Streaming on Disney+ August 11 is Marvel’s “What If …?,” the first animated series from the studio. The show “flips the script on the MCU, reimagining famous events from the films in unexpected ways.” The show, narrated by The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), looks into the multiverse to essentially create official fan fiction that interchanges heroes, teams up enemies and reimagines villains. I previewed three episodes of “What If …?” and found each alternate retelling to be thoughtful, intriguing and thoroughly enjoyable.
Each “What If …?” originates from some small detail: What if Peggy Carter stayed in the lab when Steve Rogers got the serum? What if the intergalactic Ravagers accidentally abducted T’Challa instead of Peter Quill? These small shifts ripple out to create contained stories that take wildly different turns and tones than the ones audiences have seen in the MCU. The 30 minute episodic structure of “What If …?” fits just right for this concept, making the show breezier and simply more fun than the three preceding Marvel miniseries on Disney+.
What works so well for “What If …?” it that it takes its DNA more from Marvel Comics than from the Cinematic Universe. From the animation style to the playful diversions, lower stakes and omniscient narrator, watching an episode of this show feels like sitting down on a Wednesday to read the latest issue of a title. By looking into multiverses, the personalities and alliances of a character are not canonized. A small Steve fighting a tentacle monster in an early War Machine suit? Why not! Thanos acting as one of the Merry Men to T’Challa’s Robin Hood? Yes, please!
In addition to Peggy Carter, T’Challa and the Avengers origin story, “What If …?” promises diversions featuring Loki, Killmonger, Dr. Strange, Okoye and more. More than 50 actors from the MCU reprise their roles as voice actors on the show, including the late Chadwick Boseman’s likely final portrayal of T’Challa (Black Panther).
As successful as Marvel Studios has been in expanding their Cinematic Universe to the small screen, “What If …?” is equally remarkable in creating alternate stories that are character driven, quirky and downright fun. “What If …?” premieres August 11 on Disney+ and streams new episodes weekly.