The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 5

August 24th, 2006 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

That hiatus was long enough. Let’s get back to business.


Issue: Volume 1, #33
Writer: Dan Fingeroth, Steven Grant
Artist: Mike Vosburg, Don Perlin
Spider-Man death: Yes
Background: Two stories here, neither have much to do with the other. First, there was a time when Terrax, Galactus’ then-herald, schemed behind his master’s back and ended up in a black hole for his troubles. Because Dazzler was a bit overpowered at the time, she was chosen to bring him out of the black hole to stand trial. Galactus decided that Terrax had learned his lesson from the black hole and reinstated him. So what if he wasn’t so forgiving? As for the other story, there was a storyline where Dr. Doom and Iron Man ended up in Camelot via time travel. After a little adventure, the two banded together to return themselves to the correct point in history. Here, Doom is more of a bastard and really isn’t bright if you think about it.

In the first story, after having Dazzler bring Terrax out of the black hole, Galactus decides to just toss him back in. The guy challenged Galactus, so he’ll do the time. Galactus gives Dazzler the choice of being his new herald or having Earth devoured. Dazzler gives in. Granted the power of the cosmos, Dazzler scours the universe for planets suitable for her new master’s consumption. Fittingly, she is also capable of singing in the deep vacuum of space itself.

She first finds a planet that is without intelligent life, but is a fertile paradise. Unfortunately for her, Galactus doesn’t give a cosmic crap.

Dazzler resolves that she will only lead Galactus to planets that lack intelligent life, as she couldn’t bear the burden of such genocide. Untold years pass and Dazzler continues to serve her master well. On one planet, she finds nothing but plants and calls Galactus over. On closer inspection, she finds that these plants are intelligent and they find both her and her singing beautiful. Dazzler is at first willing to defend the planet herself, but one of Galactus’ robots suddenly notes that his readings have changed. According to the world’s ecosystem, it is worthless to Galactus. The robot and Dazzler each have their own ideas of what may have happened.

Looking on is Galactus.

Yep, Galactus decided to let Dazzler off the hook and changed the readings himself. He briefly thinks back to his origins and how he used to be a mortal man. He ponders his lost humanity and what he has become, but he knows his importance to universal balance makes his feelings trivial.

One day, Dazzler is attacked by a vengeance-fueled armada who want to destroy both her and Galactus. They succeed in wounding her. With her last ounce of strength, she returns to Galactus. Her master freaks out, furious both because of how soft he has allowed himself to become and how they hurt Dazzler to get to him. Sort of an oxymoron, but he’s a god and I’m not, so who am I to correct him? Galactus destroys the entire armada with little effort. Moments later, Dazzler comes to and finds out what transpired.

“All I had hoped for… worked for… was all for nothing.”

“Herald! Would you rather that I had let them destroy us?”

“That’s not the point! You didn’t have to kill them all! You could have neutralized the weapon easily enough! But you had to have your unholy revenge, didn’t you?! Had to show them your much-vaunted wrath?! Terrax swore he’d have his revenge. And he has… Because you’ve become as cruel, as heartless as he ever was! He’s won, Galactus! He’s won!!”

“You are wrong, Herald! Galactus had to utterly destroy the armada – as an example to all others! And if I were as compassionless as you believe – your insolence would surely have invoked instant obliteration! Still, you have served me well! Thus, I release you from your bond to me. If it is your wish to leave… then go now.”

Dazzler storms off and returns to Earth. It has been centuries since she’s left with Galactus and she finds the world completely lifeless. With a little soul-searching, she realizes that she can’t give up on Galactus just yet. She can still get through to him and in truth, she needs him just as much. Dazzler rushes back towards Galactus as Watcher notes that she is, in a way, one of the greatest heroes of the entire multiverse.

As for the other story, Dr. Doom returns to the present and screws Iron Man over. Not only is Tony Stark stranded in medieval Camelot, but he’s powered down. His armor is solar powered, but it’s damaged to the point that he can’t come close to full strength. Morgana LeFay, who he opposed in the canon storyline, appears to laugh at his expense.

Iron Man is allowed into Camelot with open arms. Pissed off at his situation, he almost turns to mead addiction, but resolves not to allow himself to hit the gutter again. On a side-note, I find it hilarious that Iron Man is known as “that drunk guy” to the general public. I can mention him to somebody who knows almost nothing of the character, even his real name, and they would still respond with “he loves his bourbon.”

Morgana wants to scout Iron Man’s power, so she sends some barbaric warriors to take down Camelot. Even with his limited power, Iron Man scares off the hoard and takes their leader prisoner. King Arthur is truly impressed by the showing.

Sir Anthony spends his days working on his armor, protecting the land and spending a little time with the various young maidens of the era. Morgana sends her own son Mordred to attack Arthur’s armies. Mordred is armed with a magic knife that succeeds in destroying Iron Man’s circuitry system. Arthur’s knights carry him away, but with Mordred’s superior army gunning for Camelot, it’s noticed that Sir Anthony has inadvertently doomed Camelot.

Through pure effort and the willingness to go without much sleep, Sir Anthony and his squire succeed in repairing the armor from scratch. The battle for Camelot is still going on, but Iron Man helps turn the tide. Mordred mortally wounds King Arthur, but during his boasting at Iron Man, Arthur decapitates his enemy. Dying from his wound, Arthur passes his crown to Sir Anthony. The Knights of the Roundtable all hold their swords in the air and hail their new king.

Morgana screams, knowing that she will never succeed in getting the power she craves. The last thing we see is King Anthony sitting on his throne, wearing his armor, though without a helmet. Instead he wears a crown and a kickass king’s robe. The Watcher notes that thanks to his leadership, King Anthony of Britain forges the way for millennia of peace unrivaled by most realities.

The Iron Man story was pretty sweet, but I have to admit I found myself enjoying the Dazzler one a bit more. Something is just so bizarre about a Galactus love story that I can’t help but pay attention. Both stories are good examples of What Ifs where two worlds collide with successful results, not unlike that X-Men/Asgard one a few articles back. While I liked the Dazzler story, I am proud to say that there is a similar issue with a far more testosterone-driven storyline coming later on the list.


Issue: Volume 2, #102
Writer: Bill Rosemann
Artist: Hector Collazo
Spider-Man death: No
Background: Battling Jack Murdock’s boxing comeback was cut short when the Fixer insisted he throw a fight. Inspired to do what he believed was the right thing, Jack ignored the Fixer’s warnings and won the fight. He was soon murdered and his son Matt lived to one day get revenge on the Fixer and his kind. And so, Daredevil was born. In this reality, Jack Murdock realizes that if he was to win the fight, something bad might happen to Matt. He takes the dive.

Matt still tries to become a lawyer and eventually comes across Elektra. After her father’s death, inadvertently caused by Matt, the two lose touch. Then Matt gets a phone call about his own father. Jack kept fighting and taking losses, being used as a way to make up-and-coming boxers seem bigger. Now he’s in a coma. Matt quits law school as the hospital bills are too expensive. He uses his father’s trainer to get into the boxing business, insisting that he’s not really blind.

As a boxer, Matt is untouchable. He would use his super senses to know exactly when the punches were coming at him, where to dodge and where to hit the hardest. Considering how he is more or less cheating, Matt feels like crap for exploiting his powers, but much like his father before him, pride takes a backseat to family. Matt is represented by the Kingpin, who takes good care of him until eventually asking him to lose a fight.

Unlike his father, Matt can’t deal with the lie. He tries to allow himself to get knocked out, but still gets up and finishes off his opponent. He becomes the heavyweight champion at the expense of his father, who Fisk easily has killed.

At Jack Murdock’s grave, Matt is visited by Elektra, who has learned healing through spilling the blood of others. Elektra can’t convince Matt to murder, but he does have his own ideas of how to deal with the Kingpin. Wearing a ninja-like disguise, he confronts the Kingpin in his office with enough evidence to have the Kingpin put away. Fisk gets furious and the two briefly fight. Elektra shows up unseen, briefly knocks out Matt and then takes care of Kingpin.

Kingpin dies? I’ll be damned.

Matt uses his mask to remove Elektra’s fingerprints and then puts his own on there to take the blame. The entire story is really a flashback as Matt Murdock is on death row for his crimes. He’s being interviewed by Ben Urich, who knows the truth and can prove it to the world. Matt is resigned to his fate, saying he’s just as stubborn as his father.

I liked the simple take on the basic Daredevil mythos as well as the unclear motivations. Was Elektra really trying to help Matt or was she really just exacting revenge for what happened to her father? As for Matt’s actions, Ben puts it best: “So why take the fall for a crime she committed? Your search for love? Your search for justice? Guilt over the death of her father? Guilt over the death of your own? All of the above?”


Issue: recent
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Spider-Man death: He wasn’t even born yet!
Background: Captain America is the great hero of the Marvel version of World War II. Well, at least in most continuities. During the 2005 set of What Ifs, a nerd calling himself the Watcher finds a way to hack into another reality and read its Earth’s websites. Yes, it really is stupid. In this world (officially called Earth 717), Captain America is the hero of another country-defining war.

Stephan Rogers fights for the Union in the Civil War as he believes in equality and freedom. He soon finds out that most of his fellow soldiers are really assholes who only rape and pillage Confederate towns to steal all their money. The only one he has respect for is Colonel Buck Barnes, only soon he finds out that he is just as corrupt as the rest. It should be noted that this issue was written while the Winter Soldier storyline was going on, which is why Bucky is portrayed as a villain.

When Rogers tries to save some children from being needlessly executed, he finds himself pointing a gun at Barnes. Barnes disarms him, but is then attacked by an eagle out of nowhere. Rogers tries to escape, but is shot in the chest and ends up being dragged into the distance by spooked horses.

Hours of agony and delusion later, Rogers is found by a black soldier Private Wilson. Wilson is part of a group of mostly Native Americans who fight for the Union. Rogers, based on what has transpired with Colonel Barnes, states, “I don’t even care anymore which side wins. Blue, gray… it’s all the same. We’re all going to Hell by the time this is over.”

Rogers isn’t expected to make it to morning, but Wilson keeps him company. He explains that his adopted father, a medicine man, prophesized that one day Wilson would find a man who could bring union to all people. The eagle spirit We-Pi-Ahk is within Wilson and needs to find a leader that people will follow (in other word, a white guy). Rogers is chosen, since he is a good person who now sees both the good and bad in all people. And he’s white.

Barnes and his troop barge into the area, insisting that they have Rogers handed over to them. He finds Rogers’ cabin and barges in, just as We-Pi-Ahk’s power is being transferred. The eagle spirit announces, “As you are on the inside, so shall you become on the outside.” His power explodes, affecting both Rogers and Barnes.

Barnes stands back up, transformed. His head has changed to a skull with eyeballs and a tongue. He freaks out and has all the troops not his own slaughtered. Wilson rushes at him, but gets shot up for his troubles. That’s when Captain America rises.

Captain America easily defeats the White Skull and history changes for the better. With Captain America representing the Union, the Civil War ends a year early, Lincoln survives his second term, the KKK is suppressed, the Indian Wars never occur and in the present, Rogers’ descendant General America leads the Avengers. The White Skull survived the encounter with Cap and tried to head the KKK. The nerdy Watcher suggests that both Rogers and Barnes are necessary for the country to see how great we can be and how far we can fall.

I’m pretty sure this issue was meant to be a pilot for a possible mini-series. Anyway, while it was far more Elseworlds than What If, I still got a kick out of it. The concept itself is full of promise and I liked the mystical edge it added. I thought the use of Bucky as the White Skull was pointless and did little more than act as an excuse to namedrop for recognition. I also wouldn’t have minded seeing Cap fight a bit more. All he really does is throw his shield once and that’s it.


Issue: Volume 2, #35
Writer: Roy Thomas and RJM Lofficier
Artist: Joe Phillips
Spider-Man death: No
Background: This is a sequel to the very first What If, where Spider-Man joins the Fantastic Four. Long story (which I’ll get to in a later article) short, Sue eventually leaves the team to be with Namor. In this reality, she comes back to Reed and the two conceive their first child. Like in regular continuity, there are some problems with the birthing process and Reed needs to steal Annihilus’ Cosmic Rod from the Negative Zone to save Sue and the kid. How will things be different with Spider-Man tossed in with a bunch of cosmic assholes hanging out in the background?

Yeah, I forgot to mention. This is part one of Timequake. Oy.

In the Negative Zone, Spider-Man gets separated from Thing, Torch and Reed. As those three have their own obstacles to get through, Spider-Man ends up coming face-to-face with Annihilus. He finds too soon that his spider strength doesn’t stack up against the fellow bug man, but with a little webbing to the face and some agility, he steals the Cosmic Rod from Annihilus’ chest plate and makes tracks.

As part of the Timequake storyline, these three beings are watching over this reality and really, really want Sue’s unborn baby to die for some reason. They interfere by getting Dr. Doom to pay attention to what’s going on in the Negative Zone. Doom jumps at the chance to get great power (the Cosmic Rod) and kill off his rival. He easily steals it from them, but then gets in a fight with Annihilus. No matter the winner, it doesn’t look good for Reed and the others.

That’s when the Whisperer (another Timequake character) steps in. He pulls Doom out of time to show him that keeping the Cosmic Rod away from Reed is a seriously bad idea.

Which helps proves my point that Reed Richard’s sanity is being held together by a thread.

Doom tosses Reed the Cosmic Rod and keeps Annihilus at bay for their escape. Reed considers helping Doom, but the insistence in Doom’s voice pushes him to go save Sue. In their struggle, Doom and Annihilus stumble into an anti-matter planet, causing an explosion that should kill them both (though the Whisperer pulls Doom out of reality at the last instant). Reed, Spidey, Johnny and Ben later find out that their efforts were successful and with the help of the Cosmic Rod, Sue and their son both survive the birthing process.

Hooray! Life was bad but now it’s good! Forever!

What can I say? As lame as Timequake was, it’s trumped by my love of the Fantastic Five. I also dig it when Dr. Doom turns against his megalomania to do something honorable as depicted here. This issue is actually the second sequel written based on the first What If, but that other sequel, as well as the original, will be talked about when we get there.

Speaking of follow-ups to the first issue…


Issue: Volume 1, #2
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Herb Trimpe
Spider-Man death: No
Background: When he becomes the Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner’s brilliant mind is stripped away to its bare emotions in return for his great strength. For years, the two personalities have warred and argued over supremacy. How about we find out what would have happened if this dynamic never was? What If Bruce Banner became Smart Hulk right off the bat?

You can’t really see it in the above cover, but it says, “We dare you to guess our startling shock ending!” They were right to say that because once this story hits a certain point, it becomes completely Silver Age wacky. This is the second issue of the first series and they’re already trying to see how far out they can get their consequences. I won’t lie to you; I don’t even think the story is really that good. I just put it on here because it is so silly in such a way that I had to shake my head and respect it.

Upon becoming the Hulk, Banner gets a bit weirded out by his new look. He and Rick escape, but run into some soldiers. Despite his rational tone, they all run off in fear. Hulk finds out that the spy Igor is behind his transformation and confronts him. Igor’s superior, a big-brained freak called the Gargoyle gets involved, but finds his weapons useless against the Hulk. He breaks down over his failure, but Hulk comforts him and extends friendship based on how they’re both brilliant men who have become freaks.

Hulk tries to make amends with the army. He points out how General Ross contradicts himself by saying he used to be too weak to be with Betty, but now that he’s strong, he’s yelled at for being a monster. General Ross admits he was wrong and allows Bruce and Betty to wed. Bruce works in hope of finding a cure for himself (WHY?), but until then is forced to exist as the Hulk at night. Before long, the Hulk is contacted by the Fantastic Four, who request his help.

Reed asks Hulk for his assistance in reverting Thing back to a human. Their success leads to the Fantastic Four splitting up. Hulk and Reed decide to continue their work as scientists. Also, there’s a scene where Loki tries to trick the Hulk. Since he’s so smart, Hulk doesn’t fall for it and thus, the Avengers are never created. The trifecta comes into play as Charles Xavier joins Hulk and Reed in their attempts to push science to the limit, thereby preventing the X-Men from ever coming to be. At least Reed and Banner meant well with ridding the world of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. Xavier is a total cock here.

As they finish working on the creation of Cerebro, they immediately come across a huge energy signature that overloads it. To see what could have caused it, they look out the window and see Galactus standing there. Nobody brought this to their attention that some big, purple guy with a rumbling belly was stomping through the streets, apparently. Banner comes up with the most brilliant plan ever. He tells Reed to use his stretch powers on him!

Man, he really is one of the smartest men on Earth!

Galactus zaps Reed and Banner gets angry. For the first time, he becomes the Hulk due to aggression. Galactus claims that Hulk is the most powerful enemy he has ever faced, but is still just a fly to him. Weird that Galactus would have such knowledge of Earth’s insects, but okay.

Suddenly, Xavier comes in with a plane and starts firing at Galactus. Galactus zaps him out of the air. Reed says that Xavier only survived the crash due to his mutant powers. WHAT?

Okay, now here’s where things start getting REALLY bizarre.

The three scientists come up with a plan to stop Galactus. They use this machine to do a mental fusion and merge into one being. After an explosion, there is no sign of Hulk, Xavier or Reed. Instead, it’s just a huge, bald, glowing, gold man in short-shorts called X-Man!

Now we have a smackdown. The mental mergings of three brilliant men incarnated into a giant being vs. one of the most powerful forces in the known universe. And what do the two epic beings do?

They stare at each other. They stare at each other really hard.

After a bit, Galactus claims that it would take him years to win like this and he’d die of starvation by then, so he takes off into space. Right after his leaving, X-Man blows up for no reason. Banner, Xavier and Reed have all lost their powers, just because.

Ben Grimm, on the other hand, is back to being the Thing due to the explosion. Now he’s back in his blue diaper, but he’s stronger and with the “HULK SMASH!” intellect. Instead of being cured, he just hops out of a hole in the wall and into the horizon. Thunderbolt Ross goes after Thing like he does with Hulk in regular continuity.

Perfect time to end this article, because how could anyone follow up on that gold?

Next on the countdown: two stories that pose the question, “Earth is dead. Now what?”

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One comment to “The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 5”

  1. I love, love, LOVE What If? #33. It’s so freaking stupid, yet BRILLIANT at the same time.