I’m not sure I have a handle on this whole Marvel universe thing. Like why is this alt-history cartoon part of that universe? Is it canon? Who is that giant baby-looking thing with Jeffrey Wright’s voice floating around narrating shit? Is he watching everything that happens in the multiverse, but we’ve never seen him before? Does he watch Chris Hemsworth shower? It’s all creepy and strange and I’m unsure why they’d do any of this other than to give another group of writers some fun stuff to make up. Like any show could It’s a Wonderful Life it and give you the alt if someone was never born. Or someone else got the super soldier shot. Or if Thor was just a drunk idiot. Or like if Ross was a stud and there were black people in the New York Friends or Seinfeld world.
In other words, there is an infinite number of possibilities. But the creators of the series — which is essentially a series of nine different “what if” tales — didn’t really get that wacky with it. Maybe there are some guardrails in this universe that I’m not aware of, but some of the episodes just felt like strange, incremental changes that I’m sure where shocking and amazing for super-fans. But for me, some of them were super-meh. But more than that, I didn’t really get how or why they chose certain characters to change or mess with. And to what end? Like is the Thor in the movies now going to be a moron? Probably not. So why the dalliance if not to just further exploit the Disney I.P.? Which I suppose is the same thing they’re doing with Star Wars, what with the 47 different properties streaming on the Disney+ platform. Though Tony Stark on What If…? is still Tony Stark. But maybe in a different universe? Whereas some random Rebel is just that dude and not a canon character like Luke or Han. So it’s different.
And if you can just do whatever because there are multiple and infinite universes, what are the stakes? If there’s a zombie apocalypse and everyone is going to die, why do we care? That’s universe x134 and we live in x178 where things are just hunky-dory. It’s fun, sure, but it feels fleeting and insignificant. Mostly because in the next episode we’re on to another story presumably in another universe. Where people are no longer zombies. They do try to tie some things together in a penultimate and finale episode, but I honestly started to lose track of where our ultimate baddie, Ultron’s, “home” universe actually is. And what is a home universe anyway? And why can he now punch the aforementioned baby.
Look, this whole thing is an attempt to spend some time with Hipster Jr. Jr. I’m not sure she was so into this particular Marvel property, but she seemed to at least know more about the history of all this than I did. I admit to pausing several times to ask “Now, who is that dude?” Sometimes she sort of knew. Sometimes she just shrugged and we moved on. Because nothing means anything when nobody can really die and worlds are just there to entertain us in our safe universe over here. At least that’s my takeaway. And maybe why I never read comics. I’m just too much of a stodgy a-hole when it comes to continuity. And in the What If…? universe, that’s just not a thing.