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The Road Not Travelled: Let's Read Marvels WHAT IF...

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got some ill conceived names, the idea that Freedom Force was ever a draw o audiences, and the day being saved by Ronald Reagan in… What If Steve Rogers Refused to Give Up Being Captain America!

And that title is a bit of a mouthful, and isn’t… really very descriptive. Anyway, after kicking off with a man in media’s rez opening that’s contradicted a bit by later events in the story (Cap fights his way through the entire White House security staff because the President declares him a traitor) we get some context from Uatu about Recent Marvel Canon.

it seems that, owing to some documents he signed when he applied to Project REBIRTH back in the 40s, Steve Rogers was duty bound to serve as an agent of the US Government until officially relieved of duty by the president, and also since the Super Soldier Serum, as well as the shield and even his outfit were furnished by government spending, Cap is legally obligated to serve the US at the government orders.

Canonically, Cap responded to this by abandoning the Captain America name all together and started Avenging under the name Nomad while the Government wound up making their own ersatz Cap with The US Agent. Which wound up being it’s own whole mess.

But this time, Cap gives a much more emphatic “No… no I won’t abandon the identity I spent half a century cultivating because of poorly worded war time documents” and decides to throw hands instead.

This leads him to needing to resign from the Avengers, as they were technically government employees at the time (this doesn’t affect the story much, beyond getting the Avengers into a fight with the Freedom Force, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants after they realized their branding was a mess, to try to coerce Caps location out of them).

More directly it also inspires federal commision chairman Douglas Rockwell, and his boss, a shadowy man named Smith, to quickly shift gears into a plan to discredit Steve Rogers by any means possible; including charging him with sedition, and training up some extra replacement Captains America who look different enough from Steve that nobody would confuse the two of them.

Taskmaster shows up briefly, as a training coach but I think it’s because I think Taskmaster is a cool villain and I’m always happy to see show up and Jim Valentino wanted to give me a little treat 35 years later.

Anyway the discrediting plan completely fails since the public is much more inclined to assume that anything Captain America does is morally correct and nothing the Reagan administration does is; and eventually a rally that Cap is holding to tell his side of the story is attacked by…


Super Patriot and The Buckies! Which… is a bad name for a super team. These are, of course, the ersatz Captains America that Task Master was training earlier, and now they have to fight the real Cap, and also some of his buddies (Falcon, Nomad, Vagabond and, err… D-Man), and before the fight can get too rowdy it’s interrupted by SHIELD, who has unilaterally decided to throw their support behind Captain America…

And that would be a real escalation of hostilities until the day is saved by the very embodiment of peace, the most rational and calming presense the world has ever known, Americas Delirious Grandpa President Ronald Reagan appears and solves the problem; declaring that Steve can keep right on being Captain America and working with the Avengers and SHIELD and have all charges against dropped and The Super Patriot can be the clandestine government agent working without a shred of autonomy for the glory of the president.

Everyone wins!

Except the shadowy Mr. Smith, who says “Frick! Plan B then!” And commands Douglas Rockwell to up and shoot Captain America in the back of the brain while he’s distracted by Ronald Reagan’s confused rambling speech.

This plan works much better and Cap dies, and Rockwell is immediately gunned down by, like, so many SHIELD and Secret Service agents.

The Super Patriot, not having any competition for the role anymore, takes on Caps mantle and vows to live up to his legacy… and immediately fails because “John Walker absolutely sucks at being a good guy” Is his entire deal and he winds up tarnishing the Captain America legacy until he’s eventually sent off to the supervillain prison of The Vault and President Reagan says “Gee, I guess the guy wearing the costume is more important than the costume. Ah well.”

And we also learn that John Smith was actually Johan Schmidt; The Red Skull in disguise! And since “Kill And/Or Discredit Captain America” is basically what gets him out of bed in the morning, managing to do both at the same time is a real boost to his self esteem, and now he goes to the Steve Rogers Memorial every day to laugh at an effigy of his greatest enemy, and… I guess that’s about it?

Basically yes; the Civil War storyline was all about the Government trying to discredit Cap when they wanted him to only do his Superheroing with judicious oversight and, at the end of it, he was gunned down. Though he got better and The Red Skull wasn’t involved.

And there’s still a couple of pages left so we also peer through the winding paths of the Multiverse and see What if Peter Parker was Galactus


Man, all for want of a mail, huh?

Pete did acquire the overwhelming cosmic power of the Enigma Force at least once, so… I mean… kinda?!?

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Issue 4 I covered previously in this thread (it was the What of Spider Man never separated from Venom story) We’ve got possibly the smallest deviation from canon yet in… What If Wonderman Had Lived and What If Vision Defeated The Avengers.

Despite the masthead on the cover that’s how the story goes. Also, while this is purely a Jim Valentino story (well, not for colours and lettering) you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a Roy Thomas work because boy are there a lot of footnotes.

This month, Uatu is particularly hung up on the story of the story of Simon Williams, which is weird because this is, like, a decade before Kurt Busiek took over Avengers. Not the most compelling character to focus on. Anyway, Simon, early in his superheroic life, was given vast strength and durability, as well as severe radiation poisoning, by Baron Zemo as part of a plan to lure the Avengers to their death. Simon had a change of heart and, at the cost of losing access to a cure to his ionic poisoning saved the Avengers instead. Then Hank Pym made a mental copy of his brainwaves in case someone ever built a robot that needed human brains to function. Luckily someone did! Unluckily it was the killer robot Ultron looking to built himself a son, The Vision. And Vision nearly killed the Avengers until Simons personality took over and he became possibly the longest serving member of the team instead.

And that brings us to today where Uatu said “How Dofferwnt Would It Be if Simon took his medicine?!?” And the answer is… “Not Much Different!”

The Avengers recruit Simon then and there, as soon as Zemo was defeated since they figured a Super Strong Invincible Guy is always helpful for a burgeoning superhero team, and he does great. And a bunch of Avengers stories happen basically the same way except slightly easier because now they have basically two Thors. This leads Hank Pym to decide that the world needs another entomologist with a minor in robotics than it does a Tall Man Who Punches so he leaves the team to… zero fanfare. This also means that he never experienced the Pym Particle build up that eventually drove him to violent madness. So that’s good.

Later the Avengers split up in favor of Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Hawkeye joining the team, as in the 616, but this time Wonder Man is also kicking around, and he and Wanda wind up hitting it off. Which infuriates Pietro a lot more than it should.

Well beyond “Overprotective Sibling” and straight into wondering if they’re aware they’re related in this continuity.

A few more Avengers stories occur in basically the same way (a cutaway confirms that the Celestial Madonna arc never happened because The Swordsman never fought the Avengers out of fear of a very strong man punching him, so… two wins) and eventually Simon and Wanda’s incessant flirting drives Pietro to evil and he leaves the Avengers to join forces with Magneto and the Brotherhood. He also wears a costume to disguise this fact when the Brotherhood and Avengers wind up fighting one another, and he’s dressed as The Grim Reaper (the sword arm guy, not the skeleton) and that’s just generally confusing.

I *think* it’s because the Reaper is usually Wonder Man’s brother, but he had no brother to avenge and so no reason to be evil in this continuity, but they wanted to keep an Evil Brother in the costume here?

Anyway, Magneto winds up smooshing Pietro to death by accident in the ensuing fight and Wanda explodes Magneto on purpose in response. Rough day for Ms. Maximoff.

Meanwhile, the one Avengers villain we hadn’t heard from yet, Ultron, finally shows up. Apparently having not bothered with the whole Pretending to Be An Unrelated Villain For No Reason thing. He’s instead completed building his perfect body; The Ultimate Ultron (it’s Vision, and everyone calls it Vision, despite him proudly naming it Ultimate Ultron), and he plops his own brain into it rather than using a spare he had laying around.

And since he doesn’t feel a strong urge to pretend to be a different, brand new villain even though nobody knows who he is, Ultron just goes ham on the Avengers, beating the current team within an inch of their lives and only being stopped from killing them because there were some spare Avengers in the mansion for Quicksilvers funeral.


I’m assuming that’s why they’re there; otherwise Cap, Ironman and Thor were just waiting behind a wall for months waiting for a dramatic excuse to punch it down.

Anyway, round two goes just as badly for the Avengers since Vision really is just that powerful, but while he’s distracted Hank Pym recovers, runs to his lab for his Pym Particles and shrinks down, and climbs into Ultrons body, disconnecting his brain from within, stopping him.

That’s good.
But he doesn’t manage to do it before Ultron can shove his entire arm through Simons body, leaving a flaming hole of Kirby Krackle in his chest.
That’s Bad.

Luckily Hank still has a Brain Swapping Machine in this reality and he just plonks Simons not Quite Dead mind into Visions now unoccupied body, so… Vision has Simons personality now. Just like in the 616.

Well… that’s… that’s all well and good, I guess?

As noted, basically yes, all this story is fundamentally unchanged from canon as is.

Hell To Pay

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Not gonna lie, I had really high hopes for What If The X-Men Lost Inferno (Dan Fingeroth and Ron Lim) and they were not met. Also, again, pretty misleading title since this is very much a Dr. Strange story. It’s also basically the plot of Doom: Eternal

The original Inferno was one of the early success of the Crossover Event Comic, that was mainly focused on the X-Men (and more specifically on X-Factor and the New Mutants) and was an absolute hoot. Courtesy of some cajoling from the demon N’arstih (no idea how you say his name), there wound up being a power struggle in the Hell Dimension of Limbo between its rightful ruler Illyana Rasputin/The Darkchilde and Cyclops’ (justifiably bitter) ex wife Madelyn Pryor, that resulted in a big space hole opening above the Empire State Building releasing a demon army on the city; it was basically a combination of SMT and The Real Ghostbusters and it was fun as hell. The various X-teams worked together to seal the demon vortex, blow N’astirh to smithereens and demote Pryor from Unstoppable Witch Goddess to C-Tier Sympathetic Villain.

But what if the order of operations was switched around a little and they took out N’asrtirh first? Well; everything gets worse is what.

Waiting around for someone to up and blow up that rascally horseman was the *other* attempted major player in the Inferno storyline, the demon S’ym (named after David Sim, which started as a fun acknowledgement and eventually became a fitting indictment), who managed to absorb Nastirhs mystic energies after death, powering him up from Purple Bruiser to Demonic Demi-God, and he then threw his hat in with Pryor to help her fight the X-Men since he was smart enough to know that when you through enough X-people at a problem that problem gets solved.

So thanks to his sneak attack all the X-Men are killed, except Shadowcat who escapes and Wolverine who survives but is captured is corrupted and corrupted into a hunting dog for the S’ym/Pryor alliance. Also Maddy chops her own child in half in order to get more evil magic energy so the gate between Earth and Limbo remains open.

Then we flash forward a couple of weeks and things get bad real fast. Most of the human population of the Earth has either been killed/eaten or corrupted by the incursion of hell energy, and the total superhero population of Earth is down to, like, a dozen people, most importantly Shadowcat, Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo. There’s a few others but they don’t matter since they’re all immediately killed a page later when they’re discovered by Wolverine and his demon soldiers; but Strange Mordo and Kitty escape.

We also learn that this particular What If has a ticking clock that other stories haven’t been bad enough to warrant; Limbos incursion of Earth, besides being bad for humanity, has also tilted the mystic order of the universe all out of whack, and that means it’s attracted the notice of The Living Tribunal; acting as Gods personal Home Repair Service, and he’s coming to Earth to completely obliterate it, thus solving the problem before things get too dicey beyond the Earth. This means that S’ym and Pryor have to work out some way to get off Earth to escape the Tribunals judgement, and Strange has to find some means to get the demons off the planet… in… like… two hours or so.

Luckily he knows exactly how to do that since Strange detected a still human Rachel Summers who was cursed into the body of a mannequin (which happened in the Excalibur tie in to the story but I don’t think was mentioned here), and Rachel has a portion of the Phoenix Force inside her,.

So Strange frees her and together they perform a ritual to bring the Phoenix in full to Earth to deal with the demons *before* the Tribunal can arrive, and it looks like it’s going to work… but Mordo decides to betray Strange, because… that’s Mordo for ya, and he alerts S’ym and Pryor to what’s happening in exchange for his own safety, and a big confusing fight happens.

Morris caught in the crossfire and dies, Shadowcat is accidentally killed by Wolverine which is enough to snap him out of his corruption (he was literally carving up infants like a Christmas turkey earlier in the story so… I question why this is the line he wouldn’t cross), S’ym blasts Wolverine to a skeleton then dies from wounds Strange gave him then he possessed Wolverines bones to stab Madelyn so he can steal the Phoenix’ power like he did Narstih, but doesn’t manage to do it as Rachel connects with the full Phoenix Force at the last minute and uses it to purge the Earth of all demonic corruption.

Sidebar this also wipes out, like, 80% of all life on Earth back to Caveman times. To which the Tribunal says “Allright well… problem solved I guess?” And leaves well enough alone. And then Alicia Madters has a child that she names after Johnny a storm as they were married at the time prior to his death by Wolverine. Aww.

Erm… technically not no? One of the tie-ins to the 2015 Secret Wars was based on the premise of the X-Men losing Secret Wars and it was one of the more fun stories in that group (Illyana and Narstih were the main antagonists instead of Pryor and S’ym) and the much more recent Dark Web storyline concluded with Pryor opening up a permanent gate between New York and Limbo, but it wound up being an ambassadorial building for political asylum and immigration purposes rather than for conquest

Next Time:
Has… he not done that?


Arm Candy
N’astirh (no idea how you say his name)
I believe it's pronounced "Naster".

You know, like Howard and Naster.
Shadowcat is accidentally killed by Wolverine which is enough to snap him out of his corruption (he was literally carving up infants like a Christmas turkey earlier in the story so… I question why this is the line he wouldn’t cross)
Yeah, but did he know those infants?

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Well if you want Robby Lies handling bloodless carnage and some shaky ethics, here ya go, as Mr. Liefeld and Jim Valentino bring us What if Wolverine Was an Agent of SHIELD

And, honestly that’s not the biggest shift from the normal status quo in this issue;


Rob Liefeld drew some feet!!

Clearly this is the inflection point for reality since it’s otherwise not really any kind of decision anyone made or circumstance that resolved differently. Hell, outside of the last couple of pages it could have just been a fill-in issue for either Wolverine or Agents of SHIELD.

Anyway, turns out Nick Fury needs some outside help as SHIELD has been infiltrated by some LMDs courtesy of HYDRA (lotsa acronyms in this setup) and their temp agency brought up Wolverine as a potential fix for this problem. This whole story taking place slightly before Logan joined the X-Men incidentally. And working together with the Black Widow, Logan takes care of the entire robot spy network inside of an hour. This also leads to SHIELD discovering the location of the main HYDRA base (or at least; this weeks Main Hydra Base, they change Main Bases more often than I change socks) and Logan joins in for an all out assault to stop HYDRA once and for all. For the moment.

Logan also offers to give Black Widow a haircut in the most ridiculous and threatening manner possible.


Anyway, the attack goes off without a hitch, HYDRA is defeated, Madam HYDRA/Viper is arrested and Baron Strucker is killed, and Nick Fury takes on Logan as a full time employee since his secret spy network outranks the Canadian Federal Governments Top Secret Black Ops Network, I guess?

So this goes great for Logan as a career move and he’s happier than he’s ever been being his own boss in the up and coming world of spy intrigue; he’s offered a position in the X-Men when Professor X comes calling but turns it down, instead saying he’ll use SHIELDs influence to help them when they need help, which is awful sporting of him.

Anyway, as so often turns out to be the case, Strucker turns out to be alive again (or it’s an LMD) and he launches a suicide attack against Nick Fury, killing both in a car crash, and Wolverine is appointed head of SHIELD instead, and, making good on his word to Charles, uses the organizations influence to prevent the Sentinel Program from ever coming to fruition and discrediting Robert Kelly from ever reaching political office with his anti mutant rhetoric; thereby becoming a more influential force in ending mutant impression than Xavier and Magneto combined, thanks to secret clandestine black ops.

If Wolverine wasn’t an Agent of SHIELD at some point or another, I’ll eat my hat. Hell, I think every component of this story happened at some point, just not all at once, and generally without peace through secret conspiracy manipulation.

Oh, and there’s also a bonus story since we wrapped up early.


Chilling to consider, no?
Thankfully no.

Next Time: Get Equipped with REPULSER BEAM


Arm Candy
If Wolverine wasn’t an Agent of SHIELD at some point or another, I’ll eat my hat. Hell, I think every component of this story happened at some point, just not all at once, and generally without peace through secret conspiracy manipulation.
Yep. the 2004 Secret War miniseries had Nick Fury recruiting Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America, Daredevil, and Luke Cage (it was written by Bendis, so of course it had Luke Cage) for a covert operation to overthrow the US-backed government of Latveria (this was during the period when Dr. Doom was in Hell). In the end, Fury is ousted as SHIELD director and reveals he brainwashed the members of the team to get them to work for him.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got some corporate pettiness, domestic terrorism and a lot of shots of Tony Stark in his underwear as Dan Fingeroth and Greg Capullo bring us; What if Iron Man Lost the Armor Wars

This is one of the stories I was really looking forward to and it does not disappoint. The original Armor Wars was among the best received IM stories of the 80s, and is still used as the basis for a fair number of stories since; people love tournament arcs. And buckle up because this is a dense comic.

With the help of Ant-Man, Tony discovered that, like, half of the list of people in the Marvel Universe with powered armor were actually wearing bootleg Iron Man suits with blueprints stolen by longtime Tony Stark corporate nemesis, Justin Hammer. Feeling personally responsible, Tony abandons all his friends and allies to solve this problem himself (following the Tony Stark playbook). This eventually leads to him beating down a whole dang bunch of Armored guys in a series of escalatingly tense battles, culminating with him faking his death and getting a new suit of armor so nobody would blame him for all the international airspace’s he’s violated and coworkers/government employees he’d nearly killed.

What a guy.

But, as noted, he had Ant Man’s help to get the ball rolling, and he’s only a l’il guy so What If Someone Stopped a Tiny, Tiny Man?

First off, Justin Hammers computer systems apparently had poison gas flooding through the wires every so often in case tiny, tiny men were doing corporate espionage; which seems ridiculous but it clearly paid off for him. Scott Lang gets a snoot full of gas and passes out, only to wake up in a lucite box on Justin Hammers desk, now being extorted as Justin apparently identified a random-ass electrician from Florida and kidnapped his daughter to serve as leverage.

At no point in this story does Scott embiggen himself or use his Pym Particle enhanced strength to bust through the tiny plastic box he’s in, so… that would have made the story go in a pretty wildly different direction.

Anyway, Justin uses Scott to lure Tony into a trap by feeding him false information while his Technicians work on a means to remote control the Iron Man suit. Which he does, and he also uses that control (plus the fact that he now has *two* hostages in the Langs) to put *yet another* mind control collar on Tony.

There’s enough shots of Tony in tiny underpants being mindcontrolled that I’m pretty sure we might have just stumbled into something Greg Capullo is just into.

Anyhoo, while under triple duress, Tony is forced to expose the secret defenses of, like… everything he’s built (including Stark Industries headquarters, the West Coast Avengers Mansion, and a bunch of SHIELD installations), and we’re assured that nobody died, though we see Rhodey die on panel. Justin is about to finalize his goal of just completely destroying Tony’s life and reputation by exposing Iron Man’s face on national tv and then proceeding to explode his own face off… when Hanmer is suddenly shot to pieces by AIM soldiers storming his mansion.

Drastically off model AIM soldiers; they’re dressed like green, baklava wearing masked gunmen and not beekeepers.

The lead AIM commander also notes that Justin Hammer will wake up later and face interrogation at AIM headquarters but, dude… dude has a lot of bullet holes in him, so if he’s going to be saying anything it’s going to be “Ow”.

Anyway, AIM had been watching the news, also knew that Hammer Industries had a grudge against Iron Man and knockoff Iron Man armor for sale and managed to put two and two together, figuring that Hammer had some means of commandeering Tony’s suit and now *they* want to do it.

Luckily, Justin dying left enough of a lapse in his control over Tony that he’s able to strip to his tiny underpants again and remove the slave collar from his neck and destroy the Iron Man armor before he loses himself again.

Tony disguises himself, and sets out to contact the *other* people with knockoff Iron Man armor; Stilt Man, The Mauler, The Controller, the Raider, Beetle, Titanium Man and Crimson Dynamo. AIM is still looking for Tony and is able to use their new knowledge of his armor to track down and kill anyone using it so they’re all in danger.

The newly dubbed Iron Men all agree on the grounds that Tony has, historically, just wanted to throw them in jail and *at worst* not care if they apparently die when their plans backfire on them, plus Tony knows how to circumvent AIMs control of their armor.

So they all attack the new AIM stronghold at Hammers mansion;


Stilt Man acquits himself well.

Eventually Tony finds the (pretty ridiculous looking) Firepower armor, the final boss from the main Armor Wars story, and rescues the Langs (kind of forgot they were in the story) and tells them to call the Avengers for help, while he beats up the rest of AIM with his new friends.

Then upon beating them all up successfully he politely asks them to go to jail, since… they’re bad guys. And the Iron Men Collectively say “N-no?” and attack him instead…

Only for him to be saved at the last minute by the West Coast Avengers, whom Ant Mans daughter contacted, who haul the Iron Men off to jail. And also Tony himself since he’s done a lot of terrorisms and murders over the last few weeks, even if he was being mind controlled, and remote controlled and coerced, and if several hostages and plenty of evidence surrounding him proving that fact.

Let that be a lesson.

Tony’s had his armor hikacked into forcing him to commit crimes a lot, to the extent that it’s a surprise when it doesn’t work. He’s also had to work with a lot of the Armored Villains at various points, but not all of them at once to my knowledge. There’s also at least one “Iron Man’s armor gets compromised and I’m pretty sure it’s just because the creative team was really into this” when Ultron steals the Nanobot suit and uses it to turn Tony into his mom.

NEXT TIME: Well… I hope he’s happier

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We get a whole lot of Frank Castle learning ACAB as Doug Murray and Rick Levins bring us What If The Punishers Family Hadn’t Been Killed

I think “by Gangsters” should have been part of the title there, but I guess that’s a bit wordy.

Anyhow, Frank Castle was a Vietnam vet who had a pretty sweet family life, until aforesaid family got the absolute holy crap shot out of them by some mobsters. And instead of therapy or grief counselling or anything like that, he decided to get every gun in the world and shoot crime in the head until it stopped being an issue. A personality trait that idolized him with people who absolutely should not at all be charged with ensuring public safety. Later he would be an angel, a Frankenstein, a time travelling wielder of both the Spirit of Vengeance and Power Cosmic, and the Murder Jesus of a Death Cult.

But that means that the end of Franks family picnic was pretty reliant on them being murdered; but What If That Picnic Was stopped By a Hail of Hail, instead of a Hail Of Bullets.

For in this timeline, a sudden rainstorm brings the Castle family home before they can be witnesses of a mob hit (the mobsters were in a public park on the other side of a small shrub so they had to expect someone would notice them at some point.)


This realities version of Frank is also ridiculously naive.

Anyway, ol’ Frank has been missing the friendship and camaraderie of being… umm… in Vietnam (not generally what people are talking about when they said they couldn’t get over their experiences there, I don’t think) and decides to join the NYPD figuring it would be about the same kind of experience.

Unfortunately it’s the 1970s when he made this decision and we’re dealing with some Holy Crap levels of police corruption, and we learn that while the 616 Punisher is basically Death Wish, the What If Punisher is Serpico.

Within the first couple of months, Frank realizes that the entire precinct is cartoonishly dirty; witnesses judges taking bribes, cops getting paid to ignore incredibly obvious drug deals, extortions and cover-ups. It’s eventually too much for him and he informs his captain that he has evidence of the fact that… like… the entire NYPD is on the take, assuming the captain is on the level since, like Frank, he was a ‘nam vet and thus a pillar of moral integrity.

Unfortunately Frank overlooked that the Captain was probably aware that the entire NYPD is corrupt since he’s not an idiot, and figures the best way to address the problem of the one single idealistic police officer in the city was to explode the absolute hell out of his apartment building with police issue grenades, courtesy of the cops… umm… assassination patrol?

Or an else several dozen cops all heard about a chance to earn some overtime shooting the crap out of an entire apartment building in order to kill a guy who was going to get them charged and said “DIBS!”

The way this story is going, maybe both?

Anyway, this, naturally kills Franks family (he was in another room getting a drink), and he reacts… poorly, using the explosion of his home to fake his death and proceeds to act much as the 616 Punisher does; rebranding himself as a human Murder Machine obsessed with wiping out corruption with bullets, it’s just that he largely ignores criminals in favor of gunning down corrupt cops, and also sending evidence of their corruption to the news papers to show that, look… this is at least justified.


Then The Kingpin shows up to say “Aww man, all the cops I paid to ignore all the stuff I do got killed… that was a waste of money” which I think also implies that he’s going to send assassins out to kill Frank, but the comics over so that never really goes anywhere.

As part of that “Murder Jesus of a Death Cult” thing, Franks family was resurrected,l. But his wife was quick to point out that the way he decided to process the grief over their deaths was the absolute last thing that they would have wanted and then divorced him. Also think that, canonically, Frank puts corrupt cops on a slightly higher priority list than the murderous, deplorable criminals he’s more famous for going after.


Rated Ages 6+
(He, Him)
Also think that, canonically, Frank puts corrupt cops on a slightly higher priority list than the murderous, deplorable criminals he’s more famous for going after.
I'd add that on several levels he knows he's an aberration That Should Not Be.


Power is fleeting, love is eternal
In one of the Garth Ennis Punisher comics, it's suggested that Frank is only able to do what he does because he has the silent approval of many members of the New York police. If he ever decided to go after corrupt cops, the entire NYPD would start hunting him, and even the Punisher might not be able to handle that.


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got some wildly varying levels of pathos and whimsy in… What If the Fantastic Four All Had the Same Powers?

This here is one of those anthology What If issues and they were all written and pencilled by Jim Valentino.

Anyway, we all know the basic story here; on an outer space adventure / they were hit by cosmic rays / the four changed forever /in some most fantastic ways; Reed can stretch like plastic / Sue can fade from sight / Johnny is the human torch / The Thing just loves to fight.

But maybe those cosmic rays weren’t feeling so indecisive and/or personality driven when it came to doling out super powers and gave everyone slight variants on the same one? Let’s find out, shall we?

All four stories start the same way, with the Marvel 1 crashing in the pine barrens and the FFs powers first manifesting, in this case Johnny gets his Torch powers first, and the resulting explosion he accidentally creates bathes the rest of the team in the same kind of energy and they also become human torches. They get a bit of visual distinctly veness to tell them apart from one another but, oddly, it’s Ben that winds up looking like the 616 Human Torch, Johnny looks like Jim Hammond (the Android human torch), Reed just gets incandescently bright and Sue looks like regular Johnnys torch form but more feminine.

Kind of thought they’d go for Frankie Ray or Volcana or Magma, given the amount of visual references in this issue but whatever works.

Anyway, the first few FF adventures happen off panel and resolve themselves about the same way, but then the team battles the foe that would prove to be their undoing; The Miracle Man! Remember him? He was Cris Angel but used his mind freak for evil? Appeared so rarely after that that anyone would be forgiven for thinking it was some new guy each time. No relation to the Fascist Shazam book that Alan Moore wrote.

Well, as in that original story Miracle Man distracted the FF with a fake Kaiju attack while he was busy robbing stuff, but the key difference is that this time there’s *four* people who solve their problems by incinerating them. And furthermore the abandoned tenements they fought the monster in were less abandoned than they should have been, as we get two whole pages detailing a precious little waif of a child who lives in them while her mother works two jobs for no money.

Since this is a comic in the 80s, and there’s a lot of description for a background character, you can safely predict that things don’t go great for the blessed child too good for this sinful earth and she gets exploded.

The cops show up to say “Well… thanks for stopping a stage magician bank robber but also you blew up a child to do it, and drove a Firefighter irrevocably insane when he found her incinerated corpse”


Sue takes this knowledge way harder than the rest of the team and the FF splits up. Except Ben, who resumes superheroing and joins up with the Avengers. Also, because Johnny wasn’t around setting homeless people’s heads on fire, Namor never regained his memories so… umm…

Weird detail to end the story on, Uatu.

Well, that was grim, let’s go for a silly one this time. Now it’s Reeds super stretchiness that everyone gets.

Naturally when you think of Reed Richards it’s not “stretchy” that everyone associates with him, it’s his genius and what a terrible husband and father he is (depending on the writer).

Well, everyone else thinks being a man of living rubber is stupid too and nobody wants to join the superhero team Reed proposes.

Johnny leverages it into joining the talk show circuit, Ben and Sue kindle a romance based on thinking their super powers are stupid as hell and never bother using them, and Reed uses them to reach stuff in his lab without having to stand up.

Well, at least we got this panel.


The Thing
Okay, back to grim, and also Grimm. This time it’s Aunt Petunias ever loving blue eyed nephew who gets the base template; and once again everyone gets a different design to tell them apart; Ben keeps his classic Big Rock Guy look and grump with a heart of gold personality, Johnny gets Ben’s original Big Lumpy Guy look (but more exaggerated and grotesque), Reed takes on the appearance of The Brute (a purple Hulk-like Reed from the multiverse who is pretty far down the list of memorable Evil Alternate Reed Richardses) and Sue?

Sue got the short end of the stick;


Ben is largely fine with his transformation, y’know, in comparison but everyone else is in pretty dire straits; Reed is steadily losing his patience and intelligence, Johnny looks like a pile of tumors and Sue may not even be sentient any longer, and their terrifying the public with their konsterous appearance and Reeds growing antipathy; so they do the only thing they can do and head off to the secluded Monster Island and decide to live their lives amidst the Kaijus and join Molemans growing army.

Finally we got Sue, and everyone keeps the same appearance this time, but they also each get just one of Sues powers; which moves her from “the most powerful member by far” to “the girl one”.

Anyway, this time, Nick Fury was waiting at the crash site saw that everyone got invisibility powers and said “Hey; you know what is a really helpful talent for a secret spy organization? Invisibility!” And he drafts them into SHIELD then and there.

For the record; Sue can turn herself invisible, Reed turns others invisible, Ben gets the forcefields and Johnny gets intangibility; which isn’t amidst Sues usual power set.

Anyway, this all goes swell until a really off model Doctor Doom shows up (or else he briefly had a kind of Robin Hoody design I forgot about) and does what he usually does; start threatening to huck buildings into space until Reed Richards presents himself to him.

Reed acquiesces, but also has the rest of the FF sneak along with him while he has them disguised, and then they all rush Doom at once, and we’re on the last couple of pages of an anthology comic within an anthology comic so it really doesn’t go well for him and the combined efforts of four guys with powers vaguely related to “You can’t see me!” All whip him good, and then Nick Firy says “Yeah you have diplomatic immunity, but SHIELD works under the UN so… that doesn’t count” (is that how that works?) and they haul Vic off to jail.

A happy end in one out of four alternate timelines!

There’s been a few stories where the FFs powers go wonky, and I think some where they’ve swapped them around, but never everyone gets the same skill set, to my knowledge. The Thing-Reed became a minor recurring villain as I mentioned above and in one of the FF movies, Johnny wound up taking all the teams powers into himself so he could trick me into thinking Super Skrull was going to appear.

Oh Merry Christmas to me

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Hoo Nelly, we got us a corker as Jim Valentino and Mike Delarosa bring us What If the X-Men Stayed in Asgard, which, surprisingly, manages to be more of a What If Thor Stayed a Frog story.

But that’s only one component because yeesh is there a lot of ground to cover in 30 short pages and that’s without getting into context necessary backstory. Valentinos written a lot of What Ifs but I think this is the only one that requires homework. Luckily that homework is several extremely fun stories so… I’m fine with being assigned it.

So anyway, one year there was a story carried on between the X-Men and New Mutants annuals that involved the X-Men trying to rescue the younger team after they were whisked off to Asgard by Loki who was… just messing around with them really. Each character from both teams wound up getting separated and having their own bespoke adventures (some *much* nicer than others) and eventually confronted Loki who said he’d put everyone back where they belong but only if it was a unanimous vote. If even one person wanted to stay in Asgard everyone had to abide by it. And despite the fact that Wolfsbane found the love of her life with another werewolf, they agreed to leave since about half the group would have been miserable in Asgard.


Well this time around they put it up for a bit more debate and offer up a simple vote, and it winds up being pretty much a split tie;


Nightcrawler excuse doesn’t seem to be as heartfelt as some of the others.

Also, slight issue with this in that, while she had a kind of rough time, it was being in Asgard that addressed the morbid obesity that Karma had been afflicted with, and which she hated, so you’d think she’d have been more conflicted, also Cypher was derided and mocked for being a nerd instead of a Vanirian Viking warrior-god, so he shouldn’t have wanted to stick around either. Also; hard to envision Cypher and Warlock being on opposite sides of a debate; they’re, often literally, joined at the hip.

Anyway, when the votes done, Loki reveals that he was just fibbing (as he does); anyone who wants to leave can. NBD. So half the roster does leave and this results in the X-Men, New Mutant and X-Factor teams being consolidated into one group. And then never mentioned again.

Then we get a quick montage of what happened shortly thereafter for those who stayed; Cypher became the head librarian for the Asgardians (presumably moving away from Vanaheim), Wolfsbane wound up marrying the Prince of Wolves, Magik wound up usurping The Enchantress as the resident semi-evil Witch Queen, Cannonball wound up marrying the daughter of the King of Dwarves, Sunspot became a celebrated Gladiator, Rogues powers apparently don’t work on Asgardians so she was free to get all hot and heavy with anyone she wanted, Moonstar joined the Valkyrie full time and Nightcrawler… umm… hit people with swords a bunch. And Storm got some extra magical compulsions slapped on her courtesy of Loki so she would be loyal to him on the grounds that she was basically Thor (not physiologically, mind, just personality and ability set) and he’d like a Thor who wasn’t quite so eager to hit him in the face with an enchanted mallet.

So that’s already a lot of moving pieces to be keeping track of, and the plot details get a bit confusing already especially if you’re trying to map them on to the Simonson run of Thor which this comic is clearly leaning heavily on. In more of a plot hole way than a What If Alternate Continuity way.

So part of the reason Thor wasn’t around to dispute him being replaced by Storm was because he was, at that time, cursed into the body of a frog by Loki (its the kind of thing that happens to you when you’re related to Loki), and, as in the Thor books at the time, this is also around the time when Loki was putting in a serious bid to take over Asgard through political maneuvers/magical trickery. And while Loki is a tremendously powerful wizard, thats a lot more magic than he’s capable of, and it turns out that it’s because he’s been strip mining magic from the abandoned Twilight Sword; the building-sized doomsday weapon forged by the fire demon king, Surtur (it was a whole thing; read the Simonson Thor if you haven’t already).

Anyway; all this is to say that Loki is pushing well beyond what he can normally manage, and that has not escaped the notice of Karnilla (Asgards other semi-evil Witch Queen in residence) or Hela (The Goddess of Death who serves as Asgards devil, as opposed to the giant lava man who rules over a flaming planet full of demons and who wants to murder everything), and they both have issue with this. The former because it’s Karnillas husband who has a better claim to Asgards throne than Loki, and the latter because she has a specific beef with Storm. So they decide to join forces to address that. Coincidentally, Volstagg heads off on a completely unrelated quest to destroy the Twilight Sword because it made his kid sick.

MEANWHILE YET ALSO, Loki is yanked away from his inauguration speech by what appears to be a Battletoad, and Storm leads the rest of Asgard to save him.


Fortunately this is also just when Volstagg trips, and inadvertently causes a rockslide that winds up destroying the machine Loki was using to siphon power from the Twilight sword, breaking both his hold on the Asgardians and also the spell he cast on Thor, turning him back into a big burly Nordic man. Also a very cheesed off one since he didn’t much like being a Battletoad.

Loki planned for his plans to get scuppered, however , and said “Frig it, Plan B then” and decided to call on a huge army of trolls and giants to attack the Asgardians, resulting in a war between two equally powerful armies.

Then Karnilla says “Hey! I don’t like you stealing my Husbands birthright, or that everyone let you do that!” And adds the mystic armies of Nornhein to the mix. And also Hela is ticked off at Storm in particular for some reason (check out the Wolverine solo series, says Smilin’ Stan) and also adds the army of the cursed dead to the mix. She also disintegrates Sunspot for good measure.


And seeing that the good guys were outnumbered by bad guys (and Neutral Guys), Cannonball appeared with the armies of the Dwarves and also Wolfsbane shows up with an army of werewolves so now it’s a battle of six armies. Let’s see Peter Jackson top that.

So amidst the shuffle, Thor, Storm and Moonstar wind up in the Same spot battling Hela, along with the rest of the Valkyrior, and by working together they manage to generate enough mystic energy to blow her to smithereens; “Smithereens” being the one place a Death Goddess can’t come back from apparently.

So Hela exploding took her army away, and Loki suddenly vanished as soon as the fight started so his force was quickly routed, so the war quickly became five armies versus a bunch of trolls and was resolved quickly enough. Thor announces he’s renouncing his claim to the throne on the grounds that Storm is just as powerful, honourable enough to lift Mjolnir, and doesn’t seem so conflicted about abandoning Earth to safeguard Asgard. And then we get another quick Where Are They Now montage for everyone assembled


That’s a happy ending for everyone except, as it turns out, Loki. When he vanished, it was because he was summoned by Those Who Sit Above in Shadow, a mysterious congregation of shadowing beings that are as far above Asgardians as they are above humans (Loki tries to cajole them a bunch, who or what they are is a mystery), where he reveals that this whole story was him playing some manner of long con to convince Those Who Sit that he put enough good in the world now that he should be granted his hearts desire; to rule Asgard.

Those Who Sit say “Well… not really?” And compromise by giving him control of Asgard… at the moment of its destruction at the end of time. Which Loki takes in good stride since he can appreciate a solid gag. Or he's laughing because he's caught in the grip of madness that will surely be his end. Probably the former, given Lokis entire personality.

Largely, no, but some parts carried over. Moonstars duties as a Valkyrie are a thing that still persists to this day, but they really take a backseat to her Vigilante Mutant Hero Team Leader day-job. And Karnilla dn Hela have teamed up fairly recently, when they got married to each other as part of a plot of a political maneuver in War of the Realms (it started as a political marriage, but they also really seemed to get along with each other pretty well later).
I can't remember if Cannonballs future wife was a daughter of a miner or a farmer, but possibly that does as well. Though she's also a celebrated space-hero so what her dad did is kind of tertiary.


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got brain and brawn, and some weirdly prophetic story beats as Kurt Busiek and Vince Meilcherek bring us What If Professor X Had the Power of the Juggernaut

Also; this is one of the first comics written by mother-flapping’ Kurt Busiek and turns out that guy just hit the ground running.

So, comic wise this one breaks from the usual What If format and is a self contained story that doesn’t really elaborate on how the original story went except for a casual reference; but for the purposes of clarity; Cain Marko was Xavier’s cruel bully of a step brother who took his frustrations out on his skinny bald nerd of a little brother. When both were drafted into the Korean War, Cain went AWOL and decided to hide out in a cave instead. Luckily this cave was actually a temple to the primordial god of violence, Cytorrak, and he done got blessed by it; turning him into an avatar of pure strength; the Unstoppable Juggernaut.

But WHAT IF CHARLES XAVIER GOT THERE FIRST, not out of desire or nothing, he just wanted to keep his brother from touching a glowing magic stone that whispered tales of carnage. Seems like a pretty sensible choice in the whole.

Well, first off, it sets off a chain reaction that brought the whole mountain down on his head while Marko ran away and basically out of the story. Luckily, it also made Chuck invincibly strong, so having an entire mountain smushing him was just an inconvenience. Just… a decades long one while he worked out enough leverage to move, let alone start digging his way out.

Meanwhile, with no Professor X, there’s no X-Men, so when Magneto first appears to attack the Cape Citadel nuclear missile base, it’s up to the Fantastic Four to stop him, which they do, so whatever. However, because there’s no Good Mutants who show up to oppose him and this is the first time the public is aware that Mutants are a Thing, it gives the public the impression that 100% of the species are Bad Guys. This is confirmed shortly thereafter when Magneto forms a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to conquer San Verde, a fictional South American island that he then sets up as a Mutant Utopia.

And that would have been fine if he left well enough alone, but Magneto starting a Mutant Utopia nation tends to always go badly and he then abruptly says “Hey, why don’t we all collectively attack the UN and declare ourselves to be Humanities Masters? Weee the Homosuperior afterall!”

So he does. And, like, laser vision and metal skin and all that is great and everything but… regular humans really outnumber them and a gun is just as good in a pinch. Also, since everyone just default assumes Mutants are evil because of Magneto, it inspired all the worlds greatest geniuses to come together to work on Sentinels, instead of just one racist guy, and as a result the first generation of them is vastly more effective.

So, Magento nearly kills the entire mutant population right here and now; but luckily that’s when Chuck finally shows up, having dug his way out of a mountain and walked to New York from Korea. And, as noted, he’s invincible, incomprehensibly strong, and telepathic too. Plus the stress of being buried under a mountain for a decade, only being able to hear the psychic screams of mutants being wronged by mankind has done a number on the ol’ turnip so he’s… not the bridge builder he is in the 616.

Kurt also explains that, since this Chuck is also Juggernaut he never felt the need to hone his psychic powers so he can read people’s thoughts but that’s about it.

Anyway, long and short is that Charles now has a much harder stance on Human/Mutant relations. And his introduction to the world is by him single-handedly destroying the entire military presense designed to quell Magnetos uprising, and also kill everyone in the UN, and also chase off Magneto as he’s determined that enough mutants died today.

He also took a bit of issue with the fact that Sentinels were built at all, so he immediately demolishes the Master Mold base, and then made it a point to go after every being on the planet that could reasonably oppose him; using his telepathy to steal the information from the worlds greatest geniuses in order to work out ways to depower the likes of The Hulk and the Fantastic Four, and using his brute strength to kill or otherwise disable the rest. Except Spider-Man.


He settles for threatening to tattle on him.

Chuckernaut effortlessly conquers the US in a couple of days thanks to his newly Mutant followers and mostly his telepathy and the power of Cyttorak, and that makes most of the other nuclear armed countries a touch twitchy and they collectively decide to bombs the holy bajeezus out of Westchester County hoping that that many bombs would kill him. Unfortunately, “Unstoppable” isn’t something he puts on his business cards to sound impressive and the world perishes in a nuclear fire.

But we’re only midway through the comic and not caught up to the cold open yet, and it turns out that Chuck, linked with the worlds greatest scientific minds, means that the horrors of an endless nuclear winter is NBD; and his X-Men hastily build machines that purify the radioactive toxins and dust. It still means a few days that really suck. But the other side is that the increase of radioactivity means that the birth rate of mutants skyrocketed (this was back when radiation was linked to the emergence of mutants) and regular humans dropped sharply since… you know… nuclear wars are not the healthiest way to spend an afternoon.

So flash forward a few years and New York is now the stronghold of the Mutant Empire that crosses the planet, Humans are considered to be lower than vermin, and the X-Men are used as being used as gestapo soldiers in order to arrest and execute any humans who dare write graffiti or try to discourage other roving bands of mutant bandits from setting their homes on fire; none of which really sits well Cyclops, the X-men leader who *really* did not join up so he could be a nazi.

He tries to convince the other X-Men to his line of thinking but really doesn't make much headway; and only about a half dozen of them agree that, yes, this is not the career path they wanted, and Charles lets them go, as he did Magneot, on the grounds that "Not Killing Mutants" is his only actual moral, but he does banish them for their sedition.

Luckily, they happen upon Magneto... like... immediately afterward, as well as Cain Marko, who joined up with him after Charles took control of all mutants and he reveals he has a plan for overthrowing Charles permanently. He outfits the X-Men with the same materials as his helmet (as he did Cain) in order to blind Charles' telepathy, and the team launch an attack on Chuckernauts stronghold.

Charles can't read their minds, but wielding Cyttoraks power, he has a real short fuse and simply gives chase to them, luring him on to a teleport that leads to Magnetos abandoned Asteroid M base in space, which they then blew up; shooting Chuckernaut into the void of space, away from Earth; where he will continue flying forever, and Cyclops is left to wonder if blowing Charles into the infinite void of space was the only option since he *was* making some headway in talking him down from being an immortal, psychic muscle-Hitler. Everyone else says "Nah... rather not risk it". and then they start working to disassemble the nightmare Charles made of the world.

So much of this story did wind up happening, but it's unknown enough that I'm willing to assume them all to be coincidences. Most obviously, Charles and a Charles-focused villain merging into one being and becoming an existential threat to the world was more famously done in the Onslaught Saga, Mutants taking over the world and humans being relegated to barely more than vermin was the premise of House of M, and an indestructible muscle-genius taking over the world after a nuclear war happened in Hulks Future Imperfect storyline.

That sounds MARVELous


Arm Candy
So much of this story did wind up happening, but it's unknown enough that I'm willing to assume them all to be coincidences. Most obviously, Charles and a Charles-focused villain merging into one being and becoming an existential threat to the world was more famously done in the Onslaught Saga, Mutants taking over the world and humans being relegated to barely more than vermin was the premise of House of M, and an indestructible muscle-genius taking over the world after a nuclear war happened in Hulks Future Imperfect storyline.
I mean, the F.F. did defeat Magneto in their cartoon...


I kind of like the retcon that the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was named like it was to make Xavier's team more sympathetic, and in this what-if's timeline, it just doesn't make sense

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got some ballistic peace talks and costly free healthcare when SC Ringingberg and MJ Jorgensen ask us What If Captain Marvel Had Not Died!

Well… Uatu is the one asking that but let’s say I’m a Doyalist.

Anyway, the original Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) was a spy sent by the alien Kree in order to prepare Earth for conquest. Turns put; he didn’t wanna and became Earths protector instead. Then he got a huge power up from Eon the grossest Cosmic entity, and a kinda sidekick in Rick Jones who swapped out with him when one or the other got stuck in the Negative Zone. Later still he got pretty aggressive cancer when he tried to metabolize a whole whack of toxic gas and then he died from it since his powers were also protecting his body from the cancer treatments.

Then a bunch of other heroes used the name Captain Marvel because there was no way in hell that the House of Ideas was going to risk losing that trademark. Marv himself, surprisingly, remained dead (not counting alternate universe duplicates and clones).

But… what if Captain Marvel used his cosmic awareness to recognize the early stages of cancer?!?

Doesn’t go great, I’ll say that much.

So at first, the story follows about the same trajectory; Marvs powers prevent any proper cancer treatment from working like they should, but the trade off is that they’re also slowing down the spread of the disease. It’ll still definitely kill him, but without the Nega Bands he’s wearing, it’ll be in seconds instead of weeks.

Let this be a lesson to avoid sucking down an entire tank of toxic gas.

Luckily this is comic books so the solution is obviously to cast a magic spell to stop time, then you can take your time using Super Science to devise a cure for cancer. Ask any oncologist, they’ll tell you the same.

The treatment works and Marv has a new lease on life, which he immediately decides to put to good use by bringing an end to the generations long Kree/Skrull war that has afflicted the galaxy. And, because Marv also doesn’t think things through too hard, he decides the best way to do this is to personally attack both armies and threaten both empires with the doomsday device he built.


It goes as well as you might reasonably expect.

Anyway, while peace talks between two warring empires are… not even beginning and both sides are sending assassins out to kill Marv and destroy his doomsday device (and, like… *fair*), things aren’t going great on Earth as all the heroes who saved Marvs life are now, themselves, afflicted with the same strain of highly aggressive cancer.

Turns out that the combination of Mad Science and Magic might have cured the cancer in Marvs body, but it also mutated into a strain that’s precisely as deadly and also highly contagious.

Luckily this was back when the Silver Surfer was still stuck on Earth (was it?) and he’s completely immune to all maladies thanks to his cosmic power, so he’s unaffected and he’s quick to get up to speed on the fact that Reed and Dr. Strange kiiiiiinda created a doomsday plague. He figures Earth might be doomed but Marv is also going to wind up infecting every other planet he approaches with the plague so… you know… priorities, and with Thors help he manages to get past the Barrier keeping him on Earth to try to keep Marv from visiting any more planets on his apocalyptic mission of peace.

Incidentally Marv has already unknowingly destroyed the Kree and Skrull home worlds by visiting them trying to get them to quit fighting.

Eventually the Surfer and Marv meet and a fight breaks out between them because Marv-Ell is just unbelievably bad at ushering in peace, until the Surfer points out that Marv has murdered entire planets just by being nearby because he is the Typhoid Mary of an interplanetary super cancer plague.

So… yeah… bad at his stated goals, that Marv.

Anyway, and luckily (for a given definition of luck), Marv also infected his girlfriend, who joined him on his peaceful murder-mission, with infectious super-cancer so that leads credibility to the Surfers claims of "Hey, you are going to kill *literally everything*". Fortuntely, this is also when Reed Richards comes up with a cure for the Super Cancer Plague by noticing that Rick Jones didn't catch it by merit of his weird association with Marv so he must produce antibodies for it, and he's able to distribute it around the planet before the entire population of Earth dies in agony.

They specify that this cure for cancer only works specifically for humans dying of the plague Mar-Vell started, and only one people with the early symptoms, everyone else... just has treatable late stage cancer, so we're still looking at a death toll in the millions just on Earth, and Hala and Skrullos are basically screwed.

Marv feels bad about being patient zero for an outbreak that wiped out several galactic empires, not nearly as bad as he *should* feel, but, like... bad, and decides that the only thing to do would be to have Dr. Strange shoot him out of the universe and into one that is completely devoid of life so he won't continue murdering everything in existence; his girlfriend (who was also cured by the vaccine) elects to go along with him because she can't bear to be apart from him even if it means being in a phantom void beyond reality.

This is treated as being a noble sacrifice but, again, this man has just killed *trillions* of people by accident and his plan for peace was "Kill everyone and threaten to destroy several planets if you don't stop fighting each other".

I mean... it's.... kind of a light sentence, all things considered?

*Kinda*? The Realm of Kings storyline introduced the Cancerverse; a carnivorous alternate reality that was created when, instead of allowing Mar-Vell to die, the heroes of Earth managed to instead kill Death to save their friend from dying. This *immediately* proved itself to be a bad idea as without death to balance it out, life overan the universe gradually attracted several of the nastier teeth-and-tentacley elder gods that reality had to offer and gradually mutating every living thing into an endless flesh-monster, with a corrupted Mar-Vell as a a kind of cthulhu-Jesus.

There's also Paradise X, which showed Marv coming back to life and everything going in the crapper, but that was a sequel to an already out of continuity story, so I can't really count that.


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got some pretty disproportionate retribution, some pretty justified retribution, and some Skrulls being real jerks courtesy of Roy Thomas, RJM Lofficier and Greg Capullo tell us What if The Fantastic Four Lost the Trial of Galactus.
You can tell which parts Roy Thomas wrote because they’re either incredibly specific references to comics written twenty years ago, or dialogue that swings wildly between incredibly clunky and stuff like “Truly does the klarion call of man reveal unto him… a beast! (With apologies to Samuel Clements)”

Anyhoo, time was that a dying Galactus came to Earth in the middle of starving to death and, rather than just letting him die, Reed Richards figured out how to restore him to health, figuring that the universe needs the Devourer of Worlds in it a bit more than it needs a measly few extra planets. And Galactus thanked him by immediately eating the Skrull homeworld. Naturally the Skrulls didn’t appreciate this, and neither did most of the galaxy who aren’t jazzed about having a planet eating space god still out there and decided to put Reed on trial for the crime of saving the life of a guy with the deaths of trillions on his hand and allowing him to continue eating people.

I mean… fair

Anyway, Big G decided to repay Reed by showing up at the Trial in person and calling on a character witness in the form of Eternity, who confirmed that, yes, Galactus is more important to the well being of the Seventh Firmament than the Planet Skrullos was, or most planets for that matter, and the jury voted unanimously that Reed was not guilty of the crime of Eating Planets By Association.

But What If Galactus Didn’t Answer His Court Summons

Yeah, in this timeline Galactus feels like the only one he’s obligated to is his hunger and decides to not party crash an interplanetary trial and so Reed is summarily executed on… like… page 4.

And also Page 1 since that was the cold open as well. Lots of incinerated Reeds in this comic.

Anyway, Uatu whisks the remaining FF back to Earth as they were about to bum rush the podium and attack the Shi’ar Empress who carried out the execution thus setting off an intergalactic incident. Uatu comments that bringing them to the planet Chandilar was probably a stupid idea given how likely this was to happen.

Uatu doesn’t have long to regret his decision before his fears wind up being justified, as as soon as he’s out of the room, Ben and Sue decide to pop into the vault of Supervillain Weapons they amassed over the years (giving Roy Thomas a chance to say “See? I remember Kurrgo of Planet X! And the Flying Saucer from issue #90 where Ben Grimm was taken to a Gangster/Gladiator Planet!”), with which they load themselves down with some of the heftier things people have tried to kill them with over the years and pop off back to Chandilar to… umm… kill the Judge who issued the pronouncement of Reeds death, as opposed to anyone on the jury who voted for it.


Meanwhile, on Chandilar, the leader of the Imperial Guard, Gladiator, also has a problem with… I guess the very concept of the legal system since he feels like Lilandra shouldn’t have executed a man that an impartial jury unanimously declared should have died for his crimes, and she responds by firing him and booting him off the planet.

Lilandra is a bit more of a hardass in this comic than in X-Men.

Anyway, the FF arrive in Shiar space with their stolen UFO and decide to launch a suicide run against Lilandra (thereby double-orphaning Reed and Sues son) in the hopes of killing her; by loading the Cosmic Rod of Annihilus into their ships torpedo tube and shooting it at her.

Good news (I guess); it definitely kills her.

Bad news; they kind of underestimated how much it would kill her.


Yeah turns out that the power source of a guy named “Annihilus: The Living Death Who Walks” puts a little more mustard into a gun than anyone expected and it blew the whole friggin’ damn planet to smithereens.

This puts a bit of strain on the FFs interpersonal dynamics since, you know… they just did a genocide in order to kill a judge who carried out a justifiable sentence.

It puts less stress on the rest of the galaxy however, since a grieving Gladiator calls every species capable of space travel who all come together to say “Hey… not cool” and unite as an unfathomably massive armada in order to explode the hell out of Earth in retribution. Well, some of them want to avenge Chandilar, the rest just figure that Earth is weirdly good at stopping attempts to invade it so maybe a galaxy wide team up is the only way to address that little issue.

We then cut to other heroes and peoples reactions and Wolverine says that “it’s not his fault that aliens just can’t take a joke”, which is a friggin’ bonkers thing to say in this context.

The FF, feeling like real turkeys about the whole… genocide thing they just did take their UFO up to the flagship of the armada in order to give themselves up in order to spare the Earth, when they find themselves a little bit distracted by something else; a small contingent of Skrulls hiding out on a base on Mars.

Turns out the Skrulls didn’t respond great to the galaxy pitying them for once, and have decided to steal the Omni Wave Projector (the radio that doubles as a doomsday device that… some up a lot in Captain Marvel stories, weirdly and which Roy seems to think was his greatest contribution to the Marvel universe) and was going to use it to completely wipe out the armada that’s attacking earth after the battle so that what’s left of the Skrulls can be the sole power left in the Galaxy.

The FF catch wind of this and try to issue a warning to the armada; even if Earths about to be destroyed they don’t want a *fourth* genocide on their heads (at that point you’d think the shock would have worn off, however) and assuming they wouldn’t be listened to on account of… you know… everything that’s happened in this story, they attack the outpost and sacrifice themselves to destroy the Projector, blowing one of the moons out of Mars’ sky (only an uninhabited moon this time so that’s some character salvaging).

Luckily, Gladiator did catch the radio broadcast before the FF could destroy the Projector, and the knowledge that they were fine with Earth dying to save the rest of the Galaxy, and dying themselves to prove it, was enough to make him decide to turn his attack fleet away and spare the Earth. And also make him decide that maybe the other galactic empires should work with Earth instead of periodically attacking it whenever it seems convenient; thereby ushering in a new era of peace for the universe.

Aww, and all it cost was several densely populated planets.

Chandilar is a planet that’s weirdly resistant to calamity, given that half the people who have a claim to being in charge of it are murderous psychopaths. The Shiar are rarely ever in rough shape as a species compared to the other heavy hitters of the Cosmic books. That being said, “Everyone In Space Gets Sick of Earths Bullcrap And Does Something About It” is a common refrain in John Hickman’s books.


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got another one of those What Ifs that could almost fit into regular continuity, and the implication that the Storms
Spent some time on the Beach from Old when Dwayne McDuffie and Luke McDonnell ask… What if The Fantastic Four Fought Dr. Doom Much Sooner

Hey, I didn’t know Dwayne McDuffie wrote any What Ifs! Rad! I’m less enthralled by Luke’s pencil work, but, you know… no shame in not measuring up to Dwayne McDuffie.

Anyhoo, the main divergence point here is with Doctor Doom, so let’s focus in on that krazy kat, shall we?

Ol Vic, as we know, was a talented student at ESU, who was trying to combine magic and science in order to yank his mother’s soul out of Hell. Which is laudable, but a pretty big ask for a pre-grad student so his experiment backfired on him and left him scarred and consequently expelled because even the most permissive dean has to draw the line at opening up a portal to the Nether Realms on campus grounds. So Vic hecked off to Tibet, studied under some evil wizard monks and decided to dedicate his life to killing his lab partner Reed Richards who he erroneously believed sabotaged his experiment.

But… What if the Dean Was Soft on Opening Transdimensional Rifts. ESU is a Montessori school or something I guess?

For one thing, Victor is still scarred so he spends the whole of his time dressed like a mummy. Second, he disappears post graduation, until our story truly begins…

Some time after Reed graduates but before he starts building the Marvel-1 Spacecraft. When he’s still boarding with his future Fiance and Brother in Laws aunt Doris.

Really never liked the whole “Sue fell in love with Reed when he was boarding with her aunt” thing, because she was, like… 14 and he was in his 20s, but here it’s at least treated like a young girl having an unrequited crush on an older man and Reed is pretty oblivious to it. Doesn’t stop Johnny from bringing it up constantly.


Also, not sure if Luke McDonnell doesn’t know how to draw children or, in this universe, Sue and Johnny are actually living dried apple dolls.

Anyway, it’s a big day for Reed in general since his old buddy Ben Grimm is coming for a visit and Reeds going to ask him to be a test pilot for a rocket he’s planning to build, and also he’s completed his latest invention; a Hyperspace tunnel that lets him look into other dimensions (the fact that he’s building the Marvel-1 in this story gets a lot of wink and nod “hey, *get it*?” references in this issue but that he’s also built a prototype of the Negative Zone Generator does not, even if it factors into the story a lot more).

Furthermore, Aunt Doris is also getting another new boarder; Reeds ol’ college buddy Dr. Doom (he completed his PhD so he actually is a doctor in this continuity). And he is introduced by Ben making fun of the fact that he’s hiding his scarred face under bandages and also by open-palm slapping Johnny to the ground.

It’s kind of like how Jojos Bizarre Adventure opens with Dio uppercutting a dog to establish he’s the bad guy.

That night, while Reed takes Ben out to a jazz club in order to entice him into piloting an experimental rocket, Doom magically puts everyone in the house to sleep and the. sneaks into Reeds room and steals his warp-projector, taking it back to his occult lab elsewhere in the city.

Reed and Ben come back and find everyone asleep and his room ransacked and realizes what happened, and is able to track Dooms whereabouts by tracing the energy signals of the Warp Projector after hijacking a local radio station. They find Dooms Magic Lab, and (after surmising that the two tweens would be far safer in the lair of an evil science wizard than on an abandoned New York dock at midnight in the 1970s) scuffle with some prototypes of what would eventually be Doombots, but aren’t able to interrupt Dooms ritual from working and using a combination of sorcery and the Warp Projector from tearing open a door to Hell to let his mother out.

The good news is that it works.

The bad news is that she didn’t come alone, and a hoard of demons also emerge from the warp.

The considerably worse news is that Doom also didn’t realize that smashing two Planar Realities together in a warehouse is… a bad idea and the violent clash of dimensional distortions is going to tear the entire planet to shreds in a few moments.

Delightfully, Reed is a born skeptic when it comes to the supernatural so he never once entertains the possibility that This is actually hell and it’s a release of magic energy, it’s Hyperspace Dimensions and Negative Energy Levels and the like. When when cloven hooved, horned guys are popping up.

Luckily, even if he doesn’t even start to think magic is “a thing”, he definitely noticed that the thaumaturigical hurricane that’s about to engulf the planet is not affecting the weird symbol Doom drew on the floor around him and said “well that’s probably relevant”, and he hastily reprograms the Warp Generator to replicate that symbol around the building they’re in… which immediately shuts down the hell gate and sends all the demons back to where they came from.

And then he makes another real tiny one to bring just Dooms moms soul back and nothing else; doing in seconds what Victor spent a lifetime puzzling over. These leaves Doom in the unenviable position of being needing to be thankful to Reed for saving his mother from Hell *but also* reinforcing his idea that Reed sabotaged his experiment since *obviously* he had the ability to build a machine that could do that all along and, years later, he would still go to Tibet and learn the darkest magic from a secluded group of monks and take over Latveria and spend all his time trying to kill Reed, and meanwhile Reed will build a rocket too hastily and expose his friends to Cosmic Rays and turn them into superheroes.

And that's what would happen... IF!

Honestly, except for the fact that Dooms mother is very much deceased, you could easily slot this in to canon; that's the only contradiction to the main continuity. Beyond that though, Doom DID eventually succeed in getting his mother out of Hell, but it was courtesy of the other prominent Marvel doctor with white temples; Stephen Strange. And he and Doom have a begrudging mutual respect for one another rather than a hatred, so... they're cool with it.

...actually, I'm not sure if that story was before or after this one was published; had to have been close to each other, certainly.


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got us two different What Ifs spun out of a third, less dramatic What If when Roy Thomas, RJ Lofficer and Ron Wilson show us What if Vision Conquered the World.

Roy Thomas got a lot more work in The late 80s/early 90s than I thought; figured he was long retired by then.

Anyhow; Vision was once busted up pretty bad and had nothing but an alien super computer to keep him company while he recovered. And a side effect of this was that their programming merged together turning Vision into a kind of Skynet-y super intelligence who immediately decided to conquer the world by hijacking every computer system on earth. The Avengers talked him down from being a Cyber God Tyrant, and he consequently was torn to pieces and rebuilt with far less emotions (and colours), and it taught us all that grief is love persevering.

But What if Cyber Tyeanny Was a Democratically Determined Issue Instead?

In this timeline the Avengers asked the UN to vote on whether or not to cede control of the Earth to Vision, and this splits the story down two paths;

Utopia, as the title suggests, is the good one. Though Cap raises the good point that this feels awful fascism adjacent, everyone in the world is fine with letting Vision take the reins of controlling the world and it goes really well. Wealth and resources are shared equally around the globe, weapon stockpiles are disarmed, and super villains find all their computers crashed (turns out the Mad Thinker is much less dangerous when he’s forced to go analogue), and within a few years, since Earth is totally fine, the human race expands to space and conquers Mars and then the rest of the solar system and galaxy.

Cut forward about 300 years and we get a brief story of the Future Avengers (Thor, a genetically engineered Super Soldier based on Cap, Johnny Storms great great (…) grandson, a clone of She Hulk, Some Guy In Iron Man Armor (literally an unnamed, replaceable Stark Industries worker), and… umm… Star Hawk (it’s a Roy Thomas comic, need one guy everyone’s forgotten).

Anyway, the future Acengers fight the tyrannically leaders of the Kree and Skrull empires (and, again, it’s a Roy Thomas comic, so the Omni Wave Projector comes up because dammit, Roy loves the idea of a Radio That Kills), and then they win, and this leads to a violent rebellion amidst the Kree and Skrulls that will end with a peaceful faction placed in power (most violent government uprising end with peaceful governments in power), and Vision said “Good news! They're probably going to form an alliance with Earth! Nothing bad happened!”

While everyone is busy mourning the very dead Guy In Iron Man Armor, because Vision might be omniscient, but he can’t read a room.

As for the second story, that would be Dystopia. It’s similar but worse!

This time the UN doesn’t get a Chance to vote on whether or not Vision should control the Earth; because it’s immediately dissolved; not because of political action so much as from the mutant hating island nation of Genosha, who collectively said “Because screw you, that’s why!” and decided to nuke New York City.

Things rapidly go downhill after that.

The US immediately plunges into civil war as they’ve lost control of their computer systems to Vision and their economy and most of the Super Hero population to New York getting exploded. And basically every other country in the world figured “Well… hell that looks like fun!” And do that as well, plunging Earth into World War 3 and total chaos.

All of which makes Vision, who is still manifesting through all electronics, say “Well… spare the Rod and spoil the child, I guess” and he decides to be a little less benevolent of a Cyber God, and contacts the people most liable to be on the same page as him; Dr. Doom, HYDRA, The Mad Thinker and… umm… Kingpin.

Kingpin isn’t exactly a World Conqueror kind of guy and his technology expertise kind of begins and ends with “Excel sheets full of Crimes To Do”, but whatever, it’s Kingpin.

By consolidating the four groups together, Vision is easily able to rein in the rest of the world under his own tyrannical regime and the entire world becomes a fascistic hellscape almost immediately. HYDRA, in particular okay with this because they were nazis to begin with. Weird that Doom is fine with it though; he’s had personal issues with that particular political party in the past.

With Earth thoroughly subjugated (and with lots more nazi imagery than you’d expect, just in case you didn’t figure out from the title that this is a Bad Future), Vision again sets his eyes on the stars and turns Earth into a conquering space armada, and, again, 309 years later takes on the Kree and Skrulls, but this time he forges an alliance with them to conquer the rest of Space.

This goes well for him as between the three planets, the other main empires of Cosmic Marvel are quickly either conquered or destroyed, and then Vision reveals he’d been hoodwinking the Kree and Skrulls as well by hijacking their computer systems as well and also getting the Skrulls completely addicting to dangerous drugs. Then, with full control of basically every alien race to have a proper name or description in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe under his control, Vision resumes conquering all of reality.

Good for him on having a clear goal.

But Did It Happen?!?
I mean… like, every second storyline to prominently feature a sentient AI goes down one or both paths, but rarely involving Vision. The best point of comparison there is I think Tom Kings Vision miniseries where Visz is heading down a similar path when the strain of keeping the fact that his wife committed a murder a secret is pushing his emotional boundaries down some dark paths.

Next Time:
One Less Day

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got our first ever To Be Continued in a What If, and a lot of shade being thrown at a character I like a lot as Danny Fingeroth and Jim Valentino dare to imply the unthinkable situation of What if Spider-Man Didn’t Marry Mary Jane

I’m kind of cool on Valentinos art generally, but the guy draws a good Uatu


Anyhow, the recap this time is all about whycome Spidey and his long time on-again off-again girlfriend wound up shacking up together. Which, as you can see from that cropped image, required a lot of word bubbles. Short version is that MJ was Pete’s rebound girl between his last girlfriend being murdered by a Halloween themed explosion criminal, and his other ex, who was Catwoman with much more cleavage.

(I love Black Cat, but this is not a great comic for illustrating why)

Anyway, after deciding that the mile a minute crime-inducing party girl was a bit too far outside his comfort zone Peter hooks up with MJ again and, following a romantic evening (fighting a Spider Slayer robot built by a mad scientist obsessed with murdering him), Pete proposes to MJ and the were together ever since.

Except when they split up because too many villains were trying to kill her to get at him. Or the second or third time that happened. Or when Spidey traded his marriage to the devil in order to save Aunt May. Or when they got back together after that and MJ wound up spending years in a post apocalyptic New York where she wound up falling in love with a completely uninteresting man.

Anyway, point is… What If Dr. Smythe Strangled Mary Jane A Little Too Hard?

Yeah this time we’re cutting back to that lovely date that involved fighting a really goofy looking big robot and it nearly breaking MJs neck rather than focusing more on Pete.

She survives, luckily, but is hospitalized since… umm… a big robot crushed her larynx. That takes the mickey out of you.

Pete, however, is overwhelmed with grief since that was just Professor Smythe that accomplished that; what if it was an actually credible threat? So he decides to break off his engagement to Mary Jane to protect her.

He does this in the middle of the wedding ceremony, instead of any of the weeks prior.

MJ, for her part, recovers emotionally pretty well and understands the rationale, even if she’s clearly unhappy about it. Pete, however, decides to celebrate his newly induced bachelorhood by beating the absolute holy hell out of everyone who even looks at a crime and says “Hmm, maybe I should try committing one of those?”. Eventually he’s beaten down so many regular crooks that he has to escalate to international terrorists just for the challenge presented and he joins the Silver Sables mercenary group.

Really thought this was going to eat up more of the story than it did but *nope*, just a weird segue in what is effectively a Betty and Veronica comic.

Speaking of, Pete calls up Black Cat again since she appreciates the superhero aspect of his life a lot more, and is more than capable of holding her own against the many, many people who would potentially go through her to get to him.

Naturally this leads to a recreation of the “Face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot” page, that I neglected to screencap.

Anyway, the Spidey/Black Cat team works pretty well for both parties, though Pete is a bit concerned that Felicia is more violent than he is (theres a difference between tying a bank robber up to a light post outside a police station with a sarcastic note, and slicing a guys face to shreds with hand-claws), but that winds up making a bunch of Spideys more dangerous enemies a lot easier to deal with.

So after the third or fourth time Felicia saves Pete by chopping the hell out of Kraven or Venom or whoever, Pete says “Well I guess I should marry this one, eh?” and Felicia says yes.

And literally every other character says “I don’t approve of Peter hanging out with this gal”.

This doesn’t, in fact, include MJ, who calls up Peter just to catch up and Felicia says “He’s my man, you hussy!” and slams the phone on her, then goes to her house to brag that Peter just proposed.


Which she does in public, and in earshot of a passing criminal who said “Well… that’s more than enough information than I needed!”


Probably a better idea to wait until the stories over to say for sure, but, as noted, Spidey and Mary Jane got married and split up a lot over the years, most infamously by Mephisto, and most recently by her being trapped in an alternate reality ravaged by Aztec gods.

Felicia and MJ, in fact, get along really well and are great friends when they’re not both jockeying for Peters affection.

With this ring, I thee… WEB?!?