What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark? reminds us how fast things go bad when billionaires aren’t taught empathy and humility.
Pinching off the MCU’s primary timeline before it even gets started, WHAT IF…KILLMONGER RESCUED TONY STARK eviscerates the story of 2008’s IRON MAN in favour of rewriting the plot of BLACK PANTHER.
When Tony Stark’s convoy in Afghanistan is ambushed by the Ten Rings, the terrorists’ plans are foiled by a ruthless elite Navy Seal Erik “Killmonger” Stevens. Impressed, Stark brings him inside Stark Industries but Killmonger has an agenda of his own and Stark is merely a stepping stone.
While, like the other WHAT IF…? episodes, WHAT IF…KILLMONGER RESCUED TONY STARK benefits from more than a few star names reprising their cinematic roles, the repetitious use of actual dialogue from the IRON MAN movies and the extended screen time for Stark this time out simply underlines how poor a Robert Downey Jr substitute Mick Wingert is. Although he tries, there’s just no charm to this incarnation of Stark and his untampered arrogance and ambition renders the character borderline unlikeable – and easy pickings for the masterful manipulation of Killmonger.
Its simplistic, unavoidably compressed storytelling also loses much of the nuance and ambiguity of the character of Killmonger as we see it in his film appearance. There are no shades of grey here and it’s clear that he’s not interested in justice, only revenge – and he’s not choosy over who that vengeance is exacted on.
Often feeling like the real question it’s asking is WHAT IF…ZACK SNYDER CREATED THE MCU?, it’s another episode that ends rather abruptly and unsatisfyingly without resolving the major consequences of the changes it’s made. WHAT IF…KILLMONGER RESCUED TONY STARK ironically misses the point that it was Stark’s capture and escape that truly rescued him and instead tells the story of What if a genocidal maniac got his hands on all of Stark’s resources. It’s decently animated and decently entertaining but lacks anything new to say about the themes and characters it claims to be shaking up.