Skip to main content

Marvel's 'What If?' Review: Sacred Timeline who?

What If the sacred timeline didn't matter?

Captain Carter and The Howling Commandos in Marvel's 'What If...?'
(Image: © Disney+)

For

  • ❔ Many of your favorite voices have returned.
  • ❔ The series does the original comics justice.
  • ❔ The first three episodes feature fantastic new adventures.
  • ❔ We miss you, Chadwick.

Against

  • ❔ Some may be turned off by the anthology format — particularly the lack of wrap-around.
  • ❔ The animation style is gorgeous when it comes to the action scenes, but kind of meh with everything else.

What If...? is meant to depict fantastical worlds that would never exist within the main canon of Marvel. The comic series that the new Disney+ animation is based on has spanned decades, starting in 1977. While the most recent issues hit shelves in 2018, this animated reinvigoration could mean more fractured timelines in our future. But how does this new medium shake out for What If...? 

Animation is an exciting new format for this forever-zaney narrative. What If...? posits strange realities like Peggy Carter becoming Cap rather than Steve back in the forties, T'Challa becoming a Ravager (but they're good, and Thanos is there), and a combination of What If...? issues in the Age of Ultron run and a smattering of Volume 1. Because they're not confined by the blocks of a comic layout, they get the opportunity to delve deeper into these stories than ever before. The style used looks gorgeous in the action scenes and other fast-paced moments, but it does look a little rough around the edges in the slower, more intimate moments. It's not enough to pull you out of the story, but it's noticeable enough to call out.

It also feels important to call out that these stories are small one-offs. They're fractures in a timeline never meant to be revisited. This is something pretty well established in the comics, but some have found it jarring in the new series. Think of it as an anthology with no wrap-around (outside of the fact that they're all taking place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe). You're not getting additional backstory because you're not meant to, or because the history you know has remained exactly the same up until the small change creates a fracture in the timeline. 

You'll hear many of your favorite voices return to varying levels of success. In this house we love and respect Bucky Barnes and Sebastian Stan alike, but... uh... the guy cannot voice act. Meanwhile, Chadwick Boseman's last performance as T'Challa is at the same level of excellence everything else he ever did was. Guy took to the voiceover booth with ease, and gave us an easy way to connect both with him and his character one final time. For those concerned that it's not as Black Panther, don't worry — the heart of the Wakandan king is front and center in his episode.

Moments like seeing T'Challa again, Michael Rooker's return as Yondu, and getting to see Peggy Carter with her Commandos again are what make What If...? shine the brightest. These worlds aren't our worlds, and these stories will never come across Marvel's Sacred Timeline, but they're a delightful ride in the moments we get with them. Anything that gives us more time with Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter is a win in my book.