Marvel's What If...? critic reactions are in — and they're (mostly) positive

marvel's what if
(Image credit: Disney Plus/Marvel Studios)

Marvel's What If...? is almost here, debuting in nine days on August 9, and the first vociferous reactions are already here. A series of critics including YouTubers got access to the first three episodes, and their reactions are near-unanimous praise.

What If...? if you forgot, is an animated series posing a multitude of hypotheticals. What if Peggy Carter got the Super Serum? What if T'Challa (who will be voiced by the late Chadwick Boseman) was Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy? And what if there were zombies in the MCU? 

This kind of exuberant fan-service is just the kind of material that should create a lot of hype among fans. In fact, the one note that's even close to being negative is more neutral than anything else. Overall their reactions aren't entirely surprising, but the general glee in their tone is exciting. 

Overall, the big vibe we're reading is that What If...? is the Twilight Zone of the MCU, which sounds like exactly what we're trying to hear. Anyone who hopes that What If...? will have ramifications for future MCU projects, though, may have their eyes perk up as the word "multiverse" is used. 

While we're not expecting this to happen, conspiracy-theory minded fans may be left wondering if any of this will become truly canonical, in terms of what comes next in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Here's what the critics have to say about What If...?

Is there anything not to like about Marvel's What If...?

So, while the overall thrust of the reactions is positive, Brandon Davis of's Phase Zero podcast wrote that the first episode "didn't grab" him. If we had to guess that may be because the episode is sort of an introduction to the whole concept of the series, and may not go as wild and zany because of it.

What the critics like about Marvel's What If...?

That said, Davis noted that he enjoyed second and third episodes much more. Specifically, he noted that the second is "super entertaining & filled with heart" and that the third is "dark, surprising, and hands down [his] favorite!"

The best overall note is that the series has an "ambitious new style," which it feels like we've seen in the previews.

Kate Sánchez of the But Why Tho? website and podcast network called the series "a stunning blend of the MCU and the Twilight Zone."

Grace Randolph of the Beyond The Trailer channel on YouTube gushed with her reaction, calling What If...? "MIND-BLOWING" Her favorite characters so far are Captain Carter and Star-Lord T'Challa (which is exciting to read, as it says we'll get them in the first three episodes).

Tessa Smith, a Rotten Tomatoes critic, has a positive — yet somewhat predictable — point of view. While Smith calls the episodes she's seen "INCREDIBLE!" we're curious about the "twists" she refers to. We already knew there would be shocking twists, as the conceit of the show is based on that premise. Or is the shock value coming from what the characters we thought we knew will do in new situations?

Her tweet's most interesting note may be unintentional, as she says "Marvel throws us head first into the MULTIVERSE," which makes the series sound like it could create lasting effects seen outside of this show, tied to the existing MCU multiverse. But we're not buying that idea (not just yet), as the What If...? world has never actually had ramifications. 

Erik Davis of Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes also compares What If...? to The Twilight Zone, and notes that the series got better as the three episodes progressed. He praises the series for how it "twists" the Marvel stories we know to create "weird, wild, good fun."

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.