Marvel’s What If…? (Season 1)—Review

Over the course of 2021, Marvel has blessed audiences with two films (Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) and three live-action shows, with a fourth still to come (WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye). All these (that have come out) were great to phenomenal additions to the MCU. Kevin Feige and the creators over at Marvel Studios have consistently delivered fantastic pieces of content in their universe, and for the fanbase, that has grown to fantastic heights, each new installment leads to hundreds to thousands of fan theories and speculation. So, for Marvel Studios’ first animated project What If…?, Marvel looks at their catalogue of previous films and changes one little thing about them to see how they spin the stories.

What if…? (2021) Season 1, Ep. 1 “What if… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger”. Via Marvel Studios and Disney

Much like the comic series of the same name, Marvel’s What If…? explores various moments in the MCU and turns them on their head. From Peggy Cater receiving the Super Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers to T’Challa being kidnapped by Yondu instead of Peter Quill, What If…? shows how the smallest of changes can have monumental effects. Each episode highlights a different deviation in the context of different films and are shown to us through the mysterious being known as The Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright).

The most obvious this to point out about What If…? is the animation. Marvel Studios’ first dive into the animated medium was absolutely beautiful to watch with its very distinct art style that implements cel-shading and replicates an almost painted look. This art style was a little off-putting when the initial trailer for the show released, but that uneasy felling I felt in regards to the style quickly dissipated after watching the first episode. The animation was smooth and was accompanied by great cinematography that left fans with fantastic cinematic stills. Outside of the animation, What If…? gives the Marvel fanbase great twists to some of their favorite storylines and presents them in unique and memorable ways.

What if…? (2021) Season 1, Ep. 5 “What if… Zombies?!”. Via Marvel Studios and Disney

With this being Marvel Studios’ first animated venture, obviously it’s not going to be a perfect package. While bringing back a lot of MCU actors to voice their characters was fun (it was awesome getting to hear Chadwick Boseman voice T’Challa one last time) and Jeffrey Wright was a phenomenal choice for The Watcher, the inclusion of the actors we know made the absence of others all the more noticeable. While not having the actors didn’t make or break episodes, it was very distracting for certain episodes where all the other characters were voiced by their respective actors. Another downside to the anthology is how little the showrunners did with some of their concepts. The Captain Carter, for example, was a near one-to-one to Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) just with character roles being moved around. Then there were episodes looking at if Thor was an only-child and if Killmonger saved Tony Stark that felt like they missed opportunities for their respective concepts.

While a few episodes could’ve capitalized on the concept more, What If…? delivered fun concepts in quick, 30-minute bites. With the way season 1 wrapped up with Jeffrey Wright’s The Watcher, and with the increase of multiverse storylines in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and Loki season 2, it will be interesting to what kind of stories get told in season 2. With the hopeful outlook of more interesting takes on the MCU, I cannot wait to jump back into this beautifully animated and well scripted show.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


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