Marvel Just Found the Solution to Its Big Avengers Problem
We’re sick of waiting for Avengers 5.
The original conceit of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was deliciously simple: a series of solo superhero outings united every few years for a world-saving Avengers movie. This not only provided Disney with a steady stream of billion-dollar films, it also gave the MCU a reliable reset button. Each Avengers movie brought the entire ensemble together to reestablish the pecking order of power levels before releasing its growing roster of heroes to pursue their own adventures.
It was a system that worked brilliantly and seemed to be endlessly repeatable. Then, Marvel Studios seemingly abandoned that system. It’s been almost five years since the last Avengers movie, and the MCU feels more chaotic and aimless than ever. Even worse, after making fans wait so long, the pressure on the next Avengers movie will be higher than ever, setting up the franchise for yet another failure (and that’s without getting into all the recent drama around “Avengers 5” and its planned villain Kang the Conqueror).
But in the meantime, Marvel Studios may have stumbled upon a solution in the most unexpected place imaginable.
In the second season of What If...? (Marvel’s animated anthology exploring alternate realities within the MCU), one new episode feels like the closest we’ve come to an actual Avengers story in a very long time
Warning: Spoilers ahead for What If Season 2 Episode 2.
What If Season 2 Episode 2 imagines a reality where Peter Quill (aka, Star-Lord) gets delivered to his evil space-god father when he’s still a child, setting him up to help complete Dad’s plan to conquer the entire galaxy. When young Peter arrives back on Earth to in the early ‘90s complete his deadly mission, Peggy Carter and Howard Stark have no choice but to bring together a group of superheroes that includes Thor Odinson, the original Ant-Man (voiced by Michael Douglas), Goliath (voiced by Lawrence Fishburne), and the Winter Soldier.
(I could probably write an entire article about the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes in this episode. For one thing, it’s suggested that lots of people suspected that the Winter Soldier was secretly Bucky. So why didn’t anyone tell Captain America? For another, how could he be on loan from U.S.S.R leader Mikhail Gorbachev when he was under the control of HYDRA? Am I missing something here, or does this not add up?)
Anyway, with the team united, we get to watch what feels pretty close to a classic Avengers adventure. In 30 short minutes, the team assembles, bonds, and comes together to defeat an apocalyptic threat. The episode even ends with an Avengers dinner party in what feels like a nod to The Avengers’ infamous shwarma scene.
So why does this matter? While we’ll probably never see this formation of superheroes again, What If may have just cracked the code for future Avengers outings. If you can tell a satisfying team-up in just 30 minutes of animation, maybe Marvel should keep doing exactly that. In case it isn’t clear at this point, I’m suggesting a new Avengers cartoon series set in the MCU.
Marvel could go a few different routes here. There’s the multiverse route, which would mean a series of alternate-reality Avengers stories with no real effect on the main timeline. But an even better version would stick with the main Avengers we know and love, telling additional stories in the empty spaces between the pre-existing movies. Imagine a series set right after Avengers: Age of Ultron where a team led by Captain America and Iron Man take on various supervillains and other global threats. (What If Season 2 also proves you can recast their voices without missing a beat.)
Of course, this wouldn’t solve Marvel’s box office woes, but it would take some pressure off Avengers 5 while also giving MCU fans what they’re sorely missing right now. What If proves it’s possible to tell a great Avengers story in a 30-minute cartoon. So why not keep doing it?