marvel history, and a fresh new take on old events. The art, by Carlos Magno, is a thing of beauty indeed. Beautifully rendered throughout, there are some incredible double page spreads and full page splashes that absolutely capture the eye. Those aside, the storytelling page by page is a thing of beauty.

As a long time Marvel reader, I found this an incredibly rewarding read. It didn’t so much rewrite the past as reinterpret it, staying faithful while adding a little fresh paint over the top. A perfect combination. Such an affectionate look at Kang has been a long time coming.

Then again, time means nothing to Kang the Conqueror you Fool!

****½  4.5/5


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