Today’s episode of Marvel’s What If…? was one fans have been waiting to see since the animated anthology show was announced. As inspired by the Marvel Zombies comics, it explores a reality where many of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have become the Earth’s Hungriest Undead, though some Avengers remain standing in this hellish alternate universe. One of those who had a prominent role in the episode was Spider-Man, and it found room to dig into Peter Parker’s past better than the MCU has ever done before.
After Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) gets infected with the virus, Peter (Hudson Thames, replacing Tom Holland) tries to cheer her up. She asks him how he remains so “upbeat” in the face of adversity. The teen hero answers “practice, I guess”, going on to reference how he lost a lot of people in his life, but his Aunt May always told him “If we can’t keep smiling when they can’t, then we might as well be gone too.”
When it comes to mentioning those he’s lost, Peter specifically name-checks his “mom, dad, Uncle Ben [and] Mr. Stark.” Yes, not only is that the franchise’s first reference to his parents, that’s the very first time Spidey’s beloved uncle has been referenced in dialogue anywhere in the MCU. There have been vague allusions to him and his death before now, but Marvel’s keenness to avoid rehashing what other Spider-Man movies have tackled meant Ben was never brought up directly. At last, now he has.
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The erasure of Uncle Ben, in favor of bolstering Peter’s father-son bond with Iron Man, has long been controversial with fans. But this brief name-drop in What If…? suggests Ben might be inserted into the MCU retroactively, given the importance he usually has in Peter’s life in future movies. Maybe he could even get another nod in this December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. Even if he doesn’t, though, at least a long-standing oversight has finally been corrected.
What If…? continues next Wednesday on Disney Plus.