The following story contains spoilers for the Loki finale and Season 1 in general.
There have been a lot of amazing characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there actually haven’t been a ton of big time introductions. Sure, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, and others are great—but we met them all right at the beginning of their own star projects. The biggest introductions, or teases, that we’ve seen to this point have to be Thanos (first at the end of The Avengers, and then a few more times before Infinity War) and Spider-Man (who first showed up in Captain America: Civil War).
There have been a couple other fun ones (Wanda and Pietro Maximoff at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a fun one, and the entire Doctor Strange movie was kind of a tease for the villain turn of Baron Mordo), but after the Season 1 finale of Loki, we’ve got a new winner. After a whole season of hints and teases that Kang the Conquerer would be showing up, the finale finally paid off, as Jonathan Majors made his MCU debut. But while he will be playing Kang, this build-up saw him instead playing a likely variant of Kang. He was referred to by name as “He Who Remains,” but the character seemed more like a hybrid of the Marvel Comics figures of He Who Remains and Immortus (more on that in a little).
But after Sylvie made her choice and disposed of He Who Remains, his warning loomed large; Loki, sent back to the TVA, saw that Kang (or, perhaps another sinister variant?) had already taken charge. Majors is set to play the character at the very least in 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but can almost certainly be expected to show up elsewhere.
And what makes this a better tease than any of these other heroes or villains? Well, when we first met Thanos, we knew he was a big deal. But were we terrified? With one He Who Remains line, the tone was set. “If you think I’m evil, well, just wait until you meet my variants,” he says. A simple line, but an immediate tone-setter, especially when you have someone selling it as strongly as Majors does. We’re not only aware of who’s coming—but like Loki expressed upon his return to the TVA, it’s pretty terrifying.
In an interview with Marvel.com, Loki head writer Michael Waldron hinted that there would be way more to come for this brand new character.
“We wanted it to really end with a bang and have a huge impact on the MCU moving forward,” he said. “Knowing that Kang was probably going to be the next big cross-movie villain, and because he is a time-traveling, multiversal adversary, it just always made so much sense.”
Is He Who Remains a Marvel Comics character?
He sure is. In the comics (first appearance in 1976’s Thor 245), He Who Remains has some similarities to the one we saw in Loki; both are sort of the ‘final boss’ of the TVA, existing in the Citadel at the End of Time. The difference, though, is that the He Who Remains we saw in Loki was clearly a variant of Kang the Conquerer, and killing this He Who Remains sets Kang—and the whole multiverse— loose. The He Who Remains in the comics also wreaked havoc, but appeared as a very old man and created the Time-Twisters, which wound up destroying past universe’s by time traveling. (Thor and Jane Foster eventually figure things out, and He Who Remains prevents these Time-Twisters from existing in the first place when he realizes what kind of damage is being wreaked.)
The character more similar to the one in Loki is actually Immortus.
The comic character you may be more interested in learning about is Immortus, who is an older variant version of Kang the Conqueror. Immortus, who first appeared in Avengers #10 in 1964, is a variant of Kang who prunes away timeline branches in order to attempt to maintain order; Kang is vehemently against this.
In Avengers Forever #3, Kang describes the differences between himself and Immortus.
“He calls himself the Master of Time! “Gardener of Time” is more truthful! He prunes away the chronal branches deemed by others to be dangerous, reducing reality to a bloodless meadow! But that’s not the way of warriors—of men! I say, let it be a forest! Let it be a jungle!”
That sounds…uh, almost exactly like the character we saw in Episode 6 of Loki. So, well, as we heard in the episode, and saw in its closing moments, shit is hitting the fan. What more can we say at this point?
In short, we’ll just have to repeat what He Who Remains/Immortus/Kang said with his final breaths: “See you soon.”
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