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

Olli

(he/him)
Captain Universpiderman also made an appearance during Spider-Verse, where he was one of the main multiversal Spider-Men (but ultimately didn't stand up so well against the villains who ate spiders-men).
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
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We’ve got a Chris Claremont story and that means we’ve got a lot of Chris Claremont stuff, as Chris Claremont (and also George Caragonne and Rod Ramos) ask us What if The Phoenix Had Lived.

Actually, looking t the credits box, George is credited with the plot and script, so maybe Chris was just there because it uses phrases like “As inevitable as death” and “Mind, body AND SOUL” constantly.

Anyhoo, this here is another two parter and its, again, riffing pretty heavily on one of the better Volume 1 stories (albeit adjusted to fit the retcons about Phoenixs nature) and it’s also… easily in the running for the darkest What If stories.

Anyhow, as Canon would have it, one day Jean Grey was having a hard time piloting a space shuttle through a solar flare and the strain she put on her psychic abilities trying to keep the ship intact caught the attention of the godlike Phoenix Force, which gave her a big honkin’ power boost; which was great in the short term since, empowered as Phoenix, Jean was able to save the universe by repairing the cracked M’Kraan Crystal and bad Long Term, as Jean was eventually mind-whacked by the illusionist Master Mind who tried to convince her to give Evil Hedonism a try leading to the creation of the planet destroying Dark Phoenix. Then Jean elected to commit suicide rather than risk losing control as the Dark Phoenix.


Then it was later revealed that Phoenix was actually a God posing as a human rather than a human wielding the power of a God, so Jean was technically in the clear for those genocides as she was unconscious in the bottom of a river, healing from massive solar radiation damage.

Anyhow, What if The Guys Who Wanted to Kill the Dark Phoenix Were Better At Their Job?

Good news is that they’re not really overachieving in that category; they just knock Phoenix out rather than killing her. This is partly because of a courtesy to the X-Men who helped save the Shi’ar from their insane former emperor D’Ken and partly because when Phoenix repaired the M’Kraan Crystal she poured part of her own life force into it and the Shi’ar were worried that killing her would undo those repairs and imperil the Universe all over again. So instead of an execution, they elect to surgically remove Jeans X-Gene and access to her telepathy (and with it; her access to The Phoenix Force)

And from a Super Hero Comic Book Standard, this doesn't result in much of a change to the status quo; in the 616 Scott mourned Jeans death then hecked off to Alaska where he met his fiance/wife Madalyn Pryor; a woman who had no super powers and was otherwise exactly like Jean in all ways (grossly simplifying things in a way beyond the scope of this story). In this story, however, things go down a very different path; for one thing Scott moves to Arizona instead where he’s happily married to a depowered Jean.

Well, he’s happy, Jean is… excessively not, judging from the vast number of cigarettes all around her and the sleeping pills she’s strongly implied to be trying to kill herself with. Seems that when the Shi’ar de powered her, they weren’t just giving her a slap on the wrist for her genocide, they also made sure she *firmly* remembered that she killed billions of innocent people and resquiggled her brains so that every time she falls asleep she relives all her atrocities commited as Dark Phoenix.

Luckily, Cyclops doesn’t have long to worry about the dangerous mental spiral Jean is on, since, like, two seconds after realizing that Jean has a lot of sleeping pills for someone who hates going to sleep and her lack of telepathy means she lost her primary means to interacting with the world, Magneto appears, blows up most of their house and says “Good news; this is one of those times when I’m also an absurdly talented engineer;I can give you your powers back!” And yoinks her off to a rebuilt Asteroid M.

Jean, to her credit, isn’t actually swayed by Magnetos offering of restoring his powers. Timeline is pretty fuzzy, admittedly, but this one of those periods when Magneto is pretty much pure evil as opposed to a guy who has a pretty justifiable distrust of humanity or a monster seeking atonement, and Jean figures that he probably has ulterior motives for trying to restore her to a state of Godhood.

Also the rest of the X-Men reach Asteroid M and a big fight breaks out while Jean has a pretty fierce internal debate about whether it’s worth restoring her mind and body at the risk of reawakening Dark Phoenix. Eventually she decides not to and destroys the machine Magneto built to restore her. However, much more significantly, her powers started coming back WITHOUT so much as touching the machine since, again, this version of Jean is quite literally a God Incarnate, not a person, even if she isn’t aware of that fact, and even Shi’ar science can’t put that particular cork back on the bottle.

Regardless, intentionally rejecting her power winds up being pretty good therapy for Jean who gets over that suicidal ideation pretty much completely and happily settles into the No Powers, Helpful Support Staff for the Xavier Institute; eventually taking over as Headmistress and the leader of the New Mutants, and gives birth to a l’il scamp that is Rachel Summers.

Riiiiiiiiight up to the point where the Secret Wars happens, (Jim Shooter, ruining everything again); and while in the 616 there was a kind of time-blip thing going on so the whole Secret War happened over the course of, like, an afternoon for everyone not involved in the fighting, in this universe it took place over the course of several weeks. Reasonably sure that’s me just no-prizing a minor plothole, however.

Anyway, while all the X-Men and New Mutants are off on Battleworld Jean is left home alone with her baby which wouldn’t be too big of an issue since most of the people who hate those teams were sent there as well. All except one; Jason Wyngarde, Mastermind; the very guy who trying to psychically manipulate Jean into being Dark Phoenix, and got his brain shredded in retaliation when the full scale of what a bad idea that was came to light.

Seems ol’ Jimmy Win never properly recovered from having his consciousness expanded beyond the limits of the universe and he’s been holding a grudge against Jean ever since. And, because that’s not quite bad *enough* it seems that being given entirely too open of a mind means that he is *much* more creative with his ability to create mind-breaking illusions which he’s happy to torture Jean with; convincing her she’s gone to hell where she’s being slashed apart by demons, burned to a crisp and eaten alive by bugs, while being forced to watch her friends and family subjected to the same punishments; up to and including seeing her infant daughter getting impaled by rusty spikes.

No discretion shots either; that’s all fully on panel.

Then we get ourselves ANOTHER little twist after Jean points out that Mastermind still has limits to his power and this is a bit beyond them and he admits that yeah, that’s well beyond Jason Wyngardes power but that’s not who’s got their hands on the steering wheel right now; it seems that Dark Phoenix blowing Masterminds soul apart left a spot perfect for the malevolent psychic demon The Shadow King to claim squatters rights and take over his body so he could have a corporeal form again.

And because this ain’t The Shadow Kings first rodeo when dealing with psychic mutants, he decides to be prudent and just shoots Jean stone dead with a normal ass gun rather than try to duel her for supremacy on the Astral Plane like he usually does. He also steals Rachel with the intent to groom her into being a perfect host body for him, and then leaves because… well… nothing else to do here.

But, again, this isn’t Jean Grey; this is a Capital G God made of meat and bone (or Fire and Life Incarnate, as the book reminds us a whole bunch of times) and after Shadow King leaves, all that Fire and Life leaves her husk and rebuilds itself a new body with a confused jumble of thoughts of both Jeans life as a human and the Phoenixs existence as a cosmic entity of raw flame and power and, thinking Jean would probably try to usurp it if the truth ever came out, vaporizes Jeans still comatose real body before leaving on a quest to get revenge on the Shadow King.

And Uatu says “Oh crap; it’s a god committing first degree murders now. That’s… maybe worse than second degree planet-killing?”

TO BE CONTINUED…

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?

Withholding full judgements until the stories done, but near the end of the issue when Jean and the spirit of the Phoenix and commune with one another in a strange astral plane it seems very much to be the White Hot Room that I think Grant Morrison introduced in their run of X-Men, like 15 years later.

Also in one panel, The Shadow King looks a hell of a lot like a Critter, from Critters.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
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We’ve got days of the futures which have past, presented when George Carragonne and Rod Ramos tell us What If The Phoenix Rose Again

The cover has a slight hint of the direction this story is going.

Anyway, after a two page recap of important context (mostly summing up the previous issue, partly summing up Phoenixs origin); we’re off to the races… and wrapping up the cliffhanger ending from the previous issue in record time.

Phoenix, having some real identity issues in being unsure if she’s a firebird goddess incarnate or a woman who tapped into cosmic power, tracks down the Shadow King to Muir Island where he’s used the islands Mutant research technology to turn the infant Rachel into an adult so he can possess her.

And Jean says “Oh… nah” and incinerates the Shadow Kings astral body and rearranges Rachel’s molecules until she’s a baby instead of an adult. This is all over in, like, two pages.

Jean says “Okay, little slip up there but I gotta make sure to not use my vast cosmic energy anymore.”

And so she does for what the caption box tells us is 8 years (Rachel still seems to be a toddler, however, but everyone is wearing their Jim Lee era costumes, so… make of the timeline as you would) when we get another plot line popping up that was briefly inferred in the previous issue, but you’d be forgiven for missing it.

Seems that anti mutant sentiment had been percolating in the background, as it does every few years, and the new President, who rode in on a platform of racism thanks to the assassination of Senator Kelly, has decided that Mutant Registration is definitely a law he should sign into legislation.

Jean pays attention to the news and says “Well… can’t have that” and zips off to the White House and brain-blasts him to remove all the racism from his perosnality.

This immediately gets him assassinated by his constituents; gun-toting mutant hating militia, and replaced by the unnamed Vice President; a guy who hates Mutants even more and immediately puts the Sentinel Program into full effect, and the new incarnation of Master Mold immediately takes over the country since… we’re doing Days of Future Past now and you’re going to get a bit of Terminator in the stew when you’re cooking with that spice.

Furthermore, based on hearing Rachel saying she had a bad dream that her mother turned into a fire bird, Wolverine decides Jean must have gone Phoenix again and tries to nip that in the bud by stabbing her a bunch as soon as she walks in the door.

He's correct but a *wild* leap based on the available evidence and kind of uncharacteristic way for him to treat her.

Luckily “several knives” are pretty far under the water mark of things Phoenix has to worry about being threatened by, so NBD, but she does elect to leave the X-Men because being repeatedly stabbed by Wolverine ruins the team dynamic a bit.

And, like, a minute after she leaves, the Mansion is attacked and destroyed by an army of Sentinels.

Seriously, they practically pass each other by; it’s not clear if this was a deliberate move from Jean or not.

Anyway, DoFP largely proceeds from here, but on an accelerated timetable. Half the X-Men died in the initial attack, most of the less impressive Mutant population shortly thereafter, and most of the super powered community along with them, and Master Mold and the Sentinels rule over the country, Skynet style.

Then Jean decides she’s done sulking over being stabbed a couple of times by the also-ran in her love triangle and opts to rejoin the X-Men, now hiding in an abandoned Sentinel factory along with whatever other survivors they could scrounge up, and, after quickly assuring them that, yes, she’s wearing red and gold instead of green and gold but she’s regular Phoenix, not Dark Phoenix, she’s welcomed back on the team.

And with several big guns, in the form of Jean and Magneto who was apparently sitting things out for the past decade, restored to them, the X-Men launch a plan to destroy Master Mold and cripple the Sentinel army; which also leads to the deaths of most of the remaining X-Men, but Phoenix lives after single handedly destroying the entire legion of robots and Kitty flings herself into Master Molds head and telefrags his brain, which is *pretty boss*. So the world is saved.

Then Destiny, who inexplicably survived all of this despite pushing 100 years old, tells Phoenix “Well… thanks for stopping all this stuff I really should have seen coming. But there are *zero* potential futures where you stay on Earth and don’t wind up incinerating the planet. And that’s the best case scenario.” And Jean says “Yeah, I thought as much” and leaves the planet to go off to… wherever Gods go when they’re off the clock.

Omnipotence City I guess?

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?
Provisionally, at least. As stated, this is largely a retelling of DoFP (albeit with a comparatively happier ending), and this whole two part story was somewhat revisited in the recent Jean Grey miniseries where Jean tries to figure out if any of the instances of her accepting or rejecting the Phoenix Force over the years would improve things, and many of the stories in that series had echoes in this.

NEXT TIME: It’s another silly jokes issue, which are hard to recap so… *something else*, I guess.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
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Well we’ve had a few two parters, so why not go for the gusto and see how the What If format works for a five part story arc, though I think the only connection is the framing device as we see in Time Quake: What If The Fantastic Five Invaded the Negative Zone?

The credits list David Cullen, Jean-Marc Lofficier and Roy Thomas as writers, but as of late, I've come to discover that Roy might have been following Stan Lee in terms of taking credit for other peoples work and it really doesn't feel very Roy Thomas-y so I suspect this might have been one of those times. David also handled the pencils.

First, as always, a brief recap to provide the necessary context, courtesy of Uatu. But this time it’s… not about setting up this story, and it’s not brief. Uatus complaining that his job of “watching Space TV” and “Nothing Else” is harder than it looks because there’s infinite parallel realities and each of them spawns an infinite number of other parallel realities and so on, so he has a lot of channels to watch even if he only has to pay attention to a few of them, sometimes. But, making his job easier (albeit in an oppressive, genocide-y way) are the Time Keepers, masters of the Time Variance Authority, and their minion Custodian, Immortus the Time Wizard. Collectively, they prune the excess realities down to a more manageable number, particularly those that either threaten to upend the status quo too dangerously, or the ones that produce too many Nexus Points, people or events too impactful on history to allow any said pruning.

Recently Immortus had turned into a statue after trying to circumvent the process by marrying the Scarlet Witch who was one of the most significant Nexus Points of all, which doesn’t seem relevant to this story but they kept bringing it up so I’m assuming it’s important.

Anyway, while Uatu is busy reciting several Wikipedia articles worth of Marvel Time Travel Rules, the Time Keepers look up and say “you know we can see you, right?” and invite Uatu over to watch what they’re up to.

If Uatu is surprised to be directly involved with one of the stories he doesn’t show it, and figures “okay, as long as I don’t have to interfere”, but he sure does talk a lot during the movie, which is pretty disruptive if you ask me.

Anyway, the Time Keepers are sore over Immortus’ whole… being turned to stone and cast into limbo thing because that means they have to get involved with editing history to ensure their own ascension directly. And they’re also not great at it, and have the Watchers same “Watch But Not Interfere (in a way anyone notices) dealy, and that translates to them watching a reality they hoped to eliminate and trying to figure out the least they could to to ensure its destruction.

And with all that set up, time for the story on the cover of the comic! Which requires even more set up and context, since this is a continuation of the Fantastic Five stories previously covered in What If! You know; the ones where Reed offers Spider-Man a paycheque in exchange for some extra help superheroing; eventually driving Sue from the team and into Namors hands, who turned her into a fish man’s wife, which drove Reed insane with jealousy and caused him to build a Fishman killing genetic weapon, then repent for trying to commit Genocide and that caused Johnny to vow revenge on Reed and Namor alike.

See Uatu; that took one paragraph made up of a couple of run-on sentences, not 8 pages!

Anyway, apparently Johnny calmed down (give him five minutes and he forgets what he’s doing) and Sue eventually left Namor (her emotionally available hunky fishman hisband) in favor of Reed (who is none of those things and is also a war criminal in this continuity) and they had a kid, but, owing to… a *lot* of genetic weirdness and Cosmic Rays involved in the kids conception, both Sue and l’il baby Franklin are both dying, and the cure lies in the heart of the Negative Zone.

Long time readers may recognize this as the exact same setup as one of the FF Annuals (I want to say #6?) except Spider-Man is around. And it, indeed, is pretty much exactly the same story. In fact, it goes smoother as Spider-Man gets separated from the group and meets Annihilus (THE LIVING DEATH WHO WALKS!) and yoinks the Cosmic Control Rod off his neck when he realizes it’s a weapon of unfathomable power and not just a cool thing on Annihilus’ armor.

He then meets up with the rest of the FF, struggling with the traps and monsters in Annihilus’ fortress (there’s some fun banter) and Reed says “Oh dip, that’s exactly what we were looking for, thanks Spider-Man” and they head back to the Positive Zone, to use the Control Rod to save Sue and Franklin before they can die.

At this point, back in the framing device, the Time Keepers say “damn, doing nothing didn’t help at all!” and decide to escalate the situation by appearing before Dr. Doom and informing him that Reed Richards just got a source of cosmic energy that can bestow unlimited power and immortality.

That gets the ball rolling.

So Doom appears right the frick out of nowhere in the Negative Zone and yoinks the Cosmic Rod back from Reed in order to strand the FF in the Negative Zone then go back to Earth enjoying vast cosmic power and semi-immortality… only to then get blindsided by Annihilus as he wasn’t aware there was also a psychopathic bug man in play, and the two of them, along with the FF start playing hot potato with the Rod which is, of course, when a *fourth* party makes themselves known in the form of a huge, ghostly figure that calls itself The Whisperer appears before Doom, stops time and offers some pretty important information about what's happening.

Specifically that Doom was tricked into intervening courtesy of the Time Keepers and nobody but NOBODY manipulates Doom and also that Reed needs the Rod to save his wifes life and, whatever else Doom might think of him, Reed is a super genius and Sue is basically the only thing that keeps his head on straight (see, for example, the previous Fantastic Five story where knowing that Sue was happily married to another man made him give the go-ahead on MER-MANSLAUGHTER) and if Reed lost his wife and unborn child like this, he'd probably estroy the planet in his grief.

And Doom agrees that, yes, a simpering dolt like Reed who is careless and full of grief and rage is... probably not a great combination and he elects to give the rod to Reed to spare the world this fate; thereby proving what Doom knew all along; he's the single greatest hero the world had ever known and nobody appreciated him for it; just as he and Annihilus fling themselves into the destructive rift that everything in the Negative Zone is slowly drifting towards.

So Reed gets the Rod, hightails it back to the hospital and saves Sue and Franklins life, and at the end of time Uatu says "See? Watching And Not Interfering Is harder than it looks, ain't it?" and the Time Keepers say "Well, okay, that was one reality we failed to annihilate, but we still got four more", leading us to PART 2!

And also, as spotted by Uatu, but missed by the Keepers (always bet on the king when it comes to Watching, baby) the Whisperer reappeared just before Doom fell into the all destroying void and yanked him away to safety for reasons AS YET UNKNOWN!

Then we get a big ol splash page showing that this is part 1 of a five part story, and that it may have real consequences for the 616 Marvel Universe! Which is kind of the opposite of what people were reading What If for!

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?
Well, yeah, as noted, except for Spider-Man and Doom being around, this is practically a panel for panel retelling of an extant FF story. I'm not sure if the Time Keepers working to keep the human race specifically on as tight of a leash as possible was revealed previously, but it was a major plot point of Kurt Busieks Avengers Forever.

NEXT TIME: The Time Quake continues as we get Extra Sets of Space Guys!
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
latest


We’ve got a tremendous villain downgrade, a continuation of a story I forgot about and nobodies favorite space heroes as Timequake continues in What if The Cosmic Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy Were Defeated By Korvac?

We’ve again got L’officier and Thomas on writing duties and Dave Hoover is on pencils. And he does a good job! Well above the average for this era of Marvel. It’s also much more clear which parts of this story Roy Thomas wrote since the narration boxes are much more plentiful, much more word heavy, and full of unnecessary information.

Anyway, we are, once again, dedicating, like, a quarter of this issue to recaps, since Uatu has to explain the Timequake story thus far (the Time Keepers exist at the end of time and are trying to keep an even hand on the tiller of history to make sure a future where they rule over time comes to be) and why they have to get involved directly (Immortus sucked at his job of doing that for them) and the previous issue (they tried to kill a prenatal Franklin Richards, but failed). Also Uatu noticed a creepy cloaked guy called The Whisperer recruit Dr. Doom for a hithertoo unknown reason.

Furthermore we also get a recap of the story this is a direct sequel to (Vision, upgraded by the sentient supercomputer Isaac, became a cyber god and ruled over Earth for the next several centuries, eventually forming a team of Space Heroes called the Cosmic Avengers, featuring the future descendants of Iron Man, She-Hulk, Human Torch and Captain America).

And yet furthermore still, we also get a recap of Micheal Korvac; a technician from the 30th century who, after being enslaved and tortured by the alien Badoon in that future, wound up getting a *very* ridiculous looking cybernetic upgrade (a large box that replaced his legs, and an eyepatch) and then got kidnapped by a succession of Godlike beings because “future cyborg” is a helpful guy to have on your payroll, even if he looks incredibly silly.

Later he would learn he also had Mega Man powers and proceeded to start murdering gods in order to take their abilities and became a time travelling hyper being that took the combined efforts of multiple centuries worth of Heroes to defeat, but for the purposes of this story he was plunked out of history by the Time Keepers when he was just A Guy With A Box For Legs.

So yeah, that’s, like, half the comics page count laying out all that and it’s not surprising that the rest of the book is incredibly verbose.

So the Cosmic Avengers (henceforth; Avengers) are chasing down and shooting up an unknown spaceship that’s come close to Earth and, as soon as they board they’re ambushed and knocked out by the crew, the Guardians of the Galaxy!

This is, of course, the even at the time forgotten original guardians of the Galaxy, not the one with Quill and Rocket and Groot and all them. We have Vance Astro (20th century Astronaut who got Buck Rogers’d), Martinex (ice guy), Charlie 27 (Big Guy) and Yondu (Micheal Rooker in the MCU). And, leading them all is a guy who is half man and half box, Micheal Korvac.

Korvac explains that he was trying to head to the 20th century so he can start munching on Gods and thus get a sweet pair of getaway sticks, but the Gods of Time (as he calls the Time Keepers) said “Oh… nah, alternate future for you” and plunked him into this timeline, and also he had some hypnotic control over the GotG, which he doesn’t really elaborate on beyond bragging that he did that.

Anyway, since Korvac isn’t just half machine, but from yet farther in the future when Box technology has advanced centuries, he is uniquely suited to attack and dethrone God, meaning Vision, and co-opting the human race. He also then hypnotizes thr Avengers as he did the Guardians because… makes more sense than not doing that. And with the Avengers help and the Guardians’ muscle, Korvac is easily able to get on to the colossal space base that is Visions mainframe.

Incidentally, Visions hollowed out the moon of Deimos for his personal base, like he was in Doom.

The bases security is no Match for the combined teams and is quickly wiped out, and Korvac plugs his giant box into the giant box port that Vision had installed… just in case someone wanted to plug an enormous box into his cpu.

It’s a Universal Super Box input?

Anyway, Korvax was right that Box from the 30th Century is a better computer than a 6th generation AI merged with super computer built by alien gods (I mean… i wouldnt take it as a given.) and starts to consume the Vision programs, and with it, full control over all technology of the Earth.

Luckily, Vision is able to get an SOS to the Future Nick Fury (lots of needless narration boxes explaining why Future Nick Fury looks and talks like Regular Nick Fury) and, after the Whisperer pops in to also explain that, yes, Korvac taking over earth is Bad Actually, he deploys SHIELD to retake Deimos.

He also realizes that the Avengers and GotG are being hypnotized so he fiddles with the Unhypnotize Button on his space gun to free them all from his mind control.

Unfortunately this took too long and Korgac ate Vision, turning the bases security robots against them (“he’s turned the bases Meks into… MURDERMEKS!” Exclaims She-Hulk. “Meks means robots!” Explains Craig in a narration box).

Luckily this is a comic written partially by Roy Thomas and that means a lot of text boxes explaining rather than showing, what the heroes did to solve this problem; Korvac might have overwhelmed Vision but him and his silly box are sitting, like, right there, so Iron Man plugs himself into Korvacs stupid box and cancels out his programming. This kills Korvac and frees Vision, buuuut Vision has also been pretty much lobotomized so… umm… he’s still dead.

But that just means that Humanity is free to do whatever it wants without a 200 year old, benevolent AI god in charge of infrastructure. To which everyone says “Eh, he was kind of a dork anyway” and at the End of Time thr Time Keepers say “Sweet! Vision was the guy we were trying to kill!”

And while they’re celebrating, Uatu notices The Whisperer popping up again and stealing Iron Man away.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?
Again, no idea how to quantify that for this storyline, but I can’t think of any examples for the contents of the issue itself.

NEXT TIME: WHAT IS A MAN?!?
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
Fun fact: Technically the original Guardians of the Galaxy are from an alternate universe with its own reality designation, so after the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, the comics introduced the 616 version of Yondu, who you might be shocked to learn is much more similar to the Michael Rooker character than the original.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
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Timequake continues as we’ve got a rare Double What If, a surplus of demons, a weird double standard for villainy and some truly baffling lettering as we learn What If Wolverine and His X-Vampires Conquered the World!

Which is explicitly not what they do. The title on the cover of the comic is what happens.

Same writers as the rest of this story but this time the pencils are from Mark Pacella (who is trying to be the middle ground between Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld and, honestly, pretty good for this kind of story) and letters by Janice Chang and… I have to call that out because if you notice the letting at all somethings wrong. Had to reread some pages multiple times to figure out who was saying what where.

ANYHOO, several pages worth of recapping Timequake so far and specifically the set up to this story; which was a little while back in What If where Dracula turned the X-Men into Vampires, Wolverine in turn, killed Drac and took over as lord of the undead, then The Punisher solved the problem in what Uatu claimed was “in his inimitable fashion” but which was “shooting a lot of guns” which I feel like a lot of people can do.

ANYWAY, as said this is a rare Double What If, so What If Wolverine killed Frank prior to him getting his hands on the special anti vampire spells that Dr. Strange has on hand.

For context of the overall Timequake story, it’s Jean Grey who is the Nexus Point of this story, which is weird since Jean is presently a vampire who is technically not alive, so perhaps the Timekeepers are actually looking for… Madalyn Pryor, who very much is!

Furthermore since this is based on Inferno, she’s sporting her “Technically Not Naked” Goblin Queen outfit and is hanging out with her clone-dad Mr. Sinister.

Interestingly, Sinister seems to be in Flamboyant And Catty mode for this story, even though it was written decades before that was his standard. He also has normal teeth instead of shark teeth.

Anyway, after yelling “I tell you, daughter Dracula has spoiled all my plans!”, Sinister scampers (literally scampers) out of his creepy underground lair to solve this mutant vampire situation himself, heading to Dr. Stranges Sanctum Santorum in order to steal the Darkhold from within it, leaving the run of the house to his clone-daughter. And, unbeknownst to him, her new bestie, the horse headed gargoyle and aspiring demon overlord Nastir’h. N’astirh? Nastyroth? Narsty?

Bad Horse.

Anyway, outside of a multi page fight against the now vampiric X-Terminators (which the captions note is a much more appropriate name now) Sinisters plan apparently goes off without a hitch and he will not be appearing in the story again for a while, instead we follow Maddy as she and BAD HORSE decide that if dads out of the house they can get into the metaphysical liquor cabinet and decide to crack open the gates of The Hell of Limbo and flood the streets of New York, which was already dealing with mutant-vampire plague, with a brand new plague of demons.

Despite the captions insisting this is terrible, we’ve already established that New York is basically uninhabitable so… hard to accept it as being that much worse.

Not agreeing that this is a lateral move is Wolverine, who still wanted there to be humans around on the grounds of needing to eat, so he gets off his Sexy Lady Encrusted Vampire Throne and leads his X-Pires into battle against the demon hoards of Limbo.

Which goes swimmingly since the X-Men are pretty good at handling demons in general, and now they’re blood crazed apex predators with super powers.

Maddy and BAD HORSE see their entire army get wiped out and collectively say “Well, crap…” and start wondering what their next plan will be when their next plan kicks down the door and turns Bad Horse into a skeleton as repayment for offering up some backsass.

It’s Dormammu; Faltine Lord of the Dark Dimension! And since Dr. Strange is dead, the magic that keeps him from just waltzing in and taking over the Earth no longer applies. And since the X-Vampires are exhausted from fighting the demons of Limbo, he’ll have a real easy time overwhelming him with his *own* army of Mindless Ones.

So he does. Maddy decides to stick around and not provoke the godlike Fireball Wizard with the inexhaustible army of mindless destroyer constructs and obliging downgrades herself to Chief Henchman status.

So the Mindless One army runs roughshod over the XMen Vampires (comics are fun) and then Mr. Sinister reappears, having completed his sidequest off page, holding the Darkhold and makes a deal with Wolverine; Sinister wants to be undisputed master of the Earth, and he can’t do that if the planet is subsumed by the Dark Dimension and reduced to rubble by nonsentient killing machines. So he’ll use a spell from the Darkhold to embue the (remaining) Xpires with enough magical juice to enter Limbo and save the planet from Dormammu and Maddy, but they then have to *stay off* earth. Otherwise he’ll read the Anti Vampire Spell from the book and kill the Xpires and solve the Dormammu problem some other way.

Wolverine agrees since if you can’t trust Mister Sinister, who can you trust? And, weirdly, he was telling the truth this time; and the now Magically empowered Vampire Mutant Army tears into Hell for a big ol Final Boss Fight.

However, while the XMen are cooking with vampire powers and also magically augmented with the power of the Darkhold, there’s still only, like, four X-Men versus Dormammu, Madalyn Pryor and the combined forces of the Dark Dimension and Limbo, so it’s still not quite a fair fight. Luckily for what are technically the least bad guys, The Whisperer appears again to tell Jean “Y’know… you’re not really putting all your cards on the table in this fight right now…”, and she admits that no, she’s not, but only because she doesn’t want to risk losing control of her power and going Dark Phoenix again.

However she’s also a vampire who is now empowered by the Vile God of All Evil so… umm… lateral move, so she grasps the power of the Phoenix Force, which gives her a big honkin’ power boost that she uses to turn Maddy and Dormammu to ash, and, true to his word, Wolverine says “Okay so… can’t go back to Earth so I guess we just rule Limbo now?”

And back on Earth Sinister just cooks up another Jean Grey clone because third times the charm.

And meanwhile again, the Whisperer reappears and plonks Vampire Wolverine out of reality because he’s… been doing that.

Uatu turns to the Time Keepers and says “Well you screwed up breaking history for your own ends twice, bet you feel foolish now!” Only to turn around and see there’s only two Time Keepers instead of three, so… maybe they were right about destroying reality to keep themselves alive.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?
As noted last time this story came up, pretty similar overall to Marvel Zombies, especially the later series that took the idea and went far goofier with it

I don’t think Dormammu ever attacked Limbo, but he did have a big story arc a couple of years ago where he pivoted to hassling the Guardians of the Galaxy using the Mindless Ones as an invading army and attacked the non-Earth planets of the Galaxy.

NEXT TIME: Snakes in the Brain
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
image.png



I’ve stopped including screenshots because discord stopped being viable as an image hosting service, but I do have to include this one as it illustrates both; Sinister Literally Scampering Away and the terrible lettering; enjoy it until it disappears everywhere except the server where I keep these things!
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Dang it I was too late. I’ve been throwing stuff on imgbb lately for hosting to forum posts.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
clean.jpg


We’ve got multiple What Ifs interrupting each other and a lack of a proper examination of the story promised on the cover as Thomas and Lofficer and Marshall Rogers and MC Wymen not only fail to bring the answer to the question of What if Thor Had Become a Minion of Seth, they don’t even raise the question in the first place.

But first, recaps of Timequake so far; going so far as to even have Uatu be tired of this storyline (“In case you’re wondering, yes, we’re still here…” is not the most thrilling opening line to a comic). Where, again, the immortal Time Keepers are trying to ensure they will exist at the end of time by erasing pivotal Nexus Beings from alternate timelines. They’ve managed to kill one of four, which wasn’t enough since it caused the Time Keepers to start vanishing, and a weird cloaked figure is abducting different characters from those realities.

Anyway, three of four Nexus Beings are accounted for and that just leaves Odin. But specifically an Odin from The Time Odin Fought a Big Snake! Aforesaid Big Snake is the Egyptian God of Death, Seth who decided to wage war on Asgard because… he’s a bad guy and that’s a Typical Bad Guy Decision in Thor comics.

I should state that this is Seth, and not Sett, who is also an overwhelmingly powerful snake-god of death and destruction. This one is more of a guy with a snake motif than a Cthulhu made of snakes.

I thought it was about the Conan one and was kind of excited because that was one of the better issues of What If volume 2.

Anyway, Seth attacked Asgard kidnapped Odin after squeezing him a bunch and Thor and his buddies The Warriors Three (sans Volstagg but plus Sif) mounted a counter attack against Seth, his army of Snake Demons (who look a lot like Cobra Troopers from GI Joe) and… erm… Grog the God Crusher.

Which, clearing up farther confusion, is not Gor the God Butcher; he was still a good 15 years away from being created; this is simply a large man with tiny armour.

Anyway, after being assured that Asgardians are merely *very* hard to kill, not immortal, most of that attack team gets killed by the Snake Demons and Grog, except Thor who reaches where his dad and Seth are waiting… only to find he’s too late; Odins got himself a tummy full of Mind Control Juice and Seth now controls him. This does not come up again in the story despite the title and cover really implying it should.

Also, more significantly, turns out Seth is working with Loki, who supplied the Mind Control Potions (he explains that he’d rather take over Asgard without being beholden to anyone else for help but, well… as long as he gets to take over Asgard in general… whatever, beggars can’t be choosers). Then Thor gets clonked on the head and wakes up in Seth’s dungeon, alongside Karnilla the Norn Queen, who is also hanging around for some reason.

She also doesn’t factor into this story in any capacity beyond being threatened by sexual violence by Grog the God Crusher because this is a comic from the early 90s.

Anyway, now a quick intermission where the other Main Gods of Various Pantheons, like Zeus and Quetzecoatl, and Yu-Huang and… umm… Mephisto (?) are convening deciding that Seth attacking and dethroning Odin is the kind of situation that demands a swift violent response. Which also feels like it should be a major plot point for this issue and also never comes up again.

Also Vishnu kind of looks like Reginald Vel Johnson.

Anyway, the reason most of these plot lines come to nothing and, indeed, the story on the cover doesn’t happen is because there’s a surprise jailbreak in Seth’s dungeons courtesy of the demonically empowered Mutant Vampire King Wolverine, The Future Iron Man of a Cyber Utopia and… Standard Issue Dr. Doom who collectively free Thor, stab the *hell* out of Grog before he can sexually assault Karnilla (she still has no lines of dialogue, this comic is gross) and also kill Lokis sycophantic minion before the Whisperer appears again and explains he’s been snatching people the Time Keepers have *not* been focusing on in order to build a team of Multiversal guardians to help stop them.

This is also the first time the Whisperer has appeared in a place where the Time Keepers can notice him, and they comment that there’s certainly something familiar about him but don’t know what.

Anyway, with Thor in tow, the team storms Seth’s throne room and a big ol’ Comic Book Fight breaks out; Wolverine and Doom fight Loki (turns out Cthon + Dracula + Wolverine > Asgardian + Frost Giant, update your spreadsheets accordingly), Thor fights Seth (pretty easily, weird he had such a hard time before) and Iron Droid fights a PROTECTROID; a robot weapon from the Time Keepers arsenal as he’s realized that two counterparts have now vanished so there’s really no room for subtlety now if he wants to remain alive.

Anyway, the good guys (well half them are, at least) win and the last Time Keeper evaporates… and the Whisperer removes his cloak to reveal himself to be Immortus!

Turns out that when the Time Keepers imprisoned him in Limbo until the future time when they would need him again, they forgot he, y’know… could travel through time. Which is precisely why they hired him in the first place. Furthermore he was also imprisoned in the specific part of Limbo he had total control over. So the whole imprisoning thing really didn’t accomplish much; it was like giving a kid a time out but not taking away his video games.

Anyway, the moment Immortus was able he started a campaign of revenge against the Time Keepers by making sure four Nexus Beings would be free and ensure that the Time Keepers never come to pass (I should stress they still haven’t explained why this is the case) and he started collecting his own team of agents to make sure the Time Keepers failed to save themselves. And now that they’re dead, he’s free to, as he puts it, “Become the soul master… if TIIIIIIIIIIME” before whisking off to parts unknown, and the What Ifvengers all say “Well crap… I guess we should have asked literally any questions about this, huh?”

Meanwhile, outside of time, the (literally) faceless bureaucrats of TVA try to work out if this is a problem they should be concerned about, and also lament that they’re bureaucratic drones so they are literally incapable of having any ideas that would stop Immortus and the impending Time Quake he’s about to unleash.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?
Yep! And much more successfully the second time around; Whisperer/Immortus’ whole plan was largely the basis for the Winnick/Beddard series Exiles although being a slow burn mystery over the course of several dozen issues means it had more time to cook rather than making everyone involved look kind of like idiots. Also, not in the 616, appropriately enough this was the premise of the finale of the first season of the What If Disney + series and the TVA deciding “Are… are we just cool with temporal genocide now if the bosses are dead?” was the whole plot of Loki.

NEXT TIME: Interference
 
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