He Who Remains: The Survivor at the End of Time?
Examine this lingering mystery of the Marvel Universe with his comics history.
In the long timeline of the Marvel Universe, fans have witnessed the war between Kang the Conqueror and his future self, Immortus, play out for decades. And in the background, the Time-Keepers have alternately been Immortus’ masters (or enemies) depending on his relationship to Kang. But there’s yet one more player in this cosmic game that we know very little about: He Who Remains.
In the vast library of comics on Marvel Unlimited, there are clues that can shed some light on He Who Remains—who he is, what he actually wants, and what his existence means for the Multiverse.
WHO IS HE WHO REMAINS?
In THOR (1966) #245, Thor: God of Thunder, Jane Foster, and their companions travelled to the Citadel at the End of Time in a bid to prevent the existence of the Time-Twisters. That’s where they encountered He Who Remains. By his own admission, He Who Remains is the last of his race and the only guardian left at eternity’s end.
It was also established that He Who Remains was the final director of the Time Variance Authority. That implies that he is human, but without proof, it’s just speculation.
IS HE WHO REMAINS A VARIANT OF KANG OR IMMORTUS?
No, although this is a popular theory.
The alternate reality story, told in UNIVERSE X (2000) #9, put forth the notion that He Who Remains is a “being who was there at the beginning,” and is guaranteed to be there when “all things end.” What is confirmed is that He Who Remains is the creator of the Time-Keepers, the enigmatic beings who bent Immortus to their will late in his life.
WHAT DOES HE WHO REMAINS WANT?
He Who Remains isn’t out to save the universe, because it will always come to an end. Instead, He Who Remains wants to pass on the collective knowledge of this universe to the universe that will replace it in the hopes that the new inhabitants won’t make the same mistakes as their predecessors.
That was the reason why He Who Remains created the Time-Keepers. But in some outcomes, the creatures are born as the Time-Twisters, a dangerous trio who traveled backwards in time and left destruction in their wake. Jane Foster and Thor were able to convince He Who Remains to prevent the creation of the Time-Twisters, which in turn changed their own history. In the current timeline, Thor and Jane’s journey to the future was erased, and thus they never met He Who Remains.
WHAT ARE HE WHO REMAINS’ POWERS?
It’s unknown if He Who Remains has any powers of his own, although he was able to subdue Thor and hold him at bay. Given his ability to create the lifeforms that become the Time-Keepers (or the Time-Twisters depending on the timeline), it suggests that He Who Remains has access to technology far beyond the comprehension of current humanity.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TIME-KEEPERS AND THE TIME-TWISTERS?
The Time-Twisters have no mandate to guard the flow of time, and they have mercilessly attacked innocent people in their rampage. The Time-Keepers aren’t exactly angels either. In AVENGERS FOREVER (1998), the Time-Keepers ordered Immortus to eliminate timelines in which humanity became a threat to the larger universe. They went even further by attempting to change all timelines in order to prevent humanity from ever leaving Earth and exploring the cosmos. Even Immortus balked at that, and sided against his teachers. In retaliation, the Time-Keepers murdered Immortus and tried to advance Kang’s timeline instead.
To everyone’s surprise, the Time-Keepers’ machinations allowed Kang and Immortus to exist as two separate variants. Kang’s future is no longer tied to Immortus, as far as we know.
WHAT ABOUT THE FOURTH TIME-KEEPER?
As revealed in Marvel Knights’ 4 (2004) #16, there is a fourth Time-Keeper who was also created by He Who Remains. This Time-Keeper is separated from his siblings and stranded in ancient Egypt as the Oracle of Siwa. It’s unknown why the fourth Time-Keeper was exiled, but he did provide information to the Fantastic Four which helped them defeat their enemy Ramades, the son of Kang.
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