• Welcome to Talking Time's third iteration! If you would like to register for an account, or have already registered but have not yet been confirmed, please read the following:

    1. The CAPTCHA key's answer is "Percy"
    2. Once you've completed the registration process please email us from the email you used for registration at percyreghelper@gmail.com and include the username you used for registration

    Once you have completed these steps, Moderation Staff will be able to get your account approved.

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

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got proof that the honey moon is the roughest period of any marriage, a pretty severe misjudge of whose the most dangerous Spider Man villain, and vanishingly few explanations for why Black Cat is one of my favorite Spidey supporting characters in What if Spider-Man Married The Black Cat

Which, as it’s part two of the previous issue, has the same creative staff. Also, they made Felicia blond on the cover instead of silver haired, come on now. This is hardly the only way in which everyone is extremely out of character.

Picking up shortly after the previous issue (with Uatu giving a recap of that instead of a quick summary of where this multiverse differed), we have what is perhaps the only instance in the history of superhero comics of a wedding not having any shenanigans. Pete and Felicia travel to Niagara Falls and elope at a roadside chapel, under assumed names, as Black Cats identity is well known while Spideys is not.

You might think that their marriage certificate being under false names would present problems, and long term they may have, but things *really* don’t proceed smoothly long enough for that to matter.

For starters, on their honeymoon night, Felicia really isn’t in The mood for any bedroom antics, she wants to backflip over the streets of Niagara Falls and slash the absolute holy hell out of any criminal activity she may find, since that is what gets her in the mood.

I want to stress that in neither of these issues does Black Cat do any crimes or heists or grab any fries off someone else’s plate or dress all fancy or nothing. She just wants to backflip and scratch the hell out of criminals.

Anyway, the marriage is already on the rocks since Felicia is in it purely to have someone do backflips with and she gets insanely jealous whenever Peter raises the subject of Mary Jane in even the most innocent of circumstances.


Also, forget sleeping in separate beds, they sleep in separate apartments out of fear that someone would be able to connect Felicia Hardy to Peter Parker and go after his loved ones.

Anyway, this winds up being a good decision, but not a good enough one. Felicia was seen at the end of the last issue saying she’s married to Spider-Man in earshot of some anonymous criminal, and he’s able to piece together his identity from that, which he sells to what is unquestionably Spider-Man’s most dangerous foe.

We only see them in silhouette and it’s someone who can afford a million dollar payout for the information so you’d think it would be Green Goblin or Kingpin, someone along those lines. But nope, it’s… The Vulture.

The old man with the wing suit whose whole deal is “steals stuff from high up”.

Yeah so… he kills the informant after learning Pete’s identity (really should have gotten paid *before* giving the convicted felon with the weaponized bird costume what he wants), and then also explodes the whole hell out of Aunt Mays house.

Aunt May survives, hiding in a bomb shelter in the basement, but the other dozen or so old ladies in her home all get completely smithereened, and then Vulture goes off to also kill Black Cat.

I’ll grant you that a Black Cat/Vulture fight isn’t, like, *completely* one sided, but if it was it sure wouldn’t be lopsided in a way that has Vulture be the clear winner.

They don’t even make any kind of puns about how cats eat birds or nothing!

Anyway, Spidey, confirming Aunt May is fine, bursts into Felicia’s apartment and beats the absolute crap out of Tooms before he can finish her off (with a… normal gun) and almost kills him before the Silver Sable and her Wild Pack show up to arrest him instead.

The Silver Sable is a trained mercenary operating out of a foreign country whose entire personal ethos is “I will put bullets into people I’m fairly certain are bad, for money”, so her reluctance to let a guy who *just exploded a bunch of old ladies, and was about to commit first degree murder* die is… kind of weird.

Anyway, learning that Felicia inadvertently leaked his identity to the criminal underworld is the last straw and he divorces her (which I guess is a pretty easy process since they used fake names on the marriage certificate) and then Spidey decides to vent his woes to Silver Sable since she is technically his employer in this storyline and she winds up falling for this sad, sad man.

Spidey then tries to reconnect with Mary Jane but finds that she’s already moved on and is dating some other guy.

Meanwhile, Vulture is completely murdered in Prison and his dying words were “Spider-Man”, so naturally everyone thinks that Spidey took a break in the middle of his emotional vent to Silver Sable, ran over to the prison real quick, and stabbed The Vulture entirely to death with thrown knives. And, like, five minutes after Spidey leaves the MJs apartment, he's immediately attacked by the entire Wildpack.

This... doesn't last very long as Felicia shows up again to explain that the whole thing is a big misunderstanding, she snuck out and stabbed the holy hell out of Vulture while he was in the middle of breaking out of jail out of the hope that this would endear Spidey to her again. Unfortunately, the only parts of this confession that anyone heard were "I killed the Vulture for you" and everyone jumps to the wrong conclusion and and Just as Felicia slips on the the window ledge she's perched on, so it looks like she's attacking them, one of the Pack members reflexively fires on her; killing Black Cat almost instantly.

Inexplicably, she doesn't make any jokes about using up her nine lives, or that her lucks run out or anything like that. And, like, yes, if I was accidentally shot by a trained mercenary who mistook me stumbling for me preparing to stab them with my claw-gloves, I wouldn't be cracking any one-liners either, but I don't live in comic books. There are certain standards!

Anyway, Pete gets over Black Cats death pretty easily compared to most of the deaths he's been partly responsible for over the years and he decides to start dating Silver Sable instead, as she checks all the boxes of being Able to Survive Supervillain Attacks and Not Being Murderously Impulsive, and we close out on the Watcher sitting in a cosmic recliner watching them make out like the big ol' space perv he is.


Weirdly, and with a lot of asterisks, kind of. And this is in reference to a pretty recent X-Men story, so, spoiler tags in effect; While Silver Sable and Spidey are, at steamiest, occasional work friends, the Uncanny Spider-Man (actually Nightcrawler in a modified Spider-Man suit to hide his identity) and Sable met up and she started crushing on him incredibly quickly, even by Nightcrawler standards. Which is especially impressive considering how she's a stone cold mercenary boss.

How that's working out I don't know, because only half that miniseries has shown up on Marvel Unlimited as of this week.

Work from Home

Johnny Unusual

Also, they made Felicia blond on the cover instead of silver haired, come on now
It looks really bad, too. In the right context, that colour could work, especially to bring to mind a sort of "sunset afterglow" look but instead against the white of the background and her costume, it looks like her hair has been smoking too many cigerettes.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got poorly conceived plans, generalized failure and your mother surfing boards in hell as Ron Marz and Ron Lim ask What If The Silver Surfer Never Escaped Earth

Sidebar, Ron Lim was never one of my favorite Marvel artists of the era, and I especially never liked how he drew the Surfer, so… that this is a pretty solid comic is a pleasant surprise.

Anyway, Uatu is being weirdly terse with the set up this time with a plot summary that pretty much amounts to “He just didn’t” regarding the Surfer figuring out how to bypass the barrier Galactus imprisoned him with.

Anyway, after the fiftieth or so attempt to get around the barrier by running into it headfirst, the Surfer heads to Reed Richards to see if he could at least get a second set of eyes on the problem, and Reed says “Nah, a planet eating space god built that thing. This Sucker is sturdy.” (He says it Sciencier than that) and instead invites the Surfer to join the FF, mainly because he’s worried that being left on his own too long would drive the Surfer mad with cabin fever and, well, a cosmic being imbued with the Power Cosmic would sure as hell make his day job easier

And we get a montage of, indeed, the Surfer making the FFs job really easy; toppling Dr. Doom and Moleman regimes, destroying Annihilus and… umm… singling out that they could beat Terminus (this was published shortly after Terminus showed up I guess so… readers knew about him?)

Despite all this the Surfer is still lonely on a planet teeming with people when he’d much rather be completely alone in the depths of space so he’s in a bit of a funk.

Luckily that’s when a Catholic Priest calls up Reed Richards asking for help because his cathedral is haunted!

Reed points out that ghosts really aren’t his thing and he should probably call Dr. Strange or Ghost Rider or someone, but the Father says he’d rather people think his church has a problem with supervillains or aliens or whatever than the occult so… the FF were his best choice.

Hollywood would have me believe that the Catholic Church has a whole bunch of people on call for exactly this kind of situation, but this is Comic Books, so okay.

The FF go to the cathedral and, yep, pretty haunted. The walls are dripping blood, the altar is defiled, chairs are floating around and the Father is a drooling madman singing satanic vespers. Classic haunted church.

Luckily the FF doesn’t have long to worry about that because they’re immediately pulled into a Hell Portal that opens beneath them and drops them into the lake of fire of Hell itself, and its king, Mephisto.

Mephisto really just wanted the Surfer, since, naturally, the Actual Literal Satan has a specific beef with the astronaut Surfer who feeds planets to a space god, but he’s not one to let a good thing go to waste and is happy to trap the rest of the FF in Hell as well and gets going with the eternal damnation on them straight away.

Norrin, he’s aware, is too powerful for him to trap and torture (The Power Cosmic counts as diplomatic immunity when it comes to metaphysical punishment I guess), and after a couple of pages of at least trying to kill each other, Mephisto instead agrees to make a deal with the Surfer; in exchange for Norrin finally plunking his shiny butt down in Hell, Mephisto will let the rest of the FF go.

Norrin hesitates since, like, “make a deal with the devil” is the kind of thing that has a whole idiom about it. But he agrees after Mephisto also murders Johnny to speed up negotiations.

Not… sure where one would go after the devil kills you, but… elsewhere I guess?

Anyway, Norrin agrees, and Mephisto also has to summon *literally all the evils in the world* back to Hell to act as a living prison to keep the Surfer from just running amok in Hell since he’s stuck there instead now and the contract that the Surfer has to stay in He’ll didn’t say anything about his behaviour.

Practical upshot is that now there’s no evil on Earth so things take a hard swerve into Utopia very abruptly, so that doesn’t go great for Mephisto on the whole, but he’s happy because he still has the purest soul in Hell…

And then he remembers that pure souls really don’t belong in Hell. And Really shouldn’t be kept there.


So yeah, Mephisto holds absolutely no power over Norrin, and just being near him burns the devil, and the stipulations of the contract mean they’re stuck with each other for all eternity.

So, I guess except for Johnny dying, this is an up and down improvement for this multiverse, bet you feel stupid for trying to leave Earth now, Mr. Radd

But Did It Happen?!?
Not sure of the publication date, it might have been before this even, but “Mephisto got screwed by trying to hold on to a noble soul” was the basis of how Dr. Doom finally got his mother out of Hell, and “Well crap, I can’t make this guy Do Bad” is the basis of quite a few other Silver Surfer stories, but that’s about it.

Next Time: All Old, All The Same

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Okay, so it turns out that the reading order on Marvel Unlimited was a bit of a poopsy daisy, so The next comic promised was one I’d already read (What if The All New All Different X-Men didn’t form, it remains extremely good, however). But that means this weeks issue is a hum dinger


Phoenix doesn’t appear in this issue, and neither does Blade, oddly enough, but that’s about the only misstep as Roy Thomas, RJ Lofficer and Tom Morgan bring us What if Wolverine was The Lord of the Vampires.

yeah, it’s a great story from Roy Thomas. I’m confused too.

anyway, we’re off to the races right from panel one as Uatu is just over this;


Anyway a TLDR recap of a few issues of X-Men and Dr. Strange involved everyone fighting Dracula, who was gearing to eat up Storm and turn her into his newest bride. Didn’t work great on the grounds that Storm wasn’t keen on being an undead thrall and Nightcrawler is about 33% Catholicism By volume (the other two thirds are “Errol Flynn” and “Horndog”), so crosses were WAY more effective when he had them, so they were able to fight him off. And meanwhile, Dr. Strange figured out how to cast a spell written in the cursed grimoire; The Darkhold, which ompletely obliterated all vampires from the Earth.

Didn't last, but… yeah. No one really talks about how he did that once.

Anyway, in this time, Drac is a bit hungrier when it comes to drinking blood and he turns Storm before the rest of the X-Men can fight him off and she turns into a dang ol' Vamper. As do Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler, since he was on a roll. Fortunately, for once, all of Wolverines Weapon-X conditioning was beneifical, and he's able to adapt to his new Vampiric abilities ludicrously easily, and all his mental conditioning means that Drac can't dominate him like he can other vampires, and Logan attacks and kills the absolute hell out of Dracula.

This is good news for all of, like, two seconds, since Wolverine also drank Draculas blood when killing him and that means he also absorbed all of the evil in Draculas soul when he did so, just as Drac himself did to Varnae, the vampire who sired him, all the way back to the god of Darkness Cthon. So that's millenia worth of raw evil flowing into a guy who already defines himself by how the things he's best at, and how pretty they are.

So anyway, Wolverine is now Dracula. And he has a squad of super-powered vampires as his thralls. So... things escalate *quickly*, and he has the X-Men kill, eat or convert as many people in New York as possible as quickly as possible turning the entire city into a massive vampire den. This spurns Dr. Strange to hurry up with trying to work out that Vampire-obliterating spell, but Wolverine figured that was going to happen and just has a Vampire Juggernaut smash him to a pulp and then feeds that pulped-up Dr. Strange to a dozen or so sewer alligators.

So... umm... he dead.

And furthermore, the Government has decided New York is on its own, since it's impossible to bankroll any kind of military operation that can handle that many vampires, and institutes a policy of wallking off the city and shooting anyone who steps foot outside of it. This is also an excuse to continue to dunk on Ronald Reagan, who had been out of office for about 3 years by the time this comic was published.


So yeah... bad times.

Luckily, Dr. Strange is hella dead! And if he was really send his ghost out of his body all the time when he was alive, he's really comfortable about doing it when he doesn't have a husk to worry about and, after a quick pep-talk with the ghost of his mentor The Ancient One (who, at the time, was also dead and suffused with the universe) he heads back to New York to find the one person who hasn't been made Wolverines thrall and is extremely good and indiscriminate with killing vampires; Blade The Punisher!

Yeah... even with him showing up on the cover, I was surprised too. I guess 1991 was well before Blade was well known, but still... Vampire Hunting is... what he does. It's on his business cards. The narrow focus of his hobbies is a running joke.

Anyway, the ghost of Dr. Strange gloms on to Frank Punisher (who is completely understanding of this, he's already come to accept vampires and ghosts aren't really any more surprising) and gives him some upgrades courtesy of the magical artifacts he has, like the Cloak of Levitation and Eye of Agamotto, in addition to all the anti-vampire weapons Franks built for himself and instructed him to enter the Sanctum Santum and find the Darkhold so Strange can recite the spell that will obliterate the vampires all at once.

The Sanctums magical defences are still in place even with Stranges death, so none of the vampires can get in to get the book themselves, and a small army is stationed outside to keep anyone with a more anti-vampire bend from getting in... but that was before Frank got a bunch of magical upgrades and a ghost buddy, so he didn't have any paritcular desire to try.

So the rest of the comic is all Punisher going full on Simon Belmont, running through a haunted mansion and dispatching magical undead superheroes until he reaches the throne room where Wolverine was waiting (he was immune to the magic barriers but never decided to do anything about the Dakrhold, I guess), and they fight for a while and it's about evenly matched until Kitty Pryde gets involved and Frank accidentally kills her in the crossfire.

Kitty was not ever turned into a vampire, and also wasn't in the comic up until this point, and I infer she was acting like a Jiminy Cricket, trying to keep Wolverine from being quite as bad as he could be, and seeing her die makes him snap, and he then kills Frank and is then terribly sad, since she was a female character in a comic book written in the early 90s and what else would she be there doing?

So the ghost of Strange then appears before Wolverine and says "Well, seems to me like the best way to honor her memory would be to completely genocide your species" and Wolverine says "Yeah, that makes sense" and reads the Anti-Vampire Spell from the Darkhold, completely destroying the entire Vampire species.

Which also means that, like, most of the super-powered population of Earth is now dead, and without a Sorcerer Supreme, the world is now vulnerable to supernatural threats on a scale it never has been before. So... rough times, all things considered.

Weirdly enough, this is another one of those stories that (probably unintentionally) got mined quite a lot. The core conceit of "Superheroes get infected with a virulent undead plague" was the whole idea behind Marvel Zombies. The concept of Dr. Strange being killed and then his ghost saying "Ah frigfrigfrigfrig, I was, like, the only guy who was dealing with supernatural evil... need some more guys NOW" was reused for the Death of Dr. Strange crossover (it was really fun, turned me into a fan of the character), and Punisher being turned into a hunter of supernatural evil happened several times, once with him being turned into an angel who learned that every criminal was actually a demon, so his rampant gun violence was okay (this run was not well received) and once where he was turned into a Frankenstein and fought alongside monsters in the sewers (this one was).

Also there was a miniseries where Quicksilver was sent into an alternate universe and one of the differences was that Storm was turned, and then replaced, Dracula and she called herself "Bloodstorm", which everyone admitted was "sickass".

NEXT TIME: Ah yes, the Avengers story everyone remembers.


Arm Candy
he heads back to New York to find the one person who hasn't been made Wolverines thrall and is extremely good and indiscriminate with killing vampires; Blade The Punisher!

Yeah... even with him showing up on the cover, I was surprised too. I guess 1991 was well before Blade was well known, but still... Vampire Hunting is... what he does. It's on his business cards. The narrow focus of his hobbies is a running joke.
This was a time when The Punisher was one of the big rising stars in the Marvel universe (it was only two years after the live-action film starring Dolph Lundgren, after all) and so I'm sure the editors saw a fun excuse to write a "who would win" battle between Punisher and Wolverine (the other big antihero of the '80s and '90s).


The Goggles Do Nothing
Also there was a miniseries where Quicksilver was sent into an alternate universe and one of the differences was that Storm was turned, and then replaced, Dracula and she called herself "Bloodstorm", which everyone admitted was "sickass".

Pedantic nerd statement: I don't know if Quicksilver ever wound up there as part of a random storyline, but I think you are talking about Cyclops' brother Havoc traveling to the same dimension as Bloodstorm. I normally wouldn't correct anyone on this (complete lie), but it is relevant here, as that whole 35 or so issue run of Mutant X is basically an extended "What If", with each storyline more or less spinning off from a (mostly) original What If concept. It is very 90's Marvel (again, Bloodstorm), but recommended if you (anyone reading this) is enjoying traditional What If/X-Men stories.

And, side note, the only reason I sought out that series in the first place was because confused nerds on the early 2000's internet were convinced Marvel vs. Capcom 2's final boss was related to a character from that. And I think they were mistaking that for Age of Apocalypse anyway...

Anywho, spoilers for the series, but if this wikipedia description of the final storyline in Mutant X sounds interesting to you, you will likely enjoy it:

"At the end of the series, the Goblin Entity, Dracula and the Beyonder all converge their efforts to destroy Earth."

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Okay, so yes, I wasn't sure if it was Havok or Quicksilver who was involved in Mutant X, and I couldn't remember the title to google it (sometimes not doing research backfires) but clearly, clearly I know what Deep Dive thread I'm doing next.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Okay, so I didn’t have any particular expectations of this book and that just tells me I need to reexamine my preconceived notions, as Jim Valentino and Ric Levins redefine how dangerous Danger Noodles are in…What if Set Walked the Earth!

Which is not the title on the cover, but the story this is spun off from was called Atlantis Attacks and not “Sickass Snake-Cthulhu Fight”, so that’s on Jim Shooter.

Anyhoo, back in the early 90s, there was a big Crossover Event story called Atlantis Attacks, in which Atlantis Attacking was just one small factor and which I never really sought out because I don’t care for most Atlantis stories. Regardless, after getting into a dust-up with the Silver Surfer out in space, some wizardy shmuck named Ghaur wound up inadvertently getting his batteries recharged by the Power Cosmic. This is, by and large, bad news since he was also the head priest of a cult that worshipped the unspeakably evil snake god, Set, who ruled the Earth way back in pre-Conan times.

Like Shuma Gorath, it’s kiiiiiind of ambiguous if Set counts as a Marvel character or a Conan character so he doesn’t get trotted out very often, but I think he’s technically a House of Ideas creation.

Anyway, Ghaur makes up for millennia of being a disembodied spirit by quickly launching a plan to summon Set to earth; tricking Atlanteans into attacking (hence the title) so they’d be killed en mass and he could sacrifice them to the serpent, gathering up every piece of the mind controlling Serpent Crown spread across the universe to allow Set to control his followers entirely while also granting him a mortal body, tricking everyone’s… third or fourth favorite Secret Underground Emperor/Lost Roman Tyranus into accidentally distributing a drug that turns people into goofy-looking snake monsters, and hypnotizing seven of the most powerful female heroes on Earth into being a bride for each of Sets 7 heads. I’d rather not examine the logistics of that last part too deeply.

Anyway, this plan ultimately failed because Ghaur badly misjudged the sheer volume of superheroes Earth has to offer, and, like… all of them ganged up and beat him silly and smushed up his stupid god before he could manifest. But, as it turns out, they only had, like just enough superheroes to do that.

So what if a couple didn’t bother showing up!

Specifically, Namor got inadvertently blowed up by Atlantis Attacking, Moon Knight and Daredevil got dosed with Snake Man drugs and Thors half brother (he… has one?) didn’t want to go to Snake World to fight Sets disembodied soul.

Well… it all goes catastrophically badly.


Without the extra pair of hands that Thors brother offered, the team of heroes who were fighting Sets astral body (which looks more like a giant pile of offal than a snake-god) were quickly overwhelmed; Ben Grimm is eaten, Dr. Strange is burnt to a skeleton, and Quasar is sent flying so far that it’s literally days before he stops spinning).

This removes the only obstacle keeping Set from manifesting on Earth where things immediately go much worse.



So… umm… yeah. Within about five minutes Sets killed, like… almost everyone who isn’t inclined to worship a monstrous snake god. And most of the people who were fine with praying to it, since he’s 7 snakes, each the size of a building, and none of them are particularly concerned about collateral damage.

Then things get worse still.

Sets cooking with Primordial Elder God gas, so he doesn’t need to settle for Tyranus hocking street drugs to turn people into snake men on his behalf when he can just do it himself and he infects the entire human race with his power turning every living thing into his spawn.

Who, I stress again, look much more silly than they do horrifying.

The only holdouts being a handful of people who are, for one reason or another, immune; Thor, Hulk, Wolverine, Sabertooth, Dr. Doom, Rachel Summers, Cloak and Jesus Christ Aquarian.


It’s implied that Dooms immune to Sets influence because he just doesn't wish to be controlled by it.

Anyway, while the team thinks it’s distasteful they’re forced to accept that there’s no saving the planet; everyone outside the room is a mindless thrall of Set, irreversibly changed into monsters, and Sets only growing more powerful. The best they can do is avenge the world that Sets destroyed.

The team splits into two groups; one assigned to kill Sets Brides so they can’t be used to breed with the monster (frickin’ yeesh, guys), and the rest go after Set himself; a Super God that’s large enough he's visible from space, and it’s slavish minions; the entire population of Earth.

So, heavy hitters or no, the good guys are in a pretty lopsided battle here. And, as you’d expect, most of the rest of the comic is Rick Levins drawing the absolute hell out of superhero fights.

Team Kill the Wives (again, Yeesh) consists of everyone except Thor, Doom and Rachel and first they have to fight their way through all the other superheroes, now converted into mindless snake monsters. Which they do with aplomb, even if half that team abhors violence.


Sidebar, but I wish we got more of the New Mutants because I really wanted a better look at the Snakeman versions of Wolfsbane and Warlock than what half of one panel shows me.

Anyway, they collectively kill the snake monster heroes pretty easily, but then the Wives of Set appear and, for one thing; they're not snake monsters. They look the same as they ever did. Second; while they’re 1000% on Team Snake Monster God, and don’t so much as grunt let alone speak, they’re clearly in full control of their abilities and… well… they’re crazy good at wrecking house; Sabertooth and Wolverine get skeletoned by Storms Lightning and Wanda turning Logan’s entire body to anti-matter, Dagger and Storm overload Cloaks ability to absorb light until he implodes, Aquarian gets blown up by antimatter Wolverine, and Sue suffocates Hulk with a force field until he passes out and then everyone punches Bruce Banner until there’s nothing left of his skeleton.



Meanwhile, everyone fighting the several miles worth of Snake God aren’t fairing any better; Thor is a mythical God, and The Phoenix outranks even that in terms of power levels, but Set is several rungs beyond both of them put together.



And Doom dies in flame while screaming his own name, so that’s a pretty MF’n Doom way to die.

On the plus side, Thor manages to take off one of Sets noggins before dying, which is about as close to a win as anyone’s had in this issue.

Also, a Day late and a dollar short, the Silver Surfer shows up, feeling kind of bad about inadvertently starting this whole mess and he also fights Set, also taking off one of its heads, but even the Power Cosmic is no match for him now that Sets killed and absorbed the Phoenix Force and subsumed the whole of the Earth.


Luckily we have a Deus ex Machina, as Quasar, last seen in Sets home dimension bouncing around like a Pinball, finally came to a stop and got his bearings, and picked up the Eye of Agamotto from Stranges corpse, which tremendously boosted his already bonkers enormous power set that his Nega Bands granted him, and… because the entire universe was in dire peril, he was also joined by the Enigma Force that creates realities greatest champion; Captain Universe, boosting him even further still.

All this happened completely off panel btw.

Anyway, now we have a giant translucent man empowered by the most powerful scientific and magical artifacts the universe had ever seen as well as Eternity itself fighting a comparably enormous multi headed snake turbo-god… and realizing he can’t win; Set is even more powerful than that. So Quasar opens the Eye of Agamottos full power to open a door outside the entire multiverse and drags Set into it instead; locking both Super Gods beyond the reach of reality forever.

The Surfer says “Well… umm… hmm… rough couple of days, eh?” And hands the Eye of Agamotto; now containing two hyper gods locked in an eternal war that could tear the omniverse asunder off to Uatu, who has a garage full of stuff like that anyway.

Then we got an epilogue; where Uatu mentions that, well… literally everything on Earth is a mindless slave of Set, even if Set isn’t around so there ain’t a whole lot of society going on down there. Which is still better than what happened to the Wives of Set, since they still had their bouncing baby snake gods. And they were hungry boys and ate their mothers absorbing their powers. And also whatever life was left on Earth.

And also they’re still the true children of an elder god beyond comprehension so… they can just *leave* the earth/universe and keep right on consuming and destroying entire realities.

And Uatu also helpfully points out that, technically, the Reality of you, the person reading this comic, also exists within the Marvel Universe framework so… you know… watch your ass.

But Did It Happen?!?!
Well, thankfully not. But a part of Al Ewings recent Defenders series involved travelling through rougher iterations of the universe, one of which consisted solely of an enormous glowing man battling a comparably enormous snake-like dragon outside all of known reality. And a recent issue of Jed McKays Avengers was showed the team as the last ones standing on the planet trying to bring down a monsterous god that killed everyone. Which, to pull everything together, was also named after the monster from that Al Ewing comic.

NEXT TIME: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Okay, so it seems that I can’t really use Discord for long term image hosting anymore so fewer screenshots going forward. ANYHOO

We’ve got Extra Judicial and surplus Judicial vengeance and a working prototype for Astro City as Kurt Busiek and Luke McDonnell bring us What if The Punisher Killed Daredevil.

Few things in these recaps excite me as much as seeing Kurt’s name in the credits and I wasn’t just speaking idley with that Astro City comment; change a couple names around and it could fit into that series perfectly, right down to the fact that the viewpoint character changes every couple of pages and is always an ancillary character and the exciting superhero fight on the cover is basically a background event. There’s also a lot of plot and moving pieces in this one.

Anyway, the divergence point here isn’t any significant moment in the main continuity (if they didn’t specify what issue it’s coming off of; I’d have thought it was just made up whole cloth for this story); Punisher and Daredevil were having. One of their usual encounters (Frank is about to kill a crook, Matt tries to stop him, Frank escapes). Difference being that Frank accidentally kills Daredevil in the attempt this time.

This is why you shouldn’t shoot someone with a powerful tranquilizer while they’re standing on the edge of a rooftop.

Franks reaction is less “Oh no; I have killed an innocent man! My blood soaked path of vengeance has come unmoored” and more “Whoops, oh well.”

Busiek writes Frank very much like he’s the protagonist of this story but clearly unsympathetic.

Other people’s reactions to Daredevils death are much stronger. Most notable; the Kingpin is pretty pleased that his greatest enemy was inadvertently killed by another lesser enemy, and Matt’s partner Foggy Nelson has decided to make his friends legacy stand up more on his principle of stopping organized crime and a little less on him putting on body armor and using ninja violence to fight Roman gladiators; and acts as a whistle blower revealing to reporter Ben Urich how many of the New York City councillors had direct ties to Organized crime.

Which, it turns out, is, like… all of ‘em.

Which is great for Ben since revealing the entire municipal government is in the hands of the Maggia Crime Family is a real easy way to get a Pulitzer.

Taking the news less well is Spider-Man who at least considered DD a coworker if not friend, and blames himself for not bringing Punisher down years ago (Frank started off as a Spidey for afterall). They meet up, once again stopping Frank from pulverizing/murdering a criminal and have a tussle and Frank realizes that he may have stepped over a line he shouldn’t have by killing Spideys friend; there’s no Friendly Neighborhood left in him at the moment.

Frank manages to escape after running out of tranquilizer rounds and having to use a regular ass gun on Spidey at close range; the shock and blood loss being enough to knock him off the roof they were fighting on and causing him to lose consciousness on the ground.

Spidey is a lot tougher than DD so he survives, and is brought to the hospital… where he’s unmasked and, since doctor patient confidentiality is apparently optional, his secret identity is revealed to the world.

This unmoors J. Jonah Jameson who can’t believe he didn’t realize one of his employees was actually Spider-Man, and it really unmoors Aunt May who go a real surprise when she read that mornings Daily Bugle. And it really really surprised her when she is then the recipient of a retaliatory gangland execution by having Maggia goons explode her with bazookas in order to get back at Spider-Man for thwarting them so many times.

So Martial law is declared in New York because the warring gangster family’s and half the superheroes are out for blood because Punisher kept killing then by accident and most of the municipal government is under arrest for their ties to organized crime.

Meanwhile, Franks just annoyed that he’s having a much busier night than he was expecting.

Anyway, there’s a presidential order to *not* do any Avenging or Fantastic Fouring or nothing; let the police deal with the gang war and Punisher; Superheroics would just escalate things farther. Also Ben Urich is assassinated.

So after dodging a few more vengeance minded superheroes who aren’t on first name basis with any government officials (Cloak and Dagger, specifically) and finally sucessfully interrogating someone, Frank realizes that this entire mess was a misdirection, Kingpin was manipulating everyone to his own ends; turning the crime family’s against one another, leaking Punishers location so other heroes would be too distracted to bother with the Fisk empire, and having the city controllers he didn’t have under his own sway exposed as criminals.

But before Frank can act on any of this information Spider-Man, full of an equally amount of grief for his Aunt May getting bazookaed and morphine for all the times Frank shot him earlier, breaks out of the hospital and decides to just beat him to death before the tremendous amount of opioids in his body can discourage him.

So they fight, and Frank is nearly blown to smithereens with a single punch, teaching him the ridiculous degree to which Pete had always been holding back when fighting people, and then finishes the fight by unloading, like… all his bullets into Pete’s body.

Spider-Sense doesn’t work as well when half your body weight is morphine.

And to, again, establish there’s a huge difference between “protagonist” and “hero” Frank bemoans the fact that he used up all his bullets killing spider-man, so he has to take the fight to the Kingpin basically unarmed.

Which he does, and he gets his ass handed to him since “Deceptively effective at hand to hand combat” is Kingpibs entire MO as a villain, but it doesn’t matter since, before making his way up to Fisks penthouse, Frank planted explosives with a deadman switch all over the building, so when Fisk eventually kills him they explode and bring down the building killing everyone inside.

So ultimately the Punisher got what he wanted; the opportunity to murder the greatest source of crime in New York, and all it cost him was his life and any possible acknowledgement that he anything except a complete psychopath.

I think it’s easier to list the Kingpin stories that don’t involve him using public distrust of a superhero to leverage his way into power, most notably the recent Devils Reign and Gangwar stories.and Punisher typically tries to avoid superheroes just in case something like this happens. Though he’s usually a bit more hinged than he appears in this particular comic.

NEXT TIME: The Fishtastic Four


Arm Candy
Related: This page from issue #25 IS a thing that happened.


Can't believe you'd gloss over this one, Octo

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got Doom hating Reed less and everyone loving Reed a little more and Reed not noticing either as Ron Marx and Gavin Lewis explain What if Namor Joined the Fantastic Four.

Frankly, after the last few issues, pretty mild story.

Anyhoo; as history would have it, early in the FFs careers, Johnny had an argument with Ben and left the team in favor of living in a homeless shelter. Where he then set a man’s face on fire and then threw him off a bridge on the basis that, unshaved, he kind of looked like the World War 2 hero Namor. Which, luckily, he was, so Johnny did not purposefully drown a man.

Not the most psychopathic action Johnny is responsible for in the Lee/Kirby run either.

Anyway, this time, the rest of the FF, who were searching for Johnny, find him just as he dunks Namor, restoring his strength and clearing his mind. And he sees Sue, which causes Namor to instantly fall in love and figure “Ah well, Atlantis ain’t getting any more lost of a kingdom” and he decides to join the FF instead of waging a one man Sea vs Land war against humanity.

Canonically, Atlantis is just fine as a Kingdom, they just had to relocate their city because of pollution and weapons testing. This never comes up in this story, Namor just occasionally laments his people are gone.

Anyhoo, with Namor on the team the first few dozen or so of FF stories proceed largely the same way, via rapid fire montage, except for the first appearance of Dr. Doom. In the 616, Doom sends the FF back in time to the 1700s to steal Blackbeards Treasure (a heap of magic gems) where, because of Time Travel Shenanigans, it turned out that Blackbeard was actually Ben Grimm in disguise all along, and the gems got lost at the bottom of the ocean.

Here, in another instance of the What If changing up the wrong events, Blackbeard was a real guy and the Gems he had in his possession were sunk to the bottom of the ocean when he was killed. And luckily Namor knows exactly where they sank because they landed near Atlantis hundreds of years ago and his people were safeguarding them.

You’d think this would be where the story starts to diverge; since Namor could revisit his kingdom before it was lost and then we could get some dramatic tension as he’s forced to choose to warn them if the disaster that will befall them or try to stay behind or something but nope. He just yoinks the Gems and everything goes off without a hitch or any pirate battles.

Fun continuity note; in the 616 Namor did indeed know where those Gems were because Atlantis had been safeguarding them for 200 years (I think they were related to the Infinity Gems, but I may be misremembering), but never really bothered using them because long term tactical thinking is not in Namor wheelhouse.

Anyway the FF go back to Doom and, rather than faking him out with an empty treasure chest as in the 616, Namor just uses the gems to blast a hole through Dooms chest (it was a Doombot, so no harm done) which causes Doom to redirect his all consuming hate from Reed Richards, who he is convinced ruined his face and sabotaged his experiments out of petty jealousy, to Namor… who blew up a robot.

Namor also says “Hey, Sue, wanna get married?” And she says “Yup” and Reed says “Oh, cool. I don’t have a fiancé distracting me from doing science now!”

So Reed elects to retire from the superhero life, since Namor… wants it more I guess, and he starts his own science company; Richtech. Of which I guess he’s the sole employee and he donates all his inventions to the FF to help them in their science adventures.

Eventually Reed realizes that running a company with a terrible name that only produces Science is too much work for one person, so he hires a second; a beautiful woman named Lisette Orlova. Whom immediately also falls in love with him on the basis of… umm…

I have no friggin’ idea, he barely looks at her through the course of the rest of this issue, and the closest thing they have to intimacy is accidentally reaching for the same test tube.

Anyway, she falls in love with an emotionally unavailable man with no business acumen whatsoever who is only about 60% sure she’s in the room with him at a given time, and that’s too bad for her. Partly because her relationship goals should be higher than that, and mainly because was actually plant, coerced by Dr. Doom to give Reed Richards a roofie.

Well, he describes it in a more grandiose fashion, but that’s Doom for you.

Now that he’s been slipped a Mickey, Doom orders Reed to go in to the World Famous Baxter Building, lock everyone in their bedrooms, and then watch while Doom murders them all one by one in their sleep!

Namor, incidentally, wears way more clothes going to bed than he does through the rest of the day.

It’s a cunning plan only stopped by the fact that Reed doesn’t really enjoy watching Doom strangle his ex fiancé to death and breaks Dooms influence, punching him out a window. But also getting hella stabbed in the process since tackling someone out a window is a very dangerous thing to do, especially if you can’t clear the window sill and all the broken glass goes directly into your torso.

Luckily Lisette is just broken up about the whole mess, and, having placed a call to Nick Fury to get her captive family taken out of Latveria (that was an option?!?) she barges into the room and uses her medical know how to repair the many dozens of shards of glass that have sliced Reeds insides to pieces.

So while Reed recovers in bed from his innumerable puncture wounds he notices that the beautiful redhead who is tending to him also likes him and says “Well I guess we should do a marriage, huh?” And they do, and then they and Sue and Namor have kids and it’s a Happily Ever After ending

Incidentally the kids also have super powers and Sue and Namors have Namors powers, so sure, but Reed and Lisette’s daughter has Sues powers and I really don’t think that’s how genetics work.

Nothing really springs to mind; this story seems to have been narratively swept under the rug. A lot of beautiful scientists wind up falling in love with Reed, who is oblivious to it, but that happened prior to this story as well.

Next Time:
Captain Commandos!


Post Reader
It seems like every alternate universe story about the FF involves Sue and Namor hooking up. Weirdly consistent with how little there actually is between them.


Arm Candy
It feels like the Further Adventures of The FantastiKids should have been a thing, considering how well-designed these costumes are.


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Well, we've got another two-parter, Steve being *pretty Un-Cap-like* and lots and lots of mostly naked big beefy boys when George Carragon and Ron Wilson tell us What If Captain America Wasn't the Only Super Soldier.

First off, full credit for the Uatu Cold Open this issue; as we open with Captain America on Nightline, telling Ted Kopple all about his secret origins (Frail kid wanted to enlist in World War 2, signed up for a secret Super Soldier project instead, it worked, but the scientist who came up with the process was assassinated before he could write it down. Went on to punch the hell out of nazis instead) and then Uatu, who was watching Nightline, changes the channel on the Multiverse and watches what happened on that episode of Nightline in the next reality to the left instead.

The special guest is still Cap, but for one thing in THIS reality, Cap managed to save Dr. Erskine before he could be assassinated. He is also the President in this timeline, which is another difference from the 616, and... way more Jingoistic, like... to an alarming degree. And after the interview, his presidential aides make mention that there are riots in the forced labor camps, and Captain America casually mentions having one third of its population killed to keep the rest in line.

So... things clearly went off the rails at some point here, and we flash back to cover Caps life from the moment he saved Erskines life.

At first, for the most part, same as the 616; Cap was a combination of secret weapon and propaganda tool, working alongside his bestfriend Bucky to beat the ever loving hell out of nazis, until he got word to leave Bucky behind and command a new secret unit that Erskine managed to put together.

Which it turned out to be a secret military base in the mountains staffed by hundreds of beefy boys in underpants doing gymnastics and shooting bazookas; it turns out that Erskine spent the intervening years modifying and mass producing the Super Soldier Serum and now there's a whole battalion of Super Soldiers ready to take the fight to the Gerries; this includes the original roster of the Howling Commandoes, and due to a coloring error, Gabriel, the Howling Commando whose entire identity is "the black guy" is drawn to look identical to the rest of them.

Cap leads a platoon of Super Howling Commandoes directly into Berlin where they proceed to kill the Red Skull, and capture, rather than kill, Hitler so he can stand trial for his crimes against humanity. Cap also single handedly liberates all the concentration camps, and his inspiring presence, and the fact that he got there so quickly means that Magneto was never the victim of any of the atrocities that made him into who he was so, in this timeline, he never went down his path. Also, the knowledge that a small platoon of Super Soldiers single handedly brought down Germany and the US has *hundreds* more means that the rest of the Axis Powers surrendered rather than risking being next, so there was no bombing of Hiroshima either.

Again, so far so good, this seems like an up and down improved timeline.

On the way back from Germany, Cap and the Howling Commandos' boat is attacked by some remnants of the German Navy, and all hands are lost, except Cap, who is the lone survivor.

Cap returns home a hero, twice over for single handedly stopping the entire German army and for surviving a horrific sea attack, and is appointed by what I presume to be President Roosevelt but who looks a LOT like Henry Kissinger to be the head of the new secret anti Spy and Pro Law Enforcement organization: SHIELD

This is during a press conference, so it can't be THAT secret.

Also, he and another platoon of Super Soldiers also goes to Moscow and also overthrows Stalin. Might as well, y'know?

So all of THAT really wins over the public, and when Cap decides to run for President, he wins in a landslide. Repeatedly; well beyond what the constitution allows. And part of his campaign platform is vowing to distribute the Super Soldier Serum to all Americans. But with the caveat that apparently it was calibrated to people like Steve (y'know, blond Caucasian people) and anyone else it's just dangerous, so naturally they'd be exempt.


And just in case the reader didn't pick up on the fact that this really doesn't sound on the up-and-up, the book comes out and says the quiet part loud; this version of Cap is a straight up racist on a "Woah, what the frig?" scale and was poisoning anyone who wasn't white/ideallogically aligned with him when they tried to use the Super Serum, and furthermore it seems the Serum is only temporary and everyone needs to get a booster shot every month.

He also shoots his staff member who points out that people might not like having someone committing acts of unmitigated evil in a Presidential office.

Anyway, things get vastly worse really quickly from this point; as internment camps are set up for the lesser people Steve is refusing to give the Serum to, leading to widespread civil unrest that he then issues military responses to, and he sends special hit squads out to kill anyone even beginning to consider alternatives to the serum in terms of bestowing extra-normal powers; the crew of the Marvel-1 are shot and killed before they could steal the rocket that would turn them into the Fantastic Four, Bruce Banner is executed when he started experimenting with Gamma Rays for military purposes and Peter Parker and his entire family is killed the moment after he reveals himself on the Ed Sullivan show as someone who can do whatever a Spider-Can.

One of the heads of these kill squads, Frank Castle, is pretty conflicted about killing innocent people; he thought their job was to kill criminals (which he was fine with). Eventually, the kill squads wind up biting off more than they can chew when they found an unusually strong man in the Bowery and attempt to drown him. This winds up being a bad move for the kill squad, since it turns out to have been Namor the Submariner they were hassling and exposing him to water is a terrible idea when you're trying to kill that guy.

So Namor recovers his memory, kills the hit squad trying to kill him, realizes that the US Navy was responsible for destroying Atlantis and decides to declare War on America in response; deciding to use the frozen North of the Arctic Circle as a staging ground...

...where he immediately finds the frozen body of Steve Rogers entombed in ice

Heeeeeeey... that's not where he was last time we saw him!

Gonna reserve judgement in full until the story is done, but already, YUP. For one thing, this seems to be lifted wholesale from one of the top of the heap of What If stories from the first volume of the series and I covered that earlier in this thread. Beyond that though the Government did indeed experiment on derivatives of the Super Soldier Serum to give to other people as part of the Weapon Plus program, and part of that was "Give Black People Experimental Drugs and then Treat Them Incredibly Badly If It Works" as shown with Isaiah Bradley (grandfather to Patriot, of the Young Avengers)



Rated Ages 6+
(He, Him)
The propensity for What If?! stories to go the L&W:SVU route (Stuff is terrible! Here's how it gets worse!) always hangs like pall over the series, in my opinion.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We've got... a lot of colouring errors, some weird-ass mash-ups, some real soft-sells on patriotism, and a bit of Butch and Sundance as we reach the finale of this two-part story in What if Captain America Formed the Avengers. It's the same creative team that made the last issue, but it looks and reads worse this time around.

Anyway, after opening with a longer-than usual summary of the previous issue (Don't believe me? See four posts directly above this one, true believers! -Outrageous Octo) we get back to where we left off, with a very unshaven Namor standing in front of a frozen corpse of the original Captain America... and then immediately getting shot in the back of the head by Iron Man!

Who is wearing the Punishers big skull on his chest because, following Frank getting the stuffing kicked out of him by Namor in the previous issue, he now needs an armored suit to get around, and he rounds up the now unconscious Namor into an aircraft as well as the frozen body of Captain America on the grounds that... umm... it's weird that that's around.

On the way back to the SHIELD Helicarrier to be debriefed, and have their captives executed/vivisected, the Frozen Cap thaws out, immediately wakes up and, seeing a largely nude man in a small cage being treated roughly by guys in black body armor covered in skulls talking about unlawful executions and makes a *pretty accurate* snap judgement about who the good and bad guys are in this situation, kicking the crap out of the SHIELD Kill Squad and freeing Namor.

Frank sees this and surmises that it must be the Real Captain America, on the grounds of being Good at Fighting, and decides to immediately turn against the cap he'd been following all his life deciding he MUST be a fake and, to prove his loyalty, he also kills the SHIELD agents. Because... he's The Punisher and, y'know... he does things like that to Bad Guys.

Cap doesn't really take time to second guess this, is quickly informed on what happened over the past 40 years or so and says "Well, I guess we should build a team to bring down this guy who looks exactly like me since he clearly sucks real bad. And luckily, Punisher still has a list of targets of prospective Superheroes his team hadn't gotten around to killing yet.

Now, his wasn't the only team, so most of them are, in fact, hella dead before they can arrive, but they do manage to pick up a few new recruits; in the forests of Somewhere in Canada, they find the wild man known as Logan who, in this timeline, wasn't a member of Weapon X but he was the victim of a magic ritual designed to transfer the murderous cannibal spirit of the Wendigo into a new host body, which he refers to as "The Hulk", so he's basically three superheroes smashed into one body.

Hank Pym was killed by another Kill Squad, apparently, like, just minutes before Cap and company can arrive, but just as his home was broken into by Sam Wilson, who is a burglar in this reality as opposed to a guy with a jetpack and who maybe has the mutant power to talk to birds. Frank doesn't trust him on the grounds that he's also super racist in this timeline, but Cap says "Yeah, no... it's fine I'm the GOOD, Captain America, I have an evil twin or something, I dunno... I'mma go punch him" and this is all the convincing Sam needs so he joins, taking an old Ant Man costume and a bunch of Pym Particles.

Either there's a lot of colouring errors, or else Pym Particles really mess up the bodies melanin production because, outside of the cover, they do not remember that Sam is a black guy after drawing the cover.

Also they try to recruit Magneto, who in this timeline was the head of the School for the Gifted, but he says "No, I was kind of asleep at the switch and now nazis are a thing again? I... think I'm going to make Mutants the masters of the world." he said this while atop a throne of X-Men corpses and I guess the SHIELD Kill Squads attacked the school but it either just happened or else Mags is really behind on his household chores.

Anyway, now that they have a full team of five people, Cap decides it's time to avenge the crimes done in his name, and calls his guys The Avengers for that purpose and they attack the SHIELD Helicarrier directly; crashing their ship into... a prison where they just find Thor sitting there being tortured (they were electrocuting him which worked MUCH better than one would expect?). They free him and most of the team sticks around to fight the hundreds upon hundreds of murderous Super Soldiers that make up the Carriers crew while Cap goes off to find Dr. Erskine, who is somewhere else in the Carrier, producing the Super Serum.

He finds him pretty easily, and Erskine is... a bit skittish, having apparently been hiding himself in an ultra secure lab in an aerial fortress because he never really recovered from the trauma of a nazi trying to assassinate him 45 years earlier. He also doesn't watch the news or look out any windows since he's told what happened in the intervening years and immediately goes to trauma-pieces realziing what he's inadvertently done to the world. Also he has a weird Baby/Father fixation on Cap.

He's... he needs more therapy than I feel qualified to diagnose.

Also in the Helicarrier is Evil Cap! Who reveals that he is actually The Red Skull, who faked his own death, then caused Caps actual death (tried to at least) then had his brain uploaded into a clone of Steve and decided to just keep right on nazi-ing and ruining Steves reputation while conquering the world.

Cap says "Oh you're the worst!" and hucks him into a computer, electrocuting him to death (SHIELD has really bad wiring in helicarriers; must be why they crash so often), then he rejoins the rest of the AVengers who are still int he middle of a Thousands vs. 5 brawl in the depths of the Carrier...

Where Uatu informs us that they died, but it was okay because, "years later" the Fascist SHIELD was overthrown and racism is solved. I... feel like he's skipping over a bunch of steps in the middle there

As I said last issue; yes; this is a (crummier) retelling of an earlier What If, and Stevil was the main villain of the largely reviled Secret Empire story from a few years ago. More specifically though, The Red Skull *DID* try to ruin Caps reputation by shoving his brain into a copy of Steves body (more than once, in fact) and "Multiple Superheroes Mashed together" was the fun part of the Infinite Warps story

NEXT TIME: Les Enfants Terrible

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We’ve got a special double sized issue telling two different stories as Jim Valentino and Dale Eagleshim and Ron Marz and Rurik Tyler (respectively) tell us What If The Fantastic Fours Second Child Lived.

Modern readers may look at that question and go “But… wha?” but Valeria was Sues third pregnancy. I’m the 80s she was preggers again but had a miscarriage while Reed was off fighting Doctor Octopus (the fight was largely unrelated). I want to say this was during the Byrne run but I might be mistaken.

Anyway, this issue, as I said, is double length and it’s telling two full stories of What if Not That; with tones that swing in wildly different directions. The first, which going from the cover and the fact that it gets a cold open, is the Bad End version of the story.

Opening with l’il scamp Franklin Richards waking up in a cold sweating screaming that there’s a monster inside his mother and it’s going to kill everyone except him and his father. Despite being fully aware that their son has vast untapped cosmic power they dismiss this as just him having a nightmare and promptly forget about it. Then Sue gets pregnant.

Then she gets way too sick way too quickly because of the pregnancy, as all the life is steadily sucked out of her leaving her bed ridden and in tremendous pain, ultimately dying as the doctors wind up saving her child at the cost of her life.

Reed is… upset about the death of his wife, but more than makes up for it by devoting himself to his new daughter, who he names Susie, in honor of his late wife. And everyone else in the family is equally affectionate towards her. Except Franklin, who both despises and fears her. Which everyone naturally assumes is because he blames her for his mothers death and is just misdirecting his anger.

Turns out, he was right; over the years with increasing frequency, everyone in Susie’s life gets the same affliction Sue had and wastes away to nothing; every babysitter, every teacher, every classmate and eventually even other members of the FF.

In case you didn’t pick up on the connection her eyes start glowing red every time someone starts to die.

Franklin tries to bring this up to his father, who promptly disowns him because he’s tired of Franklin being jealous of his murderous ghoul of a little sister, deciding that all the deaths near them are because people keep getting turbo cancer because of their cosmic ray empowered bodies.

Reed has also gone way beyond “doting father” and more to “kneeling supplicant” to his daughter.

Franklin has no choice but to go to the only person that *really* doesn’t share his father’s opinions and knows a thing or two about monsters; Dr. Doom who identifies Susie as being a succubus (she’s, like eight, Vic), and decides to go with Franklin to visit his dad and maybe do just a little bit of child murder; after all if anyone’s going to ruin Reeds life it isn’t anyone who isn’t named Dr. Doom.

So Franklin coming into the Baxter Building with Reeds deadliest enemy in tow saying his sister is a monster who has killed dozens and enslaved the minds of dozens more goes about as well as you could expect, and Reed smacks him down.

And even Victor has standards that don’t include “backhanding your child” so he immediately attacks Reed (granted he didn’t need much incentive in general), eventually landing a killing blow; to which Susie says “Well… that was fun while it lasted I guess” and transforms into her final boss form; a huge Xenomorph-like monster.

Xeno-Sue makes a final snack out of both her dying father and also Doom before chasing Franklin down to eat him too; only for him to trick her into stumbling into the Negative Zone Portal and blasting her outside the universe, forever. Leaving Franklin a sense of finally being proven right but also having witnessed a cosmic monster kill and eat everyone he ever loved.

And, as a final button, Xenosue finds Annihilus in The Negative Zone and says “Oooh, second course!”

So that was an honestly pretty solid horror movie so what if instead we had a Neil Breen movie? Good news because that’s the Good Ending version of the story!

This time; no problems whatsoever with the pregnancy. Kid just strolled out of that uterus. Sue decides to name the kid Mary, partly in honor of her mother and (presumably) mostly because of biblical allusions, and she’s a normal child in every way except that sometimes she floats a little bit.

Well, no childhood experience is universal.

More relevantly when her little pupper is hit by a car it immediately recovers when she puts her hands on it because it turns out her actual super power is bestowing super healing and resurrection, Like Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies!

Unlike Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies it comes at the cost of being exhausting, and not killing something else nearby.

At first she uses this power to help the FF on their science adventures (it’s… a pretty good super power) but then decides she can make better use of it by healing all disease; wandering into hospitals and not leaving until they’re completely devoid of patients, and repairing damage caused by widespread pollution.

Now this is where the story takes a hard swerve into the head scratching.

It turns out that the President is deep in the pocket of Big Misery, and just hates that somebody is fixing the problems caused by his evil constituents who are in charge of poison corruption and violence, without ever actually commenting on, let alone confronting them.

Now; someone immediately repairing the damage caused by toxic spills or drug overdoses or whatever kind of absolves those people of any blame so I do not know why they have an issue with this, but hoo boy does The President get an earful from all his Evil Financial Backers who demand he do something about this foolish young woman who feels she has some right to… umm… cure the infirm.

Like, if there was a supernatural twist and it turns out the president was Mephisto or something that’d be an explanation. But it’s not; he’s just The President; looking distinct enough from every other historical president that I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a political commentary or not.

Anyhow, The President decides to oblige the people who pay him to condone misery in the simplest way possible; by having everybodies somebodies nobodies favorite jerkass bureaucrat Henry Peter Gyrich put on a Captain America costume and kill Mary in the middle of giving a bewildering rambling speech about Abe Lincoln at a march to protest… umm…

I… don’t know?

I think it’s a general Protest Against Bad?

Anyway she done gets shanked and the art makes that really unclear so it looks more like Captain America uppercutted her so hard he blew a hole through her stomach (and literally out of her shoes), which causes the protest in favor/opposition of the government to quickly break into an *even more* confusing mess as everyone apparently forgets what side of the debate they’re on and a riot breaks out, until Mary realizes that she can probably heal the madness in men’s minds as easily as she can everything else and uses the last bit of gas in her tank to quell the riot.

But it’s not a sad ending since getting stabbed all the way through and then overextending yourself with a psychic wave of peace love and understanding that’s strong enough to affect millions of people just requires a long rest to recover from.

And when Mary recovers from her week long snooze, she learns that I guess… everything worked out fine? The entire population of America marched on Washington to… air their grievances, I guess and the general tells the President “we should start shooting protestors sir” and the President replies “We don’t have enough bullets! We’re going to simply have to face facts, evil has lost. I guess we all better just get used to living in a utopia.”

And as an epilogue, it’s strongly implied that the real Captain America beats Henry Peter Gyrich entirely to death with his bare hands.

The End!

But Did It Happen?!?
Well, the Richards did eventually have a second child, and she does have a bit of an antagonistic streak but that’s more because she’s a teenager who inherited her fathers intelligence and her uncles maturity rather than because she’s a Xenomorph.

The second half would be a bit too hamhanded for a Prez story.

Universe Man, Universe Man, Size of the entire Universe, man.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Well we’ve got some astonishingly bad optics, a lack of a clear actual problem as Glen Alan Herding and Scott Alan McDaniel ask What if Spider-Man Kept His Cosmic Powers.

As implied this story is kind of a mess and I’m no great fan of Scott’s art in this issue so it’s… not a high point.

But first; The Enigma Force! Since Uatu needs to explain what that thing is way more than he needs to explain the pretext for the What If; The Enigma Force is a semi-sentient, very capricious, source of energy that travels the universe looking for ways to help; anyone who has a tremendous need for its help could attract it but it won’t last long before leaving and it will bestow vast power onto them; mainly your usual Superman power set with the addition of some reality warping. Plus a pretty cool costume made of outer space. Kind of like the Phoenix Force but more community oriented and prone to the ol’ Irish Goodbye.

Anyway, it was Spideys turn to use it during the Acts of Vengeance crossover (fun story, one of the better Events of the era) and then it scramoosed after helping Spidey deal with a few villains that would normally be *way* outside his weight class. However, What If, the Enigma Force realized that the guy who is compulsively obligated to save people works pretty well with its whole deal, and it opts to stick around?

Nothing bad, as it turns out, but you wouldn’t know it to ask any of the characters in this story.

The first thing Pete does when he realizes the Enigma force ain’t leaving is return to his home and his currently on-again wife, Mary Jane. All his emotions are cranked up to their maximum as a result merging with the Enigma, but specifically his horniness, so he uses the vast reality warping power of Captain Universe to change MJs current outfit to a replica of his Spider-Man costume so they can get right to bumpin’ uglies.

The Spider-Man costume isn’t, like, a sexy lingerie version of his outfit, and is in fact, way more modest than what she was already wearing so… it seems kind of counter productive for the whole thing they were trying to achieve as a couple here.

Anyway, smash cut to superhero stuff.

Now cosmic powered, Spidey makes quick work of the big villains he’d normally have been dealing with at the time such as Venom and Hobgoblin. The former, Spidey tosses into space to freeze nearly to death (pretty sure that doesn’t work on Venom) and the latter is… convinced he’s normal looking when he’s actually a monster man because a demon cursed him and Dr. Strange cast a spell to make him think the opposite (was… was that a Hobgoblin thing? I trust the caption boxes that it was but that’s kind of a hard pivot from my experiences with the guy). So Pete rearranges the molecules of Hobhoblins face to make it a replica of Peter’s.

This ultimately drives Hobgoblin mad since he thinks Pete’s given him a jacked up monster face and he elects to… go after Venom who he assumes is Spider Man in his old black and white costume, and Venom realizes he can’t detect Spidey now that he’s shrouded in the Enigma Force and he decides to attack Hobgoblin since he looks *exactly* like Peter Parker.

Pete figures “eh, good enough” and leaves them be.

So time passes and Peter keeps blowing off dates with MJ, since his vast cosmic awareness and power makes him cognizant of every single danger to the planet and gives him the ability to stop all of them; since with Absolute Power comes Complete Responsibility.

The story wishes to establish that a date night with your wife is precisely as important as stopping a wildfire or single-handedly preventing a major oil spill.

This all comes to a head when Pete’s cosmic awareness lets him know that a War is about to start so he blows off dinner with Aunt May to fly off to Somewhere in the Middle East and single-handedly destroys every military base, and throws the leader of the nation into UN custody for crimes against humanity (they pointedly don’t say any names but it’s *definitely* Saddam Hussein).

So Pete single handedly stopped the Gulf War before it started and MJ says “You know, you startled your aunt pretty bad when you flew out of her house made of starlight. I feel like maybe we needn’t be together? You don’t seem like you’re capable of committing to a single person?” (She says it much more hysterically than that)

To which Pete says “Of course! I’m a God how, I should do God Stuff!” and flies off to the Avengers Mansion to talk to Thor since he has a good idea that requires a second God to do.

So, without explaining things further, the two of them travel to a particularly drought-and-famine afflicted part of Africa and Pete says “Okay, I’ll transmute the ground to make the soil rich and fertile, you bring the rain and temperate climate; turn this place into a fertile plain”

Thors reaction to this isn’t “Aww geez, why didn’t I think of that?” And more “How dare you! We Gods have bowed to never interfere with man’s world!”. He says this, like, right in front of the starving villagers who I’m sure, had they been given any dialogue, or anything to do beyond sitting around being impoverished, would say “Yes, for gods sake, do Spider-Man’s plan!”

But nope, giant Nordic muscle man openly states “Not gonna help ya” to a bunch of people who are openly starving to death. And he’s supposed to be the one we’re sympathetic to

So anyway, there’s a fight, and Pete wins since Enigma Force trumps Odin Force, but before anything much else can happen, Dr. Doom shows up, since there’s someone around with vast cosmic powers and you know he has to horn his way into that situation. And he has both a gun that can suck out omnipotence from people (relevant) and a hostage; Some Guy! (Less relevant, but it’s one of the previous wielders of the Enigma Force) and Doom threatens to kill the guy unless Pete relinquishes the Enigma Force to him

Pete’s reaction is that he’s trying to save absolutely everybody, Doom… absolutely would not, and one random strangers life isn’t important in the face of that, so he lets the guy die.

Then things get weird and genuinely unsure if this is a metaphor or what’s literally happening, but letting someone die in front of him causes Pete’s soul to fracture and burst out of him as the embodiment of the Enigma Force and Spider Man come out and fist fight and argue with one another debating the trolley problem and eventually Peter casts the tie breaking vote by blasting himself with that Power Sucker Gun Doom had and spreading the Enigma Force far and wide inflicting everyone with it.

How that works I do not know, but the upshot is that everyone becomes an omnipotent hivemind gestalt entity and the world is a utopia now.

Oh and I guess MJ got preggers from Pete after he got empowered, since “potence” is part of omnipotence. And she had a baby with the same glowy eyes Peter has.

Kiiiiiiiiiiiinda? There was a recent Spider-Man arc where he was tired of only being able to save one person at a time so he figured out how to super charge his Spidey-Sense so he could detect, and save, any danger to anyone in New York. It quickly backfired on him because New Yorks population is so vast, and it included things like “someone is about to be punched ” as being a danger to that supervillain that Spider Man is about to punch. He got depowered real quick after that.

NEXT TIME: Well, it’s right in the name


The Goggles Do Nothing

Also kind of funny that Venom appears on the cover and in this comic, as (vague spoilers from 2020, read comics for more information, true believers!) recent developments in main continuity Marvel draw a distinct connection between Venom and the Enigma Force.