What If…? has shown the unexpected death of Iron Man in three of their episodes, which is half of the series so far. We cannot help but think if Marvel is trying to establish that we might never see the return of Tony Stark to the MCU again.
Three out of six episodes of Marvel’s What If…? on Disney+ have shown Tony Stark dying in different scenarios. This could possibly be Marvel’s way of telling fans to give up on their hopes of seeing Iron Man return. While fans have been eagerly waiting for Stark to make a glamorous appearance ever since they last saw his heroic death in Avengers: Endgame, the news is that Robert Downey Jr. is bound by no such contracts with the studio for his role as Iron Man. But all these fan expectations seem to have been crushed by Disney’s What If…?. The series has had six episodes aired so far, and half of these episodes involve Tony Stark’s unfortunate death.
We first see this happen in episode 3 of What If..? in the chain of mysterious murders directed at the Avengers Initiative. Iron Man was the first to be killed, and it was on Nick Fury to find out who was responsible. In episode 5 of What If…?, we see Stark turn into a slobbering zombie while still clad in his Iron Man suit. This happens because of the virus outbreak that was supposedly brought back by Hank Pym’s wife, and early in the episode we see Stark’s exanimate parallel is dealt with by Hope Van Dyne.
Right after that, Tony Stark is again killed in episode 6 of What If…? which proved to have been titled craftily. In “What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?”, we see Erik Killmonger rescue Tony Stark when he was attacked by the Ten Rings in Afghanistan. While in this universe we see the two form a unique alliance, Killmonger ends up murdering Tony Stark, who never even becomes Iron Man. Next, we see Killmonger fulfil his personal objective with Wakanda.
To see these horrifying events take place with MCU’s one hero who plays a vital role in eventually vanquishing the Mad Titan Thanos in the original universe has made fans wonder, why is Marvel so bent on eliminating Iron Man, and why is it doing it so often?
MCU is gradually establishing a multiverse and expanding its horizon and it makes sense for fans to hope to see their favorite characters making a comeback, whatever be the scenario. But What If…? kills Iron Man time and time again, and it appears with this, that Marvel is trying to confirm that the Avengers who died in the original universe have officially been dissolved and that this is the end of the Infinity Saga.
Despite seeing the character in a few shots of What If..? it is important to realise that the inclusion was not only necessary for the framework of the storyline but also to show that the character was of great importance to the franchise. However, it seems like the existence of the multiverse does not affect those who have already died. What MCU is trying to substantiate is that Tony Stark’s death was predestined and the character probably won’t be seen again.
To confirm the theory of why we will not see Iron Man make a comeback, we have What If…? episode 4. In this episode, we see how Doctor Strange loses Dr. Christine Palmer in a car crash, and ever since, he tries to go back in time and alter reality to save her. But even after every attempt he makes at altering the events of the night, Christine still dies. When faced by the Ancient One, we see her tell Strange her death is an Absolute Point in time, which is a moment that cannot be altered without risking the entire universe. In the same way, in Avengers: Endgame, the moment Iron Man snaps his fingers and beats Thanos was an Absolute Point. Hence, it can neither be destroyed nor be reversed. So Iron Man’s death cannot be negated, even if multiverses exist. This is why, even if his death occurs multiple times at separate points, it is irreversible.
While we see the multiverse recognise Iron Man by letting him make his appearance in What If..?, it is certain the MCU has no such plans. There are a number of new heroes that Marvel plans on launching in Phase 4 of the MCU, and including Iron Man alongside them would diminish the impact of what he did to save the universe. And to support the concept, Marvel’s What If…?, while teasing the characters, proves that that are moments in the timeline that are permanent and lasting, and Tony Stark/Iron Man’s atoning death is one of them.