Kang’s time travel could easily redefine any hero into a villain, as shown by a version of Iron Man that the MCU fans would absolutely hate
The ability of Kang the Conqueror to alter timelines is rarely displayed in the comics, but on one occasion his meddling in Iron Man‘s past created a string of tragedies and convoluted events that led to a Tony Stark resurrection that fans of his version in the MCU would absolutely loathe.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Robert Downey Junior’s portrayal of Tony Stark was so iconic that fans would never accept him being replaced by another actor. This creates an issue for most of the first-generation MCU characters, including Iron Man and Captain America, who have to be killed or removed forever once their actors move on to other things. Comic books, however, allow for more freedom, but this does not always lead to successful ideas. When Kang the Conqueror corrupted Tony Stark as part of his plan to destroy the Avengers, a younger version of Iron Man took his place, only to be later erased when things had to go back to the status quo. The time-traveling Kang the Conqueror is one of the Avengers’ classic foes. His ability to move freely through time and change the course of history would make Kang the deadliest villain, but his strong sense of honor usually acts as a restrain.
The events of Avengers: The Crossing (the work of a large creative team comprising Terry Kavanagh, Bob Harras, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Ben Raab, and Mike Deodato Jr), showed just how dangerous Kang can be when he decides to mess with the timelines. Kang traveled back in time and corrupted a young Tony Stark, turning him into a villain. When the Avengers found out, they recruited a “pure”, teen Tony from the past, to fight their former comrade. When the older Tony was killed, he was replaced by his younger version for a while, until the events of Heroes: Reborn and Heroes: Return, which saw Tony come back as his older self, with no apparent explanation. Later, Marvel tried to explain everything in a very dismissive way, making clear they just wanted readers to forget about The Crossing and its worst version of Iron Man, “teen Tony”.
Despite the quick retconning, this whole ordeal proves that Kang is actually much more powerful than villains like Thanos. Usually, Kang uses his ability to time travel to find worthy foes to fight, and as a source of advanced technology. The Crossing, however, shows that if he wanted he could strike at his foes not just physically, but on the metaphysical level too, altering their pasts and, in this way, changing who they are. He could turn Steve Rogers into a traitor to his country, or Bruce Banner into someone who enjoys the destruction he causes. If Kang really wanted, he could turn the entire Avengers into the most fearsome villains the Earth has ever seen. Hydra has created their own evil Avengers before, why couldn’t Kang? Kang’s usual rules of honor stop him from simply going back and changing time, but on the occasions where he does, the consequences are huge. All of Iron Man’s past stories were tainted by his now canonical corruption, and he was literally replaced with a new version of the character – big consequences for something that was actually pretty easy for Kang to do.
Even if the timeline rules have been defined more strictly by Marvel since The Crossing (now most of the time changing the past creates a whole new timeline rather than altering the present), that storyline still proved that Kang could easily redefine even the most iconic hero into a villain, and showed a version of Iron Man that the MCU fans would absolutely hate – just like the comics fans did.
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