KANG: Page 2 of 11

Publication Date: 30th Apr 2018
Written By: Monolith.
Image Work: Douglas Mangum.


This page deals with IRON LAD, the divergent version of Kang created by his future self,

Nathaniel Richards grew up in the idyllic utopia society engineered by the great benefactor. As a teenager, Nathaniel Richards was a genius and a dreamer, making him a target for bullies. One day, Nathaniel was tinkering with his stimuloid (a prototype for Kang's future Growing Man construct), when a group of school toughs roughed him up. A boy named Morgan was about to attack him with an edged hoverboard when time suddenly stood still.

Nathaniel found himself facing a man in futuristic armor, claiming his name was Kang the Conqueror, Nathaniel's future self. Kang allowed Nathaniel to access his neuro-kinetic armor, showing his younger self the future accomplishments and conquests that awaited him. Apparently feeling particularly nostalgic (or petty), Kang had arrived at this moment in time to take revenge on Morgan, who had slit Kang's throat in the original timeline, leaving him hospitalized for nearly a year. Kang wanted to give Nathaniel the opportunity to kill Morgan instead, preventing this early tragedy in his life.

Unfortunately for Kang, he had neglected to recognize that the incident with Morgan was the inciting moment in his life that hardened his heart and made him turn against his fellow man in the first place. Young Nathaniel Richards, pre-accident, wasn't as callous or bloodthirsty as Kang, and he rejected his apparent future as a monster. Using the neuro-kinetic armor Kang gave him, Nathaniel activated a time-jump and went back to the present, where he hoped the Avengers could help him prevent his own future and stop from becoming Kang. [Young Avengers (1st series) #2]

However, Nathaniel arrived at a point in time shortly after the Scarlet Witch disassembled the Avengers, leaving the team scattered and unavailable to him. Seeking a way to gather allies, Nathaniel located the damaged remains of the Vision in a Stark International warehouse, and uploaded the synthezoid's operating system and database into his neuro-kinetic armor. Nathaniel found an Avengers Failsafe Program in Vision's files, apparently an emergency database of potential young heroes to be recruited if the Avengers ever fell. [Young Avengers (1st series) #2-3]

Nathaniel came up with a plan to recruit a young team of new Avengers, training them to help him oppose Kang while also hoping their activities would catch the attention of the real Avengers. As part of this plan and in order to disguise himself, Nathaniel reprogrammed the neuro-kinetic armor into a suit resembling Iron Man's armor, calling himself Iron Lad. Using Vision's files, he recruited teen shape-changer Teddy Altman and spell-caster Billy Kaplan, creating identities for them as Hulkling and Asgardian to pass as young versions of Hulk and Thor. He also went looking for Josiah X, son of Isaiah Bradley (the black Captain America of the 1940s), but instead found Bradley's grandson Eli, who also claimed to be a super-soldier. Eli joined the team as Patriot. [Young Avengers Special #1]

Nathaniel brought his team together to begin training for the arrival of Kang the Conqueror. Using 31st century technology, he created a hard-light holographic simulator room for them to practice in. As weeks passed, however, the quartet began to question whether they should do more than just wait for Kang, but actually become super-heroes like their idols. On a Saturday night out, Nathaniel and his friends came across Electro and tried to bring him down. Despite them getting in a few good blows, though, the veteran super-villain overwhelmed the boys and they surrendered, allowing Electro to go about his business. Their battle started a fire in a nearby apartment complex, and so the young heroes inadvertently had their public debut saving residents from the flames. And so, the same night Electro caused a breakout at the Raft (and triggered the reformation of the Avengers), Nathaniel's team made the spotlight and were dubbed the "Young Avengers" by the Daily Bugle. [Avengers: The Children's Crusade - Young Avengers #1, New Avengers (1st series) #1, Young Avengers (1st series) #1]

After a hostage situation at St. Patrick's Cathedral, they were followed back to Avengers Mansion by Cassie Lang, daughter of Ant-Man, and Kate Bishop, one of the hostages who handled herself well during the crisis. Iron Lad and the Young Avengers also ran into Captain America, Iron Man and Jessica Jones at the mansion, and Nathaniel explained his situation to the Avengers. While the older Avengers tried to decide what to do with their young counterparts, Kang's Growing Man arrived in search of Nathaniel. When it identified Iron Lad as Nathaniel, the stimuloid sent out a signal that drew Kang to the mansion. [Young Avengers (1st series) #1-3]

Although the Young Avengers sided with Iron Lad, the adult Avengers soon realized the danger Nathaniel was causing to the timeline. Kang needed Iron Lad to return to the future in order to preserve his own past, and the ripple effect of undoing Kang's actions throughout the timestream was also being felt in the present. Iron Man and Captain America found their costumes changing, the city of New York reduced to a wasteland and, perhaps most horrifically, the pregnant Jessica Jones found herself back in her Jewel costume... and her baby was gone.

Iron Lad and the Young Avengers ran, but they were soon cornered by Kang and the Avengers. When his friends and idols began getting hurt in the crossfire, Iron Lad gave himself over to Kang. Taking no chances, Kang used their proximity to remotely overtake the neuro-kinetic armor and use it to blast the remaining heroes, leaving only him and Iron Lad standing. He prepared to guide his younger self back through a time portal that would wipe his memory and return him to his proper place. Before Kang could do so, however, Cassie Lang used her shrinking powers as Ant-Girl to jump between them and kick Kang through the portal instead.

Iron Lad saved Ant-Girl from falling through the portal with Kang and, in a rush of teenage emotion, they kissed dramatically. Despite Cassie's victory, Iron Lad told the Young Avengers he was going back with Kang anyway when the Conqueror inevitably returned. The dark future, Jess' baby, and the threat to the timestream meant he had no choice. The Young Avengers wanted more time to talk him out of it, but Kang returned and threatened the incapacitated Avengers. Iron Lad was separated from his armor in the conflict that followed, and it came to life on its own as an amalgamation of his neural imprint and the Vision's downloaded software and programming. Even teen Vision was unable to stop Kang, however, and the Conqueror reclaimed this armor and murdered Iron Man, Captain America and Jessica Jones. As he prepared to turn on the younger heroes, Iron Lad acted on instinct and avenged his idols by stabbing Kang through the back with a fallen sword. [Young Avengers (1st series) #4-5]

Nathaniel had now murdered his own future self and cemented his future as becoming something other than Kang. Unfortunately, reality continued to shift around the Young Avengers as a result of his actions. The mansion was restored, but the Avengers were all dead, their gravestones adorning the grounds. Iron Lad thought he could escape his future, but doing so had only further disrupted the timeline. Soon Hulkling and Asgardian vanished from existence as well due to their ties to the Avengers. Nathaniel saw he had no choice. He reactivated his armor as the living Vision to create a time portal and send him home. Iron Lad kissed Ant-Girl good-bye and said farewell to his friends, with a final declaration about how he loved being an Avenger. As the portal closed, the Avengers and Young Avengers rematerialized, alive and well. It appeared as if everything that happened starting from Kang's arrival was undone in time. [Young Avengers (1st series) #6]

Except Iron Lad did NOT return to the future like he was supposed to. [Young Avengers Special #1] Instead, Nathaniel began tracking his older self through the timestream, trying to find a way to eliminate Kang while preserving his own timeline separate from the Conqueror's. Decades in the future of the 21st century, Iron Lad fought Kang on the Badoon homeworld, only to learn Kang was a member of the Avengers in this timeline. Iron Lad met older versions of his friends who had graduated to become a rogue branch of the Avengers. A situation had arisen in the past where Wiccan and the Young Avengers were placed at odds with the Avengers over the Scarlet Witch. This led to a permanent split between the two Avenger teams after Wiccan's apparent death. Hearing about this darker future from Kang and the Avengers, Iron Lad swore to return to the past and prevent it... unaware that the Wiccan of Kang's Avengers was still alive. His future self and friends had manipulated Iron Lad into returning to cause the very future he thought to prevent. [Avengers: The Children's Crusade - Young Avengers #1]

Iron Lad emerged in Latveria in the middle of a conflict between the Young Avengers and Doctor Doom, with the fate of the Scarlet Witch on the line. He stopped Wolverine before he could kill Wiccan and Wanda, and gathered the Young Avengers to him. Cassie (now called Stature) was thrilled to see him again, much to the consternation of the young Vision, Iron Lad's old neurokinetic armor which had become an independent being and Cassie's boyfriend.

The Young Avengers decided the best way to restore Wanda's lost memories and powers was to revisit the events of her breakdown. Iron Lad insisted he was in control of the situation, having invented a technology that would allow them to observe the events of Cassie's father's death without intervening. Of course, his assessment was wrong. The Young Avengers directly interacted with Ant-Man just before Jack of Hearts exploded and killed him. As they intervened with the natural flow of events, Wanda's memories returned and she jumped them all from the recent past into the present, saving the life of Ant-Man as her powers were restored.

Events got away from the Young Avengers as Wanda's renewed power and memories were directed towards undoing the Decimation. The X-Men still didn't trust Wanda, however, which ultimately drove Wanda back into Doom's arms as he took the power of the Life Force for himself. Iron Lad suggested they dive back into the timestream, waiting fourth-dimensionally until they had a plan to deal with Doctor Doom. Vision shot him down, arguing against playing with the timestream whenever things didn't go their way. Nathaniel grew angry at his "copy" interfering and, while Cassie stepped in to cool things down, she ultimately sided with Vision.

The Young Avengers remained for the fight with Doom that followed and, before his powers were stripped from him, Doctor Doom murdered Cassie. Iron Lad wanted to take her into the timestream, preserve whatever small piece of life remained until some future tech could be found to save her, but the Avengers and Young Avengers counseled him to let her go. Vision stepped forward again, and Iron Lad focused his anger on the being who took his brain wave patterns and, in his mind, took Cassie as well. Out of spite and jealousy, Iron Lad killed the Vision, dismantling him before anyone else could stop it. It was a callous disregard for life (any form of life) worthy of the reputation of Kang the Conqueror.

As he tried to take Cassie into the timestream, the other Avengers opposed Nathaniel. Iron Lad couldn't make the Young Avengers see how he could fix everything, given time. If he couldn't save this version of Cassie, he could travel back in time and save an earlier version of her. Wiccan tried to caution Nathaniel, warning him that mucking with the timestream like this was exactly the behavior that would make him into Kang the Conqueror, but Iron Lad no longer feared becoming Kang. He now believed he would become better than the Conqueror, and left to do just that. [Avengers: The Children's Crusade #4-9]

A version of Nathaniel appeared during the final cycle of Doom the Annihilating Conqueror. A universal constant (or at least a heavily-recurring universal trend), Doctor Doom, Kang and Annihilus of the Negative Zone were destined to join forces with one another. Then, either through stealing power from each other or physically joining together, the trio would become a single entity of phenomenal cosmic destructive power. [FF (2nd series) #3] The multiversal voyeurs of the Council of Doom relished the event, for in each iteration Doom was destined to either win and retain his power or lose and merely revert back to status quo, making the event a grand adventure in the making with no real loss possible. [Fantastic Four (4th series) #9, FF (2nd series) #14]

As Kid Immortus, Nathaniel approached Doom and informed him of the Annihilating Conqueror destiny. He allied himself with Doctor Doom as they snared a young Annihilus from the Negative Zone, early in one of his regeneration cycles, and monitored the Future Foundation's involvement in the unfolding events. [FF (2nd series) #8] Doom struggled against the idea of being controlled by anything, even destiny, but Kid Immortus insisted the Annihilating Conqueror was inevitable. When Ant-Man's replacement Fantastic Four and the Future Foundation activated a device to summon the original FF back from their trek through space-time, they seemed to vanish. The flash from the device's activation hid them from Doom and Kid Immortus' surveillance while they transported away to the Watcher’s home on the Moon, one of the few places outside either villain’s methods of detection. Doom was furious at the development and had Nate's traveling companion, a young Ravonna, imprisoned to motivate him in finding the Foundation. [FF (2nd series) #12-13]

As the villains prepared for the inevitable return and attack by the Future Foundation, Doom began to succumb to destiny when he recognized the omniversal nature of the Negative Zone, and the potential control it offered. Modifying the inductors he once used to steal the Power Cosmic from the Silver Surfer, Doom drained the power of Annihilus and the Cosmic Control Rod for himself. As Latveria came under attack by the Future Foundation in a multi-pronged assault, Kid Immortus continued to insist that Doom submit himself to destiny. As Doom refused to acknowledge their peril, Nate attempted to force their amalgamated merger himself, seizing the power of the Negative Zone and the residual aspects of godhood Doom maintained from the Life Force, the Beyonder and other attempts at omnipotence. He failed. Victor von Doom had far greater willpower than a mere stripling and assumed dominance in the merger, drawing the temporal powers of Kang and Kid Immortus into his inductors while leaving his “partner” on the brink of death. In the end, it was Ant-Man who defeated Doom the Annihilating Conqueror, and a freed Ravonna whisked Kid Immortus away in the aftermath. [FF (2nd series) #14-16]

Nathaniel's motivations for the Annihilating Conqueror event are uncertain. Chronologically, the Doom with whom he joined forces had only recently murdered Cassie Lang, and would hardly be an ally one would expect Nathaniel to chose. It was never made clear when Nathaniel came from in his own timeline, though. Also, this reportedly was not the original Doom the Annihilating Conqueror event intended for Earth-616, either. It is possible Nate meant to force the event to occur prematurely with a 2/3rds young and "incomplete" Annihilating Conqueror to prevent Doom from gaining full power, or possibly to even steal the role for himself and use the power to save Cassie, prevent his destiny as Kang, etc. That was allegedly the goal of Kid Immortus' Ravonna. She claimed to be a future version of Earth-616's Valeria Richards, genetically reprogrammed by Doom to lure Kang into the Annihilating Conqueror event for his own goals. Ravonna claimed she manipulated younger versions of Kang and Annihilus into the merger to stymie Doom's plans. However, "Ravonna's" identity and motivations were never authenticated and openly questioned by all who heard them, leaving the truth even further afield. So, ultimately, many questions remain about Kid Immortus's chronology with other versions of Iron Lad, what his motivations were and if his motivations were even his own or the manipulations of Ravonna.

The final fate of Iron Lad has yet to be decided. Young Nathaniel joined his future and final incarnations, Kang and Immortus, at the end of time. They assembled to meet Captain America when he arrived there as the Time Gem carried him through recorded history. Caught in a recursive temporal loop, the three faces of Kang attempted to manipulate Cap's decisions regarding the Illuminati and the threat of Incursions. [Avengers (5th series) #34]

At this point, it is still possible that Iron Lad will return to the 31st century and live out his destiny to become Rama-Tut, Kang and the rest of his incarnations, perhaps with the assistance of a memory wipe. However, as he accumulates more and more unique life experiences, it's increasingly likely that Iron Lad is a complete divergence of Kang's timeline, and can now forge his own destiny without upsetting future history in the process.

Click here to return to Nathaniel Richards' teen years, as if Kang had not altered them.