Out this week is the five-issue series Kang the Conqueror collected in trade paperback. It’s a series AIPT’s Dan Spinelli called “spellbinding“, and for good reason as it draws you into the head of Kang like never before. Given series writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly are set to launch a new Captain America series this summer, this is a great read simply to see how good they are at writing superheroes, or in this case, supervillain character-driven stories.
Officially Kang’s first series, it’s an apt time for it because of his inclusion in the MCU via Loki and the upcoming Ant-Man 3. Drawn by Carlos Magno, the series opens with a young Nathaniel Richards joining forces with one version of his older Kang self, that plays with time, naturally.
Typically depicted as an arch-villain who wants to control everything, it’s apparent from the start the creative team is working towards giving Kang a bit of humanity. There’s a sadness on the page that lets you connect with him, and by the end of the book, you might even consider his options plausible if you were given the power to shift through time.
Magno and color artist Espen Grundetjern deliver a highly detailed style that makes every time and locale — be it the far future or the wilderness of the past — a highly realistic look and feel. More importantly, the deep emotions in the characters’ faces come through clearly. There are cosmic elements throughout that bring a level of realism that make it all believable. There’s a particular 12 panel layout in the final issue that utilizes tube TV effects that work well to show Kang relentlessly trying, but failing to achieve his goal. The hyper-realistic visuals give the book a tone that suits the heavy weight of Kang while keeping him grounded enough to not be a parody. There’s an attention to detail Magno gives him that makes him well-rounded and worthy of further exploration.
Speaking of the final issue, by the story’s end Kang attempts to be with his love Ravonna, but at a cost of great effort on his part. The main conceit of this issue is a smart one that puts a spin on time travel, but also the multiverse. It’s done in a way that could be used later in a Kang story, but may also take a break while Kang is used in Timeless. It also tethers Kang’s emotions to his use of the timestream and messing about adding complexity to a villain who has been rather one-note.
There are the expected time travel tropes in the collection, but one gets the sense this series could have gone even longer. You’ll want more, especially if you dig mind-bending sci-fi time travel storytelling. The book ends in a way that suggests it had to quickly and efficiently close the door of the story. By the end, you’ll feel satisfied with how Kang feels and his direction, even if you wish there was more.
Kang the Conqueror delivers an epic journey that adds tragic new layers to the villain that suit his demeanor over the decades. This creative team has done this character justice by giving him new complexity while staying true to who he is and what he stands for. What’s most incredible about this story is how it’s at once romantic, but also suitably villainous.
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