Friday, October 07, 2005

WHAT IF Vol 2, #1 Marvel Comics, 1989



This is the first issue of the second series of Marvel’s What If? comic.

The premise of the What If? books is simple: what if a key storyline in a Marvel comic had turned out a different way? How would this “road not traveled” affect the Marvel Universe? You know: What If Elektra Had Lived? Okay, that’s not a good example. What If Captain America and Bucky Had Both Survived World War II? Hmm, that’s not a good example either. What If Daredevil’s Secret Identity Was Exposed? Okay, no. What If The Hulk Went Berserk? Hmm, perhaps the What If? books were meant to explore the “road eventually traveled.”

In my mind, there were several big flaws in the What If? comics.

One was that in general, in the What If? comics everybody died. Seriously, in every damn issue, regardless of the scenario, the entire Marvel Universe died – except The Punisher. What If Spider-Man Had Joined The Fantastic Four? Why, that would mean the death of us all! I may be overstating my point a little, but it seemed like the What If? series was a great opportunity to gack some beloved characters for cheap dramatic effect.

The second big problem with the What If? series was that after a while, they sort of ran out of interesting scenarios. The first volume of the series ran for over a hundred issues, and after a while they just seemed to be copies of the classic What If The Avengers Lost The Korvac War? issue.

Case in point: What If The Avengers Had Lost The Evolutionary War? This is the first issue of the second series, and they’re already tapped out for ideas. I think a more appropriate question for the book to pose would be: What If People Cared About The Evolutionary War?

For those of you who don’t care or know of the Evolutionary War, let me give you some background: In this summer annual crossover, The High Evolutionary, a genius who wears magenta, wants to jump-start man’s biological evolution with, of course, a Huge Bomb. The Avengers stop this pink madman from his misguided scheme, and everything works out in the end.

But in the What If? universe, anything can happen! In this alternate reality, the High Evolutionary’s genetic bomb goes off, blanketing the world in evolvo-fallout. Mankind and mutantkind start to evolve at an incredibly fast rate (except for US Senator Rick Santorum, who doesn’t believe in shit like that), and comedy ensues.

For instance, the genetic bomb bulks Wolverine up to normal-person size, and now he’s got really huge adamantium claws. Check it out:


Man, Wolverine has a colloquialism for everything! He doesn’t call them “knuckles,” he calls them “knucks.” I am so using that. And no, I don’t know how a genetic bomb would affect non-organic material like adamantium, but then, I’m not smart like the High Evolutionary. I don’t wear pink, either, so it balances out.

Wolverine isn’t the only person affected: everybody’s car keys grow to five times the normal size. It’s a New Dawn for Metal Tools everywhere!

I’m kidding, but what actually happens is much worse. Behold:


That’s right, all the humans instantly grow huge heads that are “bigger and balder than a giant’s cueball” and develop telepathy. Now that mankind is all on the same wavelength, war and strife miraculously cease overnight. Even Dr. Doom calls it a day – he’s just full of so much love that he doesn’t need to hide his huge cranium under that mask anymore.

Long story short: Wolverine becomes the messiah of the new Homo Superior Superior, and all the mutants fly up into space in a big comet and Earth becomes a living planet or something.

But not before everybody breaks into song!


Perhaps a better title for this book would be, “What The Hell…?”

And hey – who’s that pink blob guy standing next to She-Hulk? Is that Karkas? They get points for sneaking him into the book.

You gasp and ask yourself, “Self, who wrote this?”

Roy Thomas. ‘Nuff said! I’m not dissing Roy Thomas, who has written some comic books that I absolutely love, but this comic seems a little… out of step? Do kids really want to see giant egghead people and mutants floating in space and Eternity and Death and all that? I mean, I think it’s kind of charming and goofy, but man, is that a strong way to kick off your new What If? series?

I could describe the rest of the book, but it gets very cosmic and heady and frankly, uninteresting. One of the big problems I have with it is that, story-wise, it’s sort of a mess. There’s no protagonist, there’s no antagonist, there are no goals or people to root for or obstacles to overcome. Plus, seriously – was The Evolutionary War such a big deal that they actually had to write a spin-off comic that enhanced on the original story? Were the Marvel readers in 1989 just dying to know how things would have turned out if the Avengers had lost?

I say thee nay.

Plus, big-head people. Come on, that is never cool.


47 comments:

Anonymous said...

The first WHAT IF series didn't crack 50 issues. It's the second, crappier run that did 100+ issues, with about ten good ones.

Anonymous said...

And it's Krakas [sp?] the Deviant standing next to Shulk, not Karnak the Inhuman who already has a huge forehead.

Anonymous said...

I think you mean Karkas, not Karnak.

Bonus nerd points to me!!!!!!

David Campbell said...

Karkas, right. I should know this, because I did a whole post mocking him. Okay, I'm correcting it, and now people will wonder what the hell we're talking about. Thanks and bonus nerd points all around. Drinks on the house.

Anonymous said...

Something about the story seems familiar... an homage to Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End," maybe? (which i never actually read so i'm only guessing here...)

Dweeze said...

Where's Superpro when you really need him? He'd take down all those big-headed bald freaks.

Anonymous said...

Somebody better tie a rope around the ankles of the kid who's floating away in that last image. Are those big egg-shaped heads filled with helium, or what?

Anonymous said...

This begs for a big headed Xavier "The Pain!" banner.

carlos

Sleestak said...

The best What If issue didn't even take place in that mag. It took place in an issue of X-Men where Kitty told some Arabian X-Nights story to Illyana.

thekelvingreen said...

I'm with Neez. This seems like good stupid superhero fun to me. No rapes or Goddamn Batmen here! So I vote for no The Pain on this one.

That said, it is goofy and silly, and I wouldn't want to read stuff like this too often.

If Marvel had put out less of these, maybe they wouldn't have been so shite. DC seem to have better luck, quality wise, perhaps because they put fewer of them out. What If Superman Were Amish And Drawn By Alan Davis? was a good one.

Anonymous said...

I never got this comic either. One of my biggest misunderstands of the marvel universe is any and everything cosmic, at the time I thought itd just be something I would understand "when I was older." But a 29 year old thebridgeisover reads the same comics (doctor strange, silver surfer, anything involving the negative zone...) and still exclaims, "wtf!?"

I will admit to being huge what if fan of both runs, though I was only around for this one. But to cover a topic as competely lame as the evolutionary wars for the first issues confuses the hell out of me (I suppose they were looking to back up atlantis attacks which I think was running that summer). I mean, what was it? The third or fourth issue had that great spiderman story where his costume takes him over (okay, this was way before there were 723 guys running around wearing some kind of venom offspring and shooting out tenicles (anime fans rejoice...). Regardless, I loved both runs for except these type issues.

As far as the killings, Ill have to disagree with dave. While having the whole marvel universe killed off because spidey didnt marry MJ was in fact the cheapest of plot devices, it was fun to see something youd never see anywhere else, A marvel hero dead and dead as dirt never to return.

PS: Im thinking about atlantis attacks and I wonder how cool it would be to have a marvel crappy crossover weeks with all the worst of the 80's and 90's.

-thebridgeisover

Anonymous said...

In addition to bloating that baby's head up in the last panel, it also seems to have caused him or here to lose their genetalia.

Uh, no thanks. I'll pass on the evolution if that's one of the rewards, thanks anyway.

Anonymous said...

With those heads, I'm surprised the humans didn't next invent interociters.

Anonymous said...

I kinda liked Evolutionary War. But then, I'm a sucker for high-continuity stuff, and all the references to decades of Marvel stories (the backup timeline feature was awesome) made my day. Plus, it actually provided a reasonable coda to the Spider-Man clone story...before they totally cocked it up a couple years later with the Clone Saga crap that utterly retconed the events in Evolutionary War. I was also a fan of Atlantis Attacks, if for no other reason than they tied it into Conan at one point!

As for this particular issue, I remember, even as a wee lad, thinking that the way they selected Wolverine as their leader was stooooooopid. Something along the lines of, "somehow, we just know that Wolverine is to lead us!" Man, any excuse to put Wolvie in the front.

Anonymous said...

I remember my favorite What if?. It retells a UXM story from the early 90s where the power goes out in the X-Mansion while they're holding Sabertooth. In the comic, Jubilee saves Bishop, but in the What If? she doesn't make it in time. Great read.

Anonymous said...

I've got that issue of What If? where the Avengers lost to Korvac. It's freakin' nuts! After killing the Avengers, Korvac resurrects half of 'em and send them to kill off everyone else.

Greg LaRocque pencils over Mark Gruenwald's layouts, but the real crazy stuff is the inking: for whatever reason, all the characters in the story have a different inker. We're talking John Byrne, Vince Coletta, Frank Miller, Walter Simonson, John Romita Sr, Bob Layton. Recommended just for the crazy art team.

And you want a true "THE PAIN!" award, check out the "TimeQuake" epic Thomas and the L'Officers did around issue #35. Good god!

Chris Sims said...

One thing I've noticed about a lot of "What If?" stories is that they don't actually matter.

What if the Punisher's family had lived? Oh, they'd die anyway. Just, you know, a month later.

Anonymous said...

I remember that Jubliee and Sabretooth issue. #87, first of the "dark era" What If? stories, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and drawn by Frank Teran. Very well done.

Dr. Pants said...

Wow, "Timequake." That DID suck. It was, in its own way, trying to make "What if?" matter, because we were supposed to be emotionally invested in characters that moved from comic to comic.

Unfortunately, as in any universe these days, there are so many gods and entities and beings that whenever you try a big "Timequake" style story, it always ends up dealing with Obscure-Cosmic-Overlord-With-Ill-Defined-Abilities. And those guys suck.

RobB said...

The High Evolutionary, a genius who wears magenta

Sounds either like a dippy 60s song or a shitty sitcom.

Tycho B. said...

I'm a little confused about what What If #1 is trying to say. The Evolutionary wins, we all evolve into super-intelligent life forms and become one with the cosmic consciousness and shit...

Does that mean that the Super-Heroes are only champions of the status quo, and if the Evolutionary won it would've been a good thing?

And why is it the heads that always get bigger? Isn't it more likely the human race would just evolve bigger boobs?

Anonymous said...

How come the black dude doesn't seem to be losing his hair when everyone's heads grow?

Tycho B. said...

After a predetermined seven-digit prime number of jello shots.

Kevin Church said...

How come the black dude doesn't seem to be losing his hair when everyone's heads grow?

Because his hair is already, like, super-evolved!

Winterteeth said...

As always, quality stuff from Dave. I remember a shitload of issues revolving around Wolvie in that second run. He fought Conan, ran SHIELD, became Lord of the Vampires, etc. What a coincidence that their most popular character would be so pivotal to so many stories he had nothing to do with. I did enjoy the "What If the X-Men lost Inferno" issue with Ron Lim art. The group of heroes who survived (Dr. Strange, Shadowcat, Thor and some others) were nice and "from a hat" in their composition.

Anonymous said...

Jim Valentino and Rob Liefeld did that "What If Wolverine Was An Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.?" story. Valentino made his name on early issues of the second What If? series.

One of the final issues of the series told a story where Wovlerine became so shit hot poweful he wound up uniting the entire world in an attempt to destroy him.

Anonymous said...

My favorite? 'What If' V.I, #4, which gave us the official tale on what happened to the role of Captain America after Steve Rogers took an ice nap. It also gave us the end of the Invaders and the beginning of the All-Winners Squad. The reason this story appeared in 'What If' was, according to Marvel, there really wasn't anywhere else to tell the story at the time (hello? What were 'Marvel Premiere', 'Marvel Spotlight'?).

I'd say the bulk of these comics were craptacular, but there were a few good ones. Making it an ongoing series was a mistake (the Elseworlds format, IMHO, would have been the proper way to handle 'What If').

Anonymous said...

wait, so... the Avengers shouldn't have stopped the evo-bomb or whatever? That's messed up.

Anonymous said...

I was a huge fan of What If? vol. 2 as a kid. It exposed me to a lot of stories I had never read, which made the Marvel Universe seem sprawling.

I read some of the later issues of vol. 1 recently, and enjoyed them a lot, even if they did have a tendency to end with status quo they were supposed to be inverting being in place anyway, although I thought it was really well done in a couple of places. And Miller's Elektra lives story is pretty damn Airwolf. Also, Wolverine as King of the Vampires and a midget barbarian who marries Red Sonja were pretty damn Airwolf themsevles when I was 9. The funniest part of the Wolvie/Conan crossover is that they switch places in time, and Conan winds up causing Dark Phoenix to destroy the world.

Devon Sanders said...

Was this the issue where Captain America gets tossed in THE OCEAN and The Sub-Mariner saves him because he happened to be in the area?

Anonymous said...

"One of the final issues of the series told a story where Wovlerine became so shit hot poweful he wound up uniting the entire world in an attempt to destroy him."

I have that issue. Of course, they all fail and I think they get killed. In a SF utopia version of our future, some kids discuss how their world ended such an utopia. They mention that the mysterious mutant ass-kicker known as Logan, after that incredible bloodshed, disappeared and that everybody is certain he's dead. By coincidence, somewhere near those kids we see a cowled Wolverine, now at peace with himself. I forgot to mention that the kids narrate the story from a SF new age camp where juveline delinquents are sent to chill out and become peaceful again (remember, Wolverine killing the Marvel U, forged our timeline in an utopia).

That issue sucked.

Anonymous said...

I was a big "What If?" Fan but I am showing my age in that all the ones I have are alot older than any mentioned.
Three I really remember was.
1. What if Wolverine had killed the Hulk?
2.What if Phoenix had not Died?
3.What if Captain America had become president?

Dorian said...

This is my favorite issue of What If...What if...The Punisher's family wasn't killed. Well, then he doesn't become the Punisher. And in the end, his family does get killed, and he does become the Punisher. So what was the point of the story then?

A close second is the issue where Wolverine travels back in time to fight Conan. Wolverine ends up staying in the past and hooking up with Red Sonja, while Conan ends up in the future...during the whole "fight to see if the Shi'Ar will kill Jean Grey" thing. And Conan's presence ends up triggering the return of Dark Phoenix, who destroys the universe.

Anonymous said...

Dave, have you lost your mind? The second series was completely Airwolf.

thekelvingreen said...

wait, so... the Avengers shouldn't have stopped the evo-bomb or whatever? That's messed up.
Well, it has a precedent in that the whole point of the Korvac Sage is that the Avengers essentially kill the saviour of all that is good in the universe because they think he's a lunatic.

Anonymous said...

My favorite issue had to be #78, What if Spider-Man suffered from ADHD? in which MJ dies at the hands of... oh, I don't know, let's say The Vulture. Anyway, the Vulture drops Mary Jane from the roof of The Daily Bugle. Then, just as Spidey is about to swing in and rescue his lady-love, the Vulture does this really cool loop-the-loop that totally distracts him ("Whoa! You're pretty spry for an old guy! I never... what's that screaming?"). The plummeting Watson lands directly atop Alicia Masters, flattening her like week-old Coca Cola. Maddened with grief, the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing uses the Ultimate Nullifier on the universe, thus destroying the whole of creation.

It was a bit of a downer.

thekelvingreen said...

KJToo, you made that up. There's no Wolverine appearance, and every issue of What If? has to have a Wolverine appearance.

Winterteeth said...

Its Columbus Day! Dave has no time for writing columns when he has to build his replica of the Santa Maria for the pageant tonight! Will will have to make our own gravy...er, funny. Let's not forget this is a major, big deal holiday, people. Not a made up excuse to get out of work. Not at all. Screw Leif Ericson!

Anonymous said...

Good point, kelvingreen. Though Wolverine himself doesn't play a major role - except to blink out of existence with all of the other X-Men at the end of the issue (Here are the X-Men. Blink! No more X-Men. Here are the Avengers. Blink! No More Avengers! Here are the Guardians of the Galaxy, and so on...) - the sound Mary Jane Watson's shapely, falling body makes when colliding with Alicia Masters' shapely, pedestrian body is KNUCK!

thekelvingreen said...

That does explain it. KNUCK! indeed. :)

joncormier said...

I could live in a world where everyone broke into verses of The Pixies "It is time for stormy weather."

Anonymous said...

Tell me that the High Evolutionary isn't thinking "I'M HUGE!!!" there.

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MOCK! said...

jay said...
With those heads, I'm surprised the humans didn't next invent interociters.


"I'm not an alien."

MOCK! said...

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