Be warned that the post that follows includes SPOILERS for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Once you see them, there’s no traveling back in time to unsee them.

The ending of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania really surprised me.

This is the movie that officially introduces Kang the Conqueror to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel has already made it clear: Kang is their new Thanos. This is the guy that is going to be causing chaos in the MCU for at least the next three years. His arrival onscreen was preceded by decades of comic appearances, where he’s always depicted as one of Marvel’s most powerful and persistent super-villains. He’s fought the Fantastic Four and the Avengers to a standstill countless times.

And now he’s going to fight Ant-Man? Surely the film would have to end with Kang triumphant, escaping from the Quantum Realm to begin his conquest of the MCU. At best, maybe Ant-Man could eek out a pyrrhic victory, sacrificing his own escape route from the Quantum Realm (or maybe even his life) to prevent Kang from beginning his march across the universe.

None of that happened. Instead, Kang came. He saw. And he got conquered.

In the climactic showdown between Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Kang (Jonathan Majors), the former is able to defeat his adversary — with a well-timed assist from the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) — by knocking Kang into his ship’s engine, the all-important component that he supposedly needs to travel the multiverse. When Kang collides with this device, it seems to suck him into it. And that’s it; Kang (or at least that version of Kang) isn’t seen in the film again. Afterwards, the other characters refer to Kang as “dead.”

But Kang’s supposed to show up in Season 2 of Loki and Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (and probably Avengers: Secret Wars too). So is he really dead?

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Here is the honest answer: It doesn’t matter. That version of Kang — the one who was trapped in the Quantum Realm and rebuilt his ship with the help of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne and then got sucked into his own engine — might really be dead. But even if Ant-Man and the Wasp accidentally killed him, some form of Kang will be back. Heck, many forms of Kang are already back; hundreds upon hundreds of Kang variants appear in Quantumania’s post-credits scene, where they begin to formulate plans to strike back at the Marvel heroes for disturbing their plans for the multiverse.

As that post-credits scene showed, every Earth in the multiverse has a Kang — and each of those Kangs has the ability to cross realities and travel through time. So there’s no shortage of Kangs to antagonize Ant-Man, the Avengers, and anyone else who’s got a Marvel movie or Disney+ show coming up in the next few years.

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Still, nobody in comics stays dead for long — especially when their “death” doesn’t leave behind a body. In the case of Kang, he got sucked into the engine of his ship — an engine that supposedly transport someone anywhere in the multiverse. So it seems far more likely that rather than kill Kang, it instead sent him to some far flung corner of the multiverse where he can begin his conquests all over again.

Or how’s this for a theory? This MacGuffin-y engine powers a ship that can go anywhere in the multiverse. Kang gets dragged inside it, then a few minutes later during Quantumania’s post-credits scene we see an entire colosseum full of Kang variants. What if getting thrown into the engine by Ant-Man and the Wasp split Kang into all those variants? What if that was the moment that created the Council of Kangs? With time travel, anything seems possible.

So what happens next? Based on Quantumania’s second post-credits scene, it appears that Kang — or at least a few of his variants — will next appear on Loki Season 2. Since Quantumania told us so little about Kang’s backstory before his imprisonment in the Quantum Realm, I would expect a lot of Loki to be about that; Loki and Agent Mobius traveling through the time stream and discovering how a dude from the future named Nathaniel Richards became the super-villain known as Kang the Conqueror. After that... well, in a multiverse full of infinite variations, just about anything seems possible.

Even more on Quantumania’s ending:

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