What If…? may have made Hayley Atwell’s Captain Carter the centre of attention, but it’s who she faced off against that merits further inspection.
The tentacle-laden monster – Red Skull’s ‘Champion of Hydra’ – that appeared at the climax of the first episode of the Marvel animated series has sent fan theories into overdrive.
#WhatIf Potential SpoilersI'm betting any money that the final scene of Captain Carter will be set AFTER Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and that wherever her and Shuma Gorath went will be somewhere that Strange and that stumble across in the film. pic.twitter.com/wBSiWTnb5fAugust 11, 2021
"Is that Shuma-Gorath in episode 1 of What If…? I think it is," one fan wrote on Twitter. "Here we go Multiverse of Madness! Heard Shuma is the big baddie in Doctor Strange 2."
Another adds that it could go even further given Captain Carter’s one-way trip through the portal: "It looks like [Captain Carter] will be in [Doctor Strange 2]."
In the comics, Shuma-Gorath is a Lovecraftian being that feeds on multiple universes, an act that often sees him often come into conflict with Doctor Strange.
It’s not yet known if it will appear in Multiverse of Madness, but signs are looking promising. After all, the multiverse opening up (thanks to Sylvie’s actions in the Loki finale) might lead to a greater intersection of timelines and universes. That’s very much Shuma-Gorath territory – and could clue us in to what happened to the creature during and after Captain Carter pushed it back into a portal.
But it’s not completely set in stone. A separate Marvel fan was more level-headed, suggesting that the Champion of Hydra was just that, and nothing more. "Not related to Doctor Strange at all," they reckoned.
If nothing else, it shows how What If...? can spark the imagination. Something as minor as a partially-unseen villain in an animated series could kick off a chain reaction of MCU theories, debate and maybe, just maybe, lays the groundwork for something further down the line in Marvel Phase 4. Stay tuned.
For more on the MCU’s future, check out the other new Marvel TV shows in the works. Plus, read more on our idea that What If...? could be a low-key trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.