After defeating Immortus during the Destiny War, the Conqueror from the Future Kang feels it's the moment to finally conquer 20th century Earth once and for all. Along with his son and heir Marcus, he appears in the 20th Century with the "Damocles" base, a giant space station in the shape of a sword. To display their power, a death ray from the sky obliterates the United Nations, but also generates forcefields that saves everybody inside. Then, he declares his intentions: Earth has many potential bad futures, and he intends to prevent them by conquering Earth now. With his 30th century technology, he will crush all resistance in a few weeks; even allowing himself the luxury of announcing the time and place of his first strike. He promises that, in the meantime, anyone who conquers some land in his name will be favored in his future regime... and several fifth-columnists (Attuma, the Deviants, mutinious military forces) begin to attack.
Despite all the military preparations, the invasion of Europe proceeds without problems for Kang. There's a little hope spot for North America: the Master of the World, a villain who controls alien fortifications that protected the cities and could counter Kang's technology. But the Avengers don't want a civil war between villains, so they send two teams: one to defeat the master and capture his base, and another to attack Damocles base itself. Warbird kills the Master of the World, but the controls of his base are too alien and difficult to understand. Kang destroys the Avenger's ship in space, and attacks Washington DC in retaliation, destroying the city with a futuristic weapon (more or less like an atomic bomb that only kills people, but without radiation). Earth surrenders.
In the meantime, the Triune Understanding (a religious group that has had conflict with the Avengers already) launches a ship to attack the Triple Evil, a threat that would attack Earth someday, and rescues the Avengers floating in space. This Triple Evil is a giant pyramid, which they manage to seize and control. The Avengers at the base of the Master of World finally understand how to operate it, and begin to attack Damocles base once more. Kang announces that, in retaliation for this attack, he will destroy Denver and Atlanta... and then, the pyramid appears, and joined the fight. All the Avengers in the space, the pyramid and a Russian villain fire their many powers at the shield, and the attack of Tremont finally breaks it. Warbird destroys the core, and the base begin to fall to the planet. Kang sends his son back to the XXX century, accepting his own fate.
With his base destroyed and his armour broken, it all comes down to hand-to-hand combat between Kang and Captain America. Kang is defeated and jailed... and rescued by his son Marcus. Still, Kang is very disappointed with him: for robbing him a glorious death, for using time-travel to undo an honourable victory for their enemies, for helping Warbird and not confessing it, etc. But before killing him, a reveal to make him suffer: Actually, he's just one of several clones of the original Marcus, and he will share the fate all the previous Marcus clones that disappointed him.
The upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, announced at the San Diego ComicCon 2022 for a release date on May 2, 2025, will share the name with this storyline, but as of this writing, it's still unclear if it will be a Live-Action Adaptation or an original story with the same name.
The Kang War contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Kang. He tried to create a dynasty by breeding dozens of sons to carry on his legacy, killing them when they don't live up to his standards by showing weakness in mind or body. Marcus, his most 'perfect' son, fails him in the end by falling in love with Warbird and robbing Kang of his final victory by rescuing him, causing Kang to murder Marcus and start his plans anew.
- Amazon Chaser: Marcus falls in love with Carol the minute he sees her.
- Animated Adaptation: The storyline was adapted in the episodes "Come the Conqueror" and "The Kang Dynasty" of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Warbird exploits it when the Avengers gets trapped and surrounded by the Deviants.Warbird: WHO LEADS THIS RABBLE?! I name you coward, for hiding behind weapons and bodyguards! Coward and worse! I name you unfit to lead! By your own rules, which decree that only the strong shall lead, I challenge you to single combat for leadership of your army!
- Bad Future: Kang claims that if he doesn't take over Earth now, it'll fall prey to any number of them; the Presence taking over the entire world, Baintronics taking over the entire world, the Martians killing everyone, the Badoon killing every, robots killing everyone... of course, it's just an excuse for Kang to take over the world himself.
- Break the Badass: While the Presence isn't outright "broken", during the final battle, as he starts contemplating resuming his plans of conquest, Starlight informs him that she will leave him if he doesn't stick to the terms of helping with this threat and then returning to his cell. Presence soon agrees to this demand.
- Call-Back: Carol's storyline follows on from the infamous events of Avengers #200, as she faces a "new" version of the man who assaulted her.
- Colony Drop: The fall of Damocles base. Fortunately, thanks to Kang's future tech and the Avengers, it does slightly less damage than it should have, but it still wrecks up a town it falls on, much to Cap's upset.
- Come with Me If You Want to Live: Very weakened for being unconscious for a long time in the cold arctic, Warbird is escaping from the Master's beasts. She is suddenly helped by Marcus, who's fallen in love with her, and forgot that she's supposed to be his enemy.
- Conqueror from the Future: It was about time that Kang finally showed those 20th century neanderthals how he earned the title of Conqueror. Not as a One-Man Army, not diverting his attention with romantic relations with Ravonna or the Celestial Madonna, not with mind-manipulation tricks, but with the old fashioned type of conquest: leading legions and legions of armies to crush the defenses of the weaker armies.
- Continuity Nod:
- Kang uses the floating chair he had used in Avengers #8, his first appearance.
- Among the glimpses of the future Kang shows is the version of Killraven and his Freemen from Avengers Forever.
- Crazy-Prepared: Before launching his invasion, Kang had made up his military strategy, which considered all possible factors: national armies, superheroes, hidden races, alien technologies, possible "cavalries", everything. But his master plan failed because there was a single power he forgot to consider: The Power of Love.
- Defiant to the End: Kang does not cheat: he may use time travel to escape, reestablish his forces and return at the same moment in time, but he refuses that path. If, despite his superior forces, the Avengers managed to destroy his base, he'll go down with it.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: What Kang had actually wanted the whole time but has stolen from him. When he realizes that he's defeated, he accepts going down with the orbital base, and doesn't attempt to escape from it. But he survives. Then, the next option: he's held prisoner, he will surely be sentenced to death, and he will die with his warrior honor intact and be known as an infamous conquering legend... and Marcus steals that glory from him as well, by rescuing him.
- Eye Take: When Warbird kills the Master of the World. Even his beasts are included in the scene.
- The Gloves Come Off: Shown when Warbird aka Ms. Marvel outright kills the Master of the World by stabbing him through the abdomen with a piece of the floor after blasting it, much to the notable shock of her allies and the Master's own minions.Warbird: You're making a mistake, Master. You are expecting us to act like nice-nice super heroes... to treat you like a bank robber, or your average megalomaniacal lunatic. But the world's at war, big shot! At war! And that means that the rules have changed!
- Grand Finale: To The Avengers (Kurt Busiek).
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Whirldwind is among the villains recruited by Marcus, but refuses to wait in line. He disposes of the other guys ahead of him, gloats about his power, and asks to be a general. Kang disposes of him: he has more than enough power already, what he seeks are soldiers with discipline.
- Hope Spot: The walls and weaponry of the Master of the World. It seems that Europe is doomed, but North America is well protected. But when Kang turns his attention to Washington D.C., those walls only delay him for some seconds.
- Identical Stranger: Marcus, the son of Kang, who fell in love with Warbird, and Marcus, the son of Immortus, who abducted, drugged and raped her a long time ago. They are not the same Marcus, but have the same face, the same voice, the same manners... Justified (a bit), after all Kang and Immortus are actually the same time-traveling man at different points of maturity, so it's not impossible that they would have similar children or that some event in their pasts would prompt them both to call their sons by the same name. Or, said more simple, both Marcuses are essentially brothers (but don't ever tell him that).
- Internal Homage: The scene of Warbird stepping into the Avengers court martial (for killing the Master of the World) is similar to the previous court martial she had at the beginning of Kurt Busiek's run on the title. The difference being here, Carol asked for the hearing, and is in a much better place, so things work out far better for her.
- It's All My Fault: Carol starts feeling guilty over shanking the Master of the World, figuring she helped Kang nuke Washington by doing so. Everyone else reassures her that it's not, with an official Avengers tribunal (convened on her request) agreeing that the death of the Master was justifiable in these circumstances.
- Karma Houdini: Kang never suffers definitive punishment for all the death and destruction he's caused during his conquest. Only being imprisoned, being rescued by his son, and choosing to kill him for robbing Kang of his final victory before planning to carry on his habit of conquest on other worlds.
- Legacy Character: Marcus as the Scarlet Centurion: that's a former identity his father briefly had.
- Literal Split Personality: At the beginning of the story, Hank Pym's having some problems after the Avengers's last run in with Kulan Garth. There's the good-natured but unemotional Goliath, and the hot-blooded jerkass Yellowjacket. Turns out Gath's spell split them in two, but they're dying without overcoming the issues that caused the split. They only merge when it turns out there's a third Hank - the scientist.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: The team that goes to investigate the evil pyramid get stuck in one. Jack of Hearts dreams he no longer needs to control his powers and is actually completely human, Living Lightning that he's gotten into politics, Monica Rambeau that she's been made Avengers chairwoman again, Firestar that she's disbanding the Avengers as they're no longer needed, Justice is marrying someone, Quasar's seeing his mom again... it doesn't work on Captain America, though, and he busts the others out. Turns out that it was draining their lifeforce to turn them into monsters.
- Make an Example of Them: As a demonstration that he's not bluffing, Kang starts things off by blowing up the UN building (though he also uses future tech to make sure no-one's hurt).
- Meaningful Name: The Damocles base, a space station shaped as a sword, floating undetected over earth... the futuristic Sword of Damocles.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: The subplot about the Triune understanding ends with the Avengers finding out that the organization itself was not corrupt, only their leader Tremont. But, by that time, Duane had already died alongside all the people in Washington DC. Iron Man is deeply troubled, because now he can never tell him that he's sorry.
- No-Dialogue Episode: Avengers #49, when Kang finally conquers Earth.
- Not in This for Your Revolution: Starlight assists the Presence not because she shares in his (quite obviously insane) plan or ideology, but because their powers make them exiles, and she just doesn't want to be alone.
- President Target: Thor had to interrupt the fight to save George Bush, teleporting him to stay with the Deviants (who recently swore loyalty to Warbird... long story). Go with the friendly monsters, or stay in WWIII being fought right outside the White House? Friendly monsters!
- No Endor Holocaust: Infamously Averted. Millions of men, women, and children are shown killed when Kang destroys Washington D.C., leaving only the charred remains of the people behind. Thor himself is at the middle of this mass grave, having reached the Despair Event Horizon for failing to save them all.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Thor of all people, when he goes from Boisterous Bruiser to exhibiting nothing but Tranquil Fury due to the mass death he has witnessed, which unsettles many of his allies.
- Sadistic Choice: Kang knows full well that, when jailing superheroes, any prison will be a Cardboard Prison, no matter how futuristic. So, any time someone is trying to escape, they're given an option: surrender and be executed, or escape and two other unrelated prisoners will be executed. Of course, this is if they manage to escape at all: if they are killed during the escape, the two others must be executed anyway. Only a very selfish person (and certainly not a Knight in Shining Armor hero) would try to escape under those conditions.
- When Wonder Man makes a successful escape attempt, Kang 'generously' decrees that, since he came back to help the Scarlet Witch against Kang's guards and was subsequently recaptured, Kang will 'only' kill Wonder Man rather than the aforementioned innocents (which was the real purpose of the whole attempt, as Simon and Wanda use the execution to fake Simon's death so he can get away for real).
- Status Quo Is God: Even though Kang kills millions of people and conquers the entire Earth for months, these events are hardly ever mentioned in any Marvel comics following this arc.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Firebird gives one of those to Thor, who suddenly starts to view the mortal lives as short and meaningless. She tells him that, even if she's immortal as well, she would always care about the mortals, that her god notices even the death of an sparrow, and that's her role model, not Thor.
- This Is Unforgivable!: It seems that Captain America has died, turned by the Presence into a mindless atomic creature. Thor does not take it lightly.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: While the Avengers adhere to this policy by preference, when Warbird submits herself to tribunal for killing the Master of the World during the conflict, she is ultimately cleared as there was no guaranteed way to render the Master unconscious or stop him using non-lethal methods, the scale of the situation meant that Warbird was acting as a soldier as well as an Avenger, and the act is ultimately deemed justified.
- Trauma Button: Realizing who the Scarlet Centurion is causes Carol to keep having recurring nightmares about her rape by Marcus Immortus.
- Villain Override: The government sends an army of Sentinels against Damocles base. Kang simply uses his futuristic technology to hack the Sentinels, and turn them into his own army.
- Was Once a Man: Everyone the Presence controls turns into radioactive zombies. Including Captain America. Fortunately once he's stopped, they're restored, if a little weak.
- Wham Episode: Issue 49; Kang wins and conquers the world. This is the first time in all of Marvel history that mainstream, present-day Earth was conquered, not by mind control or magic, but sheer military strategy and overwhelming might.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: During the fight, Captain America had a moral dilemma. The aliens souls trapped in the pyramid were meant to fight against the Triple Evil, not against Kang, and were crying to be liberated now that the Triple Evil had been defeated. By using them this way, the Avengers were enslaving those souls for their own needs. A dilemma for Captain America... but not for Tremont. "Earth is at stake, you can't have mercy! They are aliens, who cares about their souls!?"
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Thor has a brief crisis over this issue, realizing that he has very strong ties with people who will die some day. Firebird makes him realize that if the time he will share with specific mortals is limited, that's the reason to treasure every second of it while it lasts. Which is much longer than she suspects, anyway.
- Why Did You Make Me Hit You?
- First, Kang warned that if the Damocles base was attacked, there would be retribution. The Avengers attacked it and failed. Why did you force Kang to obliterate Washington D.C. and all of its people sans the President?
- Kang also does this when he kills Marcus
- Why We Are Bummed: Communism Fell: The Presence is a Russian patriot, but he's not wild about the fall of the Soviet Union, and figures western influence will corrupt his beloved home country... so he plans to turn everyone in Russian into a radioactive hive mind. That'll fix everything!
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: The Deviant leader refuses to duel with Warbird. A human can not challenge him leadership, much less a woman!Warbird: Oh? And do you fear women, then, mighty Dulpus? Do you fear women and humans?
- Year Outside, Hour Inside: The brief moments the Avengers were placed into artificial fantasies inside the pyramid, were not so brief as they seemed: they were weeks in them, and in that time Kang had already conquered Earth.