Thanks to Loki and his mischievous variants, the once sacred timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been shattered. While we know Doctor Strange is eventually going to have to sort it all out, for now, it presents an incredible opportunity for Marvel Studios and their first MCU canon animated TV series What If…? to tell weird and wonderful stories they otherwise couldn’t
Last week we saw a universe where Captain America was never created, and they instead got Captain Carter. This week though, we’re taking a trip into outer space and seeing what would happen if T’Challa, better known as the Black Panther, was picked up by Yondu and the Ravagers instead of Peter Quill.
In all the excitement of seeing Peter battle an evil Collector (well, more evil), though, it’s possible you missed a few details about this version of T’Challa. Don’t worry; we’ve reviewed the episode with a forensic microscope that’d put Hank Pym to shame to answer all of the questions about this new version of Star Lord.
What was Star Lord T’Challa’s nexus event?
This divergent timeline was created by Yondu when he delegated picking up Peter Quill to his crew, rather than doing the job himself. Taserface and Kraglin managed to get to Earth easy enough, but they made a huge mistake once there.
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They presumed that the vibranium under Wakanda, which gave off energy similar to a Celestial, meant the kid they were looking for was from the hidden kingdom. So when they spotted a young T’Challa, they put two and two together and got five.
What are the differences between T’Challa’s Star Lord and Peter Quill’s Star Lord?
How long have you got? Seriously, they’re different in almost every single way. While Peter was a scoundrel and a buffoon, T’Challa was widely respected as the man who helped bring peace to the galaxy. We see throughout the episode that almost everyone is in awe of T’Challa, and he managed to convince some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest bad guys to his cause simply by having a debate with them. Peter could never.
While this is good for the wider galaxy, it wasn’t so great for Earth’s mightiest heroes. You see, the power vacuum left behind meant that The Collector could become this reality’s big bad guy. It seems as well that unlike his predecessor, who was content to wait on his throne, the collector was a lot more active and at some point, he travelled to Earth and collected the weapons of the Avengers. Does this mean they’re dead? Well, I can’t see Cap leaving his shield behind willingly…
Does this version of T’Challa have superpowers?
No, this version of T’Challa explicitly doesn’t have superpowers. The T’Challa we all know and love derives his abilities from the heart-shaped herb, a plant that grows only in Wakanda thanks to the vibranium in the soil.
The herb bestows super strength, agility, and endurance on anyone who consumes it, but it’s reserved exclusively for the Black Panther. As this version of T’Challa was just a boy when he was taken, he was never chosen to take on the mantle of the Black Panther and therefore, he never received the herb. Similarly, he doesn’t have the cool vibranium suit or any other gadgets because he wasn’t on Earth.
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So what can he do? Well, as we saw in Black Panther, T’Challa is a lot more than a super-strong guy in a vibranium onesie. He’s a superb hand to hand combatant who’s more than resourceful enough to survive out in the coldness of outer space.
His real weapon, though, is his will and personality. Through just being T’Challa, the kind, compassionate, and intelligent man we all know and love, he’s defeated enemies who our Star Lord never could with just his wits and winning smile.
He’s not entirely defenceless either; he appears to have all of Peter’s gadgets, including his collapsible helmet, blaster, and rocket boots. He was also wearing a vibranium necklace when he was abducted, which he can use as a weapon in a pinch.
Will we see this version of T’Challa again?
It’s difficult to say. It’s possible that he may appear again in this series down the line, but the untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman means that after this first series is done we’re unlikely to see the character again.
Marvel has said it won’t be recasting him in the live-action movies, and we hope that that decision will carry through to the animated world as well.
What If…? streams exclusively on Disney Plus every Wednesday.