Marvel fans all over will tell you this year has been an absolute dream come true. With five TV shows and film releases, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made 2021 its bitch. Over the past couple months, the blockbuster studio has released what just might be its most ambitious project yet: “What If…”
“What If…” marks several milestones for the MCU. First off, it’s the universe’s first dip into animation. The nine-episode series features digitally created shots, shaded to look like they came right off the pages of the comic books the stories are based on. The show is also the MCU’s first exploration into the Multiverse, which is looking to be the direction the entire franchise will head into in the future.
The Multiverse is a term Marvel Comics has been throwing around since the early ‘70s. It refers to the countless different ways events could have played out in the superhero stories we love.
In “What If…,” each episode starts with the egg-headed narrator, known as The Watcher, introducing a new timeline in the Multiverse, featuring a different spin on a familiar Marvel movie. That being said, if you’re one of the last people on earth who have somehow avoided seeing a Marvel movie, this show might be a skip.
For fans, the fun never ends. Each of the nine episodes is seemingly unrelated and puts fan favorites into entirely new situations. For instance, instead of becoming the Black Panther, T’Challa becomes Star-Lord, and instead of Steve Rogers becoming Captain America, his girlfriend Peggy Carter becomes Captain Britain.
The different stories are loaded with Easter eggs from all 23 movies in the original Infinity Saga, so the more you’ve seen the greater the reward.
Given the anthology style of the show, some episodes are naturally better than others. The highlight is without a doubt episode five, which pulls its material from the highly popular comic storyline, “Marvel Zombies.” The episode shows an alternate universe where the zombie apocalypse has affected the Avengers, and a small group of survivors led by Spider-Man have to battle a zombified Iron Man, Captain America and others. This episode is genuinely scary at times, and is the perfect spooky watch for the Halloween season.
The only weakness to the series is the animation becomes pretty bland after a while. The show would’ve been much more dynamic if each episode had a slightly different animation style, in the vein of Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” If this were the case, not only would the episodes feel more independent from each other, but the inevitable crossover would have been a true feast for the eyes.
There are a few stories that have conveniently been left out, but don’t worry. An already confirmed second season will hopefully dive into some of the weirder places in the Multiverse.
All episodes of “What If…” are now streaming on Disney+, along with the 24 previous entries in the MCU. Haven’t seen them? Better start doing your homework. There’s never been a better time to be a Marvel fan.