What If… T’Challa was a Star-Lord?
** Warning! This review contains spoilers for episode 2 of Marvel’s What If Series **
Episode Two of What If looks at what happens when you outsource your work. In this episode, Yondu sends his subordinates to capture Peter Quill, but they accidentally kidnap a young T’Challa from Wakanda. We meet T’Challa as Star-Lord in the opening scene from Guardians of the Galaxy. Star-Lord steals the orb, and this time Korath the Pursuer knows who he is and is a fan! They take him in as a recruit for the Ravagers.
In this timeline, the Ravagers are Robin Hood-style bandits who steal from the rich and give to the poor. The group is talking about their exploits, including how T’Challa talked to Thanos about how he was wrong to want to decimate half the population. The big purple thumb himself is there talking about how T’Challa convinced him. Nebula, now sporting blonde hair and a chummy relationship with T’Challa, has a job for the group. They want to collect terraforming crystals from The Collector who is a big bad in this universe.
Before they leave the bar, they see Drax! T’Challa saved his family from being destroyed, and his wife and child are alive. So nice to see a happy alternative for Drax.
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The Ravagers head to The Collector, who has The Black Order working for him. T’Challa explores the collection with the help of Howard The Duck. Once the Ravagers are found out, T’Challa has to duck into another room and finds a Wakandan spacecraft and a message from Baba. Yondu had told T’Challa that Wakanda was destroyed, but this is not true.
It looks like Nebula double crosses The Ravagers, but that was the plan all along. The Collector’s assistant Corina frees T’Challa from a display case, allowing him to fight the jacked-up Collector. The Collector uses a collection of MCU weapons to fight T’Challa, but he’s beaten by him and Yondu. Thanos fights The Black Order to give Nebula time to escape. The whole Ravagers team survives, and The Collector is left to fend off all of the freed people from his collection.
The Ravagers rescued Cosmo the Space Dog! T’Challa and Yondu have a chat, and they bring T’Challa back to Wakanda. He returns to find Baba, Shuri, and Ramona, and his two families meet. An end scene shows Peter Quill working at a Dairy Queen where he’s approached by Ego.
The episode ends, as it should, with a dedication to Chadwick Boseman.
It does not take long in the episode to love the dynamic of The Ravagers team. Yondu and T’Challa have great chemistry, and the inclusion of Thanos and Korath give it a different look than the Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s also great that members like Groot, Rocket, and Gamora aren’t in the episode. There’s no reason for them to have connected with Star-Lord in this universe, so Marvel didn’t shoehorn them in.
A small aside, but The Collector being a big bad and having a collection of hero’s weapons was a fun sight. He had Cap’s shield, Mjolnir, Loki’s dagger, Hela’s helmet, and a glove made of Korg’s hand.
As fun as it was seeing the shot-for-shot differences in What If episode 1, episode 2 benefits from a fully unique story. It gives us differentiation in what to expect with future episodes where some may be role reversals and some will be completely new stories.
The Not As Good:
Why is T’Challa still named Star-Lord? I know it isn’t a big deal, but it is the only thing I have to nitpick this week. This episode brought more character development and left me wanting to see more of these versions of the characters. A nicer Thanos and Nebula working together is a great combo, and I want more of this Ravagers crew.
Of course, Chadwick Boseman brings the same balance of intellectualism and charm to the animated T’Challa as he did to the live-action version. He is the big star of the episode and carries it well. He brings emotion to his conversations with Yondu and Baba, and frankly, it was just great to hear from the late actor again.
Other tremendous performances include Djimon Hounsou as Korath and Josh Brolin as Thanos. Both were big villains in their initial MCU performances but instead are lovable Ravagers this time around. Korath’s switch to a Star-Lord fanboy is consistently funny, and Thanos has a softness to him that we saw glimpses of in his conversations with his daughters.
What If has episodes dropping every Wednesday on Disney Plus.
Evan Gomes is a freelance pop culture & sports writer. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsEvanGomes, and check out his two podcasts: Crossbody of Work and The Pop Capsule Podcast.