What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord? has much more fun with the cosmic canvas of the MCU

What If... T'Challa Became A Star-LOrd?

Where WHAT IF…CAPTAIN CARTER WERE THE FIRST AVENGER? may have changed up the shades but stuck to colouring inside the lines, WHAT IF…T’CHALLA BECAME A STAR-LORD? grabs a handful of crayons and gleefully scribbles all over the cosmic history of the MCU as we know it.

Mistaking the Wakandan Vibranium lode as a sign of alien energy, the Ravagers abduct a young T’Challa instead of Peter Quill. Taking the young prince under his wing, Yondu offers T’Challa the irresistible chance to explore endless galaxies. As a result, T’Challa’s benign influence changes the cosmic destiny of the universe.

Boasting a cast almost as star-laden as its cosmic backdrops, WHAT IF…T’CHALLA BECAME A STAR-LORD? sees virtually everyone from the AVENGERS: ENDGAME, BLACK PANTHER and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (the most notable absentee of the characters featured is Dave Bautista as Drax, replaced here by Fred Tatasciore) return for this do-over but all eyes – or at least ears – are on the late and sorely lamented Chadwick Boseman in what turns out to be his final performance. And what a performance it is, a performance in service of a story which shows how the character he personified becomes a fulcrum upon which the balance of the universe tilts towards the good. T’Challa’s intelligence, wisdom and innate nobility even manage to turn not only the Ravagers into t a force for good but even the grand villain of the Infinity Saga himself, Thanos, into a – well, not quite a good guy but certainly a much, much better guy.

As befits its setting in the GUARDIANS portion of the MCU, WHAT IF…T’CHALLA BECAME A STAR-LORD? is an altogether more tongue-in-cheek affair, so of course, there’s a bigger role for Seth Green’s Howard The Duck and a beautifully judged inversion of Peter Quill’s unwanted anonymity as Korath (Djimon Hounsou) relentlessly fanboys out over meeting T’Challa, his hero Star-Lord.

There’s also more of a sense here that the series isn’t just playing around with alternatives and variants of the story we know and love but that it’s building to something itself. Nothing explicit, but a definite sense of more story to tell as the episode draws to a close. The second episode of WHAT IF…? has turned last week’s “so what?” into “what’s next”?

Score 8

8/10

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