What If’s Iron Man Murder Made The MCU’s War Machine Treatment Even Worse

Warning: This article contains spoilers for What If...? episode 6.

Marvel's What If...? episode 6 paid tribute to Iron Man, and the act made the Marvel Cinematic Universe's treatment of War Machine even worse. In What If...? episode 6, the Ten Rings terrorists don't kidnap Tony Stark (voiced by Mick Wingert). Instead, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) saves Stark and becomes one of his close confidants. Killmonger uses his leverage to manipulate Stark Industries into building automated war drones. Unfortunately, he also kills Stark, James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), and T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) along the way. In the end, only Shuri (voiced by Ozioma Akagha) and Pepper Potts (voiced by Beth Hoyt) can see through Killmonger's charade.

With the episode, What If...? continues to show how seemingly good changes can lead to dark consequences for the MCU. In the episode, Killmonger's rescue of Stark leads to the murders of several prominent MCU characters. Likewise, episode 2 showed how T'Challa could become Star-Lord and bring prosperity to the galaxy, even convincing Thanos (Josh Brolin) to change his genocidal ways. However, the change also makes Peter Quill (voiced by Brian T. Delaney) vulnerable to his Celestial dad, Ego (Kurt Russell). Without the Guardians of the Galaxy at Quill's side, Ego is free to use his son as a power source to help recreate the universe in his image.

Related: Marvel Zombies Just Proved What Spider-Man’s Real Power Is

The MCU reveals how poorly it treats War Machine in What If...?. Killmonger's schemes in the episode lead to the character killing James Rhodes/War Machine in cold blood. In the episode, Rhodes gets a hero's tribute, with a flag covering his casket and many saluting him. However, Tony Stark's murder brings out all the pomp and circumstance. After his death, Stark appears on posters with a message that reads, "Only you can avenge Tony Stark." Considering that Rhodes was a military hero and Stark was simply a weapons-dealing celebrity, the tribute is odd.

The Stark tribute highlights War Machine's abysmal treatment. Tony Stark is heartless in What If...?. During the episode, Stark acts like an arrogant, self-absorbed egomaniac. Yet, despite his behavior, he gets posters and people lining up to avenge him following his death. On the other hand, War Machine —an actual hero—gets quickly forgotten. His death is a minor blip in the episode that What If...? can't wait to breeze past. It's just more of the same for the MCU. While several MCU heroes get the bulk of the action and origin stories in the form of solo movies, War Machine seems to get often relegated to the sidelines. What If...? episode 6 continues that trend.

Despite War Machine's poor treatment thus far, the tide may be turning. On Disney's Investor Day in 2020, Marvel boss Kevin Feige announced a new Armor Wars series on the way, with Cheadle returning to star. Though the MCU regularly leaves War Machine out of the action, the new series could serve as a way for Marvel to develop the character further and give Cheadle more material to work with. However, time will tell how much the series improves Rhodey. When it comes to how the MCU treats War Machine as opposed to its other characters, there's a stark contrast.

More: The MCU Explains Why Tony Stark Can Never Be Revived

Marvel's What If...? releases new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.

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