What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?
** Warning! This review contains spoilers for episode 5 of Marvel’s What If…? Series **
We open What If at the Iron Man scene where Tony Stark is kidnapped, but in this universe, he’s saved by Erik Killmonger. The Ten Rings are en route, so Killmonger and Stark get away. The Age of Iron Man never comes, because he’s saved and never forced to become Iron Man. Stark remains his snarky self, and he brings in Erik Stevens (Killmonger) as Stark Industries Chief Security Officer.
At the press conference, Killmonger shows information on the attempt to assassinate Stark by the Ten Rings, bankrolled by Obidiah Stane. He even has the receipts and dropped it all online. Stane gets taken away by security and decked by Happy Hogan. Stark wants to give Killmonger the job as COO, and they’re remaining in the weapons industry.
Pepper Potts has Rhodey do some background checks. Killmonger talks to Stark about combat drones, and Stark wants to make them. “What, I like anime” when you see the design. Stark says the drones need energy, dismisses his own idea about a miniature arc reactor, and Killmonger brings up vibranium.
Stark knows a guy to get vibranium – Ulysses Klaue. They send Rhodey to go get it from Klaue. Klaue shows him a spear, and then there is a breach after showing him the vibranium storage. It’s Black Panther! He takes out everybody and talks to Rhodey. Killmonger emerges and uses a sonic taser to kill Panther, and then kills Rhodey after saying he wears the uniform of their oppressors. Turns out Killmonger was working with Klaue.
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Stark confronts Killmonger as he had Jarvis record everything, so he knows what really happened. He sends the combat drone after Killmonger. Killmonger kills the drone using a Dora Milaje spear and then tosses the spear into Stark’s shoulder and kills him as well.
General Ross is here and is seizing the assets of Stark Industries. They want to make his drones to go to war with Wakanda, who they believe killed Stark with the spear. Klaue shows Killmonger to the barrier of Wakanda, and Killmonger kills him as well. He brings Klaue to the royal family of Wakanda, and they accept him. They let the drones inside the forcefield in order to cut off the satellite uplink, and Killmonger was right.
Except that Killmonger has control of the drones still because he wants to take over Wakanda. He joins the fight against them with the Dora Milaje and The Queen Mother, showing himself to be a true warrior and defender of Wakanda. He does such a good job that they give him the herb to become the next Black Panther. In the ancestral plane, he meets with T’Challa who asks him if it was worth it.
The episode ends with Shuri coming to America and talking to Potts. She wants to help Pepper open the eyes of the US and Wakanda as to Killmonger’s true nature, as neither one of them trust him.
Killmonger returns, and honestly, he’s the best one-off villain that Marvel has ever had (sorry, Hela). After being one of the best parts of Black Panther, Killmonger continued to show his tactical savvy and cunning villainy as he played Wakanda and the US against each other. In his second appearance in the MCU, he proved he could kill three heroes and turn two countries against one another.
We are introduced to Wakanda many years earlier than we saw in MCU prime, and with that, we get a new look Wakanda. T’Chaka is still king, and Queen Ramonda is the leader of the Wakandan army. Ramonda is an absolute badass, still voiced by Angela Bassett. She is a star in the final battle and is the emotional center after T’Challa’s death.
The Not As Good:
This episode of What If had a pacing issue. Everything happened so rapidly and there was no room to recover from each new twist. The deaths of T’Challa, Rhodey & Stark come in such quick succession that we don’t really get to dive into the responses to them. There was a lot of plot to pack into one episode, so the character changes went by the wayside.
I wanted to see more of Tony Stark and how he would evolve without the development of Iron Man. He kept working with weapons, and how would that square up with the man we know from the live-action MCU? Instead, he died early and we’ll never know. I know that’s part of the appeal of What If, but it would’ve been great to have a more Tony-centric episode.
A final, smaller issue: some of the voice acting sounded stiff, particularly Don Cheadle as Rhodey and Beth Hoyt as Pepper Potts.
Andy Serkis is an amazing voice actor, this we know. His return as Ulysses Klaue shows his natural talent as a voiceover worker. Not every actor translates their work well to voiceover work, but Serkis is smooth in his transition. Plus, Klaue as a character is surprisingly funny for being a terrible villain.
What If…? has episodes dropping every Wednesday on Disney Plus.
Evan Gomes is a freelance pop culture & sports writer. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsEvanGomes, and check out his two podcasts: Crossbody of Work and The Pop Capsule Podcast.