The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 15

October 5th, 2006 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This article is dedicated to all the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner fans out there. Why? Because anyone else is probably going to be bored out of their skulls.


Issue: Volume 2, #114
Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist: Gregg Schigiel
Spider-Man death: Yes
Background: The all-powerful Beyonder brought a group of heroes and a group of villains onto a planet he created to battle for his amusement. The storyline is known for introducing the Venom symbiote, putting She-Hulk in the Fantastic Four and for one of the funniest movies on YouTube. Dr. Doom, using his own genius, found a way to steal the power of Galactus and challenge the Beyonder. He then stole the Beyonder’s power too, but things went to Hell and he ended up back to his usual ugly self. So if Galactus is powerful enough to challenge the Beyonder, why didn’t he? And what if the fight between the two ended with both of them dying? Toss in Reed Richards’ death for flavor.

The story begins on the 18 birthday of Balder Blake, otherwise known as Bravado (son of Thor and the Enchantress). As he does every year, he tries to lift Mjolnir, his father’s hammer. He still can’t lift it, despite the support of his friends Crusader (daughter of Captain America and Rogue) and Mustang (son of Hawkeye and She-Hulk). They return to his house to find a surprise party waiting for him. It’s there that we meet his other friends Torrent (daughter of Wolverine and Storm) and Firefly (son of Human Torch and Wasp). As the story goes, the Secret Wars lasted for about five more years with many casualties until the two sides decided to call a truce. Now, for the most part, they and their children live in harmony.

There’s also Symbiote Spider-Man. He acts a bit creepy, talking in “we speak” that Venom was so famous for. Plus he’s a bit anti-social. Curious…

Iron Man and Torrent are later shown walking through a grouping of statues, in memory of those who died in the war. We see those like Cyclops, Photon, Doc Ock, Spider-Woman, Bulldozer and Magneto. Not shown are the memorials for Thing, Colossus, Nightcrawler and many others, including Jim Rhodes. Yes, as it turns out, Xavier uses the Iron Man suit to get around. He talks to Torrent about Earth and how he wonders what the mutant struggle has become.

But what would this be without villains? Dr. Doom lives separate from the others with his son Vincent Von Doom. Like Bravado, Vincent (also called Malefactor) is the son of the Enchantress. Though the details are hazy, it’s pretty apparent that Victor killed her. Klaw and Ultron are also on their side, with Ultron being Vincent’s tutor in Earth history. Dr. Doom wants to find a way back to Earth and then rule it with his son by his side, but Vincent has other plans. He wants to rule Battleworld on his own, so he vaporizes his father and goes to find allies.

We join Mustang with Chokehold, the daughter of Absorbing Man and Titania. They play around and laugh about the Hulk, a boogeyman their parents came up with who supposedly lives in the forest and will steal them away if they’re bad. Mustang runs off to go bond with his father over target practice before Vincent shows up. He convinces Chokehold to join his cause and soon gets Raze (son of Wrecker), Gator (son of Lizard) and Moleculon (THE MOLECULAR MAN! …I mean, the son of Molecule Man and Volcana) as well. He goes to his half-brother Bravado, asking him to join.

Without their parents’ permission, the team of Bravado, Crusader, Mustang, Firefly and Torrent go to Castle Von Doom for a pre-emptive strike. Things go wrong and we see a couple fight pairings throughout the castle grounds: Bravado vs. Malefactor, Crusader vs. Gator, Mustang vs. Raze and Firefly vs. Moleculon (THE MOLECULAR MAN!). Crusader knocks out Gator and joins the fight against Malefactor. He blasts at her, and even though she blocks it with her father’s shield, she gets propelled into the distance.

The adults, meanwhile, are dealing with Klaw and Vincent’s robot forces. A neat, subtle touch is that Rogue is wearing the Ms. Marvel outfit during this. Klaw fires a sonic blast at Spider-Man and we finally see the gruesome truth.

My jaw dropped the first time I saw that.

Moleculon (EL HOMBRE DE LOS MOLECULOS!) beats Firefly and prepares to stomp him dead. All of the sudden, a long-haired and bearded Hulk busts in and tells him to place nice. The teen, finding out that the Hulk is real, passes out. Upstairs, Malefactor has the upper-hand against his half-brother. The wall collapses and Mjolnir flies through. To both their surprise, the hammer returns, not to the hand of Thor, but to the hand of Crusader. She’s been pulling off the Mjolnir/Cap shield combo long before Superman.

Vincent prepares to fight them off, but his father appears. Dr. Doom, as you can guess, easily slipped away during their earlier encounter and now teleports his son away to receive punishment. Bravado, confused, asks, “Did we win?”

Yes, they did. The Hulk and Mustang deliver the young and defeated villains, but Captain America and the others are a bit angry at their own kids. Cap’s concerned with his daughter stealing Mjolnir, but Thor claims that if she could lift the hammer, then she deserves it. Obviously, Bravado is a bit humbled by this. The Hulk explains his disappearance from 20 years ago. Since he’s the smartest good guy around after Reed died, he went into solitude to sit around and think of a way home. After years of thinking, he’s finally figured it out.

Three weeks pass and he explains. Mjolnir always had the ability to create inter-dimensional portals, but they could never figure out the right path to Earth. Utilizing Kang’s technology, they should be able to successfully navigate their way around. Everyone’s jazzed about this idea, but our old friend The Watcher appears. He says nothing, but the adults recognize that any time he shows up, it means something bad will happen. For now, they decide to call off their trip home.

That night, the teen heroes go against their parents’ wishes and test the device. Their logic is that Crusader can use Mjolnir to get there and the current Avengers roster can help them get back through similar technology. It’s a stupid plan, but they’re stupid kids. They enter the portal and come to Earth, 25 years after their parents had left. Soon they find a Sentinel attacking. As a team, they easily disassemble it, only to find hundreds more inhabiting the burning New York City. Torrent tells everybody about the mutant persecution Xavier warned her about and how it’s gotten worse than either expected. It’s then decided that they will find a way back to Battleworld, but first they have to help save the world.

And that’s that. The end of the What If series. Or at least until the one-shots from the last two years. Can’t argue with the way to end it. A radical idea based on a popular and untapped storyline with a couple interesting ideas sprinkled around. None of those interesting ideas are Vincent Von Doom, who sucks beyond measure. I enjoyed the Watcher showing up, since he hadn’t been apart of the What If series for a couple years by that point. It just seemed right for him to pop up for a panel. I’m still unsure of how Captain America and Rogue could have a kid, but I suppose Steve Rogers’ manliness and determined willpower overcomes Rogue’s pesky mutant power. Take that, Cajun!

On another note, I kind of like the idea of Human Torch and Wasp getting together. They’d make a cute couple.


Issue: Volume 1, #42
Writer: Peter B. Gillis
Artist: Ron Frenz
Spider-Man death: No
Background: The mixing of Sue Richard’s cosmic genetics and her pregnancy left her with complications. Reed knew this and found out that a device in the Negative Zone could save her life. He, Thing and Human Torch entered the Negative Zone, fought Annihilus, stole the Cosmic Rod and returned in time to save Sue and their baby boy Franklin. In this world, they get back with the Cosmic Rod, but things don’t work out so well. Whether it’s because they were late or something zigged when it should have zagged, the doctors are unable to save Sue.

Franklin is saved, but considering they never even show him and barely even reference him, I think Marvel just told Gillis to add that in after the fact. It would probably be better to think that Franklin didn’t make it, despite what they tell us. Also, Duke from GI Joe was killed by Serpentor; not knocked into a coma. Don’t get me started on Greedo and Han.

A third of the issue is set-up, showing Reed and the rest take on Annihilus while Sue talks about the early days with her, Reed and Ben being together. After Sue is pronounced dead, we see the reactions of various superheroes. In the Avengers Mansion, we see Captain America slumping over in his chair with his head down, saying, “Oh my God,” while behind him, Quicksilver sadly embraces his sister and Wasp turns away in tears. Strange mourns in a calmer way, feeling worse for Sue’s loved ones. Even Dr. Doom shows a sliver of emotion.

At the funeral, there’s a large turnout from fellow superheroes. Everyone from Spider-Man to Daredevil to Blackbolt to Cyclops shows up. Johnny gets up to speak his thoughts. He mentions how Sue helped him grow up throughout his life and soon falls apart from his own crying. We see the looks of many mourning heroes in this scene, but it keeps returning to Namor, the Sub-Mariner. To Johnny, he gives a sad look of understanding. Ben gets up, comforts Johnny and talks about how Sue was the strongest member of the team, even without the cosmic rays. He tries to add his usual class and humor into the speech and Namor can only look down, seemingly touched by his spirit. Reed is the last to go up and his calm, almost emotionless speech gets Namor’s attention. The merman raises an eyebrow and then stares intently on his former rival, showing traces of fear.

Later, Namor shows up at the Baxter Building, asking to stay with them for a while. He wants to keep them company in their time of mourning. Reed walks away, telling him to do what he wants. Once he’s gone, Thing asks Namor what’s really up. Namor points out the look he saw on Reed earlier. Those aren’t the eyes of a man in grief. Those are the eyes of a man resigned to death. Thing finds himself agreeing with Namor’s concern and gets him a room ready.

Over the next few nights, we see the remaining members of the Fantastic Four talking to themselves about how they’re taking things. In one page, Thing thinks about how Sue always made him feel like less of a monster and that for her sake, he’ll try to move on and feel better about himself. On the next page, Johnny thinks about how much he’s depended on their mother and how once she died, he had to depend on Sue. With her gone, he’ll do his best to get along, but he won’t ever forget his sister. One more page later, we see Reed in a wide and lonely room, saying to himself, “My life is over.” He spends his time erasing data he’s acquired over the years, though we aren’t ever told what it is or why he’s doing it. He’s afraid that with his incredible mind and his loss of his wife, he’ll probably become some kind of cold-hearted creature like Galactus or even worse, a monster like Doom. He blames his misfortune on Annihilus and time. He’s at least level enough to know that even if he did kill Annihilus, it wouldn’t bring his wife back.

Namor knocks on Thing’s door to wake him up in the dead of night, but then finds himself having to punch a hole through it to get his attention. He tells the ever-loving one that Reed’s left. Johnny joins them and they make their way to the Negative Zone portal. Reed went in to go after Annihilus with a tracking device capable of tracking him down. Thing gets angry, since only Reed’s gear can get them back. If they try to go after him, they’ll never find their way back. Namor assures him that his tracking skills are good enough to take care of that. The three enter the Negative Zone.

Namor and Thing bicker a bit about why Namor is doing this to save a man he’s tried to kill several times. Namor isn’t doing this for Reed. He’s doing it for Sue. That’s good enough for Ben.

Annihilus, on his little planetoid, sees something is coming for him. Now, it would be good here to explain what Annihilus is all about for those who don’t know. Annihilus is obsessed with his own immortality so much that he’s increasingly paranoid. Nothing scares him more than the idea that somewhere out there is someone capable and intent on killing him. He doesn’t take any chances here and tries to have Reed killed. Reed makes it through his missiles, gets into the planetoid, destroys the control system and finds his way to Annihilus’ stronghold. The bug creature thinks that he needs to get away to plan out a counter-attack, but Reed’s figure walks out of the shadows.

We see a full-page image of Reed with a Chuck Norris beard, icily staring at Annihilus while telling him, “I’ve come for you, Annihilus. You’re going to die.”

This coming from a guy who currently has Galactus tied up in his basement.

Namor, Thing and Torch try to get into the planetoid, but then see Reed flying out on an asteroid with Annihilus as his prisoner. The three heroes go after their friend once more. Thing figures out that they’re heading for the barrier between the anti-matter Negative Zone and the regular universe. Touching the barrier causes immediate destruction. On the asteroid, Annihilus pleads for his life.

“Please – please – I’ll do anything you say—! I’ll go to the farthest ends of the universe – another one altogether – you’ll never see me again! I’ll torture myself – mutilate myself – only please don’t kill me!! Death – death is the end! The end of everything! Anything is better than death! Don’t you understand—?”

“I understand. And that’s precisely why you’re going to die! You killed my wife.”

“Your mate? But there was no female with you! All I did was defend myself! It’s all I’ve ever done! What do you want? I’ve got wealth – power – knowledge! Just don’t leave me here to die.”

“I’m not leaving you anywhere. I’m not giving you a chance to escape! We’re going into the dimensional interface together.”

The others finally catch up and plead with Reed not to do this. Torch and Thing give the usual arguments, like how Annihilus is neither worth killing nor worth dying for and how it won’t bring Sue back. Namor pipes in with his own feelings. Many of his family members have died because of surface-dwellers and he too loved Sue, so he’s sad about that too. Fact is, Namor has more reason to grieve than Reed, but he knows that life goes on and that love never loses its meaning, even in death. Reed struggles with these words, tears streaming down his cheeks.

The two fall off the asteroid, with Torch trying to save them. He gets shot back and it’s up to Thing, as Namor wonders if he’s going to have to watch the entire team die. Thing tries to brave the lasers and grab onto Reed, but misses at the last second. Reed sadly tells his friend goodbye and Ben looks on in sad disbelief. He flies back to save himself as Reed and Annihilus hit the dimensional interface and die.

Flying back home, Johnny asks Ben if he thinks Reed and Sue are together now. Thing just brings up what Namor said earlier. Reed and Sue love each other and that’s all that matters.

That’s pretty much it. There’s no real resolution or anything. Lord knows they could have condensed the exposition enough to allow room. Other than that, it’s a fantastic issue. Not only is the characterization between guys like Reed, Thing and Namor fun to read, but the dialogue and art are top notch. This may have been Volume 1, but we certainly didn’t get any overly Claremonty and unnatrual verbal exchanges. What I especially liked was Annihilus here. Reed really had no right going after him. Sure, Annihilus is a creep and he does deserve to die, but here’s he’s innocent. To him, the Fantastic Four were just guys barging into his house to rob him and kill him. Reed is a hero and all, but he’s totally in the wrong here.

And again, without Sue at his side, Reed is fucking crazy. After Civil War #4, I fear for the current Marvel Universe.


Issue: Volume 1, #41
Writer: Alan Zelenetz
Artist: Marc Silvestri
Spider-Man death: No
Background: Namor is such a pile of dick, always trying to beat up the surface world. It all started back in the day, long before the Fantastic Four were around, when some ass with a magic helmet started busting up Atlantis. Namor went to stop him, but due to hesitation in his offense, his mind was attacked and he lost his memories. Those memories wouldn’t return for years later and by then, it was too late. Atlantis was already in shambles. So what if he doesn’t hesitate? What if he punches the villain out and destroys his helmet?

While Namor’s swimming back home, his cousin Byrrah gets his sick father, the king, to let him take the throne in the meantime. As you can guess, Byrrah is plotting his way into power. He has Warlord Krang helping him out, but Krang too has lusts to rule Atlantis. Byrrah rallies his people and convinces them that Namor is unworthy to become king. He is half-human and all, and you know how those fish people hate humans. Once Namor comes back, he’s shocked to find everyone shunning him and calling him a “pretender prince”.

Namor argues with Byrrah, but knows there’s not much he can do about the situation. Later, when Namor sleeps, Byrrah stabs his own father to death, sneaks into Namor’s room and hides the knife under the bed. In the morning, Namor is charged with murder. The guards try to seize him, but Namor fights them off and swims away. All the peasants shout insults at him for being a murderer.

In Layman’s terms: “Sniff those jerks later. I’m out of here.”

Neptune, God of the Sea, appears to him. He says that Namor must take his mystical trident, go back to Atlantis and take the kingdom. Namor decides against it. Let them rot if they’re going to treat him like that without cause. Neptune warns him about pride, but Namor continues to swim on.

We see that Byrrah is a corrupt and evil king. But hey, things could be worse. For instance, the evil Attuma is out to take over himself. He and his army totally overtake Atlantis. A party is sent out to ask Namor for help, but he refuses. He keeps to himself and one day finds a ship in peril. He saves some surface dwellers, who were there for a science expedition. They befriend Namor and convince him to hang with them for a day or so while they continue their studies. Namor likes the appreciation and friendship, but it gets him feeling a bit homesick to Atlantis and the times when the people there didn’t spit on him. Verbally, I mean. I don’t think you can literally spit on Namor unless you’re using Spongebob underwater physics.

The party from Atlantis comes back once more to tell Namor that his mother’s been slain. He really is the only hope Atlantis has. Namor, pissed about his mother’s death, seeks out Neptune and takes the trident. He tries to rally his people, but they have no fight in them. No, it seems the Sub-Mariner’s going to have to fight Attuma’s forces himself. He enters the throne room and Attuma commands his men to attack.

Namor calmly walks between two pillars while surveying the guards.

“How you tremble, lowly warriors of base-born Attuma. What – do you fear the strength of Namor?”

He then puts his hands on the pillars and pushes them apart. The place begins to collapse, which kills all of the warriors, but Namor and Attuma. Attuma picks up a sword to counter Namor’s trident. They have a brutal fight that takes place over several pages, where they continue to speak in their fruity underwater way. They disarm each other and it becomes all about fists, while the fight makes the palace crumble even more. The winner shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Namor comes to his people to tell them that he’s won and that things can go back to how they were. Everyone agrees that it’s too late, asking why he didn’t just show up when they first asked. No, Atlantis is no more. The people excommunicate themselves to the vast oceans.

“Perhaps then the true blame is mine. Did not Lord Neptune warn that pride is a viper in the breast? By my mother’s holy shade, it cannot end this way. No! No!

The last we see is Namor taking the throne to Atlantis, wearing a crown and holding a golden trident in his hand. He speaks to his court, but there is no answer. All that stands before him is the ruins of his palace and kingdom.

I tell you, Namor’s supporting characters bore the crap out of me. Thank God he’s mostly a supporting character himself. Here, that actually works out. The tragedy and cool last scene comes from Namor’s inability to act like a hero. Since his people acted like jerks and aren’t interesting enough to like, we don’t really disagree with his actions. Usually the idea of things going to hell because “you’re going down to their level” is just for cliché scenes where a clean-cut hero has the chance to kill a villain. Instead, Namor’s choice is to take himself out of the game and let it all play out without him, which I assume many would do in that position. An act of heroism could’ve made things right, but we find that once Namor gets over his pride, it’s too little, too late.


Issue: Volume 2, #11
Writer: Jim Valentino
Artist: Jim Valentino
Spider-Man death: No
Background: The origin of the Fantastic Four has been retold so many times, I’d be wasting my energy telling it to you again. Reed got rubbery, Sue got translucent, Johnny got fiery and Ben got rocky. But why? Did the cosmic rays really have to affect them in different ways? So why not give them all the same powers?

In the first story, Johnny flies into the air as he becomes enflamed. He actually digs it while the others look on in horror. Their body temperatures begin to rise as well and soon all four of them realize their fire powers. Despite their similar powers, they all have their own distinct appearances while flamed on. They become the Fantastic Four and use their fire abilities for good.

They do well for a little while, beating Moleman and the Skrulls. Then they fight Miracle Man, who brings a statue of a monster to life. They fight by an abandoned building and it catches on fire as they beat the monster. They decide that since the building is condemned already, there’s no reason they shouldn’t just go bring in Miracle Man and then use their powers to stop the fire once they’re finished. There are two things they don’t realize here. One, they have completely underestimated how bad the fire is going to get. Two, they don’t know that a single mother waitress and her daughter live there. Well, lady, it looks like your big plan to not pay rent isn’t going to work out the way you hoped.

When they come back and try to absorb the fire they started, they find an exhausted firefighter with a dead little girl in his arms and a mother screaming at them for being murderers. Give it a rest, lady. You’re lucky the city didn’t have the place imploded while you were sleeping. The Fantastic Four hang it up for good after that. Reed sticks to science, Sue becomes a nun for atonement, Johnny becomes a world-famous racecar driver and Ben renames himself Human Torch and joins the Avengers. The drawback is that since Johnny never got around to meeting Namor, Captain America is still MIA.

Plus Ben’s outfit is horrible.

Now for the stretchy story. Everyone realizes that they have rubber abilities. Reed excitedly brings up how they can help humanity and stuff. Ben and Sue tell him to shove it because their powers are completely retarded. Ben and Sue get together, Johnny uses his abilities for fame and Reed goes back to the microscope.

In another story, Ben Grimm becomes a big, orange, rocky thing. He lashes out at Reed, who himself has become a purple Hulk-like monster. Johnny tells them to stop fighting, but then transforms into the old, melty version of the Thing from the early days. Johnny puts it together that if all three of them are monsters, then that means…

Jeez. I know nothing about Man-Thing, but that’s pretty damn sad nonetheless.

They get back to the Baxter Building, though at one point some cops encounter them. Reed smashes their car and they run off. His calm and calculated mind deteriorating by the second, Reed finds this act of random violence funny. They get inside and Reed works on something in the lab. Ben and Johnny discuss how they can’t be part of society anymore, especially since Reed’s getting increasingly irrational. Reed shows them his Fantasticar and has Ben pilot them to Monster Isle, where they live out the rest of their lives in isolation from humanity.

One more story and finally we get some action. It’s a bit of false advertising as technically, the four don’t have the same powers. Instead, they all have powers based on what Sue can do in normal reality. Reed Richards can make things invisible. Sue Storm can make herself invisible. Ben Grimm can create force fields. Johnny Storm can turn himself intangible. Wait, Sue can do that in 616? Since when?

The team don’t work in the Baxter Building, but instead, works under orders of Nick Fury and SHIELD. Fury summons Reed and tells him about this joke named Victor Von Doom, who threatens to destroy their headquarters unless they hand over Reed. Reed recognizes the name and agrees to turn himself over. What Doom doesn’t sense is that the other three have turned invisible (thanks to Reed) and, with the help of Ben’s force field, have tagged along.

Valentino writes a pretty horrible Doom here: “We will reach my kingdom – and your death – in a matter of moment, Richards!”

Maybe, since this was the early days of Dr. Doom, he hasn’t gotten a good grasp on being an admirable evil badass yet. That’s also probably the reason why he’s dressed as Kermit the Frog.

As that image spoils, Doom figures out that the rumors of Reed’s invisible team are true. He activates a trap door, sending Reed into a room with the oxygen being sucked out. Sue goes to save him while Ben and Johnny use their powers to protect themselves. Ben tries to put a force field around Doom’s head to suffocate him, but as you can see above, it isn’t so successful.

Doom pulls out a huge sonic cannon that is sure to kill any of the four. Reed walks in and points out that Doom’s gun is no longer there. This does little to distract Doom, considering he can still feel the weight in his arms. While Doom rants, Reed screams at Ben to do his thing. Ben fires a concentrated beam of concussive force into Doom, knocking him out. When I first read this story, I misread the page and thought that Reed had turned Ben invisible during this and had him punch out Doom while he was monologuing. That would’ve been way more satisfying than what we got.

Nick Fury decides that he doesn’t give a shit about “diplomatic immunity” and tells Doom that he’s being taken prisoner anyway. Doom threatens him with revenge, but Fury just lights up a cigar and tells him, “Yeah, I’ll lose sleep over it.” Between this and the intro movie for Marvel Ultimate Alliance, I think Marvel has a lot to gain from more Fury vs. Doom storylines.

Looking at this issue again, I think I may have overshot its rank. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad issue. When compared to that snoozefest where they didn’t get their powers (which everyone seems to love. I just don’t get it), this is far more interesting an answer to the Watcher’s question. While the short stretching story was amusing, the Human Torches one did nothing for me. In fact, the monsters segment and the final bit with the invisible powers were more interesting. Maybe that’s the lesson to be learned here. If they – nay, all of us – were all the same, the world would be a rather boring place.

Come on, friends. Let’s sing Kumbaya.


Issue: Volume 1, #1
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Jim Craig
Spider-Man death: Obviously not.
Background: In the first issue of Spider-Man’s solo series, he busted into the Baxter Building, mixed it up with the Fantastic Four and asked to become a member. Not only did he pretty much insist himself onto the team, but he asked for how much he’d be paid. The team explained that they’re non-profit and they don’t really trust Spidey, what with all the criminal allegations going around. Spider-Man left in a huff and continued his solo career. In this, the very first What If, the Watcher shows us a tangent reality, where Sue has second thoughts.

Sue calls Spider-Man back into the building and figures that maybe they can work something out. Spidey isn’t greedy, he just needs some money to get by. Reed starts to warm to the idea, figuring that they could use some more power and mentions that he was already playing with the idea of handing out more spending money to the team. Thing and Torch are mostly against it, but agree as long as Spider-Man at least comes clean with who he is.

Things take a turn for the better. Peter tells Aunt May that he has a new job and gives her his pay. The team has a big press conference where they rename themselves the Fantastic Five and clear Spider-Man’s name. Jameson finally lays off the guy and the Chameleon figures that maybe he should scrap his plan to commit crimes disguised as the wall-crawler. The Fantastic Five is later shown fighting the Vulture, much like Spider-Man would have in normal continuity. Here, he doesn’t have to figure out a way past the Vulture’s flight abilities, since Human Torch can take care of that himself. Even Thing has to admit that this is working out far better than he ever expected.

A few days later, Reed explains that he’s just created a ship that could bring them to the blue area of the moon, whatever that means. Since he only has four seats, he tells Sue to sit this out. She agrees, but feels a bit hurt by it. Plus she realizes that it’s her own fault for getting Spider-Man on the team. The male members of the team go into space to beat up the Red Ghost. When they come back, there’s a mob of fans awaiting them. The four meet the public as the waiting Sue hears a mental call for her. It’s Namor, who asks that she come to him.

Sue finds him at a pier, but he doesn’t seem himself. He says nothing as a “hypno-fish” appears and puts Sue in a comatose state. Namor shouts, “She is under your spell! Now, do as instructed!” Namor takes Sue and brings her into the water. The guy he was talking to is the Puppet Master, who unbeknownst to Namor, is really controlling his actions.

The other members of the Fantastic Five return home and get Namor’s message that he’s taken Sue prisoner. They get in a submarine and head for Namor’s palace. On the way, there’s a rather classic exchange between the team members.

Reed announces, “Be on guard, all of you – especially you, Spider-Man! You haven’t tangled with Namor before.”

“I’m shivering in my little pink booties.”

Then Thing gets offended and yells, “Hey! That’s my kinda line!”

They enter Namor’s home and find that he has Sue locked in a bubble with a giant squid ready to pop it. The four heroes have to beat him before it’s too late. Reed finds this rather odd, since he knows Namor loves Sue. Namor says that he will fight them, but only one at a time. He easily beats Human Torch, Thing and Spider-Man, though it’s not as exciting as it sounds. It’s the Silver Age, so he uses a bunch of plot device sea creatures that happen to counter their powers.

As Reed tangles with Namor, Spider-Man helps out and webs the Sub-Mariner up. Thing fights off the squid and saves Sue. The Fantastic Five is reunited and they stand before Namor, ready to finish this. In a nearby submarine, the Puppet Master notices that Namor’s only been trying to defeat the team; not kill them. Yeah, tell that to Sue. Puppet Master puts more pressure on his control over Namor and tries to make him kill both the Fantastic Five and himself. Due to Spider-Man’s spider-sense and the way Namor argues with himself, Reed figures out that the Puppet Master is the real mastermind.

Namor is moving towards killing them all, but nobody notices as the squid Thing clobbered gets loose and moves towards the Puppet Master’s submarine. Puppet Master tries using his powers on it, but finds he can’t do squat against a creature with no awareness. It looks like he pays the ultimate price, meaning that the Puppet Master is the first of many pointless victims throughout the What If series. Let’s give him a hand!

Namor’s back to normal, but why ruin a good thing?

IT WAS JUST ONE MISSION! Cripes, what a bitch.

Namor uses a device that allows Sue to breathe water, at the cost of her ability to breathe air. The rest of the team leave in their sub, with Thing wondering why Reed didn’t do anything. After all, it was obviously an impulse thing. Reed figures that maybe Sue can be Namor’s conscience and keep him from being a bane to the surface world. At least, that’s what he tells himself in order to get through the pain of losing his girl. Spider-Man confides in the Human Torch over his guilt.

“Johnny, I can’t help feeling responsible for all this. What Sue said…! Maybe, if I hadn’t joined the F.F. – upstaged her, so that she felt left out – things might have gone differently.”

“Don’t talk nutty, webhead. Like the song says – whatever will be, will be. It’s fate – kismet – and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. If you’d never joined the F.F. things would probably have worked out exactly the same.”

“Yeah… I guess you’re right.”

I can’t think of a better exchange to end the first What If with. Certainly a strong showing for a debut issue. If this had been in the middle of the series, I wouldn’t rank it this high, but it hit the right notes for being the starting point. We get a concept that’s both exciting and deeply rooted in the very early days of Marvel. The status quo changes just as much as it needs to. Plus the continuity is pretty solid, basing the events on the Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four issues that came out after this turning point would take place. The Fantastic Five team is luckily not written as “Spider-Man featuring the Fantastic Four”, but instead, he gets equal time with all the rest.

In a nice touch, the issue starts off with the Watcher discussing alternate realities. He makes note of this one:

Ah, the 70’s. Back when Marvel had no problem in showing the competition punching their poster boy in the face.

Next on the countdown: You wouldn’t like Bruce Banner when he’s angry. No fooling this time.

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4 comments to “The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 15”

  1. I really liked the Secret Wars – 25 Years Later one. It had much better costumes than most hero-kid mashups, plus some nice characterization. It seems like they were hoping it would lead into a new series to replace What If?, but I suppose not.

    Didn’t like the FF-with-the-same-powers one, though. Kinda boring.

  2. The more I think about it, the more I dig the “Reed’s Sanity Hanging by a Thread” theory. I used to wonder how Reed could ever compete with Dr. Doom, who always seemed to be 5 steps ahead of everyone.

    After being presented with the Reed theory, everything seems to make more sense.

    Thanks Gavok!

    As a side note, the purple Reed Richards makes a cameo in Paradise X: Heralds #1-2.

  3. I thought the way Cap and Rogue had a kid was because Carol Danvers was in control. She doesn’t have the issues Rogue does so she can control the powers.

  4. […] a comic book! What If?, one of my favorite comic book titles, touched on this subject with “Secret Wars: 25 Years Later“–if you don’t know Secret Wars* and you like a little old school Marvel comics […]