Kang The Conqueror #1 Review

by Charles Martin on August 18, 2021

Kang The Conqueror #1 Review
Writers: Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Artist: Carlos Magno
Colourist: Espen Grundetjern
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Confession time! I'm really not a fan of Kang the Conqueror. (Wait, have I confessed this before?)

I find most of his stories slow-moving and slow-witted, over-reliant on poor Kang turning stupid when it's time for the heroes to win. I still have nightmares (not literally) about an early Bronze Age arc where he brilliantly captured the Avengers in Limbo -- and then pooched it by hunting them through a labyrinth, on foot, Kraven-style, guaranteeing an easy defeat.

But that example highlights that most of my problems with Kang have to do with the plots he's stuck with as an antagonist.

What about Kang as the protagonist? That's the big question this new series tackles head-on. 

Remarkably, it's a question Marvel's never quite asked before. This is Kang's first-ever solo series -- and it's off to an impressive start. 

(It's also a well-timed one, coming hot on the heels of Jonathan Majors' impressive debut as MCU Kang in the Loki show.)

We're introduced to Nathaniel Richards, the Boy Who Would Be Kang, in his 31st-century home era, before he ever time-travelled. His first big success, uncovering the library of Doctor Doom, takes a turn for the dramatic when he's saved from a rogue Doombot -- by none other than Kang the Conqueror.

His older self plunges him into a brutal training regimen in the savage jungles of the Cretaceous period, with time-travelling field trips to inspect some of the character's iconic defeats.

The younger iteration is grateful for the instruction and rises to the older version's difficult challenges, but he also grows increasingly aware of "the flaws in the iron that [make his] teacher."

That artful phrase serves as a useful segue into discussing how Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly have scripted this debut. They've certainly delivered an outsized portion of prose. Both young Nathaniel's narration and his dialogue with Kang are stuffed with elaborate, even florid language. Reading this comic requires a lot of reading.

Normally purple prose makes me break out in hives (again, not literally), but in this case, I have nothing but admiration for what the authors have achieved. Their linguistic high-wire act is grammatically faultless. And the flowery language serves an important purpose. It demonstrates (showing, not telling) how Kang thinks of himself. This is a character who always frames his life in terms of melodramatic triumph and tragedy. It's a terrific insight.

The art for this comic is a perfect match for the delicacy of the writing. Carlos Magno is a passionate, talented, highly detail-driven artist. In past comics, I've seen that passion for detail turn almost detrimental, with the minutiae of panels threatening to overwhelm the action.

That's not the case here! Mr. Magno exercises masterful control over his details, using them to flesh out his characters and develop his settings without ever putting the cart before the horse. Combine all that intricacy with a strong command of dynamic blocking and you get exciting visual storytelling that makes an outstanding, balanced contrast to the cerebral writing.

Colourist Espen Grundetjern has a significant hand in the visual magic here. He's not afraid to draw on every corner of the colour palette. Most importantly, he knows how to modulate colour intensity to bring out the best in Mr. Magno's art. The colours provide the finishing touch to the flow of the story, emphasizing the critical parts of each panel and keeping less-important details firmly in the background.

Kang The Conqueror #1 is a puzzle box of a comic that balances great intricacy in its words and art with ample servings of plot and character development. It can be read casually and it will not disappoint. All of the good creative work poured into the captions and the panels deserves closer attention, though. This is a comic built to savour. And if future issues continue to show this level of care with the complexities of Kang, this may be the start of something great.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Respect to the authors for sliding in a quick reference to the persistent possibility that Kang is a descendant of Dr. Doom.