FULL SPOILERS AHEAD
You would kind of think that “What If Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?” would be one of the first episodes of the series, since the first full trailer for the show opened with that moment. But nope! The episode that effectively nullifies the entire MCU comes two-thirds of the way through the first season. Not that I’m complaining, as the first 5 episodes have some really solid entries. But I just really wanted to see more Killmonger, you know?
This episode opens at the beginning of Iron Man with the Ten Rings’ attack on Tony Stark (once again voiced by Mr. Mick Wingert). But instead of taking shrapnel to the heart, he’s rescued by Erik Stevens, AKA Killmonger (Michael B Jordan). Like, you have “Killmonger” on your uniform? Okay, sure. Erik proves he’s a great choice for Tony’s bodyguard by publicly exposing Obadiah Stane as responsible for the attack on Tony, resolving the conflict of Iron Man without Tony having a change of heart and building the Iron Man suit. Erik brings up an idea he had to create mechs that would replace soldiers, and Tony jumps at the chance to build them. While that’s going on, Pepper Potts (voiced by Beth Hoyt) is suspicious of Killmonger and shares her thoughts with James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle). Rhodey gets more involved in the story when Erik suggests using vibranium to finish the robots, and having someone official deal with Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) would give the shady transaction some legitimacy. Too bad the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) tries to stop the sale, and too bad Killmonger planned for this! He kills Rhodey and T’Challa, making it look like the prince of Wakanda killed the US soldier. This escalates to war with Stark and Killmonger’s robots being used as troops against the African nation. That’s when Killmonger pulls the same move he did in Black Panther: killing Klaue and bringing his corpse to Wakanda as a sign of good faith. Without T’Challa and with Shuri still a young girl–these events would take place around the time of Iron Man (2008) while we first met a young adult Shuri in Black Panther (2018)–he faces a lot less suspicion from Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and T’Chaka (John Kani). Doesn’t stop Shuri from having doubts, though. Killmonger successfully plays the two nations against each other, helping to destroy the robot army he secretly controls in order to become the new Black Panther and a hero to Wakanda. And in an attempt to have a full downer ending, Shuri sneaks off to America to meet with Pepper Potts, planning on doing something about Killmonger.
Erik Stevens is one of the best villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer, full stop. I personally think he’s the best, but a lot of online lists put Thanos at the top spot because of the whole “effectively killing half the universe for five years” thing. We knew from Black Panther that his power grab in Wakanda worked fairly well–and he would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for that meddling T’Challa not dying–but everything is practically in easy mode after Killmonger manipulated Tony Stark into building a robot army primed for war. It’s definitely a plan that thrives in a fictional universe–nothing every goes that smoothly unless the script needs it to, and life doesn’t really follow a script–but it was just nice in general to see more of the character.
And we’re primed to see even more of him, potentially! The mid-season trailer for What If…? dropped after this episode and all but confirmed that there will be another episode where the characters from the various stories will come together. T’Challa as Star-Lord is front and center, and the group shot also included Captain Carter from “What If Captain Carter were the First Avenger?” as well as a post-apocalyptic Black Widow (possibly from after the events of “What If the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”), Gamora in new armor, and Thor in the background. In addition to seeing more of Dark Strange from “What If Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”, one shot showed an armed Pepper and Shuri rushing somewhere with the Dora Milaje, something that did not happen in this episode. We don’t any new scenes of Killmonger in the trailer and Michael B Jordan’s IMDB page doesn’t list any upcoming episodes, but that doesn’t mean he won’t come back. The odds are better than him appearing in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, so take that as you will.
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