The What If Countdown: Honorable Mention Awards

November 20th, 2006 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As I said in the last article, most What Ifs are interesting in their own way. Whether it’s because they tell a really good story, an abomination of a story or if the changes in reality are completely off the wall, almost every issue has something worth talking about.

I just talked about 100 of these stories and a couple extra ones I thought were crappy. So rather than have me write a bunch of exhaustive issue profiles, how’s about we just look at the bits and pieces that got my attention? It’s time to hand out the What If Honorable Mention Awards!

If I wasn’t so lazy, I would probably Photoshop a bunch of golden Uatu statues.

Edit: It looks like I didn’t have to. Thanks to Kyle Hayes for the award trophy.

Strangest What If Couple: Quicksilver and Gwen Stacy

This comes from What If the Age of Apocalypse Hadn’t Ended (volume 2, #81). Tony Stark, head of the human resistance, joins up with Magneto to figure out a way to save Earth from the coming of Galactus. Among Tony’s fellow human freedom fighters are the Hulk, Sue Storm and, strangely enough, Donald Blake’s bodyguard Gwen Stacy. Er… yeah. I guess with her dad being a cop and all… No, it still sounds goofy.

Pietro is without a sister and Gwen needs a boyfriend who can kill her with whiplash. It’s only natural that these two would find each other.

Another strange couple comes from What If Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor (volume 1, #10), where Jane became a female version of Thor. In the end, Thor gets with Sif and Jane is sad. But then Odin pops in to tell her how attracted he is to her. Something about Odin getting an erection from seeing what his son would be like with breasts disturbs me on a level.

Best What If Death: Stopping the Maestro for Good

Maestro is this evil form of Smart Hulk from the future with a gangly white beard and bald head. What If the Hulk Had Evolved into the Maestro (volume 2, #80) is based on the original creation of Smart Hulk. Doc Samson’s attempt to cure Banner of his multiple personalities doesn’t work the way he hopes and an evil and brilliant Hulk goes off to be an asshole and kill zoo animals.

Mr. Fantastic and the Thing try to stop him, using some radioactive device. More things go wrong and Reed dies of radiation poisoning. Thing becomes even more mutated and angry, but for a second, the Hulk reverts to Bruce Banner. Bruce tells Betty that this evil side of the Hulk is going to take him over any minute now. He can’t let it happen. So Bruce stands behind the Thing and yells, “HULK SMASH!” as loud as he can. Thing lets loose a punch meant to knock out the Hulk.


Most Disappointing Issue: Who Wants to be a Superhero?

What If The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become the Fantastic Four (volume 1, #11) is the kind of issue that you know will either be completely awesome or horrendously painful. Sadly, it was neither. In fact, it was kind of boring. The story is about Marvel staff members Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky and Flo Steinberg being infected by cosmic rays (sent by a Skrull for some reason) and getting the powers of the Fantastic Four. There are a couple amusing gags here and there – such as Flo sweet-talking Namor – but in the end, it’s just a regular Fantastic Four story but with an extra mustache tossed on.

The What If That Made More Sense: Thor Lashes Out at Odin

Back in the day, Thor wanted to marry Jane Foster. Odin brought her to Asgard, gave her a little godhood and tested her. Considering she was still stoked about being in a place full of gods and rainbow bridges, this wasn’t going to work out so well. Odin was far too hard on her and failed her almost immediately. He stripped her of her godhood, tossed her back to Earth and told Thor to move on. Thor shrugged and went on with his business because daddy knows best.

Bullshit. No, in What If Thor and the Avengers Battled the Gods (volume 1, #25), Thor speaks out against his father and gets punished for it. So Thor rallies the Avengers together, gets his Asgard friends at his side and they go to war with Odin’s forces. A bit to dull in places to make the list, but pretty cool nonetheless. It’s just that when reading it, I couldn’t fathom why Thor wouldn’t react like that.

On the subject of the issue, it does have one thing going for it.

Best friends forever.

Best Almost What If: Matt Murdock Joins SHIELD

Congratulations, Nick Fury. You finally have someone on SHIELD who has less vision than you do.

What If Daredevil Became and Agent of SHIELD (volume 1, #28) isn’t a bad issue by any means. In fact the issue also features a story where Ghost Rider beats up the Pope. The story retcons the information about Daredevil’s origin. The chemicals on the truck that damaged his eyes belong to Tony Stark, who demands that his people not to transport them like that. He gets suspicious and follows a truck, only to witness what happens to young Matt. Tony uses his SHIELD connections to get him looked at, since he knows something has to be up with this kid on a physical level.

Here lies the problem. Matt Murdock rescues his father from Hydra and agrees to become an agent of SHIELD. And it ends. Just like that. I just couldn’t bring myself to put it on the list. “What if Daredevil became an agent of SHIELD? Why, he’d become an agent of SHIELD of course!” They answered the question with the question. So that left me disappointed.

This looks to be the only What If where Jack Murdock survives in some fashion. That’s good to see.

Best What If Cover: Avengers Triumphant!

Whoa. On one hand, that is a totally kickass image. On the other hand, the cover admits that it’s not a very good issue. And to set the records straight: it really isn’t.

Dr. Doom looks like he’s going to blow himself up Predator-style. And Reed’s copping a feel, but those aren’t Sue’s boobs!

Worst Case of Watcher Breaking his Vow: Hey, Matt! Guess What?

What If Elektra Had Lived (volume 1, #35) made it to #1 on Brian Cronin’s list, but it didn’t really do anything for me. Whenever I discuss this issue with anyone who’s read it, the first thing brought up isn’t the story or Frank Miller’s then-impressive art that didn’t look like it was drawn in MS Paint. The first thing brought up is this: “Watcher is a jerk.”

The story shows Matt Murdock mourning over Elektra’s headstone in the rain while the Watcher shows up behind him with an umbrella. This isn’t one of those Twilight Zone narrations where only we can sense him. No, Matt actually turns his head to point out that he can hear Uatu as well as we read his words.

“I pretty much came here to tell you about what would’ve happened if Bullseye got shot in the head while escaping prison. You and Elektra would’ve ended up together and you would have moved out of this area. It’s pretty sweet. Too bad it’s not happening though, huh? I mean, sure, New York City would be down to a meager 825 superheroes and that bitch was all kinds of crazy, but the sex was probably amazing. Anyway, get back to feeling like crap. I have a roast in the oven.”

You know what, baldy? Get back to not interfering. You’re bringing us down. Asshole.

Most Messed Up What If Scene: Wolverine Eats a Baby

From What If the X-Men Lost Inferno (volume 2, #6):

Actually, I’m no longer sure if this is the most messed up scene. The new What If issue about Spider-Man: The Other ends with an allusion to what would essentially be necrophilia and incest, so that probably edges it out.

Great. Now all kinds of perverted freaks will be finding the site through search engines.

Most Blatantly Obvious Concept: No New X-Men

X-Men may give Marvel an awful lot of money these days, but back in the 70’s, the series was always on the verge of cancellation. Cyclops and his crew just weren’t exciting enough, so they changed things around. Using the living island of Krakoa as a plot device, they switched up the status quo by bringing in such favorites as Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and that loveable, baby-eating son of a gun Wolverine. Things got interesting and the series became hugely popular.

And then they do What If the All-New, All-Different X-Men Had Never Existed (volume 2, #23). It is boring and you know what? It’s just as well. Can you really be surprised? I can barely remember what happens in it. Nightcrawler works for Eric the Red and then sacrifices himself for the team for some reason. I don’t know. I just remembered that I wanted it to end.

Strangest Team Ever: Captain America’s Avengers

This comes from the second issue of a two-parter. In the first issue, What If Captain America Had Led an Army of Super Soldiers in World War II (volume 2, #28), Cap saves the life of that scientist who created the Super Soldier Serum. The Americans dominate the war and as a nice little extra, Captain America liberates a concentration camp and teaches a young Magnus about equality. On the way back home, the soldiers’ ship is destroyed and only Captain America is found alive. It’s actually the Red Skull in a clone body, taking the role of Steve Rogers. The real Cap is frozen in the water.

Over time, Clone Steve becomes the President of the United States and goes through many terms. White supremacy reigns and America starts to suck hard. In the second issue, What If Captain America Had Formed the Avengers, Cap’s frozen body is discovered and upon being thawed out, he puts together a team to stop the Red Skull. And what a team!

So we got Captain America there, obviously. On his left, we got Namor, who never gets around to cutting his hair or shaving. And on the other side is Frank Castle… who is also Iron Man. So we’re already out to a great start.

Later, Thor joins. The only change seems to be that he doesn’t wear a helmet. Fair enough.

Sam Wilson ends up becoming Giant Man. A little out of left field, but I’ve saved the best for last.

Logan has the ability to turn himself into Wendigo at will, but he calls himself the Hulk. That’s just so wacky I don’t know where to start. Looking through this issue again, I do laugh a bit when I see a discussion Namor has with Logan. Namor describes what SHIELD has taken from him and Logan responds, “I don’t go for all that flowery talk, but I hate those creeps, too!”

I’m not sure if that’s word-for-word, but that’s more or less what the Hulk told Namor the first time they met on Earth 616.

Coolest What If Idea: Japanese Hulks

Remember when America dropped two atomic bombs on Japan back in World War II? Well, you probably don’t, since I doubt you were alive back then, but I’m sure you’ve heard of it. In this story, thanks to Captain America beating up some technology-stealing spies before they could hold back our war-making progress, the United States doesn’t use the atomic bomb on Japan.

No, they drop a couple gamma bombs.

I’m willing to bet at least one of you readers mouthed, “oh shit” at that. Because if you thought an army of super soldiers would dominate a war, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

What If the Gamma Bomb Had Spawned a Thousand Hulks (volume 2, #71) had an awesome concept, but fell pretty flat. It goes to the present, where Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk and starts a resistance, documented by Ben Urich. There were some nice touches, like how the Japanese Hulks were called “Oni” and a cool ending image based on the Battle of Iwo Jima, but it was way too rushed and didn’t hit its potential.

Silliest Fight Award: Silver Surfer vs. Weapon X

Let’s get back to that one What If about Age of Apocalypse. As Magneto and his army take the fight to Galactus, we see Tony Stark, Sue Storm and the one-handed Weapon X sneak around Galactus’ ship to blow it up with a couple hydrogen bombs. Tony has successfully gotten around the ship’s defense systems and none of the three have been sensed by the ship’s security. The Silver Surfer, on the other hand, does know they’re there.

So if you’re the Silver Surfer and you want to kill Logan, what’s the best way to do it?

A) Blast him from long distance with the Power Cosmic so that not even an adamantium skeleton will be left.
B) Tell him to halt and warn Weapon X and his buddies that if they don’t stop what they’re doing, you’re going to fry them with cosmic laser beams.
C) Try to sneak up on him and take him down hand-to-hand.

If you said C, chances are you wrote this mess.

Still better than that other Age of Apocalypse sequel Marvel gave us two years ago.

Silliest What If Ending: The Greatest Secret of the Marvel Universe Revealed!

The story of What If volume 2, #100 has Gambit working for Mr. Sinister. He’s been excommunicated from the X-Men for stealing Cerebro files and giving them to outsiders. Gambit can’t say why he’s done it, but it’s part of a deal with Sinister. If Gambit does some work for him, Sinister will upload the cure for the Legacy Virus to SHIELD’s computers. After that, Sinister will give Gambit a cure for Rogue’s condition, so that he may touch her without ramifications.

Gambit’s main mission is to gather the ever-mysterious tithe boxes from the Morlocks. He goes around doing that while Rogue tries to stop him. Gambit gets his supposed cure, but after he kisses Rogue, he falls limp. Later, we see Sinister reacting to the revelations of opening one of the tithe boxes. He’s horrified and admits that a lesser man would be driven insane, but it only strengthens his resolve.

Gambit seemingly shows up and attacks Sinister with his exploding cards. Once we get a better look, we see that by kissing Gambit, Rogue has absorbed him. We’ve seen this before in Ultimate X-Men. See?

Not bad. The difference is that this GamRogue is still hot because she only absorbed his appearance quirks. What If’s GamRogue? Not so hot.


Enough about the mutant hermaphrodite. He/She yells at Sinister for going against his promise, but he merely defends his actions by saying he’s acting the way “they” make him act. He makes a couple vague mentions of free will and being toyed with before GamRogue gets the best of him and he starts dying. Sinister begs hir not to look into the tithe boxes and learn the truth. GamRogue ignores him and dumps one of them open.

What he/she finds is a pile of Marvel comics, including Spider-Man, Hulk, Alpha Flight and What If #100. And… that’s about it.

Also, the same issue featured this great image.

That’s a good place to stop.

Up next: The thrilling conclusion! Finally!

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6 comments to “The What If Countdown: Honorable Mention Awards”

  1. Just what the heck is Daredevil doing with a cane on the cover of #29?

  2. I gotta agree on What If The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become the Fantastic Four. It has Jack Kirby as the Thing? How could it go wrong? I don’t know. Bleah.

    I actually thought the Japanese Hulks one was kinda stupid. First: Any random schmuck will become a Hulk when gamma-bombed? This doesn’t seem like a very good weapon! Secondly, it was Comic Book Near-Racist Stereotype Japan. Ugh.

  3. Not everyone became a Hulk. Many died from the blast and others from sickness. But the amount of people who did mutate was certainly enough to dominate the war.

  4. True. Still, it doesn’t seem like a very good WMD.

  5. So… I’ve enjoyed these articles greatly. But when do we get to see YOUR ideas, the capstone to these articles of greatness?

  6. That’s a good question, which I keep asking the one guy who hasn’t finished drawing the covers he said he would draw for the article. I guess I may have to just continue without him.