The Avengers are Earth’s mightiest heroes. Despite their best efforts to keep the planet safe, however, some new threat always arises to put mankind in jeopardy. While it is the destiny of the Avengers to be locked in a never-ending battle against evil in the main Marvel continuity, 1981’s “What If … ?” #29 imagines an alternate reality where the team manages to get way more permanent results … for a while.
During one of their battles, the Avengers are visited by a being from the future who calls himself the Scarlet Centurion. The Centurion informs our heroes that superpowered beings are the cause of every great catastrophe. The only path to true peace, he concludes, is to eliminate superheroes. This thin premise is readily accepted by the Avengers, who devote the next few months to capturing heroes and declaring a worldwide ban on superpowered beings.
This does not actually solve the world’s problems, as Centurion soon reveals himself to be a supervillain who wants to take over the Earth. That’s a whole lot easier to do, now that most superheroes have retired or been captured. Naturally, Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp are forced to come out of retirement to stop him. Despite winning the battle, the story ends with the Avengers having lost the trust of humanity. Iron Man is left alone, the last superhero on Earth, mourning the glory days of Earth’s mightiest heroes.