It’s been a year since I last did a rewatch, ending Phase Three with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Now that the Infinity Saga is over and Thanos has turned to dust, our surviving heroes have moved on… with various degrees of success. Phase Four incorporates both Cinematic releases and television programs. For the television programs, I am limiting each article to three episodes each
Title: What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?
Director: Bryan Andrews.
Writer: A.C. Bradley
US Release Date: September 1, 2021
Variant characters; Dr. Stephen Strange, Christine Palmer, Wong, the Ancient One, and Christine Everhart
Summary: After successfully completing a rare hemispherectomy, surgeon Dr. Stephen Strange and his girlfriend Dr. Christine Palmer drive to a celebration party in his honor. However, they get into a car crash that kills Palmer. A grieving Strange seeks out answers in Kamar-Taj, where he becomes a Master of the Mystic Arts. While studying the Eye of Agamotto, Strange learns that it can manipulate time, but is warned by the Ancient One and Wong not to do so as it could damage the fabric of reality.
Two years after Palmer’s death, Strange returns to that night using the Eye, but is unable to save her no matter how he alters events. The Ancient One explains that averting Palmer’s death would mean he never became a sorcerer, creating a universe-destroying paradox as the event is an “absolute point” in time. Strange refuses to listen and uses the Eye to escape to the Lost Library of Cagliostro, where he meets librarian O’Bengh and learns that he can amass enough power to break an absolute point by absorbing magical beings.
After centuries of absorbing magical beings, Strange is told by a dying O’Bengh that he is still not powerful enough because he is only half of himself: when Strange escaped from the Ancient One, she used the power of the Dark Dimension to split him into two alternate versions, with one Strange studying the books of Cagliostro to become an evil version dubbed “Strange Supreme” and a good version accepting Palmer’s death. The Ancient One believes the latter Strange can defeat Strange Supreme.
After a battle between the two, Strange Supreme overpowers the good Strange and absorbs him. Strange Supreme uses his enhanced powers to reverse Palmer’s death, but she is repulsed by his monstrous appearance. As the paradox begins tearing reality apart and his surroundings collapse, Strange Supreme begs the Watcher for help. The latter refuses to interfere and the universe is destroyed. While Strange preserves a small pocket of it, Palmer disintegrates, leaving a regretful Strange Supreme to grieve alone.
Title: What If… Zombies?!
Director: Bryan Andrews.
Writer: Matthew Chauncey
US Release Date: September 8, 2021
Variant characters; Bruce Banner, T’Challa, Vision, Bucky Barnes, Hope van Dyne, Scott Lang, Harold “Happy” Hogan, Okoye, Sharon Carter, Kurt, Peter Parker, Ebony Maw, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Dr. Stephen Strange, Wong, Cull Obsidian, Hank Pym, Janet van Dyne, Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton, Sam Wilson, Wanda Maximoff, and Thanos.
Summary: Hank Pym enters the Quantum Realm to retrieve his long-lost wife Janet van Dyne, but she has been infected with a quantum virus that has turned her into a zombie. She infects Pym before both return to his lab, attacking Scott Lang while their daughter, Hope van Dyne, escapes. Within 24 hours, the virus spreads across the Northwestern United States. The Avengers respond, but are infected themselves and turn the virus into a worldwide zombie apocalypse.
Two weeks later, Bruce Banner is sent to Earth to warn humanity of the threat of Thanos. Thanos’ lieutenants Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian arrive, only to be turned into zombies by Tony Stark, Stephen Strange, and Wong, who were all infected. Hope and the Cloak of Levitation kill the zombies, saving Banner. Another survivor, Peter Parker, brings Banner to meet the rest of the survivor group—Bucky Barnes, Okoye, Sharon Carter, Kurt, and Happy Hogan. The group travels to Camp Lehigh in New Jersey, where they believe a cure for the virus is being developed. On the way there, they are attacked by zombies, including Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, and Sam Wilson, who kill Carter and Hogan before the survivors kill the zombies in turn.
Hope is infected during the attack and sacrifices herself to bring the other survivors to the camp. They meet Vision, whose Mind Stone can reverse the virus’s effects, exemplified by Lang’s cured head being kept alive in a jar. However, the group also learns that Vision has been keeping a zombified Wanda Maximoff captive due to her resisting the Mind Stone, and has been feeding other survivors to her, including pieces of T’Challa. Maximoff breaks free and kills Kurt, Okoye, and Barnes. Unwilling to live without Maximoff, Vision sacrifices himself to give up the Mind Stone so the others can cure the world with it.
While Parker, Lang, T’Challa, and the Cloak escape in a quadjet, Banner stays behind and turns into the Hulk to battle Maximoff and an oncoming zombie horde. In the hopes of broadcasting the Mind Stone’s energy around the world, the four survivors head to Wakanda, unaware that the country has been conquered by a zombified Thanos wielding a nearly-complete Infinity Gauntlet.
Easter Eggs: The first mention of Peter Parker’s uncle, Ben Parker, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, he’s yet to appear in the live-action series of the MCU.
Title: What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?
Director: Bryan Andrews.
Writer: Matthew Chauncey
US Release Date: September 15, 2021
Variant characters; Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (N’Jadaka), Happy Hogan, T’Challa, Ramonda, Okoye, Ulysses Klaue, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, J.A.R.V.I.S., Christine Everhart, T’Chaka, Tony Stark, Obadiah Stane, Pepper Potts, Thaddeus Ross, Shuri, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Hulk, Thor, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton.
Summary: In Afghanistan, Tony Stark’s military convoy is ambushed by the Ten Rings, but he is saved by Erik “Killmonger” Stevens. Returning to Stark Industries, Stark hires Killmonger and pledges to build better weapons. Killmonger exposes Obadiah Stane’s involvement in the ambush, having infiltrated the Ten Rings, and subsequently replaces Stane. Stark offers his expertise to build drone robots designed by Killmonger and succeeds at building one with Killmonger’s vibranium ring as a power source.
Needing more vibranium to create a drone army, they arrange for James “Rhodey” Rhodes to buy stolen vibranium from Ulysses Klaue. Klaue leaks word of the transaction to Wakanda, luring in T’Challa / Black Panther, who attacks the meeting to reclaim the vibranium. Killmonger kills T’Challa and Rhodes, making it look as if they had killed each other. Stark confronts Killmonger and attempts to avenge Rhodes by ordering the drone to kill Killmonger, but Killmonger defeats the drone and kills Stark with a Dora Milaje spear, staging it as a Wakandan attack. Shortly after, Killmonger creates an army of drones with the stolen vibranium.
The United States and Wakanda enter a conflict over the deaths of T’Challa, Rhodes, and Stark. The American military, led by General Thaddeus Ross, assume control of Stark Industries and use the drone army to invade Wakanda. Meanwhile, Killmonger kills Klaue to prove his allegiance to Wakanda and reunites with Wakanda’s rulers and his estranged uncle T’Chaka and aunt Ramonda. Killmonger cuts off Ross’ command of the drones, then secretly reactivates their combat capabilities so that he can lead the Wakandan army in defeating them.
After the battle, T’Chaka bestows the Black Panther mantle to Killmonger. In the astral plane, Killmonger meets with T’Challa, who warns him that he will be defeated one day. As the American military plans to eradicate Wakanda, T’Challa’s sister Shuri meets with Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts, proposing that they expose the truth of Killmonger’s deceit.
Easter Eggs: The drones created by Tony Stark with the help of Killmonger resemble the ones made by Justin Hammer with the help of Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2