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Things Fans Want To See In Marvel's What If...?

One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most intriguing Phase 4 projects is What If...?, an animated series that Kevin Feige announced at 2019's San Diego Comic-Con. The show, which will be available to stream on Disney+ in the summer of 2021, will examine various hypothetical "what if" scenarios in the MCU through the all-seeing eyes of Uatu the Watcher, voiced by Golden Globe winner Jeffrey Wright.

On the page, Marvel's What If...? comics have been wildly popular, twisting elements of the Marvel Universe and offering uniquely different takes on well-known stories and characters. With over a dozen volumes released to date, the series has explored theoretical timelines ranging from plausible to preposterous. With "almost the entire cast of the MCU" expected to reprise animated versions of their live-action roles, the hype for the series is understandably high. Although rumors and leaked images may have spoiled potential storylines, little is truly known about the show at this point. Keeping that in mind, here are a few stories fans hope to see in Marvel's What If...? — and how they would alter the MCU as we know it.

What if Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes both survived World War II?

One of the most thought-provoking issues of the What If...? comic series is "What If Captain America Hadn't Vanished During World War Two?" In that alternate reality, Cap and Bucky continued their heroic antics well into the 1960s, until Bucky took up the stars and stripes so Rogers could become the first director of SHIELD.

While most of this storyline would work well in the MCU, certain facets would need to be modified. For example, had Bucky not "died" in Captain America: The First Avenger, he wouldn't have been experimented on by HYDRA scientists and he wouldn't have super strength and enhanced abilities. The thought of Cap and Bucky returning to fight crime in a post-WWII America has some very appealing Batman and Robin-esque vibes, but the real draw is seeing how those two interacted with the various MCU characters of that era, such as Michael Douglas' Ant-Man, Michelle Pfeiffer's Wasp, and, of course, John Slattery's Howard Stark. Having Steve Rogers visit Howard and Maria Stark in the hospital to congratulate them on the birth of their first son would be just one of numerous potentially intriguing twists.

What If Yondu had taken Peter Quill to Ego?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 revealed that Yondu Udonta, everyone's favorite whistlin' warrior, originally abducted Peter Quill from Earth in order to return him to his father, Ego the Living Planet. Fortunately for the young space pirate, Yondu grew attached to the lad, raising him to become a Ravager.

Had Yondu made good on his assignment and returned Quill to Ego, the MCU would've been majorly affected. As briefly seen in Vol. 2, Ego would've been able to harness Quill's ultra-powerful energy to consume the universe with the planetary seeds he'd planted. Ego could've conceivably achieved his goal of galactic domination.

It's especially interesting to ask: had this happened, who would've stopped it? We know Quill was abducted in 1988, so most of the current members of Earth's Mightiest Heroes wouldn't be around yet. Captain America would still be frozen, Tony Stark wouldn't be Iron Man yet, and Bruce Banner would still just be a scientist. However, at least one potential power could stand in Ego's way: Captain Marvel.

There is a popular fan theory that posits Captain Marvel includes an Easter egg of Quill being taken from Earth in the form of a shooting star, given that the timeline matches up. This would mean that Carol Danvers, a member of the intergalactic Kree force around the time of Quill's abduction, would possibly be the most logical first line of defense. If Carol brings Goose, Ego doesn't stand a chance.

What if T'Challa was abducted as a child instead of Peter Quill?

Speaking of Yondu abducting young Earthlings, what if the blue alien had taken another child entirely? Speaking to Discussing Film (via Comicbook.com), What If...? showrunner Ashley Bradley teased an episode of the series featuring T'Challa, Black Panther and king of Wakanda, as Star-Lord. "We wanted to see what if the worlds of Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy collided... It's super exciting to work on because, again, it's seeing these characters and seeing the combination of character interactions."

In this reality, was childhood T'Challa taken instead of Peter Quill, leaving him to eventually become Star-Lord and assemble the galaxy's favorite ragtag crew of heroes? If so, does that leave Shuri to rule Wakanda as queen as well as Black Panther? How does Killmonger play into all this? There are countless questions — and we'll all have to wait until What If...? premieres on Disney+ to learn the answers.

What if Thor had taken the Throne of Asgard?

At the end of Thor: The Dark World, Thor is given the opportunity to take up his birthright and become King of Asgard. Instead, he chooses to live on Midgard with Jane Foster, leaving the door open for the reign of Odin impostor Loki. This also makes it so Thor could assist the Avengers on various missions, such as recovering Loki's scepter from HYDRA in the beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron. How different would things have been had Thor never returned to Earth, ruling Asgard and protecting the nine realms instead?

For one, you could argue that an observant King Thor would've really complicated Thanos' plans. In Avengers: Infinity War, Thor, Groot and Rocket travel to Nidavellir in hopes of forging a new "Thanos-killing" weapon, only to find it devastated by the Mad Titan, who left only Eitri alive. Had the King of Asgard been watching over the nine realms as expected, this kind of planetary destruction would've surely sparked Asgard's involvement. You could also argue that many of the events of Thor: Ragnarok would've been entirely avoided had a dutiful king been in charge, including the death of Odin and subsequent return of Hela. Loki's rule, although brief, had far-reaching implications.

What if the Avengers never assembled?

2012's The Avengers, the first MCU film to gross over $1 billion at the worldwide box office, satisfyingly culminated the first five Marvel pictures while laying the groundwork for the future of the franchise. The Battle of New York was the first time the original six heroes teamed up, but the collaboration wasn't exactly a smooth transition. What would've happened had one (or two) of the heroes simply said "Forget this, I'm out"? Every member's contribution was crucial to the victory (even Hawkeye's!), so had the full team not assembled, Loki and the Chitauri could've conceivably won. What then?

Since Loki was working for Thanos, had the Avengers lost the Battle of New York, the Mad Titan could've done to Earth exactly what he did to Gamora's home planet in the Infinity War flashback. After wiping out half of Earth's population, he might even have made good on his word and left Loki in charge of the planet. It would be interesting to see what a decimated Earth would look like with Loki as king. Which heroes would rise to challenge his rule?

What If Abomination joined the Avengers instead of Hulk?

Whatever happened to Tim Roth's Emil Blonsky, a.k.a. Abomination in The Incredible Hulk? Aside from a throwaway mention in an episode of ABC's Agents of SHIELD, the souped-up Marine-turned-monstrosity has seemingly been on ice longer than Captain America. You have to wonder how a character that powerful has existed in the MCU for so long without making a second appearance.

What if, when assembling his vision of the Avengers, Nick Fury decided to recruit Abomination for the team's muscle instead of the Hulk? Blonsky sort of makes more sense due to his military background. Plus, he's apparently been in a special prison since the events of The Incredible Hulk, whereas Banner was a fugitive; it would've been a lot easier to recruit someone who had a definite location versus someone constantly on the run.

With a lot of training and an attitude adjustment, Blonsky could've conceivably worked as an Avenger. After all, it's not like the team is opposed to adding members who were initially foes, like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

What If Tony Stark died during the Battle of New York?

Tony Stark laid his life on the line in The Avengers, diverting a nuclear missile away from New York City and into space, where it destroyed the Chitauri fleet and ended the battle on Earth. Although the bold move was the finishing blow for the good guys, Stark nearly didn't make it out alive. What would the future of the MCU have looked like had Tony Stark's Iron Man died in the Battle of New York?

Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark was the heart of the MCU franchise throughout the Infinity Saga. Downey's Stark certainly left his mark on the Marvel universe, and a lot of his contributions took place after The Avengers. So many things would be different if the Iron Avenger had kicked the bucket early. Would Ultron not have been invented? How would Peter Parker's Spider-Man have been recruited to the team? Perhaps most importantly, who would've sacrificed themselves to defeat Thanos at the end of Avengers: Endgame? The MCU without Tony Stark would be a bleak place indeed.

What if Iron Man captured Captain America in Civil War?

After the mounting civilian casualties in Avengers-related incidents, the United Nations took it upon itself to start demanding some accountability in the form of the Sokovia Accords, which incited the central conflict between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in Captain America: Civil War. Stark accepted the Accords as a necessary means to an end, whereas Rogers viewed them as a dangerous encroachment on personal liberties in the name of preserving safety and freedom.

Stark was tasked with bringing in Captain America after an incident involving a brainwashed Bucky Barnes. Although Stark and his team managed to capture Cap's compatriots, Rogers and Barnes ended up besting him in a final, friendship-severing brawl in Siberia. Cap then went on to free Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch and the Falcon.

It's interesting to wonder what would've happened had Stark won the Siberian showdown, arresting Captain America and potentially revenge-killing Winter Soldier for murdering his parents years ago. Cap probably would've been sent to prison with the rest of his team, and they would've conceivably been stuck there until the events of Infinity War. Unless, of course, they managed to break out. Here's hoping for an "Escape the Raft" prison break episode starring Team Cap in What If...?

What If Hulk never left Earth in the Quinjet at the end of Age of Ultron?

Poor Hulk. The big green rage machine, tired of struggling to fit in on Earth after the events of Age of Ultron, chose to fly away in a Quinjet after the Sokovian disaster, leaving his friends behind. He somehow arrived on Sakaar, where he became the Grandmaster's champion until he is dethroned by the hammer-less Thor in Thor: Ragnarok.

Although Banner eventually returned to Earth, a lot happened during his extended leave of absence. Perhaps the most notable conflict was the superhero Civil War, which pitted Captain America against Iron Man. What would've happened if Hulk had been around when that went down?

During Civil War, Stark mentioned that he wished Banner was on Earth, assuming he would take his side (they were, after all, total science bros). It's certainly not hard to imagine Hulk siding with Iron Man, which could have drastically tilted the scales toward Team Stark. Seeing how Hulk's inclusion would impact the result of Civil War would undoubtedly make for an interesting episode of What If...?

What if Erik Killmonger had defeated T'Challa?

If you think Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger is the best villain in the MCU to date, you aren't alone. The Black Panther baddie was certainly a force to be reckoned with, even besting T'Challa in combat and claiming the Wakandan throne. Fortunately for the rest of the world, T'Challa lived and was able to defeat his long-lost cousin. But what if he hadn't?

Killmonger's plan was motivated by vengeance, a desire to send advanced Wakandan weaponry to groups that would incite anarchy and overthrow governments. T'Challa and his allies just barely managed to destroy the cargo ships before they could reach their targets, but it's interesting to think about what would've happened if they had failed.

For starters, this kind of widespread attack on society would undoubtedly catch the attention of the Avengers. Although the team would still be divided after the events of Civil War, it's easy to imagine both squads putting their differences aside to deal with Killmonger, especially considering T'Challa's solid relationships with Stark and Rogers. If the Avengers had attacked a Killmonger-led Wakanda, they'd surely be in for a tough fight. That'd make for one undeniably entertaining episode of What If...?

What if Hawkeye sacrificed himself instead of Black Widow in Endgame?

Earning the Soul Stone, arguably the most complex of the six Infinity Stones, is a bit of a lose-lose scenario. In order to claim it, you have to sacrifice the thing you love most. In Infinity War, Thanos killed Gamora, his "favorite daughter," on Vormir in order to add the gem to his gauntlet. In order to "reverse the curse" in Endgame's time heist, longtime BFFs Black Widow and Hawkeye traveled to the gloomy planet in the past to claim the stone before Thanos could. Although both tried to sacrifice their own lives for the cause, it was ultimately Widow who succeeded.

How would things have been different had Black Widow lived and Hawkeye died instead? It would've surely been tough for her to have to break the news to Clint's family after Hulk snapped them back into existence, but her presence means more to the future of the Avengers. After all, she seemed to be in charge of the team after Thanos' snap, while Captain America led group therapy sessions and Tony Stark started a family with Pepper. It'd be interesting to see Black Widow's role on the team in future MCU events had she lived.

What if a zombie virus plagued the MCU?

Despite its slow decline in popularity over the past few years, AMC's The Walking Dead is still firmly entrenched on the network schedule. How would you feel about another zombie show...only this time, it's in the MCU? As it turns out, Robert Kirkman, creator of the Walking Dead comic book series, also wrote a five-issue miniseries for Marvel in the early 2000s. Since then, the concept has gained incredible notoriety throughout the comic book community, and was even rebooted in 2018.

Astute fans of the MCU have noticed that if you look closely enough at What If...?'s logo, you can make out a zombified Captain America "hidden" behind the font. This subtle clue has led many to believe that one episode of the animated series will play with the Marvel Zombies comics storyline, which took place on Earth-2149 in the Marvel multiverse.

How could zombies tie in with the current timeline of the MCU? Perhaps Thanos, whose primary goal centered around population control, might choose a more creative way to eliminate half of the universe's population by snapping zombies into existence. Or, given the obvious supernatural theme of the undead, maybe a foe of Doctor Strange has something to do with it. Regardless of how What If...? chooses to make it happen, fans seem to be all-in on bringing zombies to the MCU.

What if Peggy Carter took the super-soldier serum?

At August's D23 Expo, a picture leaked depicting Peggy Carter, badass British SSR agent and Steve Rogers' main squeeze, suited up and holding a Captain America-like shield. Haley Atwell, who first played the role in Captain America: The First Avenger, is confirmed to return for What If...?, so it's safe to assume that at least one episode of the animated series will explore what would've happened had Peggy been given Dr. Erskine's super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers.

This twist draws inspiration from 2018's Exiles, which featured an alternate-reality version of Peggy Carter as Captain America. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, series co-writer Saladin Ahmed explained the unexpected source of the idea. "There's a World War II scene, a confrontation with the Red Skull... so obviously that requires some version of Cap. Of all places, the Marvel Puzzle Quest video game had a really popular character design for Peggy Carter as Captain America in a reality where Steve Rogers is killed and Peggy has taken the super-soldier serum in his place. As soon as I saw that, I was like 'Yes, okay, perfect.' There's something about Peggy taking over the role of Cap that's super-compelling."

It'll be interesting to see how What If...? tackles the gender-swapped role, especially if it entails the death of Steve Rogers. One thing's for sure: you wouldn't want to mess with Captain Carter.