The concept of a multiverse is pretty fascinating as it represents endless possibilities for different scenarios. It’s a popular trope in science-fiction and comics, as seen in Watchmen and Superman: Red Son. Marvel Comics had always capitalized on it when they introduced a new series back in 1977 with What If?. It took a question like what if Gwen Stacy lived and explored that for a single issue. With Marvel Studios now being serious about the multiverse, it’s the perfect time to explore the different scenarios that would have taken place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There are so many stories to tell that Disney already renewed a second season. The first episode of Marvel’s What If… dropped on Disney+, and it’s the start of a bold new direction that the MCU is going in.
Marvel’s What If… is available to stream on Disney+.
Story: Fighting for Herself
The first episode asks the question of what if Captain Carter became the first avenger. In this reality, Peggy Carter took the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers and became the hero of World War 2. It plays out similarly to Captain America: The First Avenger, but still, this episode establishes its own identity. Like how people doubted Steve because he had no experience, people doubted Captain Carter’s ability in the field because she’s a woman. It does get a little too on the nose because everyone seems to mention that aspect with Peggy. There’s even a weasel general played by Bradley Whitfield, who’s very sexist and dismisses the actions of Peggy and Steve.
Yet again, the time period in the 40s and toxic masculinity is virulent during the era. And with this setback comes a great hero out of it. The story of Captain Carter is thrilling, and to see her as a superhero will have any Agent Carter reactive. Just like with Steve, the serum doesn’t just enhance your outside qualities but reflects who you are on the inside. We see it on full display with Peggy becoming the hero that she’s destined to become.
Characters & Performance: Movie Quality
Hayley Atwell does a fantastic job of voicing Peggy in the episode. She possesses a lot of dynamic energy with each line that she says. It’s especially best to hear her excitement when she’s fighting and realizing the newfound strength she has. Atwell takes command and doesn’t let up for a single moment. It’s a shame that Captain Carter is probably going to be appearing in this one episode. Hopefully, there’s a chance we see more of her and, hopefully, in a live-action appearance.
What I’m pleasantly surprised at is how much Steve Rogers we get. Since he didn’t take the serum, he’s still that skinny kid from Brooklyn. Yet, he’s still a part of the team and even becomes the HYDRA Smasher, which is basically the first Iron Man. Even now, he doesn’t become the hero we know and love; he still has the personality. The chemistry is still there between Steve and Peggy, which is fascinating. It just shows that even without the serum, she still has feelings for him. It goes back to the formula enhancing what’s inside of you, and that’s basically the essential point of their relationship. She admires his bravery and determination to do what’s right.
Now with the voice acting, it’s a whole different ballgame than acting in live-action. You have actors like Dominic Cooper who do a good job in voicing his counterpart. Ross Marquand, who voiced the Red Skull in Infinity War and Endgame, finally gets to act as the traditional Red Skull, and it’s great. Some performers fall right like Sebastian Stan, who doesn’t sound right as Bucky, and it just feels off like he is just saying the lines and not really emoting well.
Cinematography & Sound: Literally a Comic to Life
The animation is absolutely stunning with cel-shading that combines both 2D and 3D styles. While the Marvel Studios movies feel like the comic is coming to life, this show takes it to a whole new level. Combine with some great orange, blue, and purple colors splashed on the screen like a sunset. There are even moments that look like animation from the 40s, like the classic Fleischer Superman cartoons. Not sure if that was intentional or not, but kudos anyway. Granted, the movement feels a little stiff, but that’s only for a moment.
When they go into action mode, everything gets to step up a notch. The way that Captain Carter fights is spectacular as she discovers the power that’s now in her veins and usually her shield to destroy tanks. We’re treated to a great montage that has Steve and Peggy fighting together to take down HYDRA. It has this jazzy, upbeat, and pulp action feel that feels like classic wartime films. The jazz is turned up as trumpets beautifully play against what’s going on. The fighting ends with an amazing aerial scene where the HYDRA Smasher takes her up to bring down HYDRA planes as she flips against the iron suit to get momentum. While they do that with live-action, it feels more special being animated.
Editing & Pacing: A Movie Turned into an Episode
Since this episode is taking a lot of inspiration from Captain America: The First Avenger, we get many little references that are edited in. It’s a nice edition that is tongue in cheek but in a good way. It’s still funny that Steve doesn’t like performing for shows or the recurring element of Peggy and Steve sharing a dance. Unfortunately, the episode tries to cram way too much in 30 minutes and doesn’t let the story breathe for long. The only time was when Steve and Peggy talked about the bar, but it didn’t last too long. They try to stuff two acts of a movie that usually will go over an hour into half that time, including the end credits.