Thanos (Josh Brolin) was a dark mirror of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in the MCU, and that suggests a good reason for Steve Rogers’ Captain America (Chris Evans) to return and face off with Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). Iron Man and Captain America were, above all others, the two leading Avengers throughout the MCU’s first three phases, but only one paid with his life to defeat Thanos. That means, somewhat inevitably, there will always be questions surrounding Evans’ MCU return and what role Steve could play in the future.
In fairness, death hasn’t stopped those same questions lingering over Downey Jr. returning as Iron Man as well. The Multiverse Saga, and the looming Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars in particular, mean there’s at least a chance one, if not both, could make a huge return to the MCU. But because of how Iron Man’s battle with Thanos went – and the similarities between the two characters – then it’s Captain America coming back against Kang that feels both more plausible and pertinent.
Related: MCU Theory: Kang The Conqueror Pays Off Captain America’s Story
Avengers Endgame Iron Man Soul World Thanos
Iron Man may be the defining hero of the MCU, but he has major parallels with its defining villain, Thanos. They may have used their power to very different ends, but both were egomaniacs who believed that they above all others could protect or save the world (and universe) from the biggest threats facing it. That manifested in Iron Man using his suits and other resources to do more than he thought any individual Avenger could: Iron Legion and Ultron. For Thanos, it was destroying half of all life. Interestingly, both attempted to outsource this – a suit of armor around the world; Loki – but it fell to the pair to see it through.
Thanos himself calls out the dark parallels with Iron Man in Avengers: Infinity War, telling him they are both “cursed by knowledge.” Each had a unique insight into what was coming. The Battle of New York irrevocably changed Tony, because he had such first-hand knowledge of what they were dealing with. Likewise, Thanos saw the fall of his home planet, and vowed to restore balance. They aren’t just two people cursed by knowledge, but scarred by it, driven by it, perhaps even consumed by it. With that, it’s fitting while Thanos did the first Snap, Iron Man did the last, completing the parallel and proving the Mad Titan was his ultimate villain.
Steve Rogers & Kang Parallel Means Their Fight Should Happen
Chris Evans as old Steve Rogers in Endgame and Jonathan Majors as Kang in Ant-Man and the wasp Quantumania
With Thanos’ parallels making him Iron Man’s ultimate villain, then the same could be true of Steve Rogers and Kang the Conqueror. As Captain America, Steve’s MCU arc was defined by being a man out of time. Frozen for 70 years, Steve was transported to a world he hardly knew. It was one he had to defend and learned to love, but not where he truly belonged, which is why Avengers: Endgame’s ending had him going back in time, giving him the thing he had lost the most. That’s not just Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), or even just more time, but specifically his time.
In that sense, Kang serves as a mirror to Steve Rogers (and Kang is obsessed with Captain America in the comics). As a time traveling villain, he is also a character whose entire journey is (or will be) built around the idea of him being out of time, but welcomes it rather than struggles with it. Like Thanos in contrast to Iron Man, he uses this to very different ends to Captain America, but in a sense each uses time travel for their ultimate happy ending: Steve with Peggy, and Kang to conquer the multiverse.
Related: How Phase 2 Made Iron Man Thanos’ True MCU Nemesis
Iron Man was the perfect hero to deal the fatal blow (or snap) against Thanos because of their parallels, adding greater meaning to the moment and paying off their similarities and respective arcs. The same could hold true of Steve and Kang: a man out of time, having to be dragged out of it yet again, in order to defeat the person who wants to control all of it; the man who restored order to the MCU timeline versus the one who’d plunge it into chaos again. It would be one last moment of complete selfless heroism from Steve, allowing for both an epic return and a moment of real poignancy.
A Steve Rogers vs. Kang fight wouldn’t necessarily have to undo his Endgame ending either. That was undoubtedly a perfect conclusion for his journey, but the nature of Kang and messing with timelines means a Steve could be plucked out of his happy time and, once Kang is defeated (as he will eventually be in some way), returned to it. Similarly, Kang could face him in that timeline – he is known as a time traveling and conquering villain after all, so it would make sense for at least some of his story to happen in the MCU’s past.
Will Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers Ever Actually Return To The MCU?
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers looking up in Captain America Civil War
Although there’s certainly a story motivation to bring Steve Rogers back, there’s a big question of will it happen – or more specifically, if Chris Evans will return to the MCU. While Endgame was initially presented as an ending for his character, it was telling left open-ended enough that a return could happen if both Marvel and Evans are up for it. Since then, there have been various reports and comments about it – one claimed the actor was going to be involved again, but Evans denied an MCU return was happening.
That’s the case as it stands, with Marvel instead focused on Captain America: New World Order, which will star Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, the new Captain America. It makes sense that would be Marvel’s priority, since establishing Sam as Captain America was a key part of Phase 4 and will be again in MCU Phase 5, something Evans’ return would get in the way of. But the Avengers movies are different. They will be bigger – likely even bigger than both Infinity War and Endgame – and the potential with timelines and multiverses means an expectation of multiple returning faces, both from the MCU and pre-dating it (e.g. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man).
Related: Kang The Conqueror Proves Vision Was Right In Captain America: Civil War
Evans returning as Steve Rogers to fight Kang would be one of the biggest cards Marvel could play. It would likely be a one-off, meaning Evans wouldn’t be attached to multiple movies and, done right, could close off his arc again. Evans has said he misses playing Captain America, and while it may be presumptive, it’s not a stretch to imagine he could be tempted back to the MCU with the right project. From Marvel’s point-of-view, meanwhile, it would be a no-brainer given the hype it would generate. It will remain to be seen for some time if Evans comes back, but Steve Rogers vs. Kang the Conqueror would be a worthy reason to return.