First Impressions

What If Season 2 Ushers in a New Era for Marvel Studios

After a long hiatus, the multiversal animated series returns. And this time, it’s not alone.

by Aris Pangan
Inverse Reviews

Marvel fans have been anticipating the return of The Watcher and the release of What If? Season 2 since the end of Season 1 over two years ago. Earlier this month, at the Season 2 Premiere at Walt Disney Studios, Inverse had the chance to watch two episodes from What If Season 2. Both episodes are a fun time — featuring fan-favorite characters spearheading what is bound to be another entertaining and visually-appealing follow up to Season 1.

Light spoilers ahead for What If Season 2 Episodes 1 and 3.

Episode 1 (titled, “What If... Nebula Joined the Nova Corps?”) shows us a version of Nebula still trying to escape her father Thanos’s shadow. Only this time, it’s as a detective in the Nova Corps. The film-noir style of the episode is a fun way to depict an otherwise dystopian world where Xandar is protected by a five-year shield to prevent the takeover of Ronan the Accuser (in this multiverse, Ronan overthrows Thanos). This episode also features some fun cameos with various characters showing up to help Nebula solve her case, including Korg, Miek, and infamous fan-favorite Howard the Duck.

Nebula stars in a noir mystery.

Marvel Studios

Marvel is giving fans the gift of new episodes every day for the final week of 2023, and a clear highlight will likely be the Christmas Eve episode titled, "What If... Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?” In this episode, the second one previewed at the early screening, Iron Man 2 star Sam Rockwell reprises his villainous role as Justin Hammer, who returns to take over Avengers Tower during the annual holiday party. With Earth’s Mightiest Heroes occupied (cut to a fun scene featuring Tony Stark in a Santa costume), Happy Hogan proves himself as the head of security with Díe Hard-esque shenanigans involving Hulk blood.

With the uncertainty of the path Avengers 5 will take now that Marvel Studios removed Jonathan Majors as its primary villain, fun alternate reality animation may be just what the MCU needs most while the live-action franchise takes a moment to reset. As part of the same early screening, Marvel also offered up a tantalizing sneak peek at several other upcoming cartoons including X-Men ‘97, Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man (formerly Spider-Man: Freshman Year), and Eyes of Wakanda.

Between all these animated MCU series, one thing seems clear: While What If Season 1 may have felt like a fun diversion, What If Season 2 is ushering us into a bold and new era of Marvel cartoons.

What If? Season 2 airs daily new episodes on Disney+ starting December 22nd.

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