A Brief History of Kang, Part 25: The Crosstime Kang Corps
By John Simons
Okay folks, here's where it really starts to get complicated. As if the endless divergent counterparts of Kang the Conqueror didn't make things confusing enough, Walter Simonson devilishly mudded the temporal waters even further with the Crosstime Kangs Corps, a vast organization of Kangs-- who really aren't Kang at all! Sound confusing? Just read on, true believer!
The bulk of these stories revolve around the "monsterfication" of Marrina, during which Sub-Mariner loses a wife but gains some alien hybrid tadpoles, Black Knight is once again afflicted with the Ebony Blade's blood curse, and Captain Marvel is badly injured. At the same time, however, Simonson builds up some subplots, which will soon be coming to a head in his "Crosstime Kangs" storyline.
When last we saw Prime Kang, he had apparently slain every other divergent counterpart of himself. However, at least one Kang has managed to escape the genocide. No sooner has he come out of concealment in "the corridors of time" when another Kang attacks him! Although it is a close thing, he is able to blast his would-be assassin, but upon closer examination is startled to find that the "Kang" who attacked him was actually a small boy dressed in Kang armor. Before he can ponder on this mystery, yet another Kang appears-- a female Kang-- who uses some sort of teleportation bazooka to transport him away.
Kang rematerializes in a giant amphitheater, where he is greeted by-- thousands of other Kangs! These Kangs are clearly not counterparts of himself, but rather they are of various exotic alien races, but all dressed in replicas of his armor. The chairman of this "Council of Crosstime Kangs" explains that they have been closely monitoring him and are impressed that he was able to survive his "local council war". He offers the new Kang membership into what he calls "the most unique, powerful and ambitious secret council in the omniverse!" Since the alternative is death, Kang naturally accepts.
The new Kang is escorted to his quarters by the woman who transported him there, who goes by the designation Nebula Kang. Because every council member is a Kang, they each choose an individual name. The new Kang wryly chooses the name "Fred Kang", after the FLINTSTONES character, and Nebula is impressed that he has a sense of humor. Before leaving him, she flirts a bit and suggests they might become better acquainted.
Aside from her activities as a Kang, Nebula is also following an agenda of her own: that of taking over the Avengers of Fred Kang's timeline! Using advanced technology which she has acquired from other council members, she has been visiting Dr. Druid in his dreams and mentally seducing him. Influenced by her manipulations, Druid conspires to usurp Captain Marvel's role as chairman of the team. His chance may finally have arrived when C.M. is missing in action following the battle against Marrina/Leviathan!
In the aftermath of the Leviathan mission, Dr. Druid retires to his quarters for some much-needed rest, and is once again visited in his dreams by Nebula. She forgets to assume her seductress guise and must reinforce her mental control over him. She concocts an elaborate scenario in which Druid is a more traditional superhero, and he saves a futuristic kingdom by bashing a scaly green monster. He is rewarded with the adoration of the citizens and the, uh, attentions of Nebula. (Whoever said bald wasn't sexy?) She warns that a great danger is approaching, and only he can avert disaster by taking control of the situation.
(This issue also gives us the first verification that Nebula Kang is, in fact, the same space pirate Nebula who has troubled the Avengers in the past. At one point she swears the oath, "May Starfox's soul burn in hellfire forever!" and when we see her out of her Kang and Seductress disguises, she is indeed blue-skinned.)
Gathering up the best gadgets she has acquired, Nebula finally takes her leave of the Crosstime Kangs and travels to the Avengers' Earth. Her departure, however, is noted by Fred Kang, whose activities are, in turn, being observed by others in the Council.
Back to reality, the Avengers (who at this point are down to Druid, Thor, She-Hulk, and Black Knight) are pondering the negative effects Dane's curse is having on his sanity, when the greatly weakened Captain Marvel materializes at the mansion. Thor rushes her to the nearest hospital, where her life is saved, but she is nearly skeletal and no longer able to serve. Druid proposes himself to take the reigns as new team chairman, and then uses his mental powers to make Monica second the motion. Thor resists Druid's mental nudging, but Jen and Dane vote the doctor in. Under highly questionable circumstances, Dr. Druid has become the new leader of the Avengers!
Realizing that Thor's resistance to Druid's powers could prove disastrous to her plans, Nebula teleports a giant robot dinosaur from the far future and sends it rampaging through Washington DC. She sends a telepathic message to Dr. Druid, who in turn orders Thor to go take care of the thing. The thunder god quickly decides that a prolonged battle would cause too much damage to the city, and calls the rest of the team for help. She-Hulk races for the quinjet, but Druid takes total mental control of her, and has her sit down in a special chair which throws restraining clamps around her!
Meanwhile, Chairman Kang approaches Fred Kang with an offer to trade information. Chairman reveals that one of the purposes of the Council is to obtain "the most powerful known weapon in the omniverse", which exists in Fred's timeline. He cryptically adds that they will need the Avengers' help to get it. Fred responds that
Nebula has gone to the Earth of his timeline and, in point of fact, she is consorting with the Avengers. A search of Nebula Kang's quarters uncovers powerful weapons originating from the timelines of several different council members whom she has seduced.
While Druid's attentions are fixed on Jennifer, Dane tries to slip away to help Thor.
Druid mentally stops him, as well, but the still-restrained She-Hulk gives him a swift kick, allowing Dane to escape. He soon arrives in DC and, with the help of his Ebony Blade, he and Thor are finally able to bring the mechasaurus down. Unfortunately, the curse has gotten so bad that Dane's limbs are stiffening, and his very flesh is able to cut Thor's skin!
Nebula teleports into the mansion and in short order is able to bend She-Hulk to her malignant will!
When Thor and the Black Knight return to Hydrobase, they find Druid "unconscious" at She-Hulk's feet. He is only shamming, though, and when their backs are turned he hops up and attaches a small device to Dane's neck. Thor turns to this, and She-Hulk attaches a "mindbender" to him, as well. Once the two weakened heroes are beaten into submission, Druid connects two more mindbenders to Thor, just to be safe!
From the Council Headquarters, Chairman Kang is enraged that Nebula has beaten them to the Avengers. Fred Kang asks for elaboration. Chairman explains that the council discovered that "a renegade Celestial who fell from grace but not from power" has created a weapon capable of threatening "the entire space-time structure of the omniverse!" The weapon comes into being 20 years into the future of Fred Kang's timeline. However, a 15 year-long "time bubble" exists along that line, creating a probability flux so powerful that all attempts to date by Kangs to penetrate it have failed. They know, however, that one quinjet of Avengers will succeed in penetrating the bubble. Neither the Council nor Nebula know which group of Avengers will succeed, but Chairman Kang fears that, by tampering with any version of the team, Nebula may horribly muck up anyone's chances of breaching the bubble.
"That weapon is the birthright of the granddaughter of Thanos," Nebula tells the Avengers, "and I shall have it!" (another rather unsubtle clue that Nebula Kang is space pirate Nebula) The team retrofits a quinjet with a "locus generator", and soon they are traveling off through time and space. Moments after they disappear, Chairman Kang, Fred Kang and Mesozoic Kang arrive at Hydrobase. They intend to hide their presence, but to stop Nebula at all costs. But Nebula is already with the Avengers, approaching "the bubble at the heart of time!"
The three Council Kangs move several minutes back in time, and attach themselves to the bottom of the quinjet before it departs. The turbulence around the bubble, however, is so awful that Mesozoic Kang is flung from the timecraft. (In AVENGERS
#300, he reappears back on Earth just long enough to send a Growing Man to help the team during the Inferno before fading out of existence)
Nebula Kang is disconcerted to find that thousands of other Avengers quinjets are also approaching the time bubble! She decides that they haven't managed to penetrate the bubble because the wrong mix of Avengers is on board. She orders Druid to nominate her for membership and the others to vote her in. Just like that, Nebula becomes the Avengers' newest member (most likely this membership was stricken from the rolls down the line!) She then orders Druid to use his precognitive powers to determine whether all the people present are on board the quinjet that gets through. Druid is certain Thor is present, but is less sure about She-Hulk, "Difficult to tell. I see a woman, but..." He is certain, however, that Black Knight is not supposed to be aboard.
Without a pause, Nebula orders, "Get out of here Dane. Jump overboard!" When Dane is too stiff to comply, Nebula has She-Hulk throw him out. At the last moment Chairman Kang saves Dane by grabbing him with a portable tractor beam.
Fred Kang, meanwhile, has decrypted Thor's mindbender, and suddenly the thunder god is himself. He's ready to turn Nebula into tomato paste, but the still-enthralled She-Hulk intervenes. When Jen's mindbender is decrypted as well, Nebula knows her only chance is to pilot the quinjet into heavier turbulence. This throws the two Kangs off the quinjet, but Dane is still trailing along behind, thanks to the tractor beam.
Mayhem ensues in the cockpit as Thor wavers in and out of possession of his faculties, and the quinjet rocks through the turbulence of the time bubble's probability flux. She-Hulk klonks Druid, and Dane crawls back aboard and pilots the ship away from the time bubble. Jen begins to rip apart Nebula Kang's armor, and the villainess attempts to teleport away, but the armor short-circuits. The team watches as another quinjet penetrates the bubble, and the suction pulls Nebula right out of the craft. Unable to bear the thought of being parted from his "beloved", Druid leaps out after her, and they disappear into the flux.
The team returns to Hydrobase, but She-Hulk is heartbroken at the horrible things she did at Nebula's command. Unable to bear even the glance of her fellow Avengers, she takes a quinjet and tearfully departs. Thor and the Knight head off for Asgard, in hopes of finding a cure for Dane's curse, which leaves no one but Jarvis to mind the store. For the first time since their formation, the Avengers lineup comprises absolutely no one at all...
Well certainly, the first question is: who the heck are these guys anyway? Simonson never did get around to clarifying that, although he did leave at least one clue. In issue
#296, when the three Kangs confront Jarvis, Mesozoic Kang says, "Incredible. Who would have thought there was so much differentiation across the timelines? I never would have recognized him!" This would seem to suggest that Mesozoic's own world has a radically different Jarvis. And if the Jarvis of another reality could be so different from "ours" as to be unrecognizable, perhaps Walt is trying to say that all of the Crosstime Kangs actually are RD (Richards-Descended) Kangs, but from Earths extremely different from our own. Perhaps Mesozoic Kang is the Kang of an earth where lizard man, rather than humans, populate the Earth. The mind boggles!
The "Memoirs of Kang" back-up in the 1992 Annual offers up the explanation that Kang himself founded the Crosstime Corps, and most of his subsequent appearances seem to correspond to this. Why he would go through all of the trouble of killing off his divergent selves only to replace them with freakish alien second-raters has not been adequately explained.
Another question about this tale: is or isn't Fred Kang an authentic RD Kang? Evidence seems to lean towards the positive, but by no means is this beyond a reasonable doubt.
On the one hand, we see that Fred has been hiding out from Prime Kang, something that he need not have done if he were not a counterpart. Prime Kang obviously had no interest in the Crosstime Corps, but rather his divergent selves. On the other hand,
Fred seems awfully even-tempered and cooperative to be a true RD Kang. According to
Chairman Kang, Fred is the Kang of the mainstream MU, which seems odd, unless Mr.
Fantastic has a brother around somewhere that he doesn't know about yet! Ah well, the point is moot anyway, since Fred becomes a crispy critter in his next appearance.
As anyone who has been paying attention to my rantings on the WCAML already knows, subsequent Kang stories retcon Nebula right out of the Time Bubble saga. Although I admit it is an interesting idea that Ravonna would go through all of this trouble in the name of revenge, it is very clear from reading the actual stories that Nebula Kang is Nebula the Space Pirate.
Further, there is no credible explanation why Ravonna would pretend to be Nebula and try to usurp the Avengers. She would be much more likely to succeed if she simply appeared as herself (after all the Avengers helped save her kingdom the last time) and conned them into aiding her. Why pretend to be one of their deadliest foes and try to mind-rape them, when their help would probably be hers for the asking? What's that expression about honey and vinegar?
As a Nebula fan, I remain hopeful that some sort of clarification may be forthcoming in future stories. I hold on to the thin hope that Nebula really is responsible for the
Time Bubble stories and that, sometime in between AVENGERS SPOTLIGHT #37 and
"Citizen Kang", Ravonna somehow incapacitates Nebula and takes her place. Hey, stranger things have happened. Of course, considering Kurt's apparently low opinion of the character ("Nebula can go eat a bug."), I'm not holding my breath for this revelation anytime soon...
John, Lord of Time