The year: 1988. A young Prince, T’Challa, wanders through the countryside, each step taking him farther away from his home of Wakanda. Before he knew it, his imaginary games of adventure were cut short by a blinding beam of light coming off of a landing spaceship. Rather than running away, the young boy’s curiosity brought him even closer to the craft. Soon, he found himself standing outside the vessel, anticipating what would happen next. Then, the ship’s oversized door fell open and out walked two large, heavily armored men. And though they weren’t the little green men he was expecting, he still followed them onto their ship. To his enjoyment, though, the man waiting for him inside the spaceship was more unique than anything he could have ever asked for.
Though his blue skin was as bright as the sky on a perfect day, T’Challa couldn’t help but notice the flat red piece of metal that ran down the middle of the man’s head. “I wonder what that does,” he thought. His name was Yondu, and soon, he and T’Challa would become two of the most infamous space pirates the galaxy had ever seen. And as the space-traveling vessel left the Earth’s atmosphere, so did it leave behind a life of potential for the boy. No longer would he become King Wakanda. No longer would he grow up to become one of Earth’s mightiest heroes: The Black Panther.
With Loki now behind us, it’s time to not only look ahead to Marvel’s next project, “What If…?,” but to tell you precisely what is going to happen in the upcoming show. What’s that? The trailers we’ve seen don’t really tell us much, and the IMDB page for the show suggests that the show is an anthology and not one long narrative? Well, being wrong about a theory hasn’t stopped me before, so why quit now. Besides, the point of all of this is to have fun. So let’s go!
Interestingly enough, the story for Season One of “What If…?” doesn’t begin in 1988. Instead, it started in 1942. In a different place and time, a scrawny young man named Steve Rogers would become the legendary Captain America and help save not only his country but the world. Here and now, though, Steve wouldn’t become the First Avenger. Instead, that would belong to a woman named Peggy Carter. Sent from the British Government to help the Americans fight in the War, Peggy always knew she could help out more than she was allowed. The accident that put her inside the machine built to turn a man into a super-soldier would be the moment in her life she’d always waited for. Thankfully though, she wouldn’t have to try and save the world on her own.
Steve Rogers, the under-sized kid from Brooklyn, didn’t care that his fate of becoming Captain America was gone. He didn’t sign up for the army to be a hero. It was the right thing to do, so he did it. Thankfully, this stubborn young man just so happened to be a part of a military that hired one of the craziest inventors the world would ever see. An inventor so crazy that he wouldn’t be surpassed until his very own son took the stage. His name was Howard Stark, and for little Steve Rogers, he had the perfect creation for him.
Throughout the war, Peggy and Steve’s friendship would start to change. Love began to grow between the two soldiers, but both being the responsible heroes they are, would wait to address it after the war was won. But sadly, the first dance that the two would share, a first dance that would cement their love for all-of-time, would have to wait. While on a mission to defeat the Red Skull, Peggy had to sacrifice herself to guarantee the safety of others. Then, crashing down into the frozen ice of the Arctic Ocean, it would be nearly 75 years before she would wake up. And when she finally did wake up, the world was an even more different place than she ever could have imagined.
The year is 2008, and a spoiled rich kid turned arms dealer travels across Afghanistan with the US military. Excited to show off his latest inventions of profit to the highest bidders, Tony Stark, son of Howard, would soon have his life and his destiny changed forever. The armed motor brigade that Tony traveled the country with fell under attack. Falling from the bullet-riddled car, somehow untouched, Tony hid behind the most giant rock he could find. Before he could catch his breath, though, a missile planted itself only a few feet away from the billionaire. Plastered across the device like a billboard, Stark Industries. His years of reckless behavior had finally caught up to him. At that moment, it wasn’t Tony’s life that flashed before his eyes, but his regrets. He thought about how he should have told his assistant Pepper how he truly felt. He thought about all of the good that he could have been doing for the world. And lastly, he thought about how disappointed his father would be if he could see him now.
But even in this changed world, this wouldn’t be the end of the great Tony Stark. A soldier, emitting great strength, picked up the missile and threw it high into the air. When he turned back to Tony, the name on his chest was impossible to miss: Killmonger. The soldier extended his hand and helped Tony to his feet. An odd friendship was born.
Side note: despite what you’ve read so far, I am not the official writer of the “What If…?” show. A.C. Bradley is obviously a more talented writer than me and is probably reading this laughing as loud as they can… Or they’re shaking in their boots because they know I’M COMING FOR THEM (I’m just kidding, and congrats on all your success)… I also wanted to point out that I’m more of a broad brush kind of guy. For example, I’m aware that Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel appeared in the trailers for this show. And because I know that, I can safely say that I have no idea how either one of them fits inside my theory. As I said earlier, though, who cares, we’re having fun. Now, onto how an abandoned son became King.
After having learned the error of his ways, Tony and his newfound friend Killmonger have made their way to Wakanda. Killmonger heard the stories of the legendary kingdom from his father, brother to the King. It wasn’t until this very moment, though, he was able to step foot beyond its walls. Once inside, he learns of the now vacant throne. A throne once meant for a prince that that now flies amongst the stars. With royal blood in his veins and a mad inventor by his side, Killmonger helps his family defend Wakanda from the warring tribes hoping to take it as their own. And, when the dust settles, there is only one that stands. No longer was he Erik “Killmonger” Stevens. From this moment on, he would be known as N’Jadaka, The King of Wakanda, and The Black Panther.
Meanwhile, in the Las Vegas desert, a stand-off. On one side, a man named Fury leads brave men and women that are willing to die to protect their country, and on the other stands an army that looks like they just stepped out of the pages of history. Their leader, their King, goes by one name: Loki. The army of Asgard has invaded Earth, and in the planet’s current state, it doesn’t stand a chance.
Having just dealt with his birth father, an ancient planet, Hell-bent on ruling the Universe (don’t ask), a tired T’Challa tells Yondu, the man that raised him, that he wants to go home. He wants to go back to Earth. Yondu always worried that this moment would one day come. When he first picked the boy up, he never considered that they would become so close. Even for T’Challa, the request was heartbreaking. The former prince of Wakanda just kept thinking about what Yondu said during the battle against the ancient planet. “He might have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy.” T’Challa had already lived several lives, and he had no intention of losing any of them. So instead of saying goodbye to Yondu, he brought him along. And to Earth, they both went.
Side Note Number 2: Gamora. Gamora is complicated. We know she isn’t the same character that we’ve come to know and love from the Guardians of The Galaxy movie… obviously. Instead, she’s the “daughter of Thanos,” a woman who never left her father’s side. Growing up with the hopes of one day becoming the Mad Titan. With that being said, we still see her in New York or maybe Las Vegas with the other heroes fighting against one of the show’s big bads. I mention this because in the trailers released, there’s barely any information on the character so far. The point of this ridiculous article is to use the information given to me and then guess the story. While I’m sure this entire thing could be viewed as fan-fiction, I’m just trying to use what’s given to me. Since I know very little about Gamora, I’m just gonna state that somehow, in some way, she ends up on Earth fighting alongside our other heroes. Now, the big question is, will there be a third side note? There’s only one way to find out.
With King Loki’s surprise attack leading to his first victory on Earth, Fury must forge a plan to try and defeat the tyrant. Hidden away in plain sight, a secret facility houses a once-great soldier that no one believed would ever be seen again. With the super-soldier serum keeping Peggy Carter alive during her long icy slumber, she now found herself in a holding facility. For the weeks that she was awake, she was a woman placed out of time. She knew something wasn’t right but could never quite put her finger on it. That all changed when Nick Fury told her everything. The Arctic accident, how long she had been asleep, and the attack by Loki. Even as shocked as she is by the news, none of it matters. Her job is and has always been to fight evil, and Loki is no different. With Steve now gone, Peggy was prepared to go it alone, but Fury informs her that she’ll have help.
There were always two obvious paths for young Thor to walk down. One way leads to becoming the most extraordinary leader Asgard has ever known. A man who would be willing to do whatever it took to ensure the safety of others. Someone willing to withstand the final breaths of heat spit out by a dying star if it meant that lives would be saved. The other path… well, that is a path of long nights. Down that path is a lot of “stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ and dealin.” Even having traveled down that road, Thor still knew wrong from right. He could still see the moment when it was time to stand up and redeem himself. With his brother having stolen the throne of Asgard and now attacked Earth, Thor knew that something needed to be done. He would stand next to Peggy and fight.
So now we have Gamora, Black Panther, Star-Lord, and Thor fighting alongside one another. I don’t think this technically counts as a side note, by the way. I’m just trying to progress the story because we all live busy lives. No one wants a 4000-word article on my very incorrect “What If…?,” theory. The fight against Loki happens, and our heroes win. In the aftermath, Tony Stark, inspired by the heroics of his friend, N’Jadaka, and scientist Scott Lang come together to build Ultron. A machine designed to protect the planet from future attacks. Much like how we saw in the MCU with a few minor exceptions.
The first change is Ultron. After being activated, he leaves Scott Lang for dead. Scott survives but is forced to live out the rest of his life as a head in a jar. Maybe all of this is more than just a few minor exceptions. The other change is that Ultron would then go on to collect all of the Infinity Stones and successfully “snap.” Unlike Thanos, Ultron doesn’t have grand allusions to “save” the Universe. He just wants chaos. Instead of removing half the Universe from existence, he turns them into zombies. Why? I don’t know. He’s sick! A sick robot! We now see our heroes having to stay alive in the most horrific of environments. During the day, they have to run from Ultron’s legion of robots that tirelessly hunt them down. While at night, they must come face to face with their former friends and allies who only have one goal: EAT! Oh! Side note within a side note, zombie Captain America is actually Zombie US Agent, AKA John Walker. That’s right, folks, no matter how wrong I am, I’ve got an answer for everything.
Do you remember, 10 years ago, when I said that the story started in 1988? Do you also remember when I told you that I was lying and that the show’s epic tale began in 1942? Well, guess what? Turns out I was still lying.
2018…ish, New York City
Doctor Strange sits in the Sanctum Sanctorum monitoring Earth. Waiting for any disturbances that are out of the ordinary. Though his magic senses nothing, something in his gut says there’s something wrong. As this overwhelming feeling puts a knot in his stomach, he’s suddenly ripped from his reality and transported to a realm he never knew existed. Distracted by his eyes trying to study everything around him, he did not see the giant figure looming above him. The eternal figure, cast in the shadows of the Universe, calls upon the Doctor. “Steven Strange, I am The Watcher. My sole duty is to monitor the events of all of existence. I am to never interfere. Today, I must break my duty.” Soon, Strange learns of another Steven Strange that exists in a different Universe. Tempted by Dark Magic, this Doctor Strange has allowed himself to welcome the weakened spirit of one of The Great Old Ones to partially take ahold of his being. This creature, older than Earth itself, is known as Shuma-Gorath.
In an attempt to sacrifice himself and save his Earth, this Doctor Strange unleashed all of his dark powers to remove himself from this world. In a moment of pure desperation, he ripped open the fabric of space and time and has now appeared on a different Earth. The Doctor Strange, who now stands in front of The Watcher, listens in horror as he learns of the unfathomable danger his planet is in. If Shuma-Gorath can regain its strength, it will devour every living being on Earth for all of time. Doctor Strange asks The Watcher to be sent to this Dark Strange immediately, but The Watcher refuses. “I have already done too much. If you are the man that I believe you to be, then when I send you back, you will succeed.” And in the blink of an eye, Doctor Strange awakes in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Time seemingly stopped while Strange was gone. A gift he’s thankful for. He’ll need as much of it as he can to stop what is seemingly inevitable.
Somewhere in New York, the Dark Doctor continues fighting with the monster inside of him. No matter how hard he fights, though, the ancient creature, even in its weakened state, is too much for him. The Doctor’s body explodes into a transformation. His once pale arms turn the color of ash. His arms and legs multiply as they simultaneously shift into wet tentacles that drag across the streets of New York. Strange lets out one last scream as he tries to hold back the beast, but it’s pointless. His chest opens out like curtains blowing in the wind, and the rest of the creature appears. Terror fills the streets as civilians run from the nightmare. Their cries of help do not go unheard. No, this Earth’s Doctor Strange does not hear them, not yet. Instead, it’s a soldier who is always willing to run into a fight while others run away. Peggy Carter. Using every trick in her book, she tries to handle the creature for as long as possible, but she’s no match with just her hands and shield. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a giant tentacle knocks her across the street. As she stumbles to her feet, she looks over at the eternal creature and says, “I can do this all day.”
Side Note number, I’ve lost count: She probably won’t say this, but I really like it.
Before she runs back at the beast, she sees a statue of a warrior. In its hands, a sword. Knowing that trying to punch the creature won’t work, she rips the sword from the figure and charges. The battle has gone on long enough that Shuma-Gorath’s strength has started to lessen. The swings of the blade have begun cutting the monster. Seeing her opportunity, Captain Carter swings the sword with everything she has, severing one of the creature’s tentacles. Realizing that defeat is now imminent, Shuma-Gorath retreats back into the Dark Doctor. Even though he’s badly shaken from the experience, the Doctor still stands in awe at what has just occurred. A mere mortal has fought back one of the Universe’s greatest monsters. It’s in this moment of distraction that the Dark Doctor is attacked by… The Good Doctor.
From this moment on, I’m a bit unclear on how things go. If I had to guess, The Dark Doctor and Doctor Strange work together to send The Dark Doctor somewhere deep within the cosmos in hopes to lock away Shuma-Gorath forever… Also, Spider-Man is in the show, and it looks like he’s wearing Doctor Strange’s cape, which would have been awesome to include. I had this whole theory that Peter Parker and Doctor Strange have to do something extraordinary to lock away Shuma-Gorath. Then I learned about the comic, “What If Spider-Man had Never Become a Crime Fighter.”
On the cover of that comic, he is wearing a cape. Having not read the comic, my guess for the show is that Peter makes all of the correct choices that lead to Uncle Ben never dying. Because of this, Peter never learns what comes with great power, thus resulting in the web-slinger becoming a famous TV personality. And honestly, good. Peter never ends up happy, and at least here, nothing terrible in any way will ever happen to him…
And with that, I can finally say that I am finished. Thank you for reading whatever this has turned into. Whatever you do, don’t feel free to tell me I’m wrong. I’m well aware. What I do want to hear, however, are your own personal theories about the show and if it means anything moving forward for future MCU properties. Oh, and let me know if there are any “What If” comics I should check out. I’ve always been curious but never heard any solid recommendations.