Capitalising on the blockbuster success of Disney+ series Loki, Marvel Studios has unveiled its next Cinematic Universe TV series. This time around, things will be different. The first trailer for Marvel’s What If… series has been revealed, with the latest animated show set to challenge old ideas, Marvel canon and perceptions of what is right and wrong.
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe story reached some form of conclusion with Avengers: Endgame, What If… takes a completely new approach. Asking a series of new questions and explaining what might happen should character arcs have differed and key plot-points been reversed, the animated show is set in a series of alternate universes. The first question being posed is a big one – what if Erik Killmonger saved Tony Stark from the missile attack that put him on the road to becoming Iron Man?
Similarly, What If... tackles gender roles and character arcs, asking the question what if it was Peggy Carter who took the Super Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers? Or if T’Challa was Star Lord? The different multiverse possibilities are narrated by the mysterious Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), a powerful being who can see these separate realities but will not interfere in them.
Set to be the first animated MCU series, What If…? uses a style of rotoscoped animation not unlike Richard Linklater’s film Waking Life. The style isn’t completely new, with Polygon even noting that a new technology called triscope was used to create similar effects for the Netflix show The Liberator. This approach layers CGI paint over actual footage, letting the show’s creators blend existing footage from past MCU movies with newly created scenes to craft a more seamless visual journey.
Marvel’s What If… series will see a number of famous faces reprise their iconic roles, with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth and Michael B. Jordan all set to appear. In a fitting tribute, late actor Chadwick Boseman recorded some lines for the show before his 2020 death, which will be incorporated into the evolving storyline. What If…? launches on Disney Plus on August 11, with new episodes airing on Wednesdays.