Marvel's "What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?" Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Marvel's "What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?" Review

Alexander Wallace enters the animated multiverse.
As the astute Warped Factor reader may have gleaned, I am an alternate history fan as well as a follower of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The What If...? Series from Disney+ naturally piqued my curiosity, and particularly its first episode. Peggy Carter as the super soldier, rather than Steve Rogers? I’m game for that any day.

This article starts a series which will cover all the episodes of What If…?

The animation is interesting; more than anything else, it reminds me of the Netflix series The Liberator, which feels like an interesting midpoint between traditional 2D animation and modern 3D animation; it feels like a moving comic book, which really works for a Marvel cartoon.

The story kicks off in the middle of Captain America: the First Avenger, but the super soldier serum fails with Steve Rogers and, as you would expect, Peggy takes his place. Much like what Agent Carter did so well, the episode is unflinching about the misogyny that Peggy has to face, but this is not given the attention that the live action show could. Indeed, this is probably the biggest flaw with all the episodes of the show: they can only cover so much ground in about half an hour.

Fortunately, the cast makes due even with the short runtime. Haley Atwell once again proves how properly heroic Peggy Carter is, if her namesake show wasn’t enough for you. Dominic Carter returns to the role of Howard Stark with all the swagger that he had in his previous runs as the character. Josh Keaton replaces Chris Evans as Captain America; he is perhaps not a straight clone of Evans, but who is? In any case, I never felt that the character was off. I must also give special props to Jeffrey Wright’s performance as the Watcher, who provides a forcefulness to the role that a lesser actor may have missed.

The action in the episode is fast-paced, befitting something set during the largest war in human history. The conflict gets a strong dieselpunk veneer painted over it, much as The First Avenger did; both Peggy’s suit (designed by Howard Stark, of course) and many German creations bear the traditional marks of the subgenre. Overall, it nails the tone of an old war pulp story, and fans of The Rocketeer or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow will be quite pleased.

Being the history buff that I am, I am pleased to say there aren't too many inaccuracies that I found unacceptable. The big one was Howard Stark’s incredulity that the Nazis were in Norway; the Germans had invaded Norway over a year before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Another minor irritant was a map showing the Germans invading Italy at the beginning of the war; Italy, after all, was the birthplace of fascism and fought alongside Germany until it was overwhelmed after the Allies controlled the peninsula. They’re small things, but I will admit, pedant that I am, was pulled out of it by them.

But those won’t matter for most viewers. This opening episode started What If…? on a strong first step, and it bore great promise. Keep a lookout, dear reader, for more articles to see if the rest of the series meets that high bar.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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