PROFIL BOLA - Grand opening, grand closing. Actor Jonathan Majors, who was set to play Kang the Conqueror in a string of forthcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe films, has been convicted of misdemeanor assault and harassment in a verdict issued by a New York jury on Monday afternoon. Roughly an hour and a half later, Disney announced they were dropping him from the MCU—where Majors has already played several versions of time-travelling villain Kang the Conqueror—thus ending months of speculation about what would come next.
Despite a few highs (Loki Season 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3.), the MCU has spent most of the year getting its teeth kicked in, dating back to February’s Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (Majors’ major Marvel debut, which did decent financial business but was critically panned) up through the all-around poorly-received Secret Invasion and The Marvels. The Majors verdict is a final cherry on top of a veritable shit sundae for the MCU and the final flourish on a long-simmering, mid-phase sea change to Marvel’s overarching Multiversal narrative. Story after story this year has indicated that the current Marvel plan isn’t working, but what does a new direction look like? As we sift through the tea leaves, we have some indications of three different ways things could play out.
The first? A recast. Marvel’s already laid some pretty hefty groundwork as it relates to Kang. The final moments of Quantumania left Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) thinking there was some larger threat out there waiting for him and the rest of the Avengers, which was then teased further in the post-credits tag. The implication was that a legion of Kang variants was on the way to wreak havoc across the multiverse and target the Avengers. If Marvel wants to continue with the Kang beats as announced, recasting Majors would be a Band-Aid approach, but one the studio’s done a few different times. You can find a pick em’ of fancastings around the Internet if you’d like—just don’t include John Boyega in your speculation.
However, there are a handful of items that suggest Marvel’s leaning toward a Kang-free future. Buried in The Hollywood Reporter’s story on the verdict yesterday is the news that Marvel has started referring to the project previously known as Avengers: The Kang Dynasty as Avengers 5. Other aspects of the fifth film have recently shifted; stalwart scribe Michael Waldron boarded the project in November and will write both Avengers 5 and Secret Wars. Wars—which we believe is going to be like No Way Home on steroids—already felt like a big nut to crack in one movie, so perhaps that one will blossom into a two-part film like Infinity War and Endgame, with Waldron as the chief architect of the Multiverse Saga, a path that started in the first season of Loki and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Furthermore, Loki's season-two (and possibly series) finale left things regarding Kang up in the air. Depending upon how you interpret the final moments, there’s an indication that Loki’s ascension to become the new keeper of the multiverse also eliminated the threat of Kang variants—and that while there might still be some out there, the TVA has plans to contain them. With that implication, Marvel built themselves an escape hatch out of Kang, and it certainly looks like they aim to use it.
In that scenario, the question of who’ll be the big bad of the Multiverse Saga becomes more interesting. Marvel is supposedly considering swapping in an MCU version of Dr. Doom, the primary antagonist in the 2015 Secret Wars comic, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Esad Ribić. But in the comics, Doom’s Secret Wars involvement was a thematic closer for seeds sowed by Hickman over the course of his 2009-2012 run writing Fantastic Four. While a new MCU version of the FF is on the horizon, it feels like any attempt by Marvel to introduce Doom before that—and find enough runway to establish him as a compelling villain for this whole phase of the MCU—is nothing short of a Herculean task.
Either way, it’ll be difficult: Majors himself was a compelling Kang, but the narrative foundation around the character feels flimsier than what Marvel had built for Thanos before the Infinity Saga kicked off. With Deadpool 3, Captain America 4, and Thunderbolts on the immediate horizon, it’s hard to tell where a new big bad could emerge. Matching the gravitas of Thanos was always going to be a difficult challenge to mount, but lately, that mountain has been looking a hell of a lot steeper.***