Lost in the shuffle of Marvel’s live action TV slate and its implications for the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (like DOOM being the secret bad guy of Loki CHANGE MY MIND) is the impending release of Marvel’s first animated series. What If…? follows the theme of the comic of the same name, which explores far-fetched alternate versions of big moments in Marvel history. As you can see from the show’s new trailer, things get very weird when you start messing with the sacred timeline.
The first season of the animated show is going to run for 10 episodes, but it seems we only got a look at four or five possible stories from the trailer. We’re going to try and take it one story at a time. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, take a look below:
Okay, here’s everything we found:
Uatu the Watcher
The framing sequence for every issue of the comic was Uatu the Watcher telling readers how if one thing changed, the whole world might have turned out differently. Uatu is a member of a race of extremely powerful, nigh-immortal beings committed to watching (or “monitoring” if you’re a DC head) the universe, but never interfering. Among his gadgets and gizmos that enabled him to perform those duties were machines that would let him see alternate possible realities. It looks like that framing sequence will make its way to the animated series, with Uatu played by Jeffrey Wright.
Killmonger and Iron Man
The first big change we see is Eric Killmonger, the Black Panther villain, saving Tony Stark from a bomb at what would have been the beginning of the first Iron Man movie.
It looks like this one wraps up with a big battle, with Killmonger and Ramonda (T’Challa’s stepmother and queen of Wakanda) each leading forces. What’s potentially interesting about this would be how it ties the motivations of Tony Stark and Killmonger together – Tony, saved from the attack, would not be forced to create Iron Man armor and could potentially give Killmonger a different outlet for his anger at Wakanda.
Thor vs. Ultrons in Madripoor
This next shot looks like a bunch of Ultrons circling a brightly lit building. The color scheme makes me immediately think Madripoor, the southeast Asian island nation introduced to the MCU in The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, but it’s entirely possible that this is just some garishly lit Stark holding.
The Ultrons swarm the building and Thor is there to meet them.
The second big story teased in the trailer looks to be along the lines of “What if Peggy Carter got the super soldier serum?” The answer is apparently “ride an Iron Man into battle.”
Peggy obviously isn’t going to become Captain America, but her becoming Captain Britain would be a bit of a big deal. Captain Britain is typically an X-Men thing – the original 616 Captain was Brian Braddock, created by legendary X-writer Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe. Brian headlined his own title for a bit, flourishing under Alan Moore and Alan Davis before fading away, only to have Claremont salvage his character family, including his sister Betsy, for his massive, seminal X-Men run.
Brian became Captain Britain when he was approached by Merlin and his daughter Roma and asked to choose between the Amulet of Right and the Sword of Might to see what kind of protector he would be. Interesting that we see Peggy carrying a sword here…
We also get a quick glimpse of Arnim Zola, the Hydra scientist who eventually uploaded his consciousness into a series of televisions to become one of the big bads of Captain America: Winter Soldier.
Here’s where this story starts to take a turn: Dr. Strange meets up with Captain Carter, and presumably from here shit gets real weird.
Like when Peggy Carter has to fight Shuma Gorath. Shuma was created in the ‘70s by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner as an amalgamation of a bunch of different, evil, mystical beings: he’s an eye surrounded by toothy tentacles whose name was taken from an old Conan story, while his backstory has a lot of Chthulu in it.
Comics fans might recognize him as the dark god of the Cancerverse from the climax of the excellent Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Marvel cosmic run, but real fans know him as the only character worth playing in the Capcom Marvel fighting games.
Marvel’s What If will also feature the late Chadwick Boseman’s final performance as T’Challa. This time, though, he’s also Star Lord. It looks like T’Challa was picked up at some point by Yondu and raised in space as part of Yondu’s Ravager team.
This is a really interesting swap: the cinematic T’Challa has been largely defined by his relationship to his parents, and to his father especially. He’s swapping one strong father figure for another here, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how much his temperament changes because of Yondu, and how much his temperament changes what Star Lord would do.
One change is front and center in the trailer: T’Challa somehow gets the Guardians of the Galaxy pulled into the battle of New York from the first Avengers movie.
We know Tom Hiddleston is reprising his role as Loki for the animated series. It looks like Loki’s somehow gathered an army of Asgardians, including Volstagg? Looks like he’s facing off against Fury, too.
It looks like this story might branch off from the events of Thor – we get a peek at Hawkeye pointing his bow and arrow in the rain, just like his introduction in the first Thor movie.
Loki also gets his hands on the Casket of Ancient Winters again. You’ll recall that he used this weapon to try and destroy Jotunheim in the first movie, but was stopped by Thor destroying the Bifrost.
The biggest performance draw is almost certainly going to be Boseman’s return, but the biggest story draw is going to be the MCU debut of the Marvel Zombies. This is a concept ripped straight from the comics.
The extremely popular series was penned by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and drawn by Criminal artist Sean Phillips in 2005 as an extended riff on a What If story arc in Ultimate Fantastic Four. It introduced a world where all the Marvel heroes and villains were turned into flesh eating zombies who then went on to eat their way through the galaxy. It was followed by a PROFOUNDLY disturbing prequel comic by Kirkman and Phillips, Dead Days, and later by five (5) sequel miniseries.
Don’t be surprised if this Marvel’s What If…? episode spawns its own series.