The Series Premiere of What If…? Gives Us Steve Rogers And Captain Peggy Carter
In the comic book film franchise world, a reboot is often seen as a bad thing. It means that whatever you were doing before either didn’t work or had to end. Those not raised on the pages of comic books often say that audiences will only stand for so many reboots of a character. That’s just not true. In fact, many people’s definitive versions of comic book characters like Batman or Captain America or any came from an comic book continuity reboot. These stories work so well because they can be remixed endlessly. The original What If? comic series showcased this, but often told darker tales of a worse world where things went differently than on Earth-616. That’s what makes the series premiere of Marvel’s What If…? on Disney+ so unique, because Captain Peggy Carter is definitely not worse than Captain America.
With a unique and easy-on-the-eyes animation style, the series premiere of What If…? explains the concept of the show well. They make a simple change, and we follow that story to the conclusion its parallel in the MCU went. (That will change though, as this series will have a continuity to it.) A simple change in circumstance sets things up so that it is Peggy Carter who has to take the super-soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. In about a half hour, they retell the First Avenger story in way that’s not about which one did it “better.” Rather, they show off that even in changing huge details, these Marvel stories are just interesting and fun to watch.
We’ll get into slight spoilers below, so come back when you’ve watched the episode and deep dive with us.
Why the Series Premiere of What If…? Had to be About Captain Peggy Carter
Image via Marvel Studios
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was all about how being Captain America was difficult because it’s impossible to be Steve Rogers. Yet, we forget that Peggy Carter is as much responsible for Captain America as Steve was. Steve didn’t just run off and join the fight in his first movie. He only went where Peggy told him to go. Jeffrey Wright’s Utau the Watcher says that the decision that created this new timeline was that Peggy didn’t leave the room for Steve’s experiment. However, the actual difference is that the SSR learned about the Tesseract earlier than they did in The First Avenger. Captain Peggy Carter, a maskless superhero decked out in the Union Jack, is able to get to the fight more quickly than Steve did, because she never went on the USO tour.
Honestly, if the entire series was just six episodes of First Avenger shenanigans, either the Captain Peggy Carter or America timeline, I’d be happy. There is something about the MCU 1940s that is just interesting to me. It’s an idealized fantasy of a time that was deeply troubled and problematic, and we buy it because it’s a world that produced a guy like Steve Rogers. Even though Captain Peggy Carter is the shield-slinging ass-kicker, Steve Rogers is still very much a hero. (And it helps that Josh Keaton does such a passable imitation of Chris Evans in the role.)
For people not familiar with this kind of “imaginary story” in the comic book format, the series premiere of What If…? is an excellent introduction. There is a simple change, from Captain America to Captain Peggy Carter, and they can see how the “same” story plays out differently and to an equally satisfying end.
The Power of the MCU Multiverse
image via Marvel Studios
Every Marvel fan has speculated about where we might see an X-Men character first in the MCU. Especially thanks to WandaVision, people wondered if the Fox X-Men characters would meet the MCU characters via multiverse madness. Others suggested they wouldn’t “waste” that on a TV show, and that’s a fair bet. But, I now suspect that an X-Men or mutant character might make their first MCU appearance via What If…?. It’s a freebie for two reasons. First, Marvel has always held onto the animation rights for their characters, and so it’s conceivable that mutants could appear alongside non-mutant characters even before the Fox and Disney merger. Second, anything goes on What If…?.
The great thing about the MCU characters, even when they take on different forms like with Captain Peggy Carter, is that we still have connections to them. Even though these aren’t “our” Peggy Carter or Steve Rogers, we still care about them just the same. The series premiere of What If…? takes on a familiar story, changes it just enough, and shows us that Marvel Studios could tell these stories, literally, forever. An animated spinoff set in Captain Peggy Carter’s universe would be something I would eagerly watch. Yet, we’re going to get multiple interesting versions of familiar characters in unfamiliar circumstances.
What If…? debuts new episodes on Wednesdays on Disney+.
What do you think? Share your thoughts, reviews, theories, or what What If stories you hope to see on this or future seasons of the show?
Featured image via Marvel Studios
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.