It’s fair to say that the launch of Marvel’s What If…? last week showed off the potential of the animated series for playing around with the MCU. The first episode’s focus on a universe where Peggy Carter became the pioneering super soldier, rather than Steve Rogers, put a fresh spin on Captain America’s origin and raised various questions for fans. A particularly choice in the story did have some people scratching their heads, though, namely why Bucky Barnes makes so many jokes.
Sebastian Stan’s Bucky has had one of the darker character arcs in the established MCU, as he is conditioned by Hydra to become the Winter Soldier and deals with that trauma up through The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. However, in What If…?, he is spared that fate when Captain Carter saves him from falling from a moving train. He even remarks on how her strength almost ripped his arm off.
Throughout the episode, Bucky is generally shown to be relaxed and wisecracking, something that we rarely saw before his transformation into a brainwashed Hydra agent. One explanation, given by Screen Rant, is actually pretty straightforward: The What If…? formula allows Sergeant Barnes to be a more lighthearted, funnier person, albeit without diverting too far from the original Bucky. Indeed, the non-powered Steve Rogers we get is still the same brave and determined man, just with an increased vulnerability.
Of course, the modern-day Bucky isn’t afraid of some deadpan humor, and it seems that developing this side of Stan’s character was a hit with audiences. We’ll be getting more of the Winter Soldier in the zombie-themed entry, but with possibly fewer opportunities for jokes, and a greater chance of a repeat of the battle-hardened version of the hero. For now, it’s going to be fun to see how Marvel’s What If…? continues to let its impressive list of voice talent provide new takes on their iconic performances, including a poignant final turn by Chadwick Boseman.