Marvel’s What If..? comics are known for their willingness to get depressing. Many issues wonder what’d happen if a hero died in a key encounter or some unexpected tragedy hit the Marvel Universe. So far, the Disney Plus show has been relatively upbeat, but this week’s episode has delved deep into the comics’ inspiration by asking ‘What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?’.
This turns out to mean that almost all the original Avengers are horribly murdered. Tony Stark is killed by Black Widow’s injection to cure his Palladium poisoning, Thor is shot by Hawkeye just as he’s about to retrieve Mjolnir, Hulk expands and explodes, Hawkeye just straight-up dies, and Black Widow is beaten to death by an unknown assailant. The culprit? Hank Pym, driven insane by the death of his daughter Hope van Dyne on a S.H.I.E.L.D. operation.
Those who’d become accustomed to cheerier stories were surprised, shocked, and amused. Here’s a taste of the reactions:
Like every episode so far, I found myself wishing we could see a follow-up and find out what happens to Earth after this. Now that Loki has successfully taken over Earth, he’ll likely be in opposition to Thanos, who might send Ronan the Accuser to conquer the planet in an alt-Battle of New York.
Resisting all that would be a very different Avengers team led by Captains America and Marvel, who could recruit versions of Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and Yelena.
Season two is already confirmed, so we may yet find out the official answer. In the meantime, I’m hyped for next week’s episode focusing on Doctor Strange and Spider-Man. This may point the way to their relationship in Spider-Man: No Way Home, though preview images suggest that Spidey is due to pick up some magical skills along the way.
What If..? airs Wednesdays on Disney Plus.