BY MATT TUCK
What If…?’s second episode is a heartfelt goodbye to Chadwick Boseman’s MCU legacy, featuring T’Challa as the greatest hero in the universe as Starlord. However, the episode tries too hard to be classic Disney meets James Gunn.
From the first scene to the last, there was no escaping the sadness that this is the last time Boseman will be part of the MCU, and it is likely the curtain call for T’Challa. After the actor’s untimely death last year, Marvel Studios has announced that the character will not be recast. Nothing formal has been said about Black Panther, though it is clear the title will be passed to another character. There’s just no replacing the original, making Episode Two bittersweet indeed.
Because this is Boseman and T’Challa’s final goodbye to the MCU and its fans, it is easy to get caught up in the emotions of the moment. This particular episode was filled with nostalgia. Not only do we get the final T’Challa performance, but What If…? resurrected Josh Brolin’s Thanos, who was given a turn as a hero and as a Guardian of the Galaxy crew member. Among the other returning characters being voiced by the original actors were Nebula, Korath, Yondu, T’Chaka, Kraglin, and even Howard the Duck. Dave Bautista has complained that he was not asked to voice Drax, who we see as an intergalactic bartender. There is also a surprise cameo at the end that I won’t spoil for you.
The episode attempts to replicate the overall look and feel of the original Guardians of the Galaxy movie, with Boseman delivering a remixed version of Peter Quill’s charming introduction as Starlord. The series’ writing team tries to channel their inner James Gunn for some witty dialogue, but the jokes mostly fall flat. By the episode’s end, the plot became just another high-stakes caper story that isn’t terribly far from that of Endgame.
While the classic Disney-esque art style was fitting for the Captain Carter episode, it did not translate well for this alternate reality GOTG. It is too close to 2002’s Treasure Planet but with the Marvel cast. As much as we have all laughed at the “superstache” from Joss Whedon’s edit of Superman’s lip in Justice League, there is something odd about Thanos’ teeth and top lip in What If…?. It is raised too high and shows too much of his teeth whenever he talks.
Again, I understand this is What If…?, and it wouldn’t be much fun to portray the characters exactly as before. However, this is not the right way to do it, either. Demonstrating the power of a leader’s influence on the team, the Guardians are not the lovable losers from the movies and instead become a true team of superheroes not unlike the Avengers or Justice League. The trouble is they are overly nice and pleasant, including Thanos who completely lost everything that made him such an amazing character in the first place (not to mention the weird upper lip thing). The showrunners clearly want Korath to be the quirky, slapstick comedy act, but it falls short of their James Gunn dreams. Throughout the episode, Korath devolves into What If…?’s Jar Jar Binks.
Nostalgia and the goodbye to Boseman are enough to keep fans entertained for the half-hour episode, but the story and art are a better fit for a Disney XD original.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.