‘What If…?’ Unleashes Its Full Potential in Episode 6

Kahhori in Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…?, Season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2023 MARVEL.

The House of Ideas. That moniker has been with Marvel Comics for much of its nearly 85 years in the publishing business. Beginning with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The House of Ideas created a multiverse full of some of the most beloved fictional characters in the industry. For 15 years now, those characters have been at the center of pop culture as the narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to unfold across screens big and small. However, in that time, for all the liberties Marvel Studios took with characters and stories from the pages of Marvel Comics, they had never created an original superhero…until now.

On display in Episode 6 of the second season of What If…?, “What If…Kahhori Reshaped the World?” was, for the first time, the type of unbridled creativity that gave Marvel Comics the House of Ideas nickname in the first place. Set in North America’s Haudenosaunee Confederacy at an undefined time in pre-colonial America, the episode introduced the MCU’s first original superhero, a Mohawk Wolf Clan woman named Kahhori, and then quickly followed that up by introducing a dozen or so more powered-up Kanien:ke people. Throughout the episode, the Mohawk people–whose way of life is being threatened by Spanish conquistadors–speak authentically in their native Kanien’kéha thanks to the studio’s collaboration with historian Doug George and Mohawk language expert Cecelia King. Never in the history of comic book projects has a Native American people been treated so reverently. But the creativity hardly stops with a wonderful new hero and some closed captions.

From start to finish (well, almost–they did drop dickhead Strange in there), the episode blazes its own trail. Beginning with Surtur’s successful Ragnarok set at some undisclosed point in time before Odin placed the Tesseract in the care of the people of Tønsberg, “What If…Kahhori Reshaped the World?” features nary a single familiar beat from the MCU. Beginning with the fate of the Tesseract, creators Bryan Andrews and Ryan Little played very liberally with the premise of What If…? in this episode and the payoff was monumental. With the butterfly effect in full effect, the creatives were able to get schwifty with the possibilities of the Space Stone and its spacetime powers. The inventiveness led not only to a beautiful, new in-universe mythology that introduced the Mohawk Skyworld but also a wonderful powerset resulting from exposure to the Tesseract-powered waters of the Forbidden Lake.

As teased in the closing moments of the episode, Kahhori’s story hasn’t come to a close. While she has a larger role to play in Season 2 of What If…?, it would feel like a missed opportunity if the studio didn’t include the character in one or both parts of the two-part finale to the Multiverse Saga. With some interpretation of one or another of Marvel Comics’ Battleworld stories sure to take place, the inclusion of Kahhori–now one of the most powerful heroes in the Multiverse–doesn’t seem like a bridge too far. Though she was voiced by Devery Jacobs in What If…?, Jacobs is already holding down a live-action role in the MCU. That opens the door for Amber Midthunder, who in 2022 made it clear she was ready to join the MCU and told us her hopes to continue to push for indigenous representation in Hollywood blockbusters, to possibly fill the role.

While the MCU cannot and certainly should not look to create brand new heroes, mythologies and universes in every project, “What If…Kahhori Reshaped the World?” serves as a wonderful reminder of what creators can do when they find true inspiration. Here they have delivered undoubtedly the best episode of What If…? and opened the door for a fascinating new hero to join the best of the rest in the Multiverse should those calling the shots have the courage.

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