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

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)


Written by Tom Defalco
Layouts by Alan Kupperberg
Inks by Bruce Patterson

Okay, gonna try my best here; this here is... really complicated and weird; made even more-so because of my lack of familiarity with the story its spun-off from.

Luckily, that's what Uatu is here for, who does a 6/10 job of summarizing the events of the Kree/Skrull War arc of Avengers; which I *think* might have been the first story to point out that them guys haaaaate each other. In the original story, the centuries long cold-war between the Kree and Skrulls started heating up when both sides learned that Mar-Vell, who had officially abandoned his birth planet in favor of Earth, had access to a super-weapon called the Omni Wave Projector, and both armies descended on the planet in order to get an insurmountable advantage over the other; and in the course of that, Rick Jones sidled his way into the forefront where he was captured and experimented on by the Kree Supreme Intelligence, which accidentally gave HIM super powers in the form of a weird kind of psychokinesis that caused him to spawn superheroes out of his subconscious mind (even among the things Ricks had to put up with in his life, that's unusual), and dealing with constant brain-spawn Avengers distracted the Kree enough to recall their armies, and the rest of the Avengers just busted up the Skrull Throneworld because they made the terrible blunder of trying to kidnap some of the stronger members of the team (Mar-Vell and Scarlet Witch).

And that was what happened canonically; but let's see what happened NON-CANONICALLY.

For one thing, we see the exact panel where history changed, side-by-side with the original, which was a nice visual. In this case, after being kidnapped by Ronan The Accuser (leader of the Krees invasion force), Rick is simply murdered by being slapped extremely hard, and his carcass is flown back to the Kree homeworld of Hala in order to at least be recycled into some nourishing paste for the Kree Supreme Intelligence. Seems like a LOT of effort to go through to make a smoothy for a brain-in-a-jar, but the Kree really seem to like that guy.

Anyway, across the galaxy, Mar-Vell senses Ricks death through the psychic link they share; and he immediately FREAKS THE HELL OUT, immediately breaking free of the restraints he was imprisoned with on Skrullos, and proceeding to lay waste to their capital city; forcing the Skrull Emperor to release K'llrt the Super Skrull from prison to deal with him, where he was under arrest for crimes against the Skrull Throne.

And now the word "skrull" sounds like made-up nonsense.

And back around Earth, and I do not know if this was in the canon storyline or not, the Avengers briefly have their hands full with the vanguard of the Kree and Skrull armadas encircling the Earth, but quickly reprioritize when they realize that Marv and Wanda have been kidnapped by the Skrulls and are being held prisoner on the Throneworld, and head there instead (leading Cap to slowly come to the conclusion that Vision is in love with Wanda, even though he's a robot).

And while most of the Avengers head to Skrullos to save their captive allies, Goliath (who I *think* was Clint Barton/Hawkeye and not Hank Pym at the time) stays behind because one of the armies (and I swear, I have no idea which) just launched a planet-destroying missile at Earth and the least-useful member of the team had to stick around to deal with that issue.

Not joining in the rescuse mission on Throneworld are Thor and Iron Man, who decide that they're enough to single-handedly hold off the Kree/Skrull armada before it can reach Earth, and while Thor might be, Tony is not, and he's critically injured (and possibly killed?) before he can accomplish too much. Though "accomplishing too much" in this case does mean he singled handedly destroyed several war-ships, so my usual dislike of Tony Stark doesn't really hold a lot of water in this case.

Anyhoo, Thor is upset at the (near?) death of his friend and he takes him back to Asgard to use as an illustration of the scope of the threat to Midgard* (*Earth), to wrangle up as many Asgardians as are willing to come to the aide of the planet and to have a right good war against several alien armadas.

And, as it turns out, the answer is "all of them", and now the entire Kree/Skrull armada has to contend with a fleet of OUTERSPACE LONGSHIPS FULL OF IMMORTAL VIKINGS in amongst themselves busting one another up.

AT this point, the Kree armada breaks away from that fight and attacks Earth directly, leaving the Asgardians to the Skrulls, hoping they can easily steal the Omni Wave Projector, and this plan fails because when Goliath stayed behind to save the Earth from that missile earlier, he also recruited *every single Superhero on the planet* into one massive fighting force in order to fight them off.

Spider-Man is fully aware that this is him punching WAY above his weight class, and is later seen being carried away on a stretcher, with bandages *over* his costume so... he's right to be concerned.

Anyway, while Skrullos is under attack by a fightin' mad Mar-Vell, Vision, K'llrt and Scarlet Witch (who also got free in the ensuing rampages), and the Skrull armada is being waylaid by Asgardians, and also the Kree armada is being fought off by All the Superheroes, we cut to the Kree homeworld of Hala, where Rick Jones' corpse has finally been delivered to the Supreme Intelligence and, instead of being mushed up into baby-food as intended, the Supreme Intelligence instead used its psionic abilities to shove all of its collective sentience into Ricks still intact, but quite dead brain; which has the side effect of creating a human/Supremor hybrid that... is some kind of weird tentacled space-baby?

Anyway, when Ronan realizes that his attempted invasion of Earth has gone really badly, he decides instead to destroy the Earth on the grounds of "If I can't have it, no one can", but the Supreme Intellirick teleports into his command ship, kills him, and then leaves because the paltry concerns of lesser mortals do not concern him, but also Earth is where Rick used to live and his meat still likes the place. Then he disappears from the story.

On Skrullos, Mar-Vell calms down when he realizes that he can't make any headway fighting K'llrt, and K'llrt also dislikes the emperor so... why not form an alliance to take that jerk down; a plan which is fully approved by the Skrull Emperors daughter, Annelle (and also Vision, Wanda and Captain America, who are also all nearby. And I think Black Panthers around too?). So they do, pretty effortlessly and Annelle is made Skrull Empress on a platofrm of NOT wanting to perpetrate a forever war against Blue Guys, and Mar-Vell is appointed new leader of the Kree, on the grounds that every other Kree above him in rank just died or else left the universe after ascending to Godhood, and he also has no real desire to perpetrate a forever war against Green Guys.

And I guess that's it?

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?!
I swear to God, I have no friggin' idea what I just read, so maybe? The climax of Hickmans run of Fantastic Four concluded with a conflict between multiple galactic empires with Earth caught in the middle (and a new Supreme Intelligence being created by several humans being smooshed together), and the Infinity arc of his Avengers run involved the Avengers being split up in order to fight alien invasions home and abroad, and this entire story kind of got recycled in Galactic Storm in the early 90s, and the more recent Empyre story was kicked off by Mar-Vell and Annels son uniting the Kree and Skrull under a "No More Forever Wars Between Blue and Green Guys, Please" banner.

Rick eventually became a vestigial second head, but he never became a tentacle baby, to the best of my knowledge.

NEXT TIME: "What if Reed Richards Was a Jerk?" doesn't stretch credibility.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
It seems weird that I'd never heard of this Rick Jones guy before given how much he keeps showing up.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
He's pretty omnipresent in the Marvel U, starting out as the Hulk's sidekick/guy responsible for Hulk being Hulk on accident and basically becoming a go-to buddy for most of the Marvel U. Also, his wedding was crashed by the devil.
 

Olli

(he/him)
Yeah, but he's kind of the same "everyday guy who hangs out with superheroes, and occasionally gets either kidnapped or receives superpowers"
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Yeah, I've just missed him because it seems like he hasn't translated to other media at all (i.e., for me, mostly MCU but also some other games/shows/etc. - I've read very few of the actual comics outside of a few self-contained runs like Fraction's Hawkeye and such.)
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)
He also spent a good chunk of Marvels recent past either dead or very much sidelined.

Except for the being a vestigial second head thing I keep bringing up.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)

Written by Bill Mantlo
Art by Gene Colan
Inks by Bob Wiacek
Letters by Orzchowski
Colors by Gaff

First off, Gene Colan may be my favourite non-Kirby Silver Age Marvel artist; book looks amazing. Second, during my write ups of FF, I always made it a point whenever he did something particularly galling, that this was the canonically nicest instance of Reed Richards to exist anywhere in the multiverse. So lets take a look at one who really sucks, shall we?

We’re breaking from format a bit this time, too, since this isn’t a bespoke alternate timeline at all, but a sequel to an earlier WHat If, specifically issue #1, in which Spider-Man joined the FF, and him being around caused Reed to put less and less focus on Sue to the point that she just hacked off and turned into a mer-lady and married Namur the instant the opportunity came up. At the time, this was considered a happy ending, since Sue could temper down Namors more reckless impulses, and also Namur genuinely cared for Sues well-being (far more so than her actual fiancé ever did),

And apparently that didn’t last very long.

Reeds resentment that his fiancé left him in favour of an emotionally available, loving and hunky fish-man was on a low simmer ever since, causing him to lash out at the other members of the team at any given opportunity; which quickly grows severe enough that even the promise of a generous and steady pay check can’t keep Spider-Man from wanting to put up with Reeds emotional abuse, and even Ben, his best friend picks up sticks and quits the team.

Which, admittedly, Ben did every other issue back in the 60s, but it actually sticks this time.

Reeds sunk so low he doesn’t even realize that its only Johnny who can stomach being around him or think he’s right!

Meanwhile, in Atlantis; everything’s going great, actually. Namur and Sue are nearing their first anniversary (with a baby on the way), the Atlantean people love their king and queen, and since she doesn’t have Namur to chase after anymore, Lady Dorma is free to focus on the number 2 bachelor in her social sphere, Warlord Krang (who, despite the name, is actually a super nice guy when he doesn’t have a coup d’état to plan).

The only possible wrinkle in everyones happiness, is that Sue misses her family, and would like her brother and exe to at least see their baby at least once; and ever the contentious partner, Namor says “Aww shucks, anything for you, sugar-pie”, and heads off to the World Famous Baxter Building to officially invite the Fantastic Four to the baby shower as a sign of peace between the Surface Dwelling Humans and the Sea Dwelling Atlanteans.

And THAT does not work great.

Namur shows up pretty gregariously, and beaming to deliver Reed and Johnny the good news, and the two of them… immediately attack Namur, insist he brainwashed Sue, and then hurled a whole whack of what I assume to be Homo-mermanus racial slurs (like, to the degree I was personally made uncomfortable reading them). And Namor, calmer and friendlier disposition or no, can only take so mcut abuse before he has to put his foot down; he came there in peace, to celebrate something he figured Reed and Johnny would be delighted to learn and only got a heap of epithets and accusations hurled at him, and he instead UNinvites them from any Atlantean festivities; saying that if this is what happens when they come toget her in peace, imagine how bad it would be if they wanted to have a war.

To which Reed says “AHA! He threatened me with war! You heard him! You heard him Johnny! He wants a war!”

I’m… not really paraphrasing

So Reed uses what remains of his public pull to get on the ground floor of a UN meeting, and decides to start advocating a preemptive strike against Atlantis among with any country willing to listen to him. Fortunately, after Ben shows up and completely undermines Reeds point by showing the security camera footage from the Baxter Building showing that Reed just completely flipped out when someone invited him to a baby shower, literally nobody takes him up on the offer.

Johnny calls Ben out on the dirty trick of preventing a war by telling the truth, and reassures Reed that he did the right thing, even if he was lying his way into committing war crimes because he’s going through a bad break-up. And Reed feels better about this, and decides Johnny Storm is right (which, again, is the clearest sign Reed is in a *bad* mental place right now), and figures that if the collective armies of the world won’t help him exterminate the Atlantean race, well BY GEORGE, he’d do it himself. That’s what being the worlds greatest scientific mind will get ya!

So Reed ano Johnny wage a two-man war against all of Atlantis; Johnny brings the seas to a boil while blasting Atlantis city with flame (which everyone notes is equally effective and pretty weird) in order to distract Namor and Krangs armies, while Reed sneaks into the city and prepares The Ultra Weapon; a weapon used version of the device that Namor used to make Sue into a water-breather back in the first story. This one, however, will instead rob the Atlanteans of their ability to breath under water. And since they live on the bottom of the sea, this will present some pretty drastic health complications for them Very quickly.

Reed does posit that the Atlanteans who wish to live will have to migrate to the land thus robbing Namor of his armies, but even if that were even remotely viable, it presents even more logistical problems for everyone than an open war between the surface and sea. But he ain’t thinking with his head right at the moment, so I’d suspect he overlooked that.

And after setting up a… well… genocide… Reed decides to track down Sue in order to share the good news with HER; that he’s come to free her from a loving marriage by murdering literally millions of people, including her husband.

And Sue responds by doing something I’d been waiting for since FF#1; and just *wrecks* Reed Richards with her psychic force-fields. Just absolutely pulverizes him And makes it known in no uncertain terms that she NEVER wants to see him again and to get the hell out of Atlantis.

And then, partly because he realizes he’s about to exterminate an entire race, and mostly because he realizes that the Ultra Weapon will also kill Sue and her baby and that will really hurt his chances to get back together with her, Reed decides to reconsider his “Murder Everyone In Atlantis and ruin the ecosystem of the entire ocean” plan and heads off to disable the Ultra Weapon himself.

Unfortunately for Reed (and also for Krang, I suppose), he didn’t stop to explain that to anybody when he left the Atlantean… err… child-birthing room (?) and when he finds the weapon, Namor and Krang, who both got a cliffs-notes version of the story, see him fiddling with it and figure he’s turning it on instead of disabling it. Krangs too close to the weapon before it can deactivate fully so he instantly drowns to death.

After having the story explained to him fully, Namor diplomatically, but decisively, exiles Reed from ever setting foot in Atlantis again (pretty mild, honestly), but Johnny refuses to accept the idea that Reed was in the wrong for attempting genocide in response to his girlfriend breaking up with him, and leaves swearing fiery vengeance on Namor in the future, Reed swears to atone by doing everything he can to broker peace between Humans and Atlanteans (good luck, buddy) and Namor and Sue welcome their son into the world.

He doesn’t get named, but I’mma call him Aqua-Franklin.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?!?
Kind of already answered this way back in the first write-up; there’s no shortage of alternate universe FFs where Sue wound up marrying Namor instead of Reed (the recent Fantastic Four: Life Story is a particularly good one), and Hickmans FF run kicked off with the revelation that in most universes, Reed Richards is a *complete* monster like he is here.

Next Time: DOOM IS PRETTY SURE THIS IS CANON ALREADY
 

Jeanie

(Fem or Gender Neutral)
So there was a recent Invaders mini where some Atlantian splinter group creates a bomb that changed a town on the East Coast to water-breathers. This almost started a war with the surface world and Namor and it took the other Invaders to stop it. Iirc, the USGOVNM was going to use a bomb like the one Reed made in this issue on the Atlantians and it took the Human Torch (40s Robot, not 60s Teen) to save the day.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)

Written by Don Glut
Art by Fred Kida
Inks by Dave Simons
Colors by Gaff

This is another one of the stories I was most excited to read when I started this, and, honestly... didn't live up to my expecations as much as I would have liked. Also, the cover blurb kind of spoils everything. He also doesn't magic it rain pretty flowers, so I felt cheated about that too.

Anyhow, as per usual, we get Uatu getting all the kids who ponied up 75 cents a quick primer on how Dr. Dooms origin went canonically, which honestly kind of feels like it's a bit short-changed in this telling, but that could be my unconfirmed Doom-bias showing; Victor Von Doom is the Worlds Greatest Scientific Mind (despite what that SIMPERING BUFFOON, RICHARDS would have you believe), and Second Greatest Sorcerer (next to Dr. Strange, to whom Doom is ambivalent), and kind of ruined his post-graduate education by building a machine designed to contact Hell, and it literally exploding in his face. Doom blamed the failure of his experiment on his lab partner (THE INSUFFERABLE DOLT, RICHARDS) and studied Black Magic in Tibet and built some specialized armor to hide his scarred face and went on to be in my top three favorite supervillains ever (whether I like him, Loki or Lex Luthor the most depends on my mood).

Incidentally, while we get this recap, we get a full page up-skirt shot of Uatu lounging on an asteroid; for anyone who wants to know what he's wearing under that space-toga.

And so, the very comfortable Uatu decides to show us WHAT IF... Dr. Doom actually did double-check the experiment like Reed Richards suggested he should.

As it turns out, good call. In this timeline; the experiment works, and Doom is able to gaze into the very pits of Hell and take a look around. And it kinda sucks. We don't see it, but I feel like the general consensus would agree on that point. More to the point, however, Doom hears the voice of his long-dead mother down in there.

Kida draws this whole sequence, and indeed the whole issue, in a style that feels so true to an EC comic that I was genuinely surprised to learn he didn't actually ever work on any.

Anyhow, Doom is partly shaken by his experience looking into Heck itself, and *really* upset that his mom is down there, so he elects to drop out of college and dedicate himself fully to resolving that little problem. And the next chunk of Dooms life works out largely the same as it does in the 616; with him travelling to a secluded mountain temple and mastering the art of sorcery from the monks there (apparently the monks who taught him were always Neutral, not Evil, and 616 Doom just kind of picked up the wrong lessons) from them; and as a graduation present in the form of some custom built specialized armor!

Which, since Doom isn't particularly evil or consumed by revenge in this timeline, and in fact, wants to beat the crap out of Satan, is a much less grim and imposing suit of armor. For the most part, it looks about the same, except that the silver parts are gold, there's no hood, and he has a helmet that leaves his face exposed. Big step down in every regard, honestly. But Good Doom is a gracious sort, and thanks the Monks for their gift and wisdom and heads off to a *different* secret mountain cave full of magic; and recites a magical rite that amends the technicality that damned his mother, and let's him pluck her soul out of Mephistos clutches and plop it into Heaven where it should have gone in the first place.

News which *really* ticks off ol' Scratch, causing him to throw away the sexy demons who were giving him a backrub and swear revenge; Dooms Moms soul in particular was of no importance to him, but Mephisto does NOT like people taking his property.

Meanwhile, up above Hell, Doom is feeling pretty good about one unmitigated act of goodness and decides that his next good deed should be to overthrow the tyrannical, racist leader of his home country of Latveria; Rudolfo. This also resolves more or less like it did in Dooms regular timeline, with Doom single-handedly wiping out the royal guard single-handedly and revealing he's actually the true heir to the throne (might need to consult some genealogy reports on that, I know his dad was the leader of the Romani group he was in, but I don't know how far up the governing ladder that goes for the rest of the country).

Regardless, Rudolfo suuuuuucked as a leader and had filled the entire Romani population of the country into a jail until they died and spent most of his day talking about how much he hated them, and taxed everyone else so severely it was literally impossible for anyone to survive so nobody really minded when an armored science wizard showed up and blew him to pieces.

Also, this is a comic from the 1980s, so of course they never use the term "Roma". They use the other one.

One of the people happiest to see Doom usurp the government and take the throne himself is Valeria, Dooms old girlfriend from before he enrolled at ESU, and who broke up with him when it became clear he was a revenge-obsessed evil wizard who wanted to rule the world and kill Just This One Guy He Hates So Much. And normally that would be a laudable decision for someone to make, it... winds up not going great for her long-term in the 616.

But we ain't talking about the Earth-616 Doom, we're talking about Earth-808 Doom! And he and Valeria decide to get married then and there! Turns out that freeing someone from jail after being imprisoned for being the wrong ethnicity really lets you speed-run a relationship.

Life is great for Vic and his bride for a while, and Latveria thrives under the guiding hand of a genuinely benevolent ruler (as opposed to the regular timeline where the general temperament and condition of Latveria is hard to peg down), up until his first anniversary to Valeria. Turns out that Mephisto was kind of playing the long-game with regard to getting revenge, and now he's got a real good one lined up to bring against Doom.

Mephisto first teleports Doom to a spooky graveyard dimension and reveals that he just stole the souls of *literally everyone* in Latveria to make up for the one that Doom took from him and, Doom immediately attacks him, since he's still hacked off from Mephisto stealing his mothers soul when he was a kid. And Mephisto is still hacked off that Doom stole his mothers soul back, even if he did just get a surplus of extras, so he obliges.

And while the fight appears to be evenly matched for a while, it's pretty clear that it really is not; as powerful as Doom is he is not remotely in the same weight-class as The Literal Bad Guy from The Bible (...maybe, Mephisto likes people to assume he is, if nothing else); and it doesn't take long for Mephisto to get tired of pretending Victor even has a chance, and nearly kills him, while presenting an ultimatum; he really only needed *one* soul to make up for the one that Doom took from him, and neither of the two of really care that much about about any individual person in Latveria.

Except one.

Mephisto will free the entire population of the country if Doom is willing to sacrifice Valeria to him.

And while Doom is struggling with the debate of whether the soul of the one person he may love more than anyone else in the world is worth the lives of thousands of innocent people, Mephisto adds a third choice to him; he'll free both Latveria AND Valeria if he can have the soul of the one person Victor certainly loves more than anyone else in the world; Doom himself.

And no matter what the timeline, no matter what life he's lead, Dooms ego is the strongest force in the universe; he refuses to entertain the possibility of the existence of a world without Victor Von Doom in it for even an instant; and he tells Mephisto to take his wife, please. The World Needs Doom more than Doom needs The World

And as an epilogue; we see that Latveria is a little more gloomy ever since the Queen mysteriously vanished, and on their anniversary day every year, Doom tries to summon Mephisto for a rematch in order to get his wife back, and every year he is left nearly dead for the effort, while the devil taunts him for his failure.

And Uatu pipes up to say he KNOWS whether or not Doom eventually succeeds, but he ain't sayin' nothing to nobody.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?
This is another instance where, yeah, nearly every component of this story gets reused. Except for Dooms new armor (no great loss); Doom does eventually steal his mothers soul from Mephisto with Dr. Stranges help, Doom does eventually reunite with Valeria and condemns her to Hell afterward in one of those stories that everyone tries their damnedest to pretend didn't happen, and in a recent story, Doom even got married and had the honeymoon immediately wrecked (in this case it was because of multi-tier MELODRAMA than because the devil was messing with him). Also, the recent Doom miniseries concluded with Victor travelling to an alternate universe utopia where he was respectful of Reeds suggestion his college experiment might be flawed and encouraged listening to others (this concluded with Doom annihilating that dimension with the Ultimate Nullifier, because a World Where Doom Defers to Richards is obviously fundamentally broken).

And this is all setting aside the fact that Doom has never entertained the notion that he isn't the only actual hero in the Marvel universe and everybody else is blind to that.

NEXT TIME: HULK KNOW ANSWER TO RIDDLE OF STEEL!
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)

Well, this is a weird one, it's another multiple story issue, but unlike the others, there's no connective theme between them whatsoever. Also, one isn't even a What if, it's explicitly a Therefor.

Anyway, the first story is the one on the cover, What if The Hulks Girlfriend, Jarella, Hadn’t Died (Written by Peter Gillis, Pencils by Herb Trimpe, Inks by Esposito) starts off with a recap for a story I... honestly didn't know was a thing. But my Hulk knowledge is largely contained to Al Ewings Immortal Hulk and a vague understanding of the big parts of the Peter David run (which I have started reading and deem "worthy of its reputation). Matter of fact, outside of Immortal Hulk, I think this very thread makes up more than half of my reading history of the character.

ANYHOW, that's what Uatu the Watcher is for; as he recaps an apparently long-running story in the pages of Hulk where, as part of General Rosses endless attempts to get rid of that Big Green Guy; they overdosed Hulk with Pym Particles, figuring that if Hulk was very tiny, he'd stop being a big problem. Unfortunately, this plan existed in a comic-book world, where if you get Tiny enough you enter the Microverse and have a brand new set of Weird Problems to deal with; in this case, Hulk was actually sent to the fantasy kingdom of Kai (whevere everyone is Green) and he and the princess, Jarella wound up falling in love. And when the Pym Particles wore off, and Hulk resumed being Regular Sized, Jarella went with him... which didn't last long because she was soon after smooshed to death saving a kid who was caught in the middle of a fight between Hulk and Crypto Man (who was a big robot guy, and not someone made of Bitcoins).

ANYWAY, history diverges here because Jarella did NOT bother to save the kid from the falling rubble that would have been a grisly fate for him (it's okay, no child death occurs in this story but... for a weird reason we'll get to) and Hulk winds up smashing Crypto Man to pieces anyway, and Hulk and Jarella resume their relationship, but with the added wrinkle that Hulk is dumb in the Macroverse, instead of sharing Banners intellect like he did in Kai, so she has to contend with a hunky green guy and a smart, small weird pink nerd. Luckily, this isn't much of a speed-bump for their relationship, as, working with Hank Pym, General ROss has the idea to... just try the Shrink the Hulk Away plan again, but with a longer lasting blast of Pym Particles.

So they do, and we get an explanation of multiverse-theory as it applies to the Planck's Law constant (which everyone is explaining to the Hulk, because, you know, he's a big follower of theoretical physics), and also a montage of a bunch of alternate Micro-universes that have shown up in Marvel comics previously (surprised to not see Roy Thomas credited in the story, honestly) before the pair returns to Kai. And they're overjoyed to be home, and the people of Kai are happy to have their princess and her consort back, and Hulks happy to be somewhere where people actually like having him around.

And a mysterious, evil cthulhu-cult is happy to have them around because it turns out that breaking through so many dimensional barriers all at once weakens the seal that keeps their Dark Gods away from the material universe.

And the Cult of the Dark Gods (which I don't think gets named, and... c'mon guys, you've been waiting for millenia for those guys to show up, surely you could have thought of a better name than that) waste no time in making sure EVERYONE knows that The Dark Gods are back in a big way; by sending a pile of tentacles out to kill Jarella during her and Hulks honeymoon (Hulk smooshes it because... he's the Hulk) and also by attacking the rest of the kingdom with zombies, people-eating robots and mold.

Hulk and Jarella figure, "Okay, religious freedom is great and all, but enough is enough with these jokers" and they assemble a team of the greatest of Kais warriors (didn't get their names, there's nothing to separate them visually, except that one of them has wings) and head off to the legendary Cursed City of Darkness, because if a Cult of the Dark Gods is going to be situated anywhere, it'd probably be there. And they arrive without trouble, and encounter a demon army, which they beat pretty easily, and the leader of the Cult shows up and explains that he had an absurdly convoluted plan to usurp the throne of Kai by having one of his underlings Shrink Hulk down to Kai, hoping Jarella and Hulk would fall in love, that Jarella would return with the Hulk when he returned to Earth, use magic to give Jarella the idea that a child was about to be crushed to death when they sent the Crypto Man after Hulk, and then let Jarella instead be the one who was crushed to death.

Unfortunately, part of this plan failed when Jarella didn't bother saving the kid, so they went to plan B instead; summon demons and just go ham on the country, a plan that worked WAY better.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Anyway, Hulk and Friends beat up the entire army no problem, so the lead cult guy decides to go for the big guns and summoned an evil Duplicate of The Hulk (thanks to "strange machines"), and figures that would be enough to win; and it might have but it's a copy of Savage Hulk, and not Smart Hulk, so it's beaten by a combination of brains and brawn, and Hulk and Jarella resume being happily married, and constantly wary that the Dark God Cult might try to get up to more shenanigans.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?!
Again, not super informed on Hulk, so maybe it did more directly, but the Planet Hulk story was about Hulk becoming the leader of a Conan-esque fantasy world and getting hitched, so that kinda counts.


On to the second story, which isn't a What If in any way shape or form; The First Celestial Host (Written by Mark Gruenvald, Art by Ron Wilson and Chic Stone) which at the very least is very timely, as it's basically covered by The Eternals. Or at least it's covered by the opening of the Eternals. ANd speaking of, it's also basically an attempt to do a soft re-launch of the Eternals comic, without Jack Kirbys involvement.

WAY TO JUSTIFY HIS FEELINGS ABOUT YOUR COMPANY, MARVEL!

Anyhow, it's a flowery description of a really weird day back in pre-caveman times, when some mile-tall aliens showed up out of nowehere one day and started weirding up the DNA of some apes, causing some to mutate into strange, subterranean monsters called Deviants, some to evolve into super powered human-like beings called Eternals, and others to just start the slower process of eventually turning into humans (and later, mutants). Then it ends on a To Be Continued, so I guess this is going to be a regular back-up feature now.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?!?
Yes, yes it did. This is explicitly a part of Earths ancient history in the Marvel universe. Lots of explanations were given for WHY the Celestials did their business to proto-humanity, and no two writers seem to agree as to that reason, but they definitely did, and they made cave monsters, All the Gods Maybe, and People were the result

And finally, we close things out with something a bit goofier, What if Aunt May had Been Bitten by the Radioactive Spider (Written by Steve Skeates, Art by Alan Kupperberg). Where we open with Peter Parker forgetting a bagged lunch at home on the day he was supposed to go an see a demonstration on a new kind of nuclear reactor at the local science lab; news which shocks are horrifies his aunt, May Parker, whos obsession with her nephews well-being is beyond "concerned caregiver" and straight up into "Munchausen Syndrome".

Also, this is very much May in her "Withered Mummy-Lady" incarnation, so she looks like she is moments away from death at all times.

Anyway, May arrives at the science lab and gives Peter his lunch, and in so doing, winds up in the path of a certain radioactive spider, which then bites her and gives her speed, strength and sensitivity. But she's still a doddering old lady. Once she realizes she's got super-powers (by jumping to the roof of a building and ripping a light pole out of the ground), she decides to make the most of it and sews herself a superhero costume in order to help protect... Peter mainly.

Also the rest of the city, but mostly Peter.

In place of web-shooters, she has an icing bag full of a special wheat-cake yeast that's extra sticky.

There's a lot of detail going into this.

Anyway, as it just so happens, there's a bank-robbery going on at the same time she makes this decision to pursue a new career, in the form of The Leap Frog showing up and kicking a bunch of cops as he steals junk (to be fair, I would say he's my favorite jumping-themed Spider-Man villain, so that ain't nothing), and he happens to pick the Parkers' back yard as an escape route, just as she puts the finishing touches on her costume.

So the two of them fight, and May wins (which, to be fair, isn't that much of an achievement, it's The Leap Frog), and Peter is so startled by the sight of a bug-themed old lady with a chefs hat using cake-dough to incapacitate a frogman that he passes out, and Aunt May tucks him into bed, surprised at the sheer degree to which Peter requires his life be kept at an even keel, and dedicates her life to both fighting crime and gaslighting her nephew.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?!
Once again, Spider-May totally showed up in the pages of Spider-Verse, so yes. And slightly more relevant to the main timeline, there have been many stories over the years that show Aunt May being a much more active senior than she was in the earlier stories; defeating some mid-to-high tier Spidey villains all on her own. And also Spider-Man himself at least once.

NEXT TIME: Well, that's half the things he's ever talked about taken care of
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)

Written by Tony Isabella
Art by Gil Kane Frank Giacoia

Man, that copy-editor on the cover is kind of editorializing, huh? Also; this is another one of the more fun stories in this line.

Once again, Uatu can kind of take a back seat to the framing story; as Spider-Man is on top of a building, doing what he does best; brooding about the people he inadvertently killed through the course of his super-hero career; and in this case, it's the number 2 most famous Spider Man adjacent death; ol' Ghost Spider herself, Gwen Stacy.

For those who don't remember (or have never read any random issue of any Spider-Man comic, it will come up) The Green Goblin found out Spider-Mans identity and figured he'd go after his girlfriend instead of him (assuming the one without super powers would be easier to kill), and Spidey almost saves her from being chucked off a bridge, but kind of fumbles it at the last instant and winds up accidentally snapping her neck with a web-line instead.

Pobodys nerfect, but Uatu is here to show us what would have happened in Pomeone Nwas!

This time, Pete takes a second to consider how to save Gwen from the pretty serious amount of bridge she was busy falling off of, and after realizing that whiplash is a serious concern, elects to go down the safer method of falling after her and just catching her to break her fall. How he could catch up to her if they'd both be falling at the same speed, I don't know, but I'm not a physicist so there must be some way to do it; as this plan works and Spidey saves Gwen!

However, they're both underwater for a good chunk of time, and when they DO surface, Pete is a bit concerned about giving Gwen CPR as she's more drowned than not. Long and short is that the Green Goblin assumes that, yup, he finally killed Spider-Man, so now he can finally do what he was planning on doing all along once he got rid of that threat and/or menace; *convince all the crime lords of New York to elect him KING OF CRIME*.

That one kind of fell to the wayside on the list of Norman Osborns goals over the years.

ANYWAY, While Gobby is off trying to wrangle up some mafiosos in order to impress upon them a change of management, Spidey is spending his time recapping the other part of his life to Gwen Stacy, and exonerating himself from the murder of her dad in the process (his evidence about not being responsible for her dads death is pretty flimsy, but she doesn't pick at that particular thread, it's, like, the ONLY death Spider-Man doesn't blame himself for), and then decides to ask her to marry him.

And she's kind of amped up from the endorphins after being nearly murdered by a murderous psychopath in a Halloween costume, survived drowning, learning her boyfriend is leading a secret double life as a masked vigilante and learning the true circumstances of her fathers death and says "sure, okay". Pretty sure she'd agree to just about anything at that point, honestly.

And then Petere remembers that the aforesaid murderous Halloween man still really hates him, knows who he is, and isn't currently in his line of sight so is probably plotting something, so he tells his now-fiance "Oh, BRB; gotta go punch a billionaire", and heads off to do just that.

Luckily, The Green Goblin isn't hard to track down (you tend to notice when every criminal in the city heads to the same warehouse), but he manages to escape in the scuffle when All The Criminals elect to start fighting Spider-Man on his behalf, on the grounds that the Goblin knows Spideys identity and they can't learn what it is if Spider-Man kills him, so they'll kill Spider-Man first so they can learn who he is posthumously.

Airtight logic.

Anyway, Norman gets away and flees back to his penthouse apartment, but not before sending a message to Spider-Mans true greatest enemy; and Spidey, meanwhile, realizes that he probably shouldn't have wasted so much time beating up random goons and ignoring the actual boss monster, so he decides to check Norman Osborns actual home and see if he's there.

And he is, so that's handy.

Anyway, Norman arrived home first, and quickly got his son up to speed (off panel, because a narrative explanation is less fun than Spider-Man fighting ALL THE CRIMINALS), and then calls him a sniveling coward and an incompetent weakling, while slapping him around the room; because Norman Osborn has more personal failings than you can count.

Just then, Spidey shows up, and he's justifiably upset at all the malarkey he's put up with on the Goblins behalf tonight; and they elect to just beat each other to death right in the Osborns living room; and he might have if Harry Osborn didn't intercede on his fathers behalf; sure he might not be the perfect dad (as evidenced by the emotional and physical abuse he heaped on Harry in the last couple of pages) or an upstanding citizen (shown by all the attempted murders and Halloween-themed explosion-crimes) or even handsomely groomed (his stupid haircut), but none of that really means he wants to see a masked vigilante beat him to death in front of him.

And Norman is so moved by his sons defense of him, that he reconsiders... err... blowing up the building they were in on the grounds of at least being able to kill Spider-Man, and he agrees to go to therapy in order to get all the murderous urges out of his system; and Spider-Man is really quick to forgive the Goblin for all his many, MANY felonies and murder attempts and decides to call it a win for the forces of justice; and he rejoins Gwen Stacy in order to resume planning their wedding.

But... UH OH!

Remember that message that the Goblin sent to Spider-Mans true worst enemy? Well... he received it, and waited until Peters wedding day to act upon it;

At which point J. Jonah Jameson bursts through the door with a squad of cops screaming that he objects to the wedding because THE GROOM IS A THREAT (OR MENACE), AND THE COPS START FIRING WILDLY INTO THE CROWD OF WEDDING GUESTS AND AUNT MAY PASSES OUT BECAUSE OF THE SHOCK!

It's a Game of Thrones level of Bad Wedding.

And yes, that Worst Enemy the Goblin contacted? It was JJJ, naturally, and he took the fact that his star reporter was taking selfies of That Wall-Crawling Weasel real personally and decided to employ the most overkill possible in ruining his life; wrecking his wedding, making Peter a wanted criminal and letting every supervillain in New York know exactly who to target to get back at Spidey and also nearly killing his aunt. Robbie Robertson is taken back by even this level of hatred Jameson has for Spidey (he was never subtle about it, but this is a bit beyond his usual yellow journalism) and quits the Bugle in defiance; and then dedicates himself to working alongside Gwen Stacy in writing exposes about what a jackass Jameson is and and what a hero Peter Parker is for all his Spider-based heroism; and she agrees because she basically accepts every idea presented to her in this comic.

Kind of weird how little page time and personality she had since the story is supposed to be about her actually being around.

Oh, and there's another back-up story about the Eternals in the last few pages; this time it's about how there was a a civil war between the peaceful Chronos and the warlike Uranos, and the latter was beaten and his followers were sent to live in outer-space (specifically, Uranus, coincidentally enough) and the former accidentally blew himself up and made everyone nearby immortal.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?!
Yup! Gwen wound up coming back to life a few times over the years (usually as a clone, or more famously as an alternate-universe duplicate), even if the main Gwen remained dead, Spider-Mans marriage (and Aunt Mays life) was ruined shortly after his secret identity became public knowledge (Satan fixed it though, it was a whole thing). Biggest departure is that whenever Jameson or May found out that Peter was actually Spider-Man they took it really well; matter of fact Jameson became a loudmouthed, obnoxious Spider-Man fan.

NEXT TIME: Gonna need to re-write some bibles after this
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
Kind of weird how little page time and personality she had since the story is supposed to be about her actually being around.
Late-era Gwen Stacy was just Like That. Back in the Ditko days, she was pretty spicy, but successive writers filed off a lot of her edges over the years, until she was "perfect", i.e. devoid of personality.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)
Presently her personality is defined as being annoyed that everyone only remembers her for her very famous death, and having a really cool costume.

Which is a step up, gotta admit.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)

Written by Peter Gillis
Art by Rich Buckler and Dave Simons

Smug Thor in the corner was never less appropriate than he was in this issue. And we also get some more evidence of Odin being top five the worst dads in the Marvel Universe. Also a lot of absolutely gorgeous art that I really wish I'd been able to screen-shot.

Framing story is kinda awkward in this issue, as there's no set-up for it at all; and I only realized it for what it was because I've been reading this series, and I've previously read the story it's riffing on; as it's one of the worst instances of Thors Dad being a complete dick (and that is a crowded field); some years previously (fairly late in Kirbys run on the book), Thor had confessed his love to Jane Foster and decided to get his fathers blessing before marrying her (since she's mortal and he's not and there ain't a lot of precedent for that kind of thing); and Odin said "Well, sure IF she can prove she can be a Goddess"; and he imbued her with a portion of the Allforce. And unfortunately, because Jane didn't display immediate skill with wielding Godly Power, was experiencing a bit of culture shock at seeing a Magical Space Planet full of immortal vikings, and was frightened by The Unstoppable Unknown that Odin keeps locked in his basement, Odin deemed her Unworthy of Marrying Thor, erased her memory of ever meeting Thor and got her a job with a Hunky Doctor who kinda looked like Thors mortal disguise) and also re-introduced Thor to The Lady Sif, a woman he was much more approving of.

It was a really bad send-off of an established character in a long-running comic, a bad introduction for a new character and even by 1960s standards, some just truly awful behavior from a guy we were supposed to see as a stern but fair father (nominally, he's always a dick).

Well, that's how it all happened way back in Thor/Journey into Mystery #102, let's see how What If? #25 handles things!

Thor is a lot less permissive of the just galling dismissal of his girlfriend, for one thing, and says that if Jane can't stay in Asgard, then he won't either, and takes her back before Odin can even revoke the spell that gave her Godly Power, and back on Earth, he comes to the conclusion that Odin was acting like a jerk even by Odin standards so he must be possessed or corrupted by evil magic or something and an Evil Odin is beyond even Thors ability to deal with; he'll need some help avenging his familys honor!

And he happens to be good buddies with a bunch of people who are big fans of Avenging things; so he abandons Jane Foster (still wearing Kirby-esque space armor in the middle of a doctors office) to head to the Avengers Mansion in order to wrangle up the help of the rest of his work buddies; and explains to them that his dad is acting like a REAL jerk, so maybe they could help him wage a war against the Heavens Themselves!

And nobody really has any problem with this except Quicksilver who elects to stay behind, because, y'know... he doesn't care about Thor having a spat with his dad. Also; Thor could not have chosen a less effective Avengers line-up to Attack and Dethrone God with; we've got Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Wasp and Goliath (Hank Pym when he couldn't change his size and was stuck at 10-feet tall). *Maybe* two of those guys wouldn't be a complete liability in a God War.

In Asgard, word spreads around that Thor is mighty ticked off at his poppa, and is calling for a Civil War and... the Asgardians are pretty receptive to it; Odins a long standing asshole and everyone LIKES Thor; even Odins grand vizier (who doesn't get a name except The Grand Vizier, and unlike every other Grand Vizier in the history of fiction, is not evil) calls out his Liege Lords really bad approach to testing Jane Foster and leaves him in favor of Thor. Which is really helpful for the Avengers, as the Vizier wields a good chunk of Asgardian Magic himself, and is able to upgrade the Avengers to the point they can stand toe-to-toe with Gods (Hawkeye is gifted with an enchanted bow that can never miss, and grumbles that he had one of those anyway).

In fact, the odds are so stacked in Thors favor for this God War that Odin has no choice but to turn to the Asgardians with the most experience (if not success) fighting his son; Loki, Skurge the Executioner and Amora the Enchantress (and also Baldur the Brave, oddly. Apparently he's more loyal to the throne than his best friend); and he gives them full control of his remaining armies and tells them to go off and kill his son!

The only Asgardians who elect not to get involved are Heimdall (he's guarding the Bifrost bridge and never takes a break) and Sif (who is kind of cheesed that she's never going to get a chance to date Thor), and also the still immortal Jane Foster (who really did not want to inspire a God War).

Anyway, we get a bunch of really impressive double-page spreads of full on God War; as Thors insurgents and Odins defenders (made up entirely of Bad Guys) clash in the fields of Asgard... and eventually, out of everyone involved, it's Tony friggin' Stark who has an introspective moment and realizes somethings amiss here; despite his claims about Odin being possessed by some evil force, Thor is really just fighting because he's really mad, and outside of the generals, Odins defenders are just guys who don't want to see their king murdered; and opts to let himself be taken prisoner so he could parley with the Allfather himself.

Last time Tony was taken prisoner during a war he had no business being involved in, it went really badly for him, so that's a pretty strong indicator of how bad an idea this God War must be.

Luckily, this gamble does actually work; and Odin does in fact see that every decision he's made since learning that Thor and Jane were in love was a bad one, and gives Tony a message for Thor that will bring a peaceful end to the God War. UNluckily, both Odin and Tony forgot that the leader of his army was the literal God of Lies and Tricks, and Loki ambushes Tony on his way back to Thors camp, and kills him; Iron Man dies of his wounds just as he reaches Thor and his last words were "Odin..."

And naturally, Thor assumes the rest of that sentence was "Killed Me" and not "Wants peace" so he doubles down on the attack.

And as further proof that relying on Loki to do what you want is an idiotic idea; it turns out he had been secretly draining the Allforce from Odins body the whole time he was working alongside him; making Loki the most powerful Asgardian of all.

Odin and Loki are literally immortal and was old before the Earth was born, AND YET, it's a constant surprise when crap like this happens.

It's stuff like this that makes you a bad ruler, Odin!

Anyway, Loki is cooking with gas now, and decides to single-handedly bring the Godwar to a close by beating Thor to death with his bare hands; but despite another few pages of amazing art, fails; this being because he forgot that The Wasp was involved with the fighting, and she ALSO got a massive power boost when the Avengers joined the fight and the magical Living Omnipotence of the Odinforce doens't amount to a hill of beans if a tiny, tiny woman flies into your ear and electrocutes your brains.

So Loki dead.

And the Allforce disappeared with him.

This leaves Odin completely defenseless personally, and his armies broke and fled when their leader died and Thor walks right up to the Imperial Palace, and sees exactly how desperate Odin is to... err... not be killed by his son; as he's attempting to draw forth the Oversword- a building sized great-sword burning with so much Asgardian magic that simply unsheathing it would END THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.

That Odin has that thing comes up weirdly seldom in Thor comics.

Anyway, seeing his dad about to annihilate all that exists is enough to finally make Thor decide to stop and have a chat with his dad instead of fomenting war; and they really hash things out; Thor points out that he's the only son of Odin who isn't a murderous, pathological liar and professional Evil Sorcerer, but HE is the one who has to constantly prove himself worthy of Odins favor, while Loki gets off scot-free every time he tries to... well... do anything.

And Odin explains that he really wanted Thor to be a better king than he is and that means being absurdly stern with him over everything; and nothing Loki could have ever done was an actual credible threat to the Realm Eternal, and plainly he's also a just staggeringly bad father and every choice he's ever made was the wrong one.

And Thor says, yeah... you're right. You're awful. You are just the worst dad. But I don't want to cause an apocalypse by killing you, so I'm just going to bounce.

So Thor and his followers leave Asgard and settle a NEW Magical Viking Planet, and Odin and his remaining followers stay behind on Asgard, and we get another full page spread of both Odin and Thor sitting on their respective thrones, looking pensive and lonely and it's so much like the ending of Conan that I'm genuinely unsure which came first.

Oh, and Jane still has Asgardian powers, but everyone just plum forgot about her.

Oh, and there's another Eternals back-up story; this time they learned that the Eternals could Voltron themselves together to be a big brain.

BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?!
Thor and Odin fight, like, all the time, but it's usually one or both sulking at each other, and rarely does it come to blows. Not never, though; when he first confronted Jane Foster when SHE had the Power of Thor in Jason Aarons run, they had a brawl that spread across the entire Solar System, and War of the Realms concluded with Odin admitting he's an absolutely awful King and Father and abdicating his throne to Thor (he spent his retirement working as a bartender)

NEXT TIME: Hail to the Cap
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
And nobody really has any problem with this except Quicksilver who elects to stay behind, because, y'know... he doesn't care about Thor having a spat with his dad.
I wonder if this was before or after it was revealed that Magneto was his and Wanda's father. That might've been a contributing factor in his decision...
 
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