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Small Details You Missed In The What If...? Trailer

After a remarkably fecund 2020 Disney Investor Day, the official Marvel Studios Twitter account shared one of the most highly anticipated pieces of content in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the trailer for the forthcoming series What If...? The drop came accompanied by this cryptic message: "Space. Time. Reality. It's more than a linear path."

Don't let the interrogatory title fool you, the new animated anthology series is steeped in Marvel lore, and its source material has a long history stretching back to the Bronze Age of Comics. Back in the 1970s, Marvel initiated an infrequently run line of hypothetical stories that explore inversions of some of the most iconic moments in Marvel Comics history. The "What If...?" line became a fan favorite, and continues to be published to this day, with new entries appearing on comic shop shelves as recently as 2018.

Since development of the streaming series was announced, fans have been speculating about which of the myriad alternate realities Marvel Studios might be ready to explore on the screen. Some of the most famous include What if the Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner?; What if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four?; What if Jane Foster had found the Hammer of Thor?; What if Doctor Doom had become a hero?; and, perhaps most intriguingly, What if Iron Man had been a traitor? You get the picture.

Marvel has used this line to bend its continuities into all sorts of narrative pretzels, and thanks to some small details in the new trailer we finally have a sense which ones the Watcher will be serving up from his moon base when the new animated series (an MCU first) lands on Disney+.

Here are the small details you might have missed from the What If...? trailer.

So much Captain Peggy

One thing is obvious from the trailer: As What If...? weaves together a fresh Marvel tapestry from all the disparate threads of comic fate that might have been, Captain Peggy Carter appears to be the piece of fiber anchoring all the rest in place. From the very first shot of Peggy in the trailer as she awakens from stasis in Steve Rogers' place, it's clear that "What if Peggy was given the serum instead of Steve Rogers?" will be one of the central stories explored throughout the series (or at least the first season).

The trailer cuts back to Peggy in a British-styled Captain suit several times throughout. We see her wielding Cap's iconic shield (with the British flag in place of Old Glory), hoisting a car over her shoulder super-soldier style, leading a strike team, guns-a-blazin', and, yes, falling in love with wimpy Steve Rogers. Some things are destined in every reality. Given all the screen time she gets in the trailer, it's pretty obvious that Captain Peggy is going to play a major role in What If...? It's also obvious that all the fans busy 'shipping Peggy and Bucky are going to be sorely disappointed (again).

T'Challa as the new Star-Lord

If Peggy Carter is the star of the trailer, T'Challa, the once and future King of Wakanda, easily deserves second billing. Yet another storyline virtually confirmed by the trailer is "What if T'Challa was abducted instead of Peter Quill?" As we see from these scant two minutes of action, it means that T'Challa would have become Star-Lord.

While we've known from previous announcements that we'd get a chance to see T'Challa as Star-Lord in What If...?, the trailer gives us a pretty substantial peak at how that alternate reality came about. We see an almost complete scene of Yondu Udonta landing in Wakanda instead of Missouri. As a result, he encounters a young and adventurous T'Challa instead of Peter Quill. "Why stop at one world, when we can show you all of them?" Yondu asks. Obviously, T'Challa takes him up on his offer to go galavanting around the galaxy, and the rest is history.

Fear the Walking Avengers

Of all the genre mash-ups made in nerd heaven, zombifying just about any long-running comics property is perhaps the most proven winner. As confirmed by the trailer, What If...? Is ready to explore that age-old question: What if a zombie virus plagued the Marvel universe? The answer is instant terror.

It's a brief look, but in one clip from the trailer we see Bucky facing off against Cap on a train or subway car of some sort. On its own, this wouldn't be so strange; Bucky and Cap have certainly had their differences. Except, this time Cap is a little out of his mind — and interested in consuming everybody else's. Back in the early 2000s, The Walking Dead scribe Robert Kirkman penned a limited series for Marvel that explored the consequences of a zombie outbreak on Earth-2149. That popular storyline has reached true fan-favorite status over time, and from the looks of that zombie Cap on the Train to Marvel Busan, it seems like we might just get to see it in play in an episode of What If...?.

Iron Man is back!

Tony Stark might be dead in the live-action MCU, but the Watcher sees all worlds, and in the animated alt-reality of What If...? Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man appears to be very much alive and kicking. We get a quick glimpse of Stark at the very beginning of the trailer chomping down on some delicious New York pastries. It's just a couple frames, but it's enough both to confirm the billionaire inventor's existence in the series, and to set fans speculating whether we might explore a dark world in which Iron Man is a traitor.

Earlier reports suggested What If...? would be putting Steve Rogers in the Iron Man suit, which may still be a part of the Captain Peggy Carter reality, but does not preclude another possible Iron Man story with a dark, Tony Stark twist. The classic 1988 one-shot from the first volume of Marvel's What If...? line includes the self-contained story "What if Tony Stark had been a traitor?" Exploring this twisted fate for the lead Avenger would be an interesting way to pay homage to the hypothetical series' origins.

Stephen Strange vs. Stephen Strange

We might also be in for a little subversion of whatever transpires in the next Doctor Strange film, suggestively subtitled The Multiverse of Madness. In the trailer we see a lingering shot of Stephen Strange's "S" medallion, and later an action sequence featuring Strange locked in reality-bending combat with an alternate version of himself. It's worth noting here that the alternate realities featured in What If...? are not the same thing as the coincident realities of the Marvel multiverse. That means it's entirely possible that Doctor Strange's story in the animated series will explore an alternate reality version of the multiple reality story we're set to see in the forthcoming-but-pre-What If...? Multiverse of Madness.

So buckle up, Marvel Studios fans. The shared cinematic universe is about to fracture and multiply in mind-boggling ways. With Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, WandaVision (the House of M storyline is also technically a What If...?, but that's a whole other can of worms), and what looks like it's going to be a live-action Spider-Verse on the horizon, What If...? promises to be an important part of an epic continuity heading straight for higher dimensions.