It was announced this weekend that Marvels upcoming What If …? series might arrive this August on Disney+. Leaked by IGN, the new series will explore alternative MCU realities outside of the established Marvel canon.
This is exciting for several reasons. Firstly, it gives us a glimpse at numerous characters outside of the established MCU narrative, providing the kind of breathing they wouldn’t normally get. Secondly, it will be a much needed palette cleanser during a busy period for the MCU.
What is What If...?
Based on a series of comics sharing the same name, the original What If…? series launched in 1977. It has since spawned over 13 volumes of the series, with the latest arriving in 2018. Marvel’s cast of superheroes have been in several outlandish situations since the first release. The comics explored everything from the likes of What if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four through to What If Venom had possessed the Punisher?
What If…? Was the thing of childhood imagination and dreams. It answered the questions many of us had as children. Daydreaming and imagining our favourite heroes in situations outside of those presented in comics and on television was common. Even as adults, many of us still like to create unusual situations for our favourite characters.
What If…? Episodes
There are already a number of confirmed episodes for the season, starting with an episode that focuses on Peggy Carter and Steve Rodgers. In the episode, Peggy Carter takes on the role of Captain Britain, while Steve Rodgers essentially becomes Iron Man. There’s also going to be a zombie Captain America who fights the Winter Soldier.
Interestingly, one episode will see T’challa become the Star Lord, rather than Peter Quill. Voiced by the late Chadwick Boseman, it will be his last role. It also provides a look at how someone else might have handled the role of Star Lord, a character which is now synonymous with Peter Quill and Chris Pratt.
There are also some rumoured episodes, including Loki taking on Thor’s role, an evil Dr. Strange and Peter Parker as Hawkeye. It’s hard not to be excited at the prospect of seeing these characters outside of their typical environments. While What If…? remains a few months away, it really could be one of the standalone releases of MCU’s Phase Four.
The perfect starting point
The What If …? series could be the perfect starting point for non-Marvel Fans. With several years of films to catch up with, starting from the beginning of the current Marvel cinematic Universe can be pretty daunting. What If …? Is the perfect taster for new fans to the series, allowing viewers to get acquainted with the characters and the worlds, without needing to invest hundreds of hours into the wider universe.
As a non-canonical series, the writers are also free to create engaging standalone stories. Some of the best TV in recent years has come from self-contained episodes, like the excellent Black Mirror. Each episode of What If …? has the opportunity to tell an exciting story within a small amount of time. This makes a change from the bulk of the MCU universe that requires lots of prior knowledge to appreciate.
A staple of future MCU phases
Depending on the success of the upcoming season, What If …? Could become a regular part of the MCU’s phases in the future. Sitting somewhere in the middle of each phase, the series could provide a welcome respite from the established canon. Giving viewers a break from the typically intense stream of MSU releases in cinemas and on Disney+.
The show’s formula also allows space for lesser-known characters from Marvel’s backlog. The main franchises are typically quite packed, so having space outside of the background narrative to explore the depths of the archives can be a glorious thing. It also gives Marvel the perfect opportunity to measure the popularity of lesser-known superheroes, before potentially incorporating them into the wider MCU universe.
Even though the What If …? is still a few months away, it’s hard not to get excited at the possibilities the series could represent. Whether it ends up a one-time thing, or a prominent part of the MCU, we’ll be tuning in this August for sure.
You can check out the trailer here if you'd like to find out more.