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How Ant-Man 3 sets up the big story of Marvel Studios' Phase 5 and the MCU Multiverse Saga

The latest Marvel movie raises an unexpected question about everything to come.

Council of Kangs
Image credit: Marvel Studios

MCU fans watching Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania could be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu as the movie neared its conclusion and Kang made his pitch for why he should be allowed to get away with whatever he wanted — because it was very, very similar to what He Who Remains had argued at the end of Disney+'s Loki. What if… they were both right…?

So, what’s actually at risk? (Part 1)

There was significant crossover in the pitches of both He Who Remains and Quantum Kang; in both cases, the argument was made that they should be allowed to prune the multiverse of extraneous branches for the good of reality, or else something bad would happen. Specifically, if the multiverse was allowed to… well, exist, then the various parallel realities would come into conflict and cause untold damage to reality.

In Loki, He Who Remains argues beyond this purposefully vague threat that not restricting the multiverse would also result in multiple Kang variants, each of whom are more dangerous than he is. “If you think I’m evil, well, just wait ’til you meet my variants.”

In Quantumania, Kang takes a slightly different tack when he’s threatening his own version of “something bad.” He doesn’t talk about the other Kangs (well, not at that particular point; he doesn’t have to threaten the possibility of their existence, because he’s already in conflict with them — they’re the ones who exiled him to the Quantum Realm, after all), but instead talks about the threat of “incursions.” That’s a word familiar to Marvel fans for a couple of important reasons.

The truth behind incursions

Avengers: Time Runs Out
Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

For Marvel comic fans, “incursions” is a term connected to the cycle of stories from writer Jonathan Hickman during his Avengers and New Avengers runs, leading up to and resulting in the 2015 Secret Wars series. Incursions in this usage are the result of the contraction of the multiverse, and refer to an eight-hour period when the Earths of two different realities co-exist in the same space; at the end of the Incursion, both realities involved will cease to exist. (There are ways to avoid this particular outcome, it’s revealed; but it involves the destruction of one of the two Earths inside that eight-hour period, so it’s a pretty dramatic and genocidal route to take.)

The comic book incursions ultimately result in the end of Marvel Universe as-was, with one planet left in existence as an amalgam of what came before — this world, Battleworld, is the setting for the Secret Wars series that may or may not inspire the 2026 movie Avengers: Secret Wars.

MCU fans are also familiar with the term incursions, thanks to 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In that movie, incursions are explained by the alternate reality Reed Richards as what happens “when the boundary between two universes erodes, and they collide… destroying one, or both, entirely.” The Doctor Strange of that Reed’s universe had triggered an incursion and destroyed another universe; in the mid-credit sequence of that same movie, Strange is confronted by Clea, who tells him, “you caused an incursion, and we’re gonna fix it.”

So, what’s actually at risk? (Part 2)

It’s worth noting that both He Who Remains and Quantum Kang lose. In fact, they both die, and the thing they warned about comes to pass. The end of Loki season 1 establishes that, not only has the multiverse been allowed to branch back into existence, but that various versions of Kang have already started to appear, beginning with the Kang now retroactively in charge of the TVA. The end of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reveals that, even before Kang has given his warning in Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, incursions are already happening across the multiverse. Things are getting worse, and it’s all the fault of the heroes in each story.

(Well, to be fair, Loki didn’t kill He Who Remains… but Sylvie did, and she’s a Loki.)

This is something that we’re seeing alluded to in the strange endings to both Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania. In the former, Strange walks away from what seems like a happy ending conversation with America Chavez, only to double over in pain, yelling; the last shot of the movie before the credits is a third eye opening on his forehead as a result of his use of the Darkhold earlier in the movie. (It opens again in the mid-credit sequence, seemingly without any negative effects, curiously enough.)

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Image credit: Marvel Studios

The end of Quantumania has the subtext becoming text as Ant-Man’s narration openly wonders if he did the wrong thing by preventing Kang from leaving the Quantum Realm, before snapping back to an unconvincing happiness. In both cases, the result is an unsettling feeling that something is going… wrong.

And then, there’s the Council of Kangs…

Another sign that things aren’t going well comes in the form of Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania’s mid-credit sequence, wherein the Council of Kangs aren’t upset that Quantum Kang has been killed, but that he’s been killed by outside forces. The concern isn’t that something has the ability to kill a Kang, but that someone might interfere with the Kangs’ own plans for the multiverse. It should go without saying that, if what the heroes are doing benefits a bunch of time-traveling despots, that’s not a good thing… and yet, their only concern so far is that the heroes might end up accidentally getting in their way and spoil their plans.

So, what’s actually at risk? (Part 3)

Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania
Image credit: Marvel Studios

Given that everything that the two Kangs — or one Kang and a He Who Remains, if you want to be technical — has appeared to say has actually been true so far, it’s not the least likely possibility that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is actually headed towards collapse via incursion and Multiversal War… and that, as things currently stand, it’s all the good guys’ fault. Which raises two questions that, I suspect, the rest of The Multiverse Saga is going to spend answering:

"What happens when the good guys realize what’s been happening under their noses this whole time?" and "What if He Who Remains and Quantum Kang were right, all along, and the good guys should have let them win?"

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in theaters now. Buy tickets on Fandango or Atom Tickets

Everything you want to know about Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is available in this particular section of the Quantum Realm.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania gets lost in its own changing sense of scale .

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Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.
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