Marvel’s What If…?: What If…the World Lost its Mightiest Heroes (Episode 3) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
Marvel’s What If…? finally tackles a story that isn’t centered around switching character roles and delivers something uniquely conceptualized with “What If…the World Lost its Mightiest Heroes.”
Anybody want a Marvel murder mystery? Well, that’s exactly what you get with the latest episode and it’s a really killer concept. The infamous recruitment scenes of Nick Fury (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. are upended as their Avengers candidates are slowly killed off one by one by a mysterious force. This idea is so amazing because of the implications it has and how it’s established. Before this episode, I would’ve never thought that The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor all takes place within a week of one another. It seems like an unremarkable detail, but it’s kind of cool and speaks to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s determination to get the Avenger’s program up and running.
Even more mind-blowing is the realization that the Avengers will be formed without its usual players and the episode wastes no time and spares no exception in knocking off its prolific Avengers. It’s this engaging and suspicious murder-mystery that leaves you surprised when each Avenger is taken out and sees Fury and Black Widow (voiced by Lake Bell) leading the investigation. It’s really well crafted in the kinds of thrills it delivers and instantly hooks you from its first scene. Unfortunately, this episode is marred by continuing series faults and being unable to fully capitalize on its thrilling concept.
The voice acting and script once again feel uneven and it’s mostly because of the mixed company in this voice cast. It’s obviously awesome to see the likes of Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, and Mark Ruffalo return as their respective characters in the MCU and the voice acting here is still solid. However, when you mix them with non-MCU voice actors, like how Bell replaces Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, there’s always something that feels off. The chemistry between actors just isn’t the same. The vibe of certain characters feels hammed up more or just comes off totally different. Overall, it’s a choice that isn’t working and this series should’ve just gone all or nothing in deciding how to handle its voice cast.
The dialogue also still feels stilted at times because of the script’s corniness and certain characters act really off for no real reason. Phil Coulson (voiced by Gregg), for example, is oddly obsessed with Thor’s hair and while it’s clearly for comedic purposes, these attempts fall flat and create a Coulson that’s out of character. Even for some of the weak spots in this episode, there are still some epic moments throughout. The idea of the stories of three MCU movies colliding is pretty awesome to watch and ends up being solidly cohesive. There are interesting ramifications that come from Loki (voiced by Hiddleston) coming to Earth and remaining the ruler of Asgard since Thor never reclaimed Mjolnir and dethroned Loki that create a surprising, terrifying end to the episode. There’s even a possibility that we could see more from this end as the final scene hints at a new Avengers team being formed to take down Loki.
Some of the deaths hit hard and everything with Bruce Banner (voiced by Ruffalo) is really great. Although I feel that The Incredible Hulk is a highly underrated MCU flick and deeply miss Edward Norton as Bruce, there is something kind of satisfying about seeing Ruffalo get his moment in the original film’s storyline and that Hulk death was absolutely jaw-dropping.
Even for this episode’s great moments and structure, its super-fast pacing doesn’t allow for any of these moments to breathe or leave a deep impact. After watching the likes of Iron Man (voiced by Mick Wingert) or Thor be suddenly killed off, there’s very little time to process this moment or even delve into the impact of this happening. Most of the time, the episode just quickly moves on like it’s a death in The Suicide Squad or something. With The Suicide Squad the deaths are just D-list villains, however, the deaths here are legitimately top-tier heroes so it’s a little odd how the series just moves on so quickly. I mean, this is literally the team that Fury has spent years trying to build and once they’re killed, it’s like he doesn’t really care. Also, the big reveal of this serial killer being a psychotic Hank Pym (voiced by Michael Douglas) dressed as Yellowjacket is both strange and a bit of a stretch. It would’ve been more interesting to see him still be Ant-Man since him being Yellowjacket doesn’t make sense within the MCU canon and his whole motivation for doing it being revenge against S.H.I.E.L.D. for his daughter’s death is super forced and barely explained. It’s just an underwhelming reveal that halts all the thrilling momentum the episode builds.
Just as What If…? begins to deliver ambitious story concepts and take steps forward in fixing some of its issues, it takes ten steps backwards with its murder-mystery story. Some of the great story potential of this series is starting to show but is constantly held back by the shortcomings of its mixed voice cast and big story swings that conflict with the MCU canon.