Here are our predictions for different storylines Marvel's What If...? series on Disney+ will cover. The show is set to be Marvel Studios' first piece of animated content on the streaming service and is taking inspiration from the comics with its premise. The "What If" comics were created as one-off adventures that gave writers complete creative freedom with the story and characters. Some of the earliest stories imagined Spider-Man joining the Fantastic Four, Jane Foster becoming Thor, and much more.
For the What If...? series, the show will tell stories that are similar to what the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have explored, but with some significant twists made to them. This will be done through the eyes of Uatu the Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright), who is able to see events across infinite realities. Uatu will narrate and introduce the different stories, but the main characters of them will be familiar MCU characters voiced by the same actors.
The series is set to debut in 2021 and has fans excited over the possibilities of what it will include. So far, details on the stories that What If...? will tell have been selective, but some details on a few episodes have been confirmed at this point. For instance, the first episode will explore Peggy Carter becoming Captain Carter. But, there will be many more episodes that weave together elements from across the MCU. With the batch of episodes arriving in 2021, here are our predictions for storylines that What If can cover by twisting one moment from each of the MCU's films.
With the freedom of the What If premise, one of the most significant changes that could come to the MCU story comes at the very beginning of Iron Man - "What If The Ten Rings Killed Tony Stark?" The first MCU movie sees the Ten Rings organization kidnap Tony Stark and force him to create a Jericho missile for him. But, they were initially hired by Obadiah Stane to kill the eventual hero instead. The Ten Rings fulfilling their duties would result in a massive ripple effect that would see Stane take control of Stark Industries and the Iron Man suits never created. This would result in a drastically different universe and one that is ripe for exploring in this format.
The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk doesn't have that many ties to the MCU at this point, but Thunderbolt Ross has returned as a supporting character in recent years. He has yet to transform into Red Hulk as many have hoped, but maybe What If can put a spin on this idea by doing "What If Thunderbolt Ross Became Abomination?" Emil Blonsky filled this role in the movie, but it wouldn't be too difficult to make this switch happen. After repeated failures to stop Hulk, Ross could decide to inject himself with a version of the super-soldier serum. He could then seek more power and use himself as test subject zero for a militarized version of the Hulk and forces Samuel Sterns to turn him into Abomination. The result would give Ross the power he's desperately craved and change the dynamics of the final fight.
Iron Man 2
The story of Iron Man 2 is heavily tied to Tony Stark's relationship with his father Howard Stark, so What If...? should explore "What If Tony Stark's Parents Weren't Assassinated?" This would completely alter Tony's life, as he would not have been thrust into a position of power when he was 21. Howard could be the head of Stark Industries still but tells Tony that he will soon take over as he is ready to retire. Whiplash could still be a villain of the story, possibly wanting to kill Tony for achieving the success that he believes he and his father should have. His use of the arc reactor tech could be what inspires Tony to create the Iron Man armor with it, but this time Howard could help him build it with his palladium element.
Loki has long been one of the MCU's most complicated characters, teetering between villain and anti-hero, but maybe Thor should show "What If Loki Was Worthy?" Loki has always been viewed as the lesser between him and Thor, and the resentful feelings he developed is what turned him into a villain. But, it'd be a great twist on the MCU story if Loki was the one to wield Mjolnir. It is unlikely that he would still turn against Odin and Asgard in this scenario and used his power for the betterment of the Nine Realms. It could even end up with Loki rightfully sitting on the Asgardian throne and becoming king. If Loki was always good, would Thor then lash out instead? That's possible, and this switch could provide audiences with a version of Loki they've genuinely never seen before.
Captain America: The First Avenger
One of the only confirmed storylines that What If...? will tackle is something along the lines of "What if Peggy Carter Got the Super Soldier Serum?" This change will result in an incredibly different tale for Captain America: The First Avenger. Details from the episode tease that Peggy will get superpowers and become Captain Carter, with her suit drawing similarities with Captain Britain. Meanwhile, it appears that Steve Rogers will lose his muscles and America-themed suit and instead suit up in a giant Iron Man-like suit created by Howard Stark. After mostly sitting on the sidelines, this What If story will allow Peggy to be the superhero and fight Red Skull herself.
Since The Avengers is one of the most important moments in the MCU, it'd be fascinating to see "What If The Avengers Never Formed?" Loki is successful in splitting them apart at the end of the film's second act, but the show could explore what would've happened if they didn't put aside their differences and step up to stop him. Loki would theoretically be able to take over New York quickly and could then report back to Thanos and give him two Infinity Stones. Loki could rule over Earth, possibly leaving powered individuals like Hank Pym, T'Chaka, and the Ancient One to rise up to defeat him. They could then be the first wave of the Avengers potentially, which would be a drastic change to make.
Iron Man 3
Since Iron Man 3's Mandarin twist is one of the more polarizing moments in the MCU, it would be fun to see the series explore "What If Iron Man Fought The Real Mandarin?" The character will make his actual MCU debut earlier in 2021 in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with Tony Leung playing the part. After establishing him in the real continuity, this episode could explore how the universe would be different if he emerged sooner. And since Iron Man and Mandarin won't ever fight in the MCU, this would be one way for Marvel Studios to have Tony Stark face-off with his arch-nemesis in the comics. It would even be a simple switch to make, with the real Mandarin taking the place of Trevor Slattery and removing the connections to AIM.
Thor: The Dark World
Thor is a central figure in stopping Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, but this event could be quite different if the story was changed to be "What If The Aether Possessed Thor?" Jane Foster is originally the one who becomes the host for the Reality Stone, but the What If series could switch this up to have it be passed to Thor at some point. This would effectively take him out of the bigger picture as it weakens him; he would also be the MacGuffin. Without Thor trying to stop Malekith, the fate of the Nine Realms could be put in the hands of Loki, Odin, Lady Sif, and the Warriors Three. The story could be an excellent opportunity for the latter characters to finally receive a decent sized role.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers relationship is crucial to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is exactly why it appears What If is set to change this to be something close to "What If Bucky Was Frozen Instead of Steve?" The brief footage that has been shown from the series showed Bucky fighting a zombie version of Captain America. This may be a tease that Bucky and Steve's roles were reversed near the end of World War II. Steve may have "died," and Bucky crashes Red Skull's plane instead. Bucky could then be found and become a hero without years of Hydra brainwashing in his system, but later be haunted when Hydra's plans are revealed. Instead of having a super-assassin for all these years, their plan could be to bring Captain America back to life. But, they can't do it flawlessly, which would result in Bucky having to fight zombie Cap.
Guardians of the Galaxy
For the What If version of Guardians of the Galaxy, it appears Marvel Studios is set to explore "What If T'Challa Became Star-Lord?" The basis of this story decision comes from descriptions of footage shown during D23, where a black man was revealed to be wearing Star-Lord's usual attire. It has since been confirmed that it is T'Challa as Star-Lord. This would be quite the switch for T'Challa, as he likely would grow up in space and among the Ravagers instead of as royalty in the secret nation of Wakanda. The possibility of this scenario could come down to Yondu picking up the wrong kid back in 1988, and would keep Peter Quill on Earth, see Wakanda lose its heir to the throne, and much more. However, it would also be a fascinating turn if T'Challa decided to venture into space on his own and leave Wakanda behind.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The MCU added a few new heroes to the mix in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but What If should switch some of their sides around and explore "What If The Maximoff Twins Weren't Evil, But Vision Was?" Both Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were aligned with Ultron for the first two-thirds of the movie, while Vision immediately decided that he was not like his maker. But it would be an exciting change to see these roles reversed. Instead of directly working with Hydra, What If could have the Maximioff twins help the Avengers when they initially attack. Meanwhile, when Vision is born, it is believable enough that he could also look at humanity and have the same goal as Ultron and join him. Instead of having Vision on their side in the final battle, it would be fascinating to see how him, Ultron, and Ultron's army would fair against the team.
Hank Pym has an entire history in Marvel Comics that will unlikely be explored in the MCU, so What If should spin the story of Ant-Man and do "What If Hank Pym Became Yellowjacket?" He held this moniker for years in the comics and even had some of his darker days when wearing this suit. The story could see him create the Yellowjacket suit as his final big moment as the leader of Pym Technologies. But when he'd learn that Darren Cross was going to rebrand and mass-produce his invention, Hank could decide to keep it for himself and become Yellowjacket. However, after years of being Ant-Man and the negative side effects Ant-Man teased it could have, he could crack mentally and want to destroy Darren. Knowing what could happen, this could then leave Hope van Dyne to put on the Ant-Man suit and stop her father.
Captain America: Civil War
To switch up the events of Captain America: Civil War, one of the best ways What If could do this is by showing "What If Captain America & Iron Man Switched Sides?" Cap firmly sided against the Sokovia Accords in the movie, while Iron Man signed them. But, What If can explore how the events would change if Cap and Iron Man switched. Steve could decide to sign the Accords as a way to support the viewpoints of the government, while Tony could go against them out of his own self-interest. If that were the case, would other people switch sides, too? Plus, this could result in Bucky and Tony being on the same team, which would be a sight to see - especially if the two of them, then, teamed up to fight Cap.
For Doctor Strange, we're proposing a story that shows "What If Doctor Strange Became A Disciple of Dormammu?" Instead of him becoming the greatest sorcerer of them all and using his abilities to stop the ruler of the Dark Dimension, what if he was instead lured into helping him could drastically change the film's story. He's first exposed to Dormammu when messing with the Time Stone, and he later learns that the Ancient One is drawing forbidden power from the Dark Dimension to prolong her life. Strange initially points out the hypocrisy of this practice, which could easily result in him changing his allegiance. Instead of bargaining with Dormammu not to invade Earth, he could be the one who helps him take over. It would be a dark path for him to go down, but one that could also show the true power of Dormammu.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
To switch up the story of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the What If series could remix the foundation of the Guardians team and explore "What If Nebula Joined The Guardians Instead of Gamora?" This story would need to span the course of both movies to be told properly, but it'd be a significant change to make. Gamora could stay with Thanos and be the deadliest woman in the galaxy, while Nebula could betray him after years of torture. She could be the one to meet Star-Lord and work with him, maybe even sparking a romantic relationship between the two of them. Meanwhile, the story that happens during Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 could cover how Gamora turns good.
As long as Spider-Man is still going to be featured in What If, our idea to change the story of Spider-Man: Homecoming is for What If to tackle "What If Peter Parker Never Met Tony Stark?" The two characters have been intertwined in the MCU's story over the last five years, so seeing how Peter's life would be different without Tony could be interesting. He'd never have gone to Germany or get his hi-tech suit, but also wouldn't have additional resources at his disposal or help when needed. This could show exactly what Spider-Man would be like without Iron Man's influence. The one reason why this may not happen is that this could be the actual state of the Spider-Man franchise moving forward.
A fun wrinkle to throw in Thor: Ragnarok's story would be "What If Thor Became Sakarr's Champion?" After the god of thunder arrived on the planet, he soon was thrown into the gladiator ring to fight Hulk. Much to the surprise of the Grandmaster, Thor was moments away from defeating Hulk, which is why he electrocuted him. However, what would happen if he allowed Thor to win? Thor would suddenly become the prized possession of the Grandmaster and hailed as the new champion of Sakarr. It would pose a variety of questions regarding what comes next for Thor, Hulk, Loki, and Valkyrie, with each of them potentially being set on different arcs by this result. Thor could stay on Sakarr with Loki, Hulk could be sent away as a loser, and Valkyrie may never get the inspiration to be a hero again. Plus, the whole story could revolve around Sakarr and bring Korg back into the mix.
To change the course of Black Panther's story, we're proposing going back to Oakland in 1992 and show "What If Killmonger Was Raised in Wakanda?" This is the opening of the movie and could be possible if T'Chaka took Killmonger with him after N'Jobu died. Killmonger would then be raised as a part of the royal family in Wakanda, and not without parents and a burning hatred for them. This could even result in Killmonger and T'Challa growing up together and being best friends, not enemies. Maybe Killmonger could even become the preferred king. Or, he could still challenge for the throne after learning that T'Chaka killed his father. Either way, it would make any fights between Killmonger and T'Challa a lot more personal thanks to a brother-like bond.
Avengers: Infinity War
Reframing the entirety of Avengers: Infinity War, the What If series could explore "What If The Avengers Weren't Split Up?" The mightiest heroes that the MCU has to offer are not all together when the movie takes place and is believed to be one of the reasons why they couldn't stop Thanos. But, What If could show how the events would be different if everyone was united. This could even include Hawkeye and Ant-Man if they weren't on house arrest. Could the Earth-based heroes protect Doctor Strange and Vision at the start? It's certainly possible, and the combined forces may have given them a better chance to stop Thanos in Wakanda. But this would also mean the Guardians and Thor are the only ones left in space to face him on Titan.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Since the search for Janet van Dyne is at the heart of Ant-Man and the Wasp, we think What If should show "What If Janet Never Got Trapped in The Quantum Realm?" This could be a story that spans several years, but one that begins in 1987. Instead of Janet getting lost in the Quantum Realm after going subatomic, this could explore how the world would be different if she avoided this and regrew to size after disabling the bomb. This could allow Hank and her to continue being heroes for years to come. It would change the entire family dynamic for the Pyms and much more. And since it is unknown whether or not Hank and Janet will suit up again, this could be a great chance to show fans what these two original Avengers members in the comics are capable of.
One major change that could come the way of Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel is exploring "What If Carol Danvers Never Lost Her Memory?" This is a vital part of the story that the origin movie tells, with it being part of the reason why the Kree are able to make her join their side. This episode could show what Carol would do if she never had her memories altered by them. She could set out to defeat the Kree much earlier on, possibly stopping them before they cause more harm to the galaxy. She would also remember who she was, her personality, her family and friends, and everything about life on Earth. Instead of trying to figure out who she was, this could show what Carol would be like if she always knew.
To significantly change Avengers: Endgame, the series could tell "What If The Snap Victims Were Reversed?" Instead of the heroes who were alive to save the day in the movie doing so, this episode could show what would've happened if those who were dusted were the only ones left. This would undoubtedly result in a different story, and maybe even the outcome. This would leave the story without the people responsible for creating time travel tech, meaning others would need to step up. Perhaps Shuri would be the one to invent it this time around. But since these characters don't have the same history with the Infinity Stones, it could also result in different missions. There would be a lot of changes and it's something only the What If series could tackle.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
In the world where Spider-Man: Far From Home follows the usual events of Avengers: Endgame, this series could be the chance to show "What If Peter Parker Gave Up Being Spider-Man?" He wants to take a break from the hero game in the actual movie, but What If could take this a step further. After the death of Iron Man, Peter could decide to hang up his suit for good. He could refuse to work with Nick Fury, not use the Edith glasses, and focus on his summer vacation. With his actual MCU future in doubt, too, this would be a fascinating What If story to see play out.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022