One of the most talked about (read: argued online about) aspects of Avengers: Endgame has to be the film’s introduction of time travel. Though the concept was teased in both Doctor Strange and Ant-Man and the Wasp, Endgame’s entire second act finds Earth’s Mightiest Heroes going back throughout their own history in order to collect the Infinity Stones from set points in time. In the process, Loki escapes with the Tesseract, Captain America returns to the 1940s, and multiple timelines seem to branch off in order to set up future films and TV series.
Time travel may be a newer component of the MCU, but it’s long been a stereotypical comic book trope. Both heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe trek back through the past and into the future so often that it’s barely impressive anymore. In fact, one of the Avengers’ most notorious villains hinges on the feat.
Kang the Conqueror first appeared in The Avengers #8, taking the likes of Thor and Black Widow hostage with a weapon he brought back from the future. Though defeated, Kang eventually returned in later Fantastic Four titles, fleshing out his backstory as a time-traveling warlord, Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, and possible descendant of Mr. Fantastic. As time went on, the character’s history became even denser, as an adolescent version of the Kang eventually appeared in the past in order to stop the future version of himself, and eventually took up the mantle of Iron Lad. Confused yet?
Some fans are concerned that bringing time travel to the MCU could result in a convoluted timeline that has long plagued Marvel comics, but it also provides such a rich history from which the MCU could pull. Need to replace Iron Man? Use Kang to introduce Iron Lad. Want to bring the Fantastic Four to the MCU? Establish the villain as through Reed Richard’s lineage. It could get messy, sure, but the reward is worth the risk.
Marvel has spent the past eleven years producing one of the most impressive interconnected film series in cinema history, culminating in the critical and box office smash Avengers: Endgame, so it’s safe to say we can give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to cracking alternate timelines. Hopefully, this paves the way for an interesting Phase Four that breaks away from many of the safer story aspects of the MCU, and Kang The Conqueror looks like a great direction to head in.