T’Challa is a character unlike any other.
As opposed to many Marvel characters who undergo huge transformations when they come into their own as a superhero, T’Challa isn’t the focus of change; he’s an agent of change. Just as he led Wakanda in his main timeline, T’Challa Star-Lord is no different, changing so many elements of the MCU through merely being present.
Here’s how his appearance bettered the world of the MCU and how the late Chadwick Boseman’s voice work reminded us just how well he embodied the character.
As a child, T’Challa dreamed of exploring the galaxy. That dream became a reality when Yondu’s outsourced crew kidnapped him from Earth by mistake instead of Peter Quill. After Yondu tells T’Challa that his family and country are gone, T’Challa established himself as Star-Lord — a Ravager, yes — but also as a local celebrity.
That’s not all that changed. Drax, whose tragic backstory was rewritten thanks to T’Challa’s interference, is now a bartender and a family man. Thanos has taken up gardening, and others are trying to get him into counseling with Nebula. Even the Black Order are now working as rent-a-security-team for The Collector. All the issues that caused massive destruction in the original stories are suddenly solved.
But T’Challa’s story is not without its challenges. Like any good heist tale, there are betrayals galore courtesy of Nebula, who has platinum blonde hair to match her sultry voice. Thanks to her, it’s up to T’Challa and Yondu to defeat the Collector together. On the way there, T’Challa learns Yondu lied about Wakanda being destroyed and that T’Challa’s family has been searching for him since he was kidnapped.
During the heist, T’Challa runs into some truly intriguing animals, including Laika, the first dog in space, and Howard the Duck, (presumably) the first talking duck in space. T’Challa and Howard the Duck are a combination of two Marvel extremes, and it could have been hokey. Still, Chadwick Boseman’s dedicated voice work brings a wink to T’Challa’s usually steadfast delivery, showing sunnier sides to Wakanda’s noble king.
It’s fitting that the beginning of the end of Boseman’s work in the MCU is essentially a character study in what makes T’Challa who he is. Even without the decades of training in Wakanda, he’s still righteous and philanthropic, always with an eye on pacifism. Still, that doesn’t keep him from fighting off the Collector with a veritable Greatest Hits of Marvel Weapons.
Though this won’t be the last we hear of Chadwick Boseman — he’s set to appear in four episodes of the nine in this season — this episode proves T’Challa is more than just the sum of his environment. He’s just a stand-up guy who does what he can with what he has.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Peter Quill runs into Ego. The Watcher calls that “a story for another day.” Another day, or What If...? Season 2? Only time will tell.
What If...? is now streaming on Disney+.