Possible MCU What If…? Episodes To Consider

The new animated Disney+ TV show What If…? is a dream come true for fans of the Marvel Comics and especially the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as it explores alternate timelines in the MCU. The possibilites are endless over what the show can cover based on the many ways events could have played out in the MCU films. Here are ten possible What If…? episodes for the showrunners of What If…? to consider at some point, in no particular order.

What if Iron Man formed the Guardians of the Galaxy?

At the end of The Avengers, Iron Man/Tony Stark was nearly stranded and left for dead in outer space when he used the wormhole over New York City to divert the nuclear missle launched at the city. Luckily, he fell back to Earth before the wormhole closed, but what would have happened if he was a second too late? Sure, he would have been killed in the explosion, but let’s imagine he survived. What would Stark do in outer space, stranded light years from home? Well, he could have gone on to form allies, possibly Peter Quill or Yondu, and create an earlier version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. As the recent episode of What If…? that showed what would have happened if T’Challa became Star-Lord, the outer space events could have radically changed thanks to Tony Stark’s presence. Imagine the endless quips and putdowns between Iron Man and Star-Lord as we saw in Avengers: Infinity War!

What if Spider-Man did not join Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War?

Spider-Man/Peter Parker made his scene-stealing MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War when Tony Stark recruited him to join his side against Captain America. But what would have happened if Stark never approached Peter? Or Peter turned him down? For one, he would still be in his homemade spider costume and his demeanor would be less of an Iron Man, Jr. as many rightfully complain about. Spider-Man’s personna would have more accurately matched his comic book personna where he operates as a sarcastic loner. Imagine if he joined Captain America instead. How would he have dealt with the Sokovia Accords? Such an episode would show Spider-Man being pursued and hunted by law enforcement as in the earler Spider-Man comics and be more mistrusted by the public.

What if Star-Lord did not lash out at Thanos?

There are many fans who berated Star-Lord/Peter Quill for ruining the heroes’ chance to disarm Thanos on the planet Titan during Avengers: Infinity War. The Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man had Thanos on the ropes and were trying to yank off the Infinity Guantlet from Thanos’ hand. But after Quill learned that Thanos killed his beloved Gamora, he lashed out at Thanos and this led to the Thanos recovering and ultimately defeating the heroes. Some griped that Star-Lord ruined the best chance to defeat Thanos, but was it? Remember that earlier in the film, Doctor Strange observed several million future possibilites and noted they would lose except for one occasion. So, even if the heroes managed to yank the Infinity Guantlet from Thanos, it does not necessarily mean they would have ultimately prevail against Thanos.

What if the Hulk never left Earth after Avengers: Age of Ultron?

Following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron a despondent Hulk left the team in an Avengers Quinjet and apparently disappeared. It turned out the Quinjet fell into a wormhole and was deposited in the distant planet Sakaar where the Hulk became a gladiator hero. But what would have happened if the Hulk never left Earth? Who would Thor have faced in Thor: Ragnarok? Beta Ray Bill? Korg? How would that film have turned out if there was no Hulk? Then there is the fact that Hulk would be still be around this world during the events of Captain America: Civil War. Which side would he be on and would he be a catalyst for the war? It’s a given one rampage too many could have led to the Sokovia Accords happening sooner. Then again, he may have adopted the Professor Hulk identity at an earlier date and had a positive impact in the Civl War. There is also his romantic relationship with Black Widow, would they still be an item?

What if Ant-Man was not stranded in the Quantum Realm?

Ant-Man/Scott Lang was very pivotal to the plot of Avengers: Endgame. When he was stranded in the Quantum Realm at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp, he probably avoided being a victim of the Snap. When he re-emerged five years later and realized time passed differently for him in the realm, he gave the surviving Avengers the idea to use time travel to create their own Infinity Gauntlet and undo the Snap. If he emerged from the Quantum Realm seconds before the Snap would he too have been erased? If not, how would he have factored into the storyline of Avengers: Endgame and how would the heroes gone on to undo the Snap? If anything a What If…? episode about this premise would demonstrate Scott’s importance to the MCU.

What if the survivors of Avengers: Infinity War were Snapped instead?

If Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, most of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Wasp, the second generation Avengers, and others were not Snapped and the OG Avengers, Captain Marvel, Rocket, Valkyrie and Nebula were instead, how would that situation have played out after Avengers: Infinity War? Could the alternate rag tag Avengers have taken on Thanos? Perhaps they would have reached Thanos’ farm planet sooner before he could destroy the Infinity Stones and defeated him. Or there still could have been a five-year time jump as the heroes concocted a scheme based on mysticism (thanks to Doctor Strange) to defeat the Mad Titan and undo the Snap. Clearly, this alternate take of Avengers: Endgame would be wildly different. There are tons of YouTube videos imagining this premise and it can go in so many ways. Check out one of them below.

What if Project: Insight in Captain America: The Winter Soldier succeeded?

The nefarious plot by Hydra to preemptively wipe out their current and future threats using S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers was nearly pulled off in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon and their allies did not stop them the consequences would have been terrible as many MCU heroes like Iron Man and Doctor Strange would have been killed along with millions of victims. How could Captain America and his friends recover and avenge the fallen? That is if they even survived. This What If…? episode could see the birth of a new team of Avengers featuring other heores like the Eternals or Black Panther to take on Hydra and help rebuild the world.

What if Thor became King of Asgard in the first Thor film?

As the saying goes, timing is everything. In Thor, the arrogant title character was about to ascend to the throne of Asgard in a ceremony but then a group of Frost Giants attacked his father Odin’s Vault, which stopped the ceremony. Thor was so headstrong that he led an attack against the Frost Giants in their world that led to his being banished to Earth by Odin. But what if he was crowned the king before the attack? As the ruler of Asgard how would Thor react to the Frost Giants? Would Odin stand by as the new ruler of Asgard waged all-out war against the Frost Giants? And what would Loki be doing? Given his scheming nature, he would be trying to undermine his brother Thor and even attempt to assassinate him so he could take the throne. Also, would Thor’s preoccupation with the throne prevent him from helping to form the Avengers? There are so many intriguing ways this alternate MCU timeline could develop.

What if T’Challa was actually killed in Black Panther?

Black Panther/T’Challa was defeated by Eric Killmonger in ritual combat during the Black Panther film and Killmonger briefly became the ruler of the African kingdom, Wakanda. In the fight, Killmonger threw T’Challa over a waterfall and left him for dead, but T’Challa was later found and revived. What if this did not happen? Killmonger would have carried out his mad plan to attack the outside world for conquest. Could he have succeeded? Yes, he did have the advanced Wakandan technology, but the outside world by this time had considerable sources including superheroes. At the time of the film, the Avengers had broken up, but Killmonger’s war could be the catalyst to get them to reunite and just in time to face Thanos’ forces in Avengers: Infinity War. Or if they failed, how would the world face the Mad Titan when he finally arrived?

What if Baron Mordo became the Sorcerer Supreme instead of Doctor Strange?

The original What if…? comic book series explored a similar premise in issue #40, What if Doctor Strange had not become the Master of the Mystic Arts? The What if…? episode could follow this idea with its own take. Conceited neurosurgeon Stephen Strange never gets involved in the car accident that mangles his hands and leads him to change his ways and become a sorcerer. Or he dies in the accident. Strange is taken out of the equation, and Baron Mordo remains the Ancient One’s best disciple. Would he takeover for the Ancient One after she dies and how would he fare against Kaecilius? Could he defeat him or be clever enough to trick Dormammu as Strange did? Is he worthy enough to be the Sorcerer Supreme? Perhaps he could have and it would be interesting to see Mordo being the hero in the episode.

These are just some ideas for future episodes of the MCU What If…? Anyone else have other ideas for possible episodes? Be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts!

José Soto

Invincible Is Incredible!

Anyone unfamiliar with the Robert Kirkman Image Comics series Invincible might find the first episode of the animated TV Show Invincible to be your typical superhero yarn. It starts out generic enough except for some wittier than normal dialogue; Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) a young teenage son of the world’s mightiest hero, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons), develops his own superpowers and juggles teenage life with learning to be superhero called Invincible. Adding to the familiarity is that Omni-Man is clearly inspired by Superman and his comrades in the superhero team, the Guardians of the Globe, are stand-ins for the Justice League.

Then the first episode concluded, and Invincible veered off violently into a completely new direction. Fans of the comic book series should enjoy the adaptation now streaming on Amazon Prime, since it is fairly faithful with a few differences as to the timing of certain character developments and events.

Without going into spoilers, the plot lines in the show are surprising as are the revelations about certain characters. For instance, in the episode “That Actually Hurt” Invincible is convinced to help a low-level supervillain to take out a dangerous criminal kingpin. What followed was one of the most wincing and savage fights as Invincible and his allies are nearly killed by the kingpin’s hired supervillains. But as graphic and epic the fights were what was more shocking were the final reveals which called into question Mark’s judgement.

Invincible is decidedly not for children as it is brutally violent in the vein of The Boys but in a more graphic extreme since the show is not limited by a live-action budget. In fact, some may complain Invincible may be too graphic with its violence. However, the show shows just enough restraint to keep it from going overboard.

As violent as the show is, it takes a mature approach to its character development. Mark goes through the well-known but perfectly executed tropes of a teenage superhero which explore the headaches of having a secret identity as his busy superhero life interferes with his ability to hold down a job or being honest with this girlfriend Amber (Zazie Beetz) or his growing relationship with Omni-Man and his perfectly normal mother (Sandra Oh). To the show’s credit, the characters are well explored and are captivating.

The secondary characters such as demon investigator Damien Darkblood (Clancy Brown), Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), Cecil Stedman (Walton Goggins), and Robot (Zachary Quinto) sometimes outshine the main characters. Damien is an interesting combo of John Constantine, Hellboy and DC’s the Demon. Atom Eve/Samantha Wilkins is a classmate of Mark and has an existential crisis over whether or not to remain a superhero or do meaningful work to help people. The stoic Robot trains the new version of the Guardians, but exhibits a surprising humanity, both good and bad and his final revelation was a genuine surprise. Meanwhile, Cecil is a dark yet humane version of Nick Fury and runs a super secret government organization that supports and monitors superhumans. It is very easy for viewers to get invested in these characters’ arcs and with minor appearances from other characters. One stand out was Allen the Alien (Seth Rogen), who becomes a relatable friend to Mark after the two initially fought on the moon. The actor’s easygoing, stoner vibe was emanated in his voice performance which made Allen so likeable.

Rather than mocking its superhero tropes, Invincible embraces them. It actually feels like a comic book while at the same time it functions as a deconstruction of the supehero genre.

To be honest, Invincible is not for everyone. The graphic violence can be offputting and the animation is not the most sophisticated, though its well done. The fact that the first episode “It’s About Time” feels like a retread of a Justice League story may lull people into thinking they’ve seen this before. But stick with the episode to the end. If the shock twist is not enticing enough to learn more about the show, then move on. Otherwise, sit back and explore the refreshing and hard-edged world of Invincible. By the time, the final episode “Where I Really Come From” is watched, viewers will be desperate to find out what happens next. Thankfully, Amazon Prime renewed Invincible for two more seasons.

Star Trek: Lower Decks Lacks Humor & Wit

Trek Lower Decks poster

The newest Star Trek TV series, Star Trek: Lower Decks, is the first animated Trek series since the 1970s and while that old show for the most part lived up to Star Trek, this animated show does not, unfortunately. There are many reasons why Star Trek: Lower Decks is just not up to par with Trek standards, but the most glaring is with its humor, or lack of.

Star Trek: Lower Decks, which streams on the CBS All Access app, was promoted as a comedy that takes place on the starship Cerritos, an unexceptional Starfleet ship assigned to mundane missions throughout Federation space . The show focuses on a crew of young Starfleet ensigns who for the most part dream of being promoted to senior officers while burdened with humdrum tasks like cleaning the holodeck, changing carbon filters and so on. The problem is the show just is not funny.

It tries its best, sometimes too hard, to be humorous and slapsticky, but at best the show elicits a few chuckles or wry smiles that only Trek fans can appreciate. The show is saddled with trying to be funny while telling traditional Star Trek stories and the tone winds up being very inconsistent. Some story lines are kind of interesting and could have worked in a normal Star Trek episode but then they gets thrown off with uninspired sight gags and jokes that are not especially witty and ruin the story. Take for instance this episode called “Moist Vessel”. The Cerritos is supposed to tow an ancient generational ship that has a substance that turns inorganic material into organic ones, which would be useful for terraforming purposes. This substance is accidently unleashed on the Cerritos and uncontrolled growths of organic material threatens the ship. This would have worked in a regular Star Trek episode, but in this case the plot is used for cheap laughs, though it did provide a platform for some character study.

mariner and boimler

As for the characters, they are not outstanding except for Ensign Mariner (Tawny Newsome). Unlike her overeager shipmates, she is more of a disillusioned slacker who complains nons-stop about Starfleet life. This is an interesting way to go for a Star Trek character, except it leaves you wondering why does she still stay onboard the ship? Why not just quit Starfleet? How is it she is still allowed to remain on the ship? For that last question, there is more to her story; her mother is the captain of the Cerritos and she is especially hard on Mariner, but that is about it. Her partner is an overeager and over-annoying Ensin named Boimler (Jack Quaid whose talents are better used in The Boys), who comes off as those petty buttkissers that no one likes, so it he is hard to empathize with. There are a few more ensigns who are alien or enhanced with cybernetic parts, but they do not stand out at all.

Star Trek: Lower Decks would have benefitted with wittier and funnier scripts that went all out and perhaps even meta. Perhaps a different animation style would have served it better because right now the show looks so cartoony that you expect it to be stuffed to the bulkheads with outrageous, LOL moments and jokes or even oulandish scenes that would have been too expensive to film in live action.

The show is not the worse thing out there and some revamping would salvage the endeavor. It does have potential, so it may be worth keeping an eye on. However, if fans want something to tide them over in between regular Trek productions like Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery, they are better off watching The Orville, at least that show has better wit, humor and characters.

 

 

In Memoriam: Chadwick Boseman, Forever The Black Panther

King T'Challa

We are still in shock and grieving over the death a couple of days ago of actor Chadwick Boseman. Most of us in the geek community best knew of him from his playing the Marvel Comics superhero, Black Panther, in a few films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Of course, Chadwick Boseman contributed much more to acting besides King T’Challa of the fictional African nation Wakanda. He became prominent in the acting role for his breakout performance as Jackie Robinson in 42 and had distinguished roles such as portraying Thurgood Marshall in Marshall and James Brown in Get On Up. Boseman achieved superstardom when he was cast to play Prince (later King) T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War and in his own film Black Panther in 2018.

The cultural impact Black Panther had was revolutionary thanks to Chadwick’s measured and dignified performance. Even during his debut in Captain America: Civil War, Boseman exhibited a quiet sense of royalty and gravitas as his character was conflicted over the killing of his father. He also projected natural leadership and honor when he starred in Black Panther and later MCU films. As we know, Black Panther was a huge box office hit and reverberated in the cultural zeitgeist in that it was a wildly successful superhero film that featured Black characters in prominent roles. This was remarkable given the hesistancy of the head of Marvel Entertainment (Ike Perlmutter) to greenlight MCU films starring people of color and women, because he believed they would not be successful. That struggle to bring Black Panther and his futuristic kingdom to life was justly vindicated by the mammoth success of Black Panther.

black panther at wakanda

Boseman appeared again as T’Challa later in the year in the MCU epic film Avengers: Infinity War and last year in Avengers: Endgame. A sequel to Black Panther was announced last year but its production status was unknown because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the film was expected to be released in 2022; in the meantime, Boseman provided voice work for the same character in the upcoming animated series What If…where his episode would examine what if he became Star-Lord instead of Black Panther. At this point, it is unknown if a sequel to Black Panther will ever happen. It probably will with either T’Challa recast or with another character assuming the role of the Black Panther. The Marvel comics and the MCU films established that other people assumed the mantle of Black Panther.

The sudden news of Chadwick Boseman passing away hit many of us hard because of his young age (43) and the fact that he passed away after battling colon cancer for four years. Boseman looked healthy and fit in his appearances, which is why his death was so shocking. His burden as he portrayed the mighty T’Challa in Black Panther and other MCU films was truly remarkable in that he was able to continue his role while he underwent treatment while none of us were aware of his battle.

As we mourn his death and ponder what might have been, it is important to commemorate the man for his contributions and honor his memory. Another may take over the mantle of the protector of Wakanda but Chadwick Boseman will never be forgotten.

tchalla wakanda forever

Wakanda Forever.

 

DC FanDome Brings The DC Universe To Fans

 

We were robbed of Comic-Con this year thanks to the ongoing pandemic (the less said about their virtual convention, the better). However, comic book and DC fans were entreated to the virtual event DC FanDome which showcase all that is going on with the DC Universe in comics, film, TV, video games and much more.

There were many highlights in the virtual event and many avenues for fans to explore. Visiting the website, one could see there were different sections to view such as the Hall of Heroes, WatchVerse, KidsVerse, InsiderVerse, and so on. The most talked about highlights of course were the exclusive looks at the upcoming DC films and TV shows seen in the Hall of Heroes. For example, we were treated with a new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 and a glimpse at Wonder Woman’s chief villain, the Cheetah (a bit too CGish but that’s fine). Other clicks revealed the first look at the re-designed Flash suit for the upcoming film of the Scarlet Speedster. Looking at the sleeker suit, it is obvious the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) version of the Flash was clearly inspired by his brief encounter with The CW version of the Flash as seen in his cameo in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” TV crossover event. Frankly, the new suit is a great improvement as it looks more aerodynamic and befitting of the character.

There also was a lively panel of The Suicide Squad hosted by the film’s director, James Gunn. For the first time the roster of supervillains was revealed and what a motley crew! Leave it to Gunn to pick some of the most obscure and goofy villains for The Suicide Squad. Comic book speculators and collectors will have their hands full trying to hunt down the comics that debuted the likes of the Polka-Dot Man or the Weasel. The panel itself was quite funny and gives fans who were disappointed by the previous Suicide Squad that the sequel will be injected with James Gunn’s humor and be reverant to the original comic book as he promised in the panel.

The suicide squad panel

Director Zack Snyder presided over a presentation of his original vision for Justice League. Featuring appearances from the film’s stars like Ben Affleck (who made news recently when it was revealed he would reprise his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming film, The Flash) and Henry Cavill, who looked really buffed out–a hint that he will return to the DCEU as Superman? After taking questions from fans who championed for his original cut, Zack Snyder unveiled a teaser trailer for Justice League. What stood out is the huge amount of original footage including a new and better version of Steppenwolf, Darkseid and Superman in his black suit. With a running time of four hours, the original vision of Justice League promises to be a true superhero epic.

The other big movie news was the premiere trailer for next year’s film The Batman. What can be said that has not already been written online about this first look at the new Batman film? As it has been said everywhere, this film looks awesome. Easily one of the most anticipated films next year, The Batman seems to be a spiritual successor to the Christopher Nolan Batman films, especially Batman Begins. The film looks gritty and promises to be more of a crime thriller peppered with intimidating scenes with the Caped Crusader.

Aside from giving us previews and first looks at upcoming property, DC FanDome was a celebration of all things DC. The event showcased brilliant and imaginative fan art and cosplayers, which captured the spirit of past conventions. Visitors got to see how influential and widespread DC was as videos showcased fans and creators from all over the globe. The Celebration of DC Pets was really cute, by the way. It was impressive to see how DC captured our imagination. DC FanDome also took time to celebrate the rich and vast history of DC with clips and images from past incarnations of its superheroes and villains.

On a technical level, there were the usual technical glitches that we are all experiencing these days with our Zoom meetings and other video calls, but for the most part, the event went off smoothly and was slickly produced. Their online store, there should have had more variety of merchandise because the only thing on sale were different kinds of t-shirts. But fans were able to read online comics and check out all the things related to DC, whether it be the latest with the DCEU or the thrilling video game Gotham Knights.

The DC FanDome was a great success and was actually better than what could have been done at Comic-Con. For a long while, Comic-Con was too exclusive as tickets to the yearly event were rare and expensive and frustrated nearly all of the fan community who were not privy to view first looks at trailers or concept art. We were forced to scour online for amateur videos taken at Hall H for just a glimpse or an upcoming film. The way DC FanDome was done should be continued in the future and can be done by other companies (hint, hint Marvel) as a way to better reach fans.