“Did you make popcorn while Ultron murdered my friends and burned my world to the ground?”
Despite my critical tone in these columns, Marvel’s What If…? series was a big win for me. I really enjoyed the Captain Carter, T’Challa Star-Lord, Zombies, Party Thor and Victorious Ultron episodes, had mixed feelings about the Murder Mystery and Dark Strange episodes, and only really disliked the Stark / Killmonger story.
That’s a breakdown of six good, two OK and one bad, which beats out all of Marvel’s other Disney+ series besides Loki and is certainly more positive overall than the Star Wars story The Bad Batch. The strength of this finale even overcame my skepticism about last week’s jump into a story about the Watcher breaking his non-interference oath so quickly into what is going to be at least two seasons of anthological storytelling. That’s a device you can only use once for maximum effect because every apocalypse we’ll see down the line will prompt the question: Why won’t he help?
One answer I hope they follow is that the Watcher’s interference in this season lands him in hot water with the rest of his species, all of whom are assigned to different worlds and maybe different aspects of the multiverse. That would be a solid way to keep him observing but prevent him from hopping into the fray when things inevitably go to shit — which I’m excited to see because an Infinity Ultron will be difficult to top as a concept or sheer storytelling power, really, which is what makes this episode (and the previous one) so much fun. These are two stories they would never tell in live-action because the sheer amount of cartoonish power on display between Dark Strange and Infinity Ultron would require a less grounded aesthetic than the MCU usually delivers. It’s a collision of planet-smashing forces. It’s very anime, fights to which only animation could really do justice.
I’m happy this finale also follows up on the cliffhangers from the previous episodes (including, in a lovely way, the Murder Mystery episode), although I still wish those episodes hadn’t ended as such in their individual stories. It’s so thorough it even follows up on the cliffhanger from an episode they never aired but got close enough to completion — one that asks: What if Tony Stark never fell back through the portal, ended up on Sakaar, and teamed up with a Titan Gamora? It’s kind of random when they show up here, but it serves as a nice preview for an episode they’ve already promised will be released during Season 2.
If I only have one quibble: They could’ve put Captain Carter and Natasha in a relationship rather than just as BFFs. It feels like a layup here, given how half-assed Marvel has been about pursuing LGBTQ+ relationships and the fact that fans of the show are going to ship the two of them anyway.
I haven’t traditionally done Serial Consumer columns for Marvel’s Disney+ offerings beyond previews / full-season content. Most of their live-action shows haven’t really warranted it. I’m glad I did so for What If…?, and I am really looking forward to seeing what the second season holds. Stories I’d like to see would include stuff from Phase 4, especially Shang-Chi content, perhaps What If Shang-Chi Never Left the Ten Rings? Or maybe, What If Yelena Escaped Instead of Natasha? Maybe they could pull from the Disney+ shows, too: What if Steve Gave Bucky the Shield? I guess what I’d like to see most is What If The Falcon & the Winter Soldier Didn’t Suck?, but let’s not get crazy here.
What Would I Buy?
I’ve already pre-ordered a Captain Carter figure from the Marvel Legends (ML) line. I’m tempted, but not entirely sold on, a Marvel Zombie and Dark Strange from the same release wave as Captain Carter. At present, the Hydra Stomper is still a little too far out of my price range but is a surefire clearance buy.
In terms of figures from this season that they haven’t announced but I would love to buy (and the price I’d pay):
- ML Apocalypse Natasha: $22
- ML Captain Carter (tactical costume): $22
- ML Deluxe Infinity Ultron: $40
- ML Deluxe Infinity Killmonger: $40