A Brief History of Kang, Part 23: Back From the Grave?
By John Simons
"Kang's life became extremely non-linear; every foray in time produced at least one divergent-timestream counterpart to Kang. It became difficult to distinguish which Kang counterpart the Avengers encountered in subsequent skirmishes."
-Excerpt from the Kang entry of THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, DELUXE EDITION, issue 6.
When last we saw Kang, his armor had overloaded and he had discorporated into the timestream. Although this may have been the end of the Englehart-era Kang, thanks to the wonderful concept of alternate realities, there would be other Kangs to fill in the void. Some might say there would be way too many Kangs in the years to come.
When next we would see Kang, it was alongside a small army of the world's most heinous super-villains, gathered together at the far side of the universe for the ultimate battle. A mysterious, omnipotent being called the Beyonder, seeking to learn more about the strange beings of our universe, decided to conduct a little experiment. Wiping out a galaxy and patching together a "Battleworld" from bits and pieces of dozens of alien worlds, the Beyonder transported these villains, as well as a small army of Earth heroes (including the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk, Spider-Man and--Magneto??) to the surface, promising them in a disembodied voice "Slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours!"
Dr. Doom naturally bristles at the thought of jumping through hoops for any entity. At the high-tech headquarters provided for them, he tries to convince the other villains not to participate in a fruitless battle against the heroes, but rather to "transcend" themselves. Doom is already thinking along the lines of unlocking the secret of the Beyonder's power, but his unlikely allies are instead dreaming of the booty they can wish for if they do the Big B's bidding.
Disgusted, Dr. Doom blasts the walls of the base around them, giving him a chance to slip away in a sky sled. Kang, however, is not about to let Doomsie just trot off and potentially join the side of the heroes. Activating an energy cannon the size of a Greyhound bus, he blows Doom's escape vehicle out of the sky.
Doom survives (there's a shock) thanks to his personal force field, but he is looking rather crispy around the edges when the superheroes arrive at the scene of the crash. When he thinks he sees pity in the eyes of Captain America and Mr. Fantastic, he tells them to screw, and flies off. For their trouble, the heroes are suddenly assaulted by the bad guys!
Kang doesn't really have a good showing at the fight. He shoots at a few heroes with a ray gun and barks out some orders (possibly at this juncture, the other bad guys consider him the leader, but the story doesn't make this clear) and then he falls off of a big boulder that has been smashed by Thor, and is knocked out. He, Enchantress and the Wrecking Crew are brought back to the heroes' base, and placed in "psychostasis" chambers.
Dr. Doom, meanwhile, decides that even though he could take or leave the other villains, there are probably a lot of neat gadgets at the villains' base he could use. He returns while they are out, and his first act is to reprogram Ultron (who had previously been fried by an annoyed Galactus) to serve him. When the bad guys return, the threat of Ultie's disintegrator beam is enough to convince them that Doomsie should be boss.
Early the next morning, Doom leads an assault on the heroes' base, and frees the prisoners. Molecule Man then demolishes the structure, and for good measure drops a mountain range on top of the heroes! (Owen Reese, master of overkill) They soon learn that Thor was elsewhere, so they track him down and lay into him. Kang doesn't do all that much, just ineffectually zaps at the Thunder God a few times. After the villains believe Thor to be disintegrated by Ultron (yeah, I know... but Goldilocks did leave his helmet behind when he escaped, and he rarely parts from that thing voluntarily), Doom orders his adamantium lackey to do the same to Kang for his earlier attempt on Doom's life.
Kang's stirring last words: "You'll need me later, you fool! Don't-- ARRRGH!"
Being destroyed at the subatomic level would seem to end the story of this particular
Kang counterpart, but wait! By the end of the Secret Wars, Dr. Doom had achieved his goal of stealing the Beyonder's unlimited power. He tries to convince the skeptical heroes that he is above the dark, petty concerns which once obsessed him. To demonstrate his intention to atone for his past misdeeds, he uses his new abilities to re-integrate Kang back into existence, then teleports the Conqueror "whence he came-- to his home!"
What that home might be is unclear. Since Doom himself was brought to the Secret Wars from the future (don't ask), it is not inconceivable that the Beyonder pulled Kang from the past, at a point before his death in the Old West. Roger Stern would create a whole new reason for Kang's return in his next appearance.
Needless to say, SECRET WARS is not one of the more impressive Kang appearances. His entire purpose here is to underscore what a deadly opponent Dr. Doom is. This is a bit annoying; while Doc is definitely a force to be reckoned with, Kang is no second- stringer, either.
Just about the only interesting thing to note in terms of Kang's history is the shift in his opinion of Doom here. In the past he has been shown to respect and perhaps even admire Dr. Doom, but that doesn't stop him from blowing the Latverian out of the sky. This new Kang-Doom dynamic would continue into their next encounter, during the Infinity War.
John, Lord of Time