“What If…The World Lost its Mightiest Heroes?” turns the Marvel Cinematic Universe into an Agatha Christie as the Avengers Initiative is taken out in less than a week!

In a familiar scene, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow (voiced by Lake Bell instead of Scarlett Johansson) confront Tony Stark (Mick Wingert) nursing a hangover at Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood, California. MCU fans will recall that in Iron Man 2, Tony discovered that the palladium powering the Arc Reactor is slowly killing him. Once again Nathasha injects Stark with lithium dioxide but instead of temporarily staving off the palladium poisoning to give Tony time to find a permanent cure, the injection actually kills the Shellhead!

Suspected of murdering Stark, Widow is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. for questioning but no surprise she makes her escape mid-transportation.

Meanwhile, in Puente Antiguo, New Mexico a depowered Thor infiltrates the S.H.I.E.L.D. camp currently guarding his hammer Mjolnir. And just like in the 2011 film, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) has the former Prince of Asgard in his sights but deviating from the “sacred timeline” Clint ends up shooting and killing Thor. Despite claiming he never fired the shot, Barton’s trademark arrow “indicates otherwise.” Before Fury can interrogate him, the archer becomes the third Avenger murder victim despite being in a locked cell with no signs of entry.

Searching for clues, Natasha travels all the way to Culver University, Virginia to enlist the help of biologist Betty Ross, portrayed in the 2008 live-action The Incredible Hulk film by Liv Tyler and voiced here by Stephanie Pansiello. Betty deduces that it was a tiny projectile somehow fired from the injector needle that killed Stark. Natasha receives a call from Fury who tells her that Avengers Initiative candidates are being targeted and that she and Bruce Banner are next on the list. As luck would have it, Banner (Edward Norton Mark Ruffalo) is currently hiding out in his ex-girlfriend’s Betty’s lab.

Back in New Mexico, an army of Asgardians arrive led by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) seeking vengeance for the death of Thor. After a brief skirmish, Fury manages to convince Loki to give him time to track down this mysterious killer before the God of Mischief reduces Midgard to ash and ice.

Unfortunately, Banner becomes yet another victim when during an attack by Betty’s father General Ross, a sniper bullet causes him to transform into the Hulk only for his body to continue to swell up and explode. Natasha breaks into the local public library and thanks to a password provided to her by Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) manages to access the Avengers Initiative database. Just as she figures out the mystery, Natasha is attacked and taken out by an unknown assailant but not before sending a message to Fury that it’s all about “Hope.”

Realizing that he’s the final target and after putting the clues together, Fury travels to San Francisco to visit the grave of Hope van Dyne. It’s there that he’s confronted by the killer revealed to be Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) now donning the Yellowjacket suit. Apparently in this reality, Hope became an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and was killed on a mission in Odessa, Ukraine. Holding Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. responsible for the death of his daughter, Pym is out for revenge.

The World Lost its Mightiest HeroesUnlike his other victims, Fury manages to hold his own against the crazed Pym thanks to some illusion-projection and/or duplication-casting from Loki. Together they manage to capture Pym. But it’s not a completely happy ending as Loki decides to “extend” his stay on Asgard, to quote Avery Kaplan‘s Loki “Journey in Mystery” recap—a betrayal, from Loki? NEVER.

In less than a day Loki travels to the United Nations in NYC to declare his supreme takeover of Earth. It seems the world has lost its mightiest heroes. The Watcher, ever the optimist, states his belief that “hope never dies as long as someone keeps their good eye on the bigger picture.” Lucky for humanity, Fury locates Captain America trapped in ice, and Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel has arrived on Earth to join the fray.

The World Lost its Mightiest Heroes

Miscellaneous Notes

  • I’m sure I’m not the only one who was reminded of the Identity Crisis storyline from DC Comics, another superhero murder mystery where the killer much like “What If…The World Lost its Mightiest Heroes” was also revealed to be connected to a size-changing superhero.
  • Brock Rumlow mentions Alexander Pierce, World Security Council Secretary and secret HYDRA leader. His picture can be seen along with Maria Hill in the Avengers Initiative database.

  • Apparently Thor smells like lavender.
  • The uniform from Stanley’s Pizza Parlor can be spotted in Betty’s lab.

  • I wonder if we’ll ever see Liv Tyler reprise Betty Ross in the live-action MCU ever again. If Tim Roth can return as Emily Blonsky/Abomination after more than a decade, anything is possible!
  • The Casket of Ancient Winters reappears.
  • Coulson’s fanboy love for Captain America continues with his password revealed to be #SteveSteveSteveIHeartSteve0704.
  • The Transmitter Pager pops up again

The World Lost its Mightiest Heroes

  • Fans may remember that Janet van Dyne a.k.a. The Wasp was in Joss Whedon‘s initial draft of Marvel’s Avengers film.
  • Hank Pym first adopted the identity and cocky new persona of Yellowjacket in Avengers #59.

  • Fury mentions that she was killed on a mission in Odessa, Ukraine. It’s the same mission where Black Widow was tasked with escorting a nuclear engineer out of Iran and where she first encountered the Winter Soldier. It’s safe to assume that Hope was killed by the Winter Soldier.
  • Loki’s speech at the United Nations is based on his speech in Germany from the first Avengers film, “It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled.”