Image courtesy of Disney+
By: Bridget Farrell
A symbol of American courage, patriotism, and heart, Captain America is one of the world’s most recognizable superheroes. Steve Rogers, the boy from Brooklyn, first broke into the comics scene in 1941 and has proudly borne the stars and stripes ever since. However, in 2021, an intriguing question was raised: What if our favorite shield-slinging hero was not Steve Rogers, but his sweetheart (and hero in her own right) Margaret “Peggy” Carter?
Marvel’s new animated series What If? has taken the world by storm, turning one of the world’s most beloved superhero franchises on its head. The series reimagines the established Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), depicting alternate timelines in which a single choice results in the complete rewriting of reality as we know it.
Guided by the omniscient Watcher (whom avid comic fans may recognize), viewers have the opportunity to enter this bold new world alongside some favorite heroes and explore what might have been if only things had gone just slightly (or extremely) differently. With the introduction of Captain Carter, episode one starts the series off with a bang, and each new episode surpasses the standard set by its predecessor.
This series has something for everyone: intense fight scenes, dialogue that alternates between humorous and raw, and beloved characters in bizarre situations. In a universe turned upside-down, the only certainty is Marvel’s ability to deliver a fantastic story.
The plot isn’t the only remarkable thing about this series. Just as the show combines familiar worlds with fresh and wild scenarios, so does the art style. Inspired by renowned early twentieth-century illustrator JC Leyendecker, What If’s animators masterfully blend realism and outlandishness through detailed sketches and vibrant colors. The style is a bold departure from Marvel’s previous ventures, but then again, so is the premise of the show.
The juxtaposition of What If?’s reality and that of the standard MCU raises several questions for the future of Marvel. Perhaps the most pressing query at the moment is how these animated alternate realities will tie into future MCU projects. With the timeline having been breached in Loki (2021) and Wanda Maximoff discovering her full power as the Scarlet Witch in WandaVision (2021), the possibility of these alternate timelines becoming part of the MCU’s reality grows each day. Additionally, the newly-released Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer has officially confirmed the existence of the Multiverse—an infinite number of realities all occurring simultaneously, separated only by the fabric of space-time. Now that said fabric has been torn, it may only be a matter of time until we see Captain Carter or a rogue Doctor Strange on the big screen.
With a current total of five episodes and four more soon to be released, Marvel’s What If? is streaming only on Disney+. Tune in every Wednesday to enter a world of unlimited possibilities. Packed with action, humor, heart, and imagination, this series is for any Marvel fan who has ever looked at his or her favorite characters and wondered, “What if..?”