Marvel’s What If…?: “What If…Killmonger saved Tony Stark” (Episode 6) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
Marvel’s What If…? hits a stronger stride again with an episode that showcases why Killmonger (voiced by Michael B. Jordan) is one of the MCU’s best villains.
When Killmonger made his debut in Black Panther, he easily became one of, if not the, greatest villains in the MCU for Jordan’s incredible performance and the strong motivations he had in putting an end to black oppression – no matter how much blood spilled. His return here is just as meaningful and grand, if not more, as Killmonger alters the entire course of the MCU as he saves Tony Stark (voiced by Mick Wingert) from the Humvee attack in Afghanistan that eventually made him become Iron Man. Legitimately one of the biggest moments in the MCU takes a different turn and the ramifications of this singular change are incredible to watch – especially with Killmonger in charge.
With Tony not becoming humbled after being captured by terrorists using his tech for mass destruction and growing compassion from Yusef, he’s still the same narcissistic tech billionaire we initially met. There’s still a savviness to him that makes him a perfectly easy person to mistakenly underestimate, just as Killmonger does, but he carries a naivety that Killmonger completely takes advantage of. This episode seamlessly blends the events of Iron Man and Black Panther through Killmonger as he subtly creates a conflict between the U.S. and Wakanda in order to achieve power. Black Panther showed that he has the charisma, intelligence, adaptability, and physical prowess to ingrain himself into anyone’s circle of trust and overthrow a hierarchy with ease. Here, Killmonger does it again with how he pits the U.S. and Wakanda against one another and it’s absolutely captivating to watch.
The way he masterfully creates narratives of the U.S. killing T’Challa (voiced by Chadwick Boseman) and Wakanda retaliating by killing Tony is endlessly mind-blowing and a perfect culmination of this character’s strengths. He narrowly avoids suspicions by deflecting blame towards others and making himself an unquestionably trustworthy ally. Even when he’s had, he isn’t easy to take down as he’s still able to kill Tony after he attempts to kill Killmonger with the machines that he helped create that also resemble the copycat Iron Mans from Iron Man 2 and is able to cause the Wakandan warriors to decimate the U.S.’s robot army. He’s equal parts brain, equal parts brawn and all in all amazing to watch.
His swift story of slow-building destruction and rise to power shows how dangerous Killmonger can be, especially with Tony’s resources and trust at his disposal, and it’s a shame that it can’t be a perfect episode. While having Jordan return as Killmonger is great and a pivotal part to why this story comes to life so well, this series continues to suffer from uneven voice acting. It’s good that most of the cast can return to voice their characters, but it’s hard not to feel like Wingert’s voice work as Tony or that Beth Hoyt’s voice for Pepper Potts come off like knock-off impersonations. They certainly try their best, but it definitely muddies the experience and sticks out badly compared to the live-action actors reprising their roles. I will say though, it is great that Boseman returns again and it’s cool to see Don Cheadle get to play Rhodey within the first Iron Man film’s storyline.
This excellent showcasing of Killmonger’s ingenuity also ends on lackluster note with the end teasing a revolt against him with Shuri (voiced by Ozioma Akagha) and Pepper leading the charge. Their appearances just falter compared to Killmonger in the episode and it’s an ending that feels tacked on. It negates that satisfying jaw-dropping conclusion of Killmonger’s plan succeeding and feels like it a forced way to hype up the clear multiverse episode that will likely end this season.
Even for some bumps in the road, What If…? delivers another episode that defines what this series should strive to be as it creates a captivating and compelling episode that crowns Killmonger as the MCU’s greatest villain.