Exactly how much Marvel Comics and its sister Marvel Studios are aligned is always a matter of speculation among fans and media observers, especially when Kevin Feige’s multimedia division operated independently from Marvel Entertainment, which included the comic book division under its umbrella.
In the past, Marvel’s publishing arm was of course always responsive to the big goings-on at Marvel Studios, and Marvel Studios certainly takes direct inspiration from the comic books, remaining surprisingly and consistently faithful from 2008’s Iron Man through today.
But how much Marvel Studios and publishing really worked in real tandem was always undetermined, even after Feige assumed control over Marvel Entertainment a couple of years back.
But this month there are new reasons to think the two arms are coordinated, sharing the same brain and performing complementary tasks.
Case in point, both Marvels are seemingly jumping into the deep end of the Multiverse together. September 29’s penultimate episode of the Disney Plus series What If…? in particular plays like a prelude to what appears to line up with an upcoming new Marvel Comic series in a way that likely isn’t a coincidence.
But we have to warn you for spoilers for the new What If…? to get into details.
Spoilers ahead for What If…? episode 7 ‘What if … Ultron Won’
Something of a significant change in direction while at the same time serving as a sequel to September’s 22’s comedic episode starring Thor, ‘What if … Ultron Won?’ is the second chapter in a story that will conclude in the October 6 season finale.
Instead of the Avengers robbing the cradle carrying what would become the Vision’s body in Avengers: Age of Ultron, this time Ultron succeeds in uploading himself to the Vision’s body and then makes quick work of destroying most of the Earth by launching thousands of nukes.
When Thanos shows up on schedule with five Infinity Stones to claim the Mind Stone ala Infinity War, he’s quickly cut into pieces (literally) by Ultron, who then ascends into an ultra-Ultron with all the Infinity Stones in his possession, now able to conjure thousands of Ultron drones at will.
(This, by the way, is somewhat reminiscent of the Marvel Comics story Annihilation Conquest, in which Ultron leads the techno-organic alien Phalanx in attempting to subvert the Galaxy to his machine-like will).
The episode then goes off on two tracks – humanity’s apparent last survivors (or at least heroes) Black Widow and Hawkeye coming up with a plan to defeat Ultron that cleverly culls from both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War, and ultra-Ultron becoming aware of the Watcher observing him, and thereby aware of the Multiverse, which turns into a hand-to-hand-fight between them, with Uatu turning into quite the rough-and-tumble action hero.
After realizing he can’t defeat him alone in the episode’s final moments the Watcher turns to Doctor Strange Supreme from What If…? episode 4, and given the trailer scenes we’ve seen of that Doctor Strange meeting Captain Carter from the premiere episode, the implication seems clear the Watcher and Strange will recruit a team or even army of superheroes from around the multiverse to defeat him.
And that puts us in mind of this…
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That’s a cover to December Avengers Forever #1 (and yes, that’s Captain Carter on the cover), a new ongoing series starring, yes … you guessed it… a team of Avengers from around the Multiverse.
As we say, the synergy seems too much in-synch not to be by pre-design.
Written by the regular series scribe Jason Aaron with artist Aaron Kuder, the series takes its name from the popular ’90s event series Avengers Forever (opens in new tab) (which Newsarama has been touting as ripe for MCU adaptation for years) and a bit of its spirit from the ’90s X-Men title Exiles (opens in new tab).
The comic book team will be officially called ‘Avengers of the Multiverse’ and will be formed by the main Marvel universe’s Robbie Reyes (AKA Ghost Rider). His first recruit will be a Tony Stark variant from another reality who instead of becoming the Invincible Iron Man has become the Invincible Ant-Man and instead of an arms designer/manufacturer is an archeologist.
During the series readers will meet new versions of familiar Avengers “as well as witness the return of some dear old friends, in a series that will swing for the fences with each and every issue, as the Mightiest Heroes of all the Earths in the heavens look to assemble as never before,” Aaron says.
“Swing for the fences” seems to be the edict for both Aaron’s Avengers plan and these last two What If…?s, which has branched off from being pastiches of MCU movies into a brand new story in its own right.
With Doctor Strange reemerging in episode 7 and next spring’s Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness coming up, it’s seeming more and more likely that What If..? may be something of a prequel to that movie, but we’ll know more about that in a week after the finale.
Until then, however, we can observe that Marvel Comics’ increasing preoccupation with the Multiverse is likely in concert with its movie and TV sister Marvel Studios, which makes for a very interesting relationship moving forward.
The aforementioned original Avengers Forever ranks #7 on Newsarama’s list of the best Avengers stories of all time.