Marvel's "What If... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?" Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Marvel's "What If... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?" Review

Alexander Wallace explores an alternate starting point for the MCU.
One of the criticisms I often see of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, often from non-Americans, is how willing it is to accept American military hegemony, and an assumption of its morality, as a given. Captain America was literally a military project, and Tony Stark made his money selling weapons to the American armed forces. I can understand why those from other countries may feel some trepidation when the Avengers swoop into Sokovia or Nigeria without clearing it with the local government.

In What If... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?, the franchise addresses these questions head on. The point of divergence from the MCU canon is in the original Iron Man, where Erik Stevens, still in service with the Navy SEALs, rescues Tony Stark from an insurgent attack. I’ll admit, it’s a little strange to see Stark in that car in Afghanistan; the franchise has changed so much since 2008 (especially the cell phones - I was pleasantly surprised to see that they got those accurate to the original).

But Stevens, the future Killmonger, is now very much committed to the radical streak that defined his appearance in Black Panther. It is a fuming rage that becomes all the more terrifying as he elegantly switches between the impassioned radical and the obedient, patriotic sailor. Seeing him manipulate Tony Stark, already a master manipulator, is astoundingly unnerving; you get the impression that he’s willing to do anything.

This episode serves very well as an investigation into the bent morality that is inherent to international politics. The armed forces of the United States are certainly not portrayed in a glowing manner, instead allowing the ambiguity of its place in the world to inform its actions in a way that struck me as honest. Similarly, the political establishment of Wakanda, already interrogated in Black Panther, is shown to be first and foremost composed of politicians, not saints. The most terrifying part about all of this is how, in some ways, they are so predictable; Killmonger can play them like a master fiddler.

This is easily the most daring of the episodes of What If…? thus far; it takes a part of the franchise that has been oftentimes somewhat uncomfortable and blows it right open. You will see Tony Stark less as a superhuman and more as a more daring Elon Musk, with all the trepidation that implies. You will see a political radical fight for his cause, but learn that fighting for a cause does not make you a saint. You will see a real icon of liberty and a fictional icon of independence both dirty themselves in the mud of seeking power. As of now, it is my favorite episode of What If…?

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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