Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for Episode 1 of What If…?.
Now that Loki has cracked open the multiverse, Marvel writers now get to explore its many facets. Episode 1 of What If…? asks the question, “What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?” and it does not disappoint. It brings us back to almost the very beginning of the MCU to when Steve Rogers became Captain America during WWII.
But Peggy Carter becomes Captain Carter instead of Steve taking on the mantle. (And honestly, it’s really enjoyable, but that’s another discussion for another day.)
So, when Peggy learns about the Tesseract’s existence, she intercepts HYDRA, spoiling their nefarious Tesseract plans. And Howard Stark uses it to create the HYDRA Stomper, an early version of Iron Man. Of course, HYDRA gets the Tesseract back, and the Red Skull decides to summon a monster from the multiverse. So, who is the monster?
The Red Skull uses the Tesseract to summon a monster from the multiverse.
The difference between this timeline and the original MCU timeline is that Peggy Carter becomes Captain Carter instead of Steve Rogers becoming Captain America, so what does that have to do with the Red Skull and the Tesseract?
Well, because Peggy intercepts HYDRA earlier than Steve does in the MCU, the Red Skull grows impatient. He defies the Third Reich after the embarrassment of the HYDRA Stomper and wants to get his revenge.
Instead of using the Tesseract to power HYDRA’s weapons the way he does initially in the MCU, he uses it to get otherworldly revenge on Captain Carter and the HYDRA Stomper (which is operated by Steve Rogers, so he’s still a hero). He wants to release the ultimate “champion of HYDRA,” which is a tentacled monster that seems to stop at nothing.
The monster that the Red Skull summons with the Tesseract could be based on a Marvel comic book villain.
Although all we see in What If…? is giant tentacles, it’s likely there’s more to the monster coming from the Tesseract. And if the monster’s tentacles are any indication of who it is, it could be Shuma-Gorath, an interdimensional being that will devour everything it comes across.
Shuma-Gorath is actually rumored to be the villain in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which would make sense because Doctor Strange defeats the monster in the Marvel comics to become the Sorcerer Supreme.
However, there are some notable differences. For one, in the comic books, Shuma-Gorath has one giant eye, which we don’t see in What If…?. In addition, this monster seems not to be sentient, and the Shuma-Gorath of the comic books is definitely sentient.
In What If…?, the monster actually works in our favor when it immediately devours the Red Skull. But it takes science and super-soldier Captain Carter to get the monster back into the dimension from which it came.
Will we see this monster again in the MCU? If this is setting up Shuma-Gorath by giving us just a tip of its tentacle, it’s very likely.
The first episode of What If...? is now available to stream on Disney Plus. New episodes drop Wednesdays.