Episode #16: The Man Who Stole Tomorrow
Original Airdate: January 9th, 2011
Kang the Conqueror has arrived in the 21st century with two goals… destroy Captain America and take over the world. The Avengers aren’t about to let either happen… until Kang explains why. Because in the near future, the Earth will be destroyed. Kang has come to save the world, and the Avengers are standing in his way.

Written by Andrew Robinson
Directed by Sebastian Montes
Reviews by ShadowStar, RoyalRubble
Media by Marvel Animation

Review by ShadowStar:
At last, Kang returns! We’ve had to wait a good 12 episodes to see more of him, but casual viewers can rest assured that his mission is explained again here, and in greater depth than it was in “Meet Captain America”. Since Kang’s ultimate goal is to rid the 21st century of Cap, it was essential that we had more time to care about Cap and value him as a member of the Avengers before the Conqueror came calling in this episode. Captain America has proven to be one of the quintessential team members since he joined in “Living Legend”, so the notion that he’s got to go is one that obviously provokes outrage from the Avengers. Amidst the intermittent debate between Kang and the team over how to resolve this dilemma, we are treated to some great action: this is the first time that all 8 team members take on one foe, and with Kang’s technology streets ahead of that of Iron Man, the battle doesn’t fail to entertain.

The major theme of the episode was how trying to expect the unexpected can often be futile, but by carrying your experiences forward with you and learning from them, you are better able to take what the world throws at you in your stride. The contrast between Tony and Cap’s different attitudes towards preparing for the future proved to be a good way to tackle this little life lesson, especially since we’ve already seen the latter challenge the former, and will likely continue to as Cap evolves into the capable leader that we all know he will be. It’s clear from his mentoring Tony in this episode that he won’t be a fish out of water for much longer.

Hawkeye and Hulk observing and laughing as Cap beat Tony up was a lot of fun; every time Tony threw a punch, he found himself down for the count a moment later. I’m not harbouring a grudge over the fact that Tony is filling Cap’s spot as leader, honest; I just loved seeing the two lock horns at a time when there was no peril to be faced. Obviously neither one of them wanted to bring shame or embarrassment on the other, but it was a nice way of spotlighting their differences, and one of the most entertaining sequences in the series thus far.

The show has proven well able to juggle various plot strands, and it continues to do so here with the re-introduction of Ultron and a nod to the Fantastic Four, who were vaguely referenced in “Some Assembly Required”. The former did seem like it was just in this episode to eat up time (this is why a “Previously on Avengers…” sequence would come in handy), as viewers already know Ultron from the aforementioned episode as well as “The Man in the Ant Hill” and “Everything is Wonderful”, but this seems to be foreshadowing the Ultron army lending a hand as Kang’s forces attack the Earth. Perhaps there will be a big twist like Ultron turning evil at the end of the next episode. It seems unlikely, but come on, there will need to be some new developments in this story arc if it’s to pull off the three-parter format successfully. If the next two episodes offer little more than the Avengers fighting aliens non-stop, I will be disappointed.

As for the Fantastic Four, seeing the Baxter Building and a photo of the quartet was a nice surprise, and there was more continuity in the form of the Negative Zone prison hinted at in “Some Assembly Required”. How the prison could have been idea number 42 is baffling though, since Tony previously mentioned it and at that point, Reed Richards was the only other person involved in the discussions. It was already proposed before Hank got involved in the debate. This quibble to one side, perhaps the F4 will help in the coming battle against the aliens? Kang has explained at length his motivation to the Avengers, so all that's left is for there to be lots and lots of action, possibly involving S.H.I.E.L.D. The Avengers will need some help.

It was quite careless of Iron Man to let Kang know what the team’s advantage was at the end there. As a futurist, he should’ve known better than to sacrifice their only hold over this stranger from the future. We saw Kang whup the Avengers here, and he’ll be a lot harder to topple now! I’m enjoying the villain’s portrayal: he could’ve just come in, all guns blazing, with his invasion of Earth in this episode, but he opted to deal with Captain America first. I suppose he felt it was the most urgent matter, but the approach works well because it helps show Kang in a somewhat sympathetic light: that even with time of the essence (Ravonna is still in danger of fading out of existence), he was willing to explain himself to the Avengers, “as a courtesy”. (Too bad this gesture slowed the story down a bit and turned it into a three-parter.) Also, he only wants what’s best for the Earth, to defend it from the effects of the Kree/Skrull war, which must be close at hand... One thing to note is that although this was the 17th episode to air in America, it’s the 16th in production order, so Kang’s declaration about the consequences of the alien war comes hot on the heels of the debut of the Kree in the previous episode. I have to wonder how the team will thwart that particular menace, and what Kang meant when he said that Cap would “Not knowingly” betray humanity...

It was a great episode, maybe the best one yet, even though the animation dipped in quality towards the end. Jonathan Adams was as superb as Kang as he was in “Meet Captain America” and boasted a presence that demanded the viewer’s attention. The next two episodes would appear to be about the invasion of Earth, but this story arc has its work cut out for it if it hopes to be on par with the Justice League three-parter “Starcrossed”. Time will tell whether it lives up to that standard, but one thing’s for certain: things are hotting up!

Review by RoyalRubble:
An amazing start to the Kang Trilogy! Really intense episode, with great pacing, awesome fighting scenes and some great character development.

We finally see Kang again; haven't seen him for a while (probably since he's from the future ), but his appearance here was great. He seems threatening enough, has enough powers to keep the Avengers busy and has a motive for his actions. While I never read any comics featuring Kang and thus I'm not that familiar with him (the only other time I remember seeing him in animation was in the Avengers show from the late 90s), I really liked seeing him here. One thing I thought was missing was at least a mention about why Kang is doing this; we found out in the micro-episodes he's trying to save his wife, so it would have been nice to reference that. We know this, but the Avengers don't. I'm not complaining though, since the episode worked well even without that. So the Kree/Skrull war will destroy the Earth... and Kang wants to help (of course, only to protect his own time-line and also conquer our time). It's nice to hear more about the imminent Kree/Skrull war, but I'm still not sure where Captain America fits in all of this.

Behold, the Negative Zone prison!, which Ant-man alluded to in the beginning of the series (the little project he's been working on with Reed Richards). Wasp's reaction when seeing the Ultron robots was great as well and her "Yeah!... Wait, what?"; line was just priceless. I loved seeing the Fantastic Four picture hanging on a wall, and the Ultron army Hank has "perfected". I also enjoyed the little training session between Captain America and Tony. "What just happened?"; (I didn't realize until now that Tony is so short compared to Captain America). I especially love the way the characters have been presented on the show so far, and how their personalities work so well in contrast to each other. This episode proves just how similar and yet different Tony and Captain America actually are. And you just can't help but laugh when you see Hulk and Hawkeye being all friendly and enjoying seeing Tony getting beat up by Captain America.

Favorite quote of the episode is from Iron Man: "Kang could be the world's only hope. But he's being a real jerk about it".

And a short Marvel Animated Chronology about Kang. As I said, I'm not that much of a comic reader, so I'm only limiting myself at his appearances in other Marvel animated series across the years. Aside from his appearance on the Avengers: United They Stand series from the late 90s, Kang has also appeared (as the Pharaoh Rama-Tut) in the 1967 Fantastic Four animated series, where the F4s travel back to ancient Egypt and fight him, and in a flashback to Apocalypse's origin on X-Men: Evolution. From what I understand an alternate future Kang is called Immortus, who has appeared in the X-Men series from the 90s, although for only a couple of scenes (spent most of his on-screen time as an annoying weird little man called Bender).

Back to this episode; it was great, and only the beginning of a three part story that will (literally) change the world of the Avengers for ever.