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The Marvel Rundown: A tale of two Variants in KANG THE CONQUEROR #1

Reviews of this week’s Marvel new releases, including STAR WARS & mutant murder most foul!

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In an issue subtitled “No One But Myself Left to Conquer,” two versions of a single character are at odds with one another in Kang the Conqueror #1! Read our review (but be mindful of some spoilers for the issue) now!

Plus, we have reviews of other new Marvel books, including Star Wars #16 and The Trial of Magneto #1 in the Rapid Rundown. Excelsior!


Written by Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Illustrated by Carlos Magno
Colors by Espen Grundetjern
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Mike Del Mundo

You know the old saw: “Whenever you go, there you are.” Never is this more true than for Kang!

Kang the Conqueror #1 opens on a splash page of Kang, and then, after the title page, a complimentary but mirrored splash page of Nathaniel Richards follows. It’s a nice visual overture that essentially lays out just what’s in store in this first issue (and possibly for the series as a whole), which sees Nathaniel coming face to face with Kang in the ancient Latverian library of Victor Von Doom.

Resisting a “who’s your daddy joke” here…

Kang quickly dismisses the accomplishments of Doom and then promptly offers Nathaniel an offer to become – essentially, to accept his fate as Kang. Nathaniel swiftly accepts.

It’s an interesting premise for a book: a character at two ends of his own personal timeline, pairing a more innocent version of the character with an older, more experienced Variant… and while Nathaniel’s motivation for taking part might fairly be described as history’s worst case of “Idle Hands,” sometimes evil is just that depressingly mundane.

When the duo returns to the era before dinosaurs were confined to the Savage Land, Nathaniel’s training (and the issue) begins to heat up. In a two-page spread that depicts Nathaniel’s training at the hands of Kang, we get to revisit plenty of awesome battles between the Conqueror and his many foes. And the dinosaurs that appear in this issue look pretty cool, especially when they’re facing down sci-fi weaponry.

However, the biggest disappointment in this issue is that Nathaniel finds a love interest, and she is fridged within a matter of pages. While Kang probably needs to be shown to be a brutal conqueror at some point in this issue, and while a Ravonna Renslayer foil for Nathaniel might have been inevitable, I can’t help but wonder if there might not have been a better way to convey the salient fact of Kang’s capacity for violence.

While the final page leaves us on a suitable cliffhanger, it seems like this title will either ascend using the framework set up by this first issue or swiftly collapse under the weight of temporal paradoxes and Marvel continuity. Either way, more than one issue is necessary in order to fully pass judgment.

A Loki-themed Variant cover by Momoko.

One final note: in an issue that bears a Peach Momoko Variant cover that features the three Time-Keepers from Loki on Disney+, it seems hard to deny that this series is one of the company’s more blatant attempts to court the attention of TV audiences. With the first season finale of Loki bringing Kang into the Marvel Cinematic Universe fold, the character is poised to spring into the larger public consciousness – and books like this are clearly intended to be bridges between the more widely disseminated MCU continuity and the dense, decades-long continuity of Marvel Comics.

However, while the bridge between, say, the ongoing Shang-Chi title and the character’s on-screen depiction is a short one, it’s hard to say how Nathaniel and this Kang compare with Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains or Kang the Conqueror, as so much of the character’s onscreen narrative remains to be seen.

Kang.

Will this issue’s interpretation of the legendary Marvel villain prove to be closely aligned with the one that’s about to explode into the larger public consciousness through Quantumania and future seasons of Loki? We’ll find out eventually. It’s just a matter of time.

Verdict: Browse


Rapid Rundown!

  • Star Wars #16
    • This works pretty well without having read this week’s issue of War of the Bounty Hunters, but comes across as a bit empty and repetitive if you do. I could take or leave the main series, but following the story through Leia, Lando, and Chewie makes for an overall more engaging experience than dealing with Hutt shenanigans. Ramon Rosanas’ artwork has turned it to be a perfect fit for the series, capturing the majesty and chaos of space battles while bringing the story to life through the expressive characters. He also mirrors some scenes from the event issue and, I must say, creates more interesting images than Luke Ross. — HW
  • X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #1
    • The Scarlet Witch has been murdered, and X-Factor, X-Force, and the X-Men are on the case. Unfortunately if you’ve read the title for this series you pretty much know how the first issue is going to go. Leah Williams, Lucas Werneck, Edgar Delgado, and Clayton Cowles put forth an issue that, while not 100% set-up for what’s to come, gets pretty bogged down in it what we already know at some points. There are some interesting sequences, like the Council’s discussion of a potential resurrection for Wanda, and of course the final pages of the issue which reveal that there’s more to this murder than meets the eye. This is a fine, if largely unremarkable, start to the story. — JG

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