In 2008 audiences watched Tony Stark escape from a terrorist organization calling itself the Ten Rings. Most audience members (including yours truly) did not know the full canonical history of that name. Then I learned that in the comics the rings belonged to an Iron Man villain named... The Mandarin. Not exactly the most progressive title. But after the Iron Man trilogy ended, it seemed like both the Mandarin and the Ten Rings would be shelved in the MCU, until actor Simu Liu discovered that you should be careful what you tweet:
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely", or so the saying goes. Our favorite nerdy fictions are full of examples of truly good characters who wielded power far beyond anyone else in their world, but refused to use that power selfishly. I'm thinking of Charles Xavier's reluctance to read minds without permission, Gandalf's refusal to touch the one Ring, and Dumbledore's decision to avoid politics and settle into a quiet career in school administration, since everyone knows that schools are never, ever political.
Much like the first episode of "What If...", this week we are revisiting the greatest hits of Phase 1. In 2008 Marvel launched an incredibly ambitious project. In the post-credits scene of "Iron Man", Nick Fury teases the existence of the "Avengers", ultimately culminating in the film of the same name. The timeline in the MCU is always a bit fuzzy, but the comic tie-in "Fury's Big Week" reminds us that the events of "Iron Man 2", "Thor" and Hulk's initial return to the United States all happen within a few days of each other. This episode asks: "What if that week went horribly wrong?"
I definitely felt a lot of things during the second episode of "What If...". There's plenty going on in the episode itself, but most importantly this show was Chadwick Boseman's last performance. He contributed his voice on several episodes, but it seems likely that this will be the one that will centralize T'Challa the most. I wrote about how much I admire Boseman in a tribute to him and in my Black Panther recap, but needless to say his work speaks for itself. Obviously I will get into it more as we go, but Boseman's work in "What If..." is equally as exceptional.
The new MCU show on Disney+ is called "What If..." and the first episode dropped a couple weeks ago. Based on the comic series of the same name, each episode makes minor changes to established MCU lore and then examines how the universe would be different. The first episode asks "What if... Captain Carter were the First Avenger?"