In 1977, Marvel Comics debuted a new series titled “What If”. Narrated from the perspective of Uatu the Watcher, an alien whose sole purpose is to watch over Earth’s major events, each issue in the series featured a tale from an alternate Marvel Universe in which one part of the established Marvel history was altered, leading to a completely different turn of events. The comic book series became an incredibly popular staple of Marvel Comics, going on to have multiple volumes and one-shot issues, with the most recent set of issues having been released in 2018.
At last year’s San Diego Comic Con, avid fans of the “What If” comics were very pleased to see Marvel Studios announce a Disney+ series that will continue the great legacy of the iconic comic book series. Marvel Studios’ What If…?, an animated series featuring Jeffrey Wright as Uatu the Watcher, will show audiences the same types of fun, wild, and weird twists of the comics, but focusing on the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The series’ voice cast will bring back the talents of almost every major actor who has been involved the MCU, and Kevin Feige has confirmed that most of Marvel Studios’ films will be explored in the series. Production on What If...?'s ten episode first season is already underway, and work has already begun on the second. Not much is known about the exact plots of these episodes due to Marvel keeping a very tight lid on production details, with only a few What If…? premises that have either already been confirmed, teased, or heavily rumored. Before any more details are revealed, we here at The Direct have put together our own list of predictions for Phase One twists that the animated series might employ, as well as a detailed look at the confirmed plot for the series’ premiere episode.
Main Prediction: What if Tony Stark had never been kidnapped and later patented his Iron Man technology as a military weapon?
Iron Man follows billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark, who is kidnapped overseas by a group of terrorists in an attempt to force him into making them one of his highly destructive Jericho missiles. Stark instead uses his genius and ingenuity to create a weaponized suit that frees him from captivity, leading him on a path to purge his company from its hidden evils and become a world-renowned superhero in the process. But what if the iron-clad hero had never started his redemptive journey in the first place? What if Tony Stark had never been kidnapped and instead later patented his Iron Man technology as a military weapon? Taking inspiration from an issue of the original “What If” comic book series, “What if Tony Stark sold out?”, this twist would follow a darker timeline for the genius billionaire playboy, one wherein he never becomes the heroic philanthropist.
Tony Stark always had it in him to perfect the Arc Reactor technology and create the Iron Man armor, the kidnapping was simply the catalyst he needed to realize his potential in that moment. If Tony had never been kidnapped, though his breakthrough might not have happened as soon, he would still eventually create the advanced technology. In this episode’s reality, because Stark Industries never shut down their weapons division, that technology would have gone straight to the military, creating an intimidating army of iron soldiers. Inevitably, villains, terrorist groups, and America’s enemies would have found a way to steal and replicate the Iron Man suits, creating a far more dangerous and war-torn Marvel universe. Tony Stark might still have started his path towards redemption, due to the billionaire being plagued by guilt as the cause for the dystopian turn of events, but it would be far too late. Tony’s one-man war against his weapons will now be an impossible quest to save Stark's smeared legacy.
In Iron Man and Iron Man 2, after Tony saw the horrors his weapons could cause around the world, his biggest fear became having his technology fall into the wrong hands, especially after creating his most powerful weapon. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe progressed, this conflict was given less focus, as superheroes became the norm and Tony prepared for an even larger threat. Audiences saw villains start to get their hands on alien technology, as seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but this episode plot would follow an infant MCU tackling a much larger version of the same problem. With an endless amount of possibilities for other characters’ involvement in the story, as well as emphasizing the themes and fears that turned Tony Stark into a hero, this alternate reality would be an exciting world to see unfold.
Other possibility: What if Tony Stark created Ultron in order to escape from captivity?
While Tony Stark was being held captive by the Ten Rings, he could have created anything in that cave to help him escape. The billionaire decided on a manned suit of armor for him to don towards safety, but what if he had tried to make another suit of armor instead? A suit of armor that didn’t need to put Tony himself in harm’s way? What if Tony Stark created Ultron in order to escape from captivity?
At the beginning of Iron Man, Tony Stark had already created JARVIS, the artificial intelligence system that would eventually lead him down the path to creating Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Although helped by the genius of Bruce Banner and the Mind Stone, this reality sees Tony realize the breakthroughs necessary for creating absolute artificial intelligence much sooner and on his own. The Arc Reactor would power Ultron, and Ultron would lead Tony to safety. Instead of Tony perfecting the Iron Man suit throughout the course of the film, he would help perfect Ultron. The robot would become the hero that Iron Man was in the original film, but as we know, that artificial intelligence would eventually find a more sinister agenda, and there’s no Iron Man to stop him this time. Who would Ultron’s ultimate target be in a time without The Avengers? And how will Tony Stark step up to save the world?
Other possibility: What if Stark Industries went bankrupt?
Once Tony Stark returned to the United States from his traumatic trip to Afghanistan, he asked for two things: a cheeseburger and a press conference. At the press conference, Tony immediately called for the shut down of the Stark Industries weapons manufacturing division, essentially ensuring that the company could no longer make any profits. The company’s future was in jeopardy for a moment, prompting the Board of Directors to file an injunction against Tony’s power in Stark Industries. However, after taking away Obadiah Stane, and restructuring the company’s focus towards clean energy, Tony was able to keep the company prospering and maintain his status as a billionaire. But what if he wasn’t able to save the company? What if Tony had lost his fortune after deciding to shut down the weapons division? What if Stark Industries went bankrupt?
Being rich is one of Tony Stark’s defining personality traits. His seemingly endless wealth added to the character’s suave appeal. It was also the reason why he was able to become Iron Man in the first place, never worrying about money as he self-funded his way to more advanced technological improvements. If Tony lost access to his billions in Iron Man, his quest for saving the company and ridding the world of his weapons would be much more difficult. He would have to scrap for parts to make the Iron Man Mark II suit. He would need to hide out at an old Stark warehouse for his base of operations. Pepper no longer works for him, Rhodey wouldn't be able to do any business with him, he no longer has his Malibu mansion, and Tony would essentially be on his own. Tony would need to get inventive, finding money to live on during this time, maybe even staging a heist from his former corrupt corporate coworkers for some emergency funding. Iron Man 3 did have some similar story beats to this, but a What If…? episode could really heighten the conflict and show audiences just how much the superhero’s future would be affected without his giant net worth.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Main prediction: What if Bruce Banner found Kamar-Taj and became the Sorcerer Supreme?
In The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Bruce Banner was on the run from the U.S. government after his gamma-radiation experiment had gone very wrong, turning him into a rage-driven beast and prompting General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross to send the United States military after him. Banner was eventually found hiding out in Brazil after a bit of his blood found its way into a piece of inventory at the bottling factory he was working at. This was the catalyst for the film’s worldwide game of cat-and-mouse, as Bruce worked against the clock to find a cure to his condition while evading the forces of General Ross’s army. But what if Bruce Banner hadn’t decided to settle in Brazil? What if his travels took him to Asia, and he discovered a mysterious sanctuary that promised him a solution to controlling the beast within? What if Bruce Banner found Kamar-Taj and became the Sorcerer Supreme?
Bruce Banner had sought the help of many specialists from around the world to help him with controlling his anger and suppressing his transformations. It wouldn’t be a far stretch to imagine a reality in which Bruce’s search for guidance brings him to Kamar-Taj. There, he meets The Ancient One, and in him she would see the same drive, genius, and possibility that she later sees in Stephen Strange. With a promise to find inner peace and expand his mind, Bruce Banner dives into the teachings of The Ancient One. Banner quickly succeeds in his learning, mastering the mystic arts. With a newfound sense of balance, Banner makes peace between him and the Hulk, perhaps even becoming a version of Professor Hulk that he would later be in Avengers: Endgame. When General Ross inevitably finds Banner’s location, he sends a military group to raid Kamar-Taj and bring Banner to justice, spawning a war between Ross’s forces and the sorcerers who are sworn to protect the mystic arts.
Having the Hulk become the sorcerer supreme would be a fun way to completely reimagine the character and see the world of the supernatural through a very different perspective. Instead of struggling with pride, arrogance, and narcissism as Doctor Strange did, Doctor Banner would have to overcome his fears, demons, and the raging Hulk within. Weaving supernatural elements through the events of The Incredible Hulk would provide that weird yet familiar tone that the comics always had. Plus, it would be incredibly cool to see Bruce Banner / The Hulk sporting the Cloak of Levitation and using the Eye of Agamotto against Emil Blonsky, General Ross, and whichever other threats arise from this completely altered timeline. Would Dormammu try to recruit Doctor Banner? Would Baron Mordo or Kaecillius have doubts about Banner's inclusion as a sorcerer? By combining two radically different corners of the MCU, this What If…? plot would be a magical watch for any Marvel fan.
Other possibility: What if Bruce Banner’s gamma-radiation experiment worked?
Bruce Banner’s origin is iconic. In the MCU, Dr. Banner was working on an experiment that (unbeknownst to him) was attempting to replicate the super-soldier serum that created Captain America. Being so confident in the project’s success, Banner decided to test his gamma-ray experiment on himself. The experiment quickly went very wrong, turning the mild-mannered scientist into the Incredible Hulk. But what if it hadn't gone wrong? What if Bruce never became the Hulk at all? What if Bruce Banner’s gamma-radiation experiment worked?
This one change would set off a completely different set of events for the comic book character. Bruce Banner would have become a super-soldier, just like Steve Rogers. He would quickly realize what General Ross’s real agenda was with the project and would attempt to destroy the evidence. With Bruce Banner now being the only man in the world who knows how to create super-soldiers, he becomes a target for evil villains and organizations everywhere, which still forces him into a life of hiding and despair. But the most interesting question of all is, would Bruce Banner still have become a superhero? He never set out to fight evil like Steve Rogers. He was bestowed with his superhuman abilities largely on accident. He never wanted that life. Yet, we have seen him rise to the occasion time and time again, so perhaps there would be a superheroic future for the scientist after all. One where he isn’t always so angry.
IRON MAN 2
Main prediction: What if Howard Stark became Iron Man?
Tony never had a great relationship with his father. Howard Stark remained largely absent from his son’s life, having to deal with his obligations at S.H.I.E.L.D. and run a multi-billion dollar company at the same time. Tony never knew of the pressures his dad was under, all of which were revealed to him in Iron Man 2, when Nick Fury gave Tony a box of his late father’s life work. Tony learned that the arc reactor was actually an unfinished project his father had been tirelessly working on his whole life. Nick Fury revealed that Howard Stark felt the arc reactor was merely a stepping stone to something much greater than itself, which would have kicked off “an energy race that would dwarf the arms race.” Howard Stark was never able to complete the project because he was technologically limited in his time, but what if he hadn’t been? What if Howard Stark was able to complete the arc reactor project? What if Howard Stark became Iron Man?
Howard Stark being a superhero would have thrown off the balance of his complicated life. In this alternate reality, Howard makes a breakthrough in the arc reactor technology, effectively creating the new element he discovered, and stabilizing the clean energy source. Presumably the energy race he always spoke of would come to fruition, as other nations and corporations attempt to replicate Howard Stark’s unprecedented innovation. Not all would play fair, though, and Howard Stark might go through the same kidnapping scenario that Tony did, as Russian spies (remember we’re around the Cold War here) or another corporation forces him to make them an arc reactor. Howard breaks out of captivity by making an Iron Man suit, and begins his new life as an international superhero. He goes on missions for S.H.I.E.L.D., works alongside Hank Pym as Ant-Man, all while advancing his energy efficient technology. Nick Fury had said that Howard Stark was working on something so big that “...it would make a nuclear reactor look like a triple A battery.” Howard works days on end to complete that project, all the while struggling to keep up with his corporate obligations, his S.H.I.E.L.D. duties, and his desires of being a better father.
Howard Stark’s mysterious life is one of the most intriguing traits about his character. He had a direct hand in creating Captain America, he co-founded S.H.I.E.L.D., he founded an incredibly successful weapons manufacturing company, and he shared friendships with Peggy Carter, Nick Fury, and Hank Pym. Howard was only ever able to approach his ventures as a businessman and scientist, so putting him in the same role his son would eventually embody shows an even more exciting path for Howard to go down. What sorts of villains would come out of the Cold War era MCU in order to oppose Howard Stark's Iron Man? Crimson Dynamo? Arnim Zola? A younger Iron Monger? In this timeline, would Howard Stark’s future end in the same tragic way? He might be able to stop the Winter Soldier’s assassination attempt, but that doesn’t mean HYDRA would give up on their attempts to murder the business tycoon. And what about Tony? How will Howard's relationship with his son change, if at all? And how would Tony’s life differ if his father was the first Iron Man?
Other possibility: What if Iron Man became an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Iron Man 2 gave Marvel fans a deeper insight into how S.H.I.E.L.D., an intelligence organization that was very prevalent in Marvel comics, operated in the cinematic universe. Fan-favorites such as Nick Fury and Black Widow were given supporting roles in the Iron Man sequel, with S.H.I.E.L.D. overseeing Tony's every action and even assisting in his attempts to figure out a viable substitute to the lethal palladium in his arc reactor. After the events of the film, Nick Fury reveals to Tony that he has not been accepted for the Avengers Initiative, prompting the hero to quip the rejection off and ask for another favor instead. But what if Nick Fury had made a different call? What if Nick Fury decided to take a chance on the genius billionaire? What if Iron Man became an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
The “What If” comic book series has previously utilized this premise with two other vigilante heroes, Daredevil and the Punisher, and seeing the anti-establishment Iron Man join the ranks of the world’s largest intelligence organization would create a similarly exciting juxtaposition. The iron-clad hero would be sent on official missions alongside Black Widow and Hawkeye. His technological prowess and innate genius would allow him to be successful in ways S.H.I.E.L.D. could never imagine. The superhero would quickly rise through the ranks, but Tony’s untrusting nature prompts him to search for dark secrets within the organization, maybe even uncovering HYDRA’s secret faction. Tony would be the first to know of the experiments with the Tesseract, perhaps taking the project in a completely different direction. This premise may even adapt the famous comic book arc: Tony Stark, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Making the traditionally solo hero an intelligence corporation’s employee would be a complete departure for the character, showing us a version of Iron Man that only a What If…? episode could. And just imagine how cool Tony's S.H.I.E.L.D. armor would look.
Rumored plot: What if Loki had found the hammer of Thor?
Slashfilm reported a rumor last year that a What If…? episode is going to adapt story elements from the comic book issue “What if Loki had found the hammer of Thor?” In the comic, the story is deeply rooted in a different mythology than the films have followed for the Norse god. Involving Thor’s original banishment to Earth, in which he had assumed the different identity Donald Blake until he regained his memories and found himself to be worthy of Mjolnir, the story has Loki escaping his own banishment and finding the hammer first, which at the time was disguised as a cane. Since he wasn't worthy to lift the hammer, Loki turned the cane into a tree and set about the events of Ragnarok. With Thor unable to find Mjolnir, he was helpless to stop the end of Asgard, until Odin intervened and fought Loki, who was guarding the Mjolnir tree with a dragon. Yeah, a lot going on.
The MCU adaptation would most likely go in a different direction than the comic. The series episode could follow an alternate history in which it's Loki who was worthy of Mjolnir, instead of Thor. This would be a complete role reversal, as Thor might no longer be the favorite child, and he might grow the same resentment and evil nature that his adopted brother originally did. Loki would most likely be entrusted as King of Asgard, but with him being the God of Mischief, Asgard would suffer greatly under his rule. Thor might also plan a coup against Loki, and without the banishment that taught Thor the errors of his temperamental ways, there’s no telling what sort of harm he could bring to Asgard and the Nine Realms. The power reversals would be very exciting to see as well, as Loki would most likely keep his magical powers alongside the hammer. And would Thor still have the powers of thunder and lightning? Or might he find a way to master magic in order to keep up with Loki’s power? Switching the circumstances of Loki and Thor’s upbringing would create a very fun alternate universe.
On the other hand, the episode’s plot could go for a more specific event in Thor’s history, more closely following the plot of the “What If” comic. When Thor is banished on Earth and living in New Mexico, Loki enacts a plan to take over Asgard and show Odin his full potential. After Loki visits Thor on Earth to tell him he is never allowed to return to his home realm, Loki takes a visit to the site where Mjolnir landed. He attempts to pick up the hammer, but is not worthy of it. But what if he was? What if through some magic spell or loophole, Loki finds a way to lift the hammer in that moment, being granted the powers of Thor? This would leave Thor permanently stranded on Earth and assist Loki in succeeding with his scheme to rule Asgard. Or what if Odin gave Loki the power to lift Mjolnir right after taking it from Thor? Loki would go on to kill Laufey, fight the Frost Giants, and inevitably start a war among the Nine Realms, something Odin and the forces of Asgard would stop at nothing to end. With all the exciting opportunities at their disposal for this plot, there is no doubt the What If…? writers would create a great episode of television with this simple twist.
Other possibility: What if Thor was banished elsewhere in the cosmos, was found by Thanos, and became a child of the Mad Titan?
When Odin banished Thor for his naive actions against the Frost Giants, Thor was sent to New Mexico on Earth. There, he met a group of scientists who helped him on his journey towards redeeming Mjolnir and bringing peace back to Asgard. But Odin could have banished Thor anywhere. What if Odin hadn’t decided to send Thor to Earth? What if Odin had sent Thor somewhere completely different, allowing him to be found by a group of people who take advantage of his situation instead of helping him? What if Thor was banished elsewhere in the cosmos, was found by Thanos, and became an adopted child of the Mad Titan?
As we saw in The Avengers, Thanos was very capable of manipulating Loki to do his bidding. If Thanos had instead found Thor first, with Thor being in the same betrayed state of mind that Loki was at the end of Thor, it would not be too difficult for the Mad Titan to manipulate the God of Thunder into doing his bidding, perhaps promising him a way to find Mjolnir again in return for Thor finding Thanos an Infinity Stone. Thor would train alongside Gamora, Nebula, and the rest of the Black Order. When Odin eventually discovers what’s happened to his son, he would send Sif and the Warriors Three. After their defeat, he decides to go himself in order to face off against Thanos and his Black Order, showcasing Odin as we’ve never seen him before so he can save the soul of his son.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
Confirmed plot: What if Peggy Carter was given the super-soldier serum?
The first episode plot to be confirmed was that of the Captain America: The First Avenger centered series premiere, which will follow the premise “What if Peggy Carter was given the super-soldier serum?” At last year’s D23 Expo, What If…? images and footage were shown, the majority of which belonged to this episode’s plot. Peggy Carter was a British version of Captain America, with the Union Jack symbol on her suit and shield. A few other images showed a still scrawny Steve Rogers in a giant mechanized suit built by Howard Stark, a sort of Iron Man prototype. And the final batch of pictures showed Captain Peggy Carter on the back of Rogers’s suit, flying alongside the Allied forces in their fight against the Nazis during World War II.
The events of this episode’s plot will have major ripple effects on the way this Marvel Universe turns out. The “World’s First Superhero” will now belong to the United Kingdom, not the United States. Steve Rogers never becomes a super-soldier himself, but he might be a version of Iron Man. And many other questions come to mind when thinking about this episode. Would Peggy Carter’s war strategy differ at all from Rogers’s? Would she meet any resistance or special orders from the British government? Also, in The First Avenger, Steve was initially used as a propaganda figure for the United States before he earned a spot fighting alongside the Allied forces. Will the U.K. use Captain Carter in the same fashion? And how will the United States react to not being given the honor of the world’s first and only super-soldier? Would the U.S. accelerate any attempts at recreating the super soldier serum? Maybe even creating a 1940s Hulk? Perhaps the most intriguing question of all is, will Peggy also be forced to sacrifice herself to save the world from Red Skull’s attacks? Or will her increased experience lead her to a completely different future altogether? One in which she succeeds on her mission, and is able to return to Steve Rogers for that promised dance.
This exciting premise is perfect to start out the series. Peggy Carter has been a fan-favorite character since Captain America: The First Avenger was released in 2011. Unfortunately, the circumstances of that film did not allow her to have a large role in the franchise going forward. Aside from a few cameos in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, and Avengers: Endgame, Peggy Carter was largely absent from the rest of the MCU’s timeline. Carter was even given her own short-lived ABC series, Agent Carter, in 2015, which sadly only lasted for two seasons. Now, with this What If…? episode, fans of the character will get to see Peggy Carter in a much more active, action-packed role. The Captain Carter character reversal also makes total in-universe sense. Peggy Carter was one of the Allies’ best officers. She was capable, driven, and incredibly intelligent. Though Steve Rogers had to be the one who received the super-soldier serum due to his comic-book origins, one does sometimes wonder, why was Peggy not given the serum in the first place? Since Peggy never could have become Captain Carter in the main Marvel timeline, giving Peggy Carter the powers of a super-soldier in a What If…? episode does exactly what the series is intended for.
Main prediction: What if the Avengers were assembled in 1985?
Marvel’s The Avengers was a pivotal moment in superhero film history, bringing together characters from different franchises for an unprecedented superhero crossover. The film saw the Asgardian god Loki come to Earth and steal the Tesseract, an item of unlimited power, forcing Nick Fury to assemble Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye so they could come together as a team and fight for Earth against Loki and his impending alien forces. At the time of this film’s release, Marvel Studios had only introduced a handful of Marvel characters. It seemed as if those six heroes were the only superheroes on Earth, but as the MCU grew, we learned that superheroes had been around much earlier than 2008. So, what if Loki was sent to retrieve the Tesseract further back in Earth’s timeline? What if Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were composed of a completely different team altogether? What if the Avengers were assembled in 1985?
Thanos begins his quest for the Infinity Stones a few decades earlier during the Earth's 1980s. Thor is banished from Asgard, learns what it means to be a king, and returns only to see Loki fall into an abyss. Thanos finds Loki and sends him to Earth to retrieve the Tesseract, but this time in 1985. S.H.I.E.L.D. is now forced to assemble the superheroes of that decade to oppose him: Ant-Man (Hank Pym), the Wasp (Janet van Dyne), Black Panther (T’Chaka), The Ancient One, Nick Fury, and Thor. These are the six heroes that will need to set aside their differences in order to save the world from an alien invasion. The threat and the goal are the same. The way these superheroes come together and learn to be a team, that will be completely different. Black Panther and The Ancient One will need to be forced out of the shadows. Ant-Man and the Wasp will need to set aside their disdain for being used as soldiers. Nick Fury must step up as the spy among them and find the potential in him to fight alongside superhumans. And Thor will once again need to settle his painful familial differences alongside a new foreign group of heroes.
Reimagining an iconic film with an all new slate of characters would be an extremely fun watch for fans of the franchise. Who’s going to be the Nick Fury of the story, calling the shots behind the scenes and bringing the team together? Peggy Carter? Howard Stark? Who will be the Phil Coulson of the team that pushes them to embody their namesake? Would their team name be any different since Fury has not yet been inspired by Carol Danvers’s call sign? The “What If” comics did a similar issue, “What if the Avengers fought evil in the 1950s?”, making an alternate lineup with heroes of that time, and for good reason. It is very fun to think about what an Avengers team in a different time period would feel like. Imagine a final act battle through 1980s New York City. How would 1985 react to an alien invasion? The possibilities for this What If…? plot are endless, but one thing is for certain. That 360 shot of this team is something we definitely need to see.
Other possibility: What if Iron Man never made it out of the wormhole?
During the climactic battle sequence of The Avengers, Nick Fury and the Avengers learn that the World Security Council has dispatched a nuclear missile to the city of New York, in an attempt to contain the alien invasion. Iron Man rushes towards the nuke, catches it seconds before striking the ground, and sends it flying through the wormhole above. Tony’s suit malfunctions in the vacuum of space, and JARVIS sends Tony one last push back towards the wormhole, which Black Widow closes right as Tony makes it through and back to safety. But what if Black Widow had closed the wormhole too soon? What if JARVIS wasn’t able to push Tony back down to Earth? What if Iron Man never made it out of the wormhole?
Tony’s future would be completely different with this simple twist. Not knowing where in space he is, Iron Man would be lost drifting in the cosmos until he was found by either a group of characters (the Ravagers, Rocket and Groot, the Nova Corps) or he was stranded on an alien planet (Xandar, Sakaar, Knowhere). In the main Marvel timeline, Tony never really had a chance to explore the cosmos until Avengers: Infinity War, and even then he only ever visited Titan. This alternate chain of events can show Tony Stark persevering his way through deep space, seeing him interact with characters he never got a chance to meet, all while dealing with the same extreme fears and traumas he had in Iron Man 3, but this time in the terrifyingly endless vacuum of outer space.
Other possibility: What if Thanos sent Gamora and Nebula to retrieve the Tesseract?
In The Avengers, Loki comes down to Earth to steal the Tesseract, open up a wormhole over New York, and bring in an army of Chitauri soldiers so that he could take over the planet as his own. It wasn’t until the mid-credits scene that fans were given a glimpse of the villain behind it all, the Mad Titan himself, Thanos. Not much was known about the MCU's version of the character in 2012, but the Guardians of the Galaxy films and Avengers: Infinity War revealed that Thanos was not working alone. By his side on his quest for the Infinity Stones were Gamora and Nebula, his adopted daughters that he trained into deadly weapons. Given their strong connection to Thanos, it would have made the most sense for him to send them to Earth, and trust them to wield the Mind Stone against Earth. Of course, this was not possible to see in The Avengers because Gamora and Nebula had not yet been introduced, but in this animated series anything is possible. So, what if Thanos sent Gamora and Nebula to retrieve the Tesseract?
The Avengers would have played out very differently if this had been the case. Gamora and Nebula’s way of completing their quest would be much simpler than Loki’s. Whereas Loki wanted to put on a global spectacle (he was a full-tilt diva after all), Gamora and Nebula are much more discreet. They know how to get the job done. They’ve been training for it their whole lives. They would not have been concerned with the psychological game of breaking the team apart. If they do decide to bring in the Chitauri army (in order to kill half the population and carry out Thanos’s goal of balancing the universe), it most likely would have happened much sooner in the film, catching the Avengers more off guard. Gamora might have had the same hidden desires to backstab Thanos that she did in Guardians of the Galaxy, but seeing the heroism and drive of the Avengers would push her to betray Thanos and Nebula in 2012 as opposed to two years later. She may even become an inaugural member of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The Avengers would be well aware of what Thanos plans to do with the Infinity Stones, and Gamora might even lead them on an intergalactic ambush against him much sooner than Avengers: Infinity War, making the Avengers more of a Guardians-esque space team.