As one of Marvel Comics’ most notorious time-travelers, Kang the Conqueror has some startling connections to many characters throughout the comics, including romantic ties with a surprising MCU fan-favorite. While he’s most often associated with the Avengers or the Fantastic Four, the Conquerer has crossed paths with heroes from all generations, including the Young Avengers. But unlike other superhero teams, Kang didn’t just battle the Young Avengers – he formed them.
It was none other Nathaniel Richards, the teenaged version of Kang the Conqueror, who initially assembled the Young Avengers in the wake of the adult Avengers’ disassembly. Gathering like-minded young heroes to prevent his transformation into his future self, the hero called Iron Lad sought to prevent his dark destiny and even fell in love in the process. But unfortunately for the Marvel Universe, it was Nathaniel Richards’ attachments that truly cemented the rise of Kang.
After Kang the Conqueror visited his teenage self to tell him of his glorious future, a horrified Nathaniel uses his future self’s armor to travel back in time and find the Avengers only to arrive after the team has already disbanded in the wake of Scarlet Witch’s breakdown. Adopting the name Iron Lad, Nathaniel is forced to assemble a new team of heroes to take on his future self – the Young Avengers. Among these heroes is Ant-Man daghter Cassie Lang, who follows in her father’s footsteps as the hero Stature.
The duo strikes up a doomed romance before the young Kang is forced to return to the future and preserve the timeline. But after Cassie is killed by Doctor Doom in Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #8 by Allan Heinburg and Jim Cheung, a recently retuned and emotionally distraught Nathaniel is more than willing to break the timestream again in order to save her. He even kills the Young Avengers’ Vision 2.0 – an android comprised of his armor and brainwaves. Unfortunately, his former teammates won’t let this happen, and they even theorize that this could be the moment that sets him down the path to becoming Kang. But as Nathaniel leaves, he refutes their claim by saying “I’m going to be better than Kang the Conqueror. Much better.”
While Iron Lad’s time with the Young Avengers was brief, the young Nathaniel Richards was integral to the team’s debut. After all, he did form the group to prevent his own future from coming to pass. But it was his attachment to his fellow legacy heroes, and Cassie Lang in particular, that led to his ascension to the role of Conqueror.
Richards’ actions against the Vision and his ominous promise to his fellow teammates clearly cements his trajectory towards becoming time’s greatest tyrant. And with Kang and both Cassie Lang appearing in the upcoming entry in the Ant-Man series, it’s more than possible that these seeds will be planted within the MCU. Either way, the Young Avengers never would’ve formed without Kang, and yet it’s the same Young Avengers who triggered the Conqueror’s rise.
Nathaniel Richards may be one of the Avengers’ greatest foes, but his time with the Young Avengers and Cassie Lang changed the Marvel Universe. While it’s unlikely that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will delve too deeply into Stature’s relationship with the Conqueror, eagle-eyed fans will surely be on the lookout for any potential hints. Regardless of their place in the MCU, Nathaniel’s love for Cassie Lang and the Young Avengers in the Marvel Comics only proves that Kang the Conqueror is truly inevitable.
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Author: Tristan Benns