“Time. Space. Reality. It’s more than a linear path.” So, says The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) in the opening to Marvel’s newest Disney+ series What If…?. Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, What If…? follows various alternate realities where the events of the MCU played out differently. What if Peggy Carter had received the super soldier serum? What if T’Challa had been abducted by Ravagers?
Thanks to the season finale of Loki, the events of What If…? are technically cannon to the MCU. However, they will likely have no impact on the MCU’s overarching storyline due to the varying alternate realities and the continuously branching multiverse. The series consists of 10 episodes, making it the longest Marvel/Disney+ series yet. To be clear, this review is based on the first three episodes only.
With each episode averaging around 30 minutes and acting as a stand alone narrative, What If…? is able to deliver compact and concise stories. It’s a relief to be able to watch the series without having to try and connect it to a larger universe. You can go into each episode without any prior knowledge of the MCU; however, hardcore fans will ultimately get more out of the experience. There are a slew of returning characters, some expected and some a complete surprise.
The series truly is a graphic novel brought to life in the best possible way. It’s colors are vibrant with hard, defined edges. Impact lines and motion swirls add to that comic book ambiance that the series is going for. Much like Spider-Man: Into the Multiverse, What If…? succeeds in creating a unique animation style that holds your attention and leaves a lasting impact.
While some of the characters are voiced by new talent, many MCU alumni return to voice their animated counterparts. Chadwick Boseman is the standout, returning to voice T’Challa in his final MCU appearance following the actor’s untimely death. While, its fantastic to see (or hear) Boseman back as his most iconic character, its a shame that it wasn’t in a better story. Episode two envisions a “what if?” scenario that sees T’Challa in the role of Star Lord, rather than Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). It’s the weakest of the first three episodes, primarily because T’Challa simply doesn’t fit the role. Chris Pratt’s portrayal of the music loving, wise cracking Star Lord is a staple of the Guardians of the Galaxy films and Boseman’s T’Challa struggles to create the same entertaining energy.
Episode 1 sees Peggy Carter take on the super soldier role of Captain Carter. The episode is more than just a gender swapped Captain America story. Peggy gets a detailed character arc and faces her own obstacles. It’s an exciting and visually beautiful episode that starts the series off strong. However, episode 3 is the standout episode thus far, seeing members of The Avengers hunted by an unknown foe. It’s an episode worthy of a longer runtime that is sure to be a favorite among audiences.
As an anthology series the quality of each episode varies. Yet, thanks to the beautiful animation, even a weaker episode is a pleasure to watch. The Watcher bookends each episode with a calm, sophisticated narration that only Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) could pull off. Fans are in for treat as What If…? promises to deliver 10 fantastical stories with familiar characters in new adventures. 8/10