TV REVIEW: Marvel’s WHAT IF? is some of the most compelling content under the banner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe


WHAT IF? is Marvel’s answer to the Twilight Zone and creates some new compelling twists on its established canon that should please hardcore and casual fans alike.

As a kid, I was a big fan of the What If? comic book series. It was a clever title that allowed talent to mine the multiple decades of history of the comic publisher’s existence with intriguing looks through the looking glass of what might have been. From what if Spider-Man had joined the X-Men to what if Magneto formed the X-Men, the comic let you imagine some of your favorite imaginary tales as being the established canon which tickled the imagination of many fans and allowed them to see some of their fan theories become reality.

Therein lies the appeal of What If? the animated series, which debuts this Wednesday, August 11th on Disney Plus. Nowadays, most Marvel fans are fans of the MCU saga of big-screen films and television shows rather than comic books. As such, many of these fans have fan theories of what might have happened if this character was around in that film, or how Thanos might have been foiled in different ways than what we saw in the Infinity Saga. What If explores some of those potential ideas and how they may have had unexpected consequences in some of our favorite movies if different choices were made.

This concept comes across very clearly in the show’s first episode; one that examines a world where things would have played out very differently in Captain America: The First Avenger if Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) had chosen not to leave the operating theater where Steve Rogers received his Super Soldier Serum. A series of circumstances spotted by Peggy’s keen eye leads to a scenario where Steve is injured and Peggy has to take the serum, lest the one chance to make a Super Soldier is lost. We see that one small change leads to a butterfly effect of cascading changes across the timeline; one where the Red Skull is the least of the Allies’ worries in terms of an ultimate villain to fight in the war against the Nazis and Hydra.

The show’s best episode of the three we were given for review is the show’s second episode, which asks the question, what if Black Panther’s T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) was Star-Lord instead of Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill. Boseman voices his signature character in one of his final performances and its all the more compelling that it’s in an episode that is in many ways a better version of the 2 Guardians of the Galaxy movies. This is strongly helped by a very unique take on Korath, voiced by Djimon Honsou, along with a diverse and very unexpected cast of characters that back up T’Challa’s crew of space-faring galactic guardians. The third episode is a unique whodunit-style mystery that rewrites the plots of Thor, Iron Man 2, and The Incredible Hulk leading up to the first Avengers movie with a very unexpected antagonist that could only work in the realm of What If?

But, by and far, What If has many aces up its sleeve guaranteeing that it will raise the buzz of Marvel fans on its debut. Its beautiful 3D-cell shaded animation makes the whole enterprise gorgeous to behold, while still having a timeless aesthetic reminiscent of the 1940s rotoscoped Max Fleischer Superman cartoon serials. Moreover, it benefits from having over 50 of the original MCU actors reprise their roles, giving the series a legitimate connection to the greater MCU canon. The series also introduces Jeffrey Wright as the Watcher Uatu, who serves as the show’s narrator who lends his gravitas to the whole proceedings. Even when some original voices aren’t back, their replacements do an excellent job of voice acting. For example, Lake Bell takes over the role of Black Widow from Scarlett Johannson, and while she does a good job of approximating her register, it is more impressive that she’s acting and giving life and emotion to her lines and not just doing a lifeless impression.

Overall, What If might be the best MCU Disney Plus series yet; providing some really amazing new takes on established Marvel lore and raising the bar with what may lay in store in the new Marvel Multiverse of possibilities in film and TV, What If is worth the time to ask the question and seeing what may lay in store in another version of the MCU.