Marvel’s What If ? Premiered its first episode on Disney+ last week, exploring the possibility of Peggy Carter taking the soldier serum during Project: Rebirth instead of Steve Rogers. So not only did we get to see Peggy become Captain Carter, more or less the same as Captain Britain – but we also got to see Steve fight as The Hydra Stomper.
The animated series will continue to answer various ‘What If..?’ questions by Jeffrey Wright as The Watcher at the beginning of each episode. However, one What If..? narrative from the comics that won’t be included in this season is the arc that saw The Punisher taking on Captain America’s mantle.
WHAT IF..? #51
Released in July 1993, issue #51 of the What If? Comic book series narrated the aftermath of a battle between Red Skull and Captain America, with the latter being caught in a bomb blast. Cap consequently lost most of his body in the explosion and was kept alive within a military hospital underneath the Pentagon. Because of his physical state, Steve asked Nick Fury to find a replacement to fulfill the Captain America mantle. One official recommended Frank Castle because of his military record, but after visiting him, Frank declined.
After a series of failed substitutes, Frank eventually took Captain America’s mantle and led the Avengers into a battle against Hammerhead, whom Frank brutally beat up. Amidst Fury’s concerns over Frank’s violence, the former Punisher dons the skull again and resumes his life of vengeance. Unable to control Frank’s actions, Steve makes a miraculous recovery and sets out to fight The Punisher before things get out of hand.
After an easy win for Cap, Steve convinces Frank to carry on as Captain America and leave the Punisher behind. Frank questions why Steve cannot continue as Captain America now that he is fighting fit, and Steve responds by saying Captain America needs to be of flesh and blood. Steve then reveals that he has a cybernetic arm. Inspired by Steve, Frank changes his ways, and Steve rewards him by passing his shield over to him to truly become Captain America, while Steve continues as the Captain.
This comic book arc demonstrates the litany of possibilities that exist within the What If..? series and promises a lot more material to come should the animated show receive the green light for a second series.