FULL SPOILERS AHEAD
In the comics, What If? stories don’t typically have happy endings. Sure, there are exceptions like “What If the Thing Had Continued to Mutate?” in What If? #37 (1983) where Ben Grimm ends the story back in his human body and his girlfriend regained her ability to see. But in that same issue, “What If the Beast Had Truly Become a Beast?” sees Hank McCoy get dropped off in the Savage Land–a jungle filled with dinosaurs–because he had lost all of his intelligence and humanity. The first two episodes of What If…? definitely had their sad moments, but things generally worked out better than in the MCU. Peggy Carter had the training to better foil Hydra, and T’Challa had the charisma to change the universe. But then we have this episode, “What If the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” which is a murder mystery. The victims? Just about every Avenger. Better grab a flashlight, ’cause it’s about to get real dark!
The episode opens to a familiar scene from Iron Man 2 of Nick Fury (Mr. Samuel L Jackson) and Black Widow (voiced by Lake Bell) meeting up with a palladium poisoned Iron Man (voiced by Mick Wingert). The difference comes when Natasha injects the temporary cure in Tony’s neck, but it kills him instantly. Whoops. Nick believes Widow is innocent, but she’s arrested nonetheless. Sure, she just about immediately breaks out, but still. We then cut to a scene from Thor, where an unworthy Odinson is breaking into a makeshift SHIELD base to take back Mjolnir. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has his arrow trained on the intruder but instead of watching Odinson fail to pick up his hammer, this time Clint shoots the Asgardian in the chest, killing him instantly. Hawkeye insists he didn’t fire, but the arrow missing from his bow says otherwise. Not that Fury and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) can get any information out of the archer, as he’s found dead in his cell shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, Widow meets up with Betty Ross (voiced by Stephanie Panisello) to see how the injection killed Tony Stark. Turns out the serum never reached Iron Man and he was killed by some sort of tiny projectile bursting out of the needle. If you’re like me, things just clicked into place. But before Natasha can do anything with that information, we get reminded that she’s currently in a scene from The Incredible Hulk when General Ross storms the college campus for Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, even though Edward Norton was the Hulk actor at that time). A fight with the Hulk breaks out, but ends when the jade giant explodes and dies. While that mess is happening, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) shows up on Earth with an army of Asgardians–and also Sif (Jaimie Alexander)–seeking vengeance for Thor’s death. Fury negotiates for more time, but the mystery of who killed four would-be Avengers is still a problem. Well, five, as Black Widow is killed after discovering something, managing to get a call to Nick Fury before her death and telling him, “It’s all about Hope!” Subtitles didn’t help the mystery by capitalizing “Hope,” but by this point I already figured that the murderer was Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), AKA the original Ant-Man (you know, from Ant-Man). Turns out in this universe, Hope Van Dyne was a SHIELD agent who died on a mission near Odessa. Put a pin in that. Having lost all of his family because of SHIELD, Hank decided to get revenge by killing everyone on Fury’s Avengers Initiative list. Fury gets confronted by a completely deranged Pym–wearing the Yellowjacket armor to I guess show how twisted he’s become–but Fury’s fighting abilities make it pretty clear to us that this is really Loki messing with his brother’s murderer. Pym is arrested, but Loki decides to stay a while on Earth. The next day he delivers a speech to the world saying all the various nations have bowed down to him, making him ruler of Earth. We were made to be ruled, I guess. Fury ends the episode with five heroes dead, but hope remains–ha–as he finds a still frozen Captain America right as Captain Marvel returns to Earth.
This is my favorite episode yet. It’s only the third so that’s not a huge deal, but this was a sprawling episode. I mentioned in the post about The Incredible Hulk that there was an MCU digital comic tie-in called The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week that showed The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor all happened in the same week, and this episode confirms that. On top of that, we get Hank Pym from Ant-Man, some nods to Captain Marvel, and Hope’s death in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Oh, right, the Odessa pin. Remember in The Winter Soldier when Natasha tells Steve what she knows of the titular assassin, saying she encountered him outside of Odessa while escorting a nuclear engineer? The implication here is that instead of Natasha Romanoff going on that mission, in this universe the task was given to Agent Hope Van Dyne, who clearly didn’t make it. This episode also let us see Hank Pym in the throes of madness, something the Ant-Man movies vaguely hinted at but is a sizable part of his character in the comics. The whole episode was a treat to a nerd like me!
I think we’ve met most of the replacement Avengers voice actors by this point. In “What If Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?” we had Josh Keaton as Steve Rogers, and in this episode we had Mick Wingert as Tony Stark and Lake Bell as Black Widow. And from what I’ve heard, those are all good replacements–I especially think Lake Bell really does a good Scarlet Johansson impression. But on the flip side, some of the regular actors didn’t switch to voice acting very well. “What If T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” had Benecio Del Toro sound not at all like himself, and in this episode Jeremy Renner sounded very… off. Michael Rooker sounded a little off as Yondu, but not as bad as those two. Voice acting has different challenges compared to “regular” acting, so not everyone’s going to make the transition all that well. It just sucks that we have actors known for the role not sounding like, well… themselves. A very minor issue, but one that mars an otherwise great episode.
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