It's no secret that Marvel has a villain problem. The first four phases were filled with forgettable antagonists that were often just mirrors of the heroes they faced. Iron Monger, Abomination, Yellowjacket, and Kaecilius were all just evil versions of the heroes they opposed, while characters like The Mandarin, Ronan, Taskmaster, and Red Skull failed to live up to their comic book counterparts. Across dozens of films, the only real standout villains in the MCU are Loki, Killmonger, Zemo, Hela, Namor, and of course, Thanos. With so many of its core heroes exiting, the MCU is at a crossroads: it can continue introducing exceedingly niche heroes in an attempt to continue on the path that’s paid off so far, or it can start giving its villains the much-needed attention they deserve.
The new trailer for Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania seems to indicate the latter. The Ant-Man threequel will begin Phase 5 by introducing Kang the Conqueror, the MCU’s next Big Bad, whose coming was foreshadowed in the final moments of Loki. Kang will serve as the antagonist of the next two Avengers movies, 2025’s The Kang Dynasty and 2026’s Secret Wars, and the MCU is using the next Ant-Man movie to launch his multi-year character arc.
This is a much different approach than the one it took for Thanos. Though the Infinity Stones played a major role in the films leading up to Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos did not. He made brief appearances in three post-credit scenes, but he didn’t become a real character until Infinity War. He was a mysterious threat, moving in the background, but we didn’t actually learn about who he was or what he wanted until the main conflict was underway.
That’s not going to be the case for Kang. The marketing for Quantumania makes it clear that this movie’s sole function is to introduce the villain, establish his goals, and give the heroes of Earth a tangible threat to start rallying against. Even if we don’t see him again until Avengers 5, which seems unlikely, Kang will have had more on screen time to develop than any other Marvel villain before him. The MCU is finally recognizing that you villains have to be more than foils for the heroes – they have to be real, fleshed out characters. And those characters take time to develop.
Kang isn’t even the only villain in Quatumania. The new trailer reveals MODOK will be featured in the film too, and though he’s a much different version of the character than the one fans are familiar with (Darren Cross instead of George Tarleton) this is a beloved villain that few expected to ever make an MCU appearance. We don’t know how much of a role MODOK will play, but his inclusion is just another indication that the MCU is starting to take villains seriously.
Phase 5 begins the MCU’s villains era, and Kang’s journey will serve as a template for even heavier hitters down the line. 2025’s Fantastic Four will introduce the MCU’s Doctor Doom, a villain with nearly unlimited potential if given the proper time to develop. While Doom is a strong contender for the next Big Bad after Kang, we can also look forward to seeing the MCU’s take on Magneto, Galactus, Apocalypse, and Mephisto, as well as the return of Kingpin, Namor, and perhaps even Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. It’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of Scarlet Witch, who was initially established as a hero, either.
Instead of focusing on building new teams like The Thunderbolts and the Young Avengers, the MCU should be using those stories to build up its villains as much as possible. That’s what Quantumania seems to be doing, and that fact alone should make any Marvel fan excited about the future of the franchise.
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