I remember being at my friend’s house and we went through his comic book collection. He became giddy as he showed me his favorite issue of What If. This particular issue asked, “What If Punisher Became an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.?” He explained to me how Marvel had a series that would pose a question and then examine the ramifications. I was floored. It wasn’t the particular issue that sparked my imagination, but the possibilities. It opened my mind to how I looked at storytelling. When various alternate reality storytelling would cross my radar, such as Sliding Doors or If/Then, I always just thought of it as a different version of what Marvel had been doing for decades.

(Marvel)

(Marvel)

Fast forward to Star Wars Celebration Chicago in 2019. As we were sitting in the hotel room, we covered the 2019 Investor Day that announced Marvel Studios’ first animated series and it would be inspired by the same classic series. My mind was blown, but I had many questions. In an era where oftentimes the first questions are, “Does it take place in the MCU?,” would the show matter to fans? Would the creative team be willing to go as deep as some of the best comics did? Will the animation work?

Upon seeing three episodes, I didn’t answer my questions. The show was so good, that those questions were irrelevant. I don’t care if the episodes take place in the MCU or some multiversal variant. Comparing the show to the comics proved pointless, because the show almost transcended comparison. The animation worked, because after a few minutes you forgot it was animated; the storytelling is that engrossing.

(Marvel)

(Marvel)

The episodes are about 30 minutes in length, but feel longer as they rely on some basic knowledge of the original story and characters. Don’t worry, we are not talking about deep cuts here. But if you don’t know who Peggy Carter and T’Challah are, you may want to enjoy some of that Marvel content on Disney+ first. Even in 30 minutes, they are able to tell big stories that show the ramifications of the “What If” scenario that go beyond the obvious. For example, the Captain Carter episode does more than just retell the Captain America film with her carrying the shield. It shows how a small event can have a big impact, and one that is completely unexpected.

Of the three episodes screened for us, the third is so imaginative and compelling that I believe the show is worthy of awards ranging from Annies to Emmys. Awards may be one way that a creative team can show that they are respected, but I have a new found respect for the team at Marvel Studios. When we hear of an upcoming Marvel film, we wonder if it will take place in the MCU because we know the quality will be better (See Spider-Man: Homecoming). But with What If…?, Marvel has proven that the question we should be asking is “Is it from Marvel Studios?” Mr. Feige’s team have proven that it isn’t the shared universe that is their special sauce, but the level of quality they are able to produce, which is virtually unrivaled.

(Marvel)

(Marvel)

The anthology nature of the show makes it hard to compare to the previous Marvel series, but much like the other shows, Marvel has found a way to exceed our even highest expectations. I hope my childhood friend enjoys it as much as I did. Who am I kidding… he will love it. Do yourself a favor and be like the Watcher and watch What If…? on Disney+ starting August 11th.  

I give What If…? 5 out of 5 stars.

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