Marvel’s What If…? may see Ultron invading the MCU’s Multiverse. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has fully accepted the Multiverse, with Loki’s killing of He Who Remains and the timeline’s liberation from the TVA’s tyranny. The potential is virtually endless, as seen by the crazy and wacky Loki variations met by the trickster god at the end of time in a vacuum. If the Multiverse can accommodate Alligator Loki aka Croki, it could accommodate anything.
The upcoming Marvel Studios Disney+ television show will begin exploring this crazy Multiverse. The animated series will take viewers on a journey through other realities where events followed a different path. There will be alternate timelines in which Peggy Carter becomes a super-soldier rather than Steve Rogers, in which Killmonger teams up with Tony Stark and takes over Wakanda, and in which T’Challa becomes Star-Lord instead of Peter Quill. The most intriguing part is that there will be a timeline influenced by the “Marvel Zombies” comics, with the What If..? teaser hinting to zombie versions of Captain America and Iron Man.
However, although the majority of viewers anticipated each episode to be self-contained and centered in a distinct timeline, the What If..? teaser hinted at an underlying plot – one that pushes interdimensional superheroes to join forces. Ultron might be the menace they face.
Leaked merchandise suggests that What If…? will launch the Guardians of the Multiverse. A t-shirt spotlighted what appears to be the crew branding alongside a group of characters from the Disney+ TV show: the evil Doctor Strange, “Party Thor,” a variant of Black Widow who never leaves the Red Room, a whole other variant of Gamora, King Killmonger, T’Challa’s Star-Lord, and super-soldier Captain Carter.
These were all overlooked by the Watcher, a cosmic entity who monitors the Multiverse, which fueled conjecture that the Watcher would eventually forsake his pledge of non-interference and form a team of interdimensional heroes to combat some enigmatic danger. When discussing the Watcher’s character journey in What If..?, voice actor Jeffrey Wright indicated that these theories were true. “Here, in the first season, he begins as an observer,” Wright remarked, “but he gradually becomes more compelled by what he watches.”
The What If…? video bolsters this Multiversal collaboration by showing a few the sequences in which alternate timelines interact; Doctor Strange was shown presenting himself to Captain Carter, while Black Widow was seen tossing Captain Carter’s shield. Most intriguingly, the heroes were shown united in an Avengers-style scenario, implying that they will band together to battle a force too powerful for any of them to defeat alone. However, what may this danger be?
A number of sequences in the What If..? teaser contains glimpses of a very recognizable MCU villain – Ultron, the android built by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner using the Mind Stone who came dangerously close to destroying Earth in Avengers: Age of Ultron. In one shot, a fleet of Ultrons was seen rising into the sky, while others depicted Party Thor and a version of the Hulk battling Ultron. Tie-in merchandise bolsters the notion that Ultron is the greatest danger in What If…?, as the Funko Pop of Killmonger’s Black Panther depicts him carrying an Ultron bot’s severed head.
The unfortunate reality is that Avengers: Age of Ultron essentially failed the traditional Marvel antagonist, who in the comics is a nemesis who has repeatedly driven mankind to the verge of annihilation. Indeed, the picture bears no resemblance to the comic book from which it was adapted, which depicted an alternate timeline in which the android had successfully controlled the planet.
Mankind was on the edge of extinction, and the Avengers were compelled to utilize time travel to alter history – a narrative point that has more resemblance to Avengers: Endgame – which resulted in them splitting time apart.
That is not the first Multiversal narrative involving Ultron; in another Avengers narrative, Kang the Conqueror attacked an Ultron-ruled universe and became imprisoned. Kang attempted the same technique as the Avengers, repeatedly traveling back in time to discover a means to kill Ultron, but he was unable to do so – and almost destroyed the
Multiverse as a result of the pressure he placed on the chronology. The catastrophe was averted only after the Avengers convinced Ultron that it was preferable to appear to lose the battle with Kang than to perish when all of creation was destroyed.
Marvel’s What If…? might redeem Ultron by transforming him into an adversary on a par with – or greater than – the magnitude of the comics. The Disney+ series may include a scenario in which Ultron never defeats mankind but instead destroys it and seizes control of his whole realm.
Ultron is tied to the Infinity Stones’ power in the MCU, and as such, it’s quite plausible he could detect the birth of the Multiverse, at which point Ultron would attempt to spread across all of these alternate realities. A Multiversal invasion could easily serve as the show’s core plot, with the Watcher ultimately uniting the Guardians of the Multiverse in order to destroy Ultron.
Marvel may have previously hinted at a way to destroy Ultron. In 2015’s Secret Wars, all of the Marvel Comics universe’s alternative Earths merged to form a single planet known as Battleworld. There, Ultron’s forces were stalemated by the Marvel Zombies monsters, with neither side able to vanquish or kill the other.
As in the comics, it’s possible that the Marvel Zombies will be the best defense against Ultron – with the Guardians of the Multiverse bringing Ultron’s and the zombie dimensions together, stalemating two lethal forces. That would be an appropriate way to conclude Marvel’s What If…? season 1.