What If Ghost Rider, Spider-Woman and Captain Marvel Were Villains In Really Short Unsatisfying Stories?

This one’s another three parter, like a Simpsons Halloween Special. But not interesting. So, like a recent Simpsons Halloween Special. Uatu shows up in a splash page to tell us that this week, we’re going to see what would happen if Ghost Rider, Spider-Woman and Captain Marvel were all bad guys. Since we’re talking about a demon, a Hydra Agent and an alien from an evil space empire, we’re not at too much of a stretch here.

“What if these three yahoos were all evil? Who could even speculate?” Baldy yells, grasping his balls. “I can! For I am the Watcher!”

I love when he gets all mad about it. “Fuck you guys, I’m the Goddamned Watcher.”

We start off with Johnny Blaze, 70s stunt racer and future Nicholas Cage role, I’m sorry to say. Johnny and his lady friend Roxanne are excited that their travelling motorcycle circus (…okay.) has gotten a chance to perform at Madison Square Garden. They’re surprised when Johnny’s mentor and Roxanne’s father Crash “Flash Thompson” Simpson isn’t so in to the idea. Turns out he has cancer and could not be more blasé about it.

Johnny’s worried about his friend so he does the only logical thing. He sells his soul to the devil in a scene that’s pretty goddamn awesome.

Look at Johnny up there, praising Satan. I love comics.

So the Devil keeps his end of the bargain and cures Crash of his cancer. In the normal comic, he cures Crash only so that Crash can die performing his motorcycle stunt, driving home some of that irony that Satan’s so fond of. In this new universe, the Devil is… boring.

Crash safely executes the jump and then Johnny runs off to cry in his room. “Oh, boo hoo. I don’t have a soul any more. I had no idea this deal with the devil would go wrong.” At that point, Satan shows up and turns Johnny into the Ghost Rider, star of stage, screen and more drunken tattoos then Hot Stuff the Lil’ Devil.

At this point, Crash stops by Johnny’s room to see if Johnny still has any skin on his face. He fails to knock and Ghost Rider burns all his flesh off. BEHOLD THE FATE OF ALL SINNERS! Remembering who he is for a second, Johnny jumps on his motorcycle and takes off into the night, vowing to send to hell anyone who fails to politely enter a room. Just like in the Bible.

Not long after, reports start appearing all over America that Skeleton Evel Knievel is driving around setting criminals on fire. Roxanne sees this in the newspaper and realizes that that flaming skeleton can only be her boyfriend Johnny Blaze. She figures out that Johnny is heading for a prison so he can kill everyone in it and resolves to beat him there. Luckily Greyhound travels way faster than a motorcycle from Hell.

Roxanne arrives just as Johnny is attacking the prison and he murders the everloving fuck out of her. Like, we’re talking a fight of about one panel. I guess Marvel decided it’d be more interesting to have Ghost Rider fight Daimon Hellstrom: The Shirtless Son of Satan. Because showing the drama of a man possessed by a monster murdering his only friend is way less cool than him throwing fireballs at a dude in a Dracula cape with a pitchfork. At least we get a good shot of sad Ghost Rider.

That’s hilarious.

Daimon and Ghost Rider fight for a couple of page, before Daimon finally gets fed up and sucks out all of Ghost Rider’s fire. This leaves Johnny nothing but a skeleton in a jumpsuit in the middle of the desert, his only hope for the future to provide background in a Road Runner cartoon.

Alright, that done, we cut live to our second story already in progress. Jessica Drew (AKA Spider-Woman, no relation.) is strangling Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD* because Fury’s captured Jessica’s boyfriend and fellow Hydra agent, Jared (What a chilling name for a Hydra Agent.) Jessica tries to zap Fury with one of her venom blasts but Fury uses Jared as a shield** and Jess murders him. She goes to kill Fury but can’t do it.

At this point, Fury’s girlfriend and partner, the Contessa enters and Spider-Woman prematurely venom blasts Fury to death.

Whoops. At this point, Spidey-Womey decides to cut her losses and heads back to Hydra Headquarters, presumably in the Terror Dome.

Back home, Jessica turns to the Supreme Hydra and his Supreme Mustache for help. She wants to know what her secret origin is, but Brian Bendis won’t clear up that convoluted mess for thirty years. Just then, the Contessa and a metric fuck-ton of SHIELD Agents burst in. Supreme Hydra and Jess beat cheeks, leaving a bunch of faceless goons to die. Being in Hydra sucks.

Shocked by his betrayal of his troops, Jessica is further shocked when Supreme Hydra tries to leave her behind too. Wow, it’s like this guy can’t be trusted or something. He tosses Jess out of his escape craft and then crashes it in the woods. He probably shouldn’t have also betrayed his steering wheel and brakes. Idiot.

Jess is knocked out by the Contessa and regains conciousness in the middle of her trial, which doesn’t exactly seem legal.

She’s about to go down for a whole lot of terrorist and accidental murder charges when her defence calls his witness. It’s the Supreme Hydra. Uh, minus the costume. Looks like somebody knows how to dress for a court date, JESSICA.

Supreme Hydra tells the court that it’s impossible for them to try Jess as she’s not a human. She’s a mutated spider! Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s about as dumb as Wolverine being a mutant Wolverine who was raised by Wolverines. Jessica gets tired of this bullshit and flies away.

Six months later, we rejoin her, in Paris on the run from SHIELD and Hydra and paying off criminals with ridiculous accents for information on her origins. Her completely trustworthy informant betrays her for the bounty SHIELD has on her, but Jess zaps him and flies off to use the information he gave her to find her father. The end! Boy, that was unsatisfying! I told you!

Alright, finally, we get to the Captain Marvel story. I like Captain Marvel but the current awesome Kelly Sue DeConnick one. I don’t know a whole lot about the original guy, except that he’s a guy named Marv-Ell who is a soldier for the evil Kree empire come to Earth to see if we were a danger or ready for conquest or whatever. But then he really liked it. He’s like the Silver Surfer without the missing genitals.

We open with Marv battling the Sentry. No, wait, come back! It’s not the Superman guy in the gold tights that Marvel tried to convince us was interesting and not boring and stupid for ten years. It’s just a big invincible robot. Much cooler. I have no idea why they are fighting but it seems important.

Back on a Kree ship, Marv’s not really friend Yon-Rogg and Marv’s sort of girlfriend maybe Una are reporting to their boss, Ronan the Accuser (He’s the bad guy in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie! In my head, he sounds like Sean Connery!). Ronan’s pissed that Yon-Rogg has sent Captain Marvel to Earth on his own and then had the Sentry fight him just because Yon is trying to sleep with Marv’s girlfriend. He takes Una hostage and then escapes. Okay, this is all making a little more sense now. I think.

Back on Earth, Marv-Ell is getting his ass kicked by the Sentry when Carol Danvers shows up. Yay, Carol! A character I’m familiar with! Between the two of them they make some sort of plan and are able to attach the Sentry to a missile using Marv’s uni-beam. Which I guess is his thing. Sentry is killed by the power of the US Government’s missile program. At which point Yon-Rogg shows up.

Marv chases him off and then Yon beans him with a rock before promptly suffocating because Yon forgot to put on a space helmet or take pills so he could breathe Earth’s atmosphere. That’s… that’s terrible. Like… what?

Ronan arrives and congratulates Marv-Ell on his work and then leaves him on Earth to monitor it and see if it’s a threat or not. Like… like normal. Except this time, Marv acts all sinister like he didn’t just save the earth from an evil robot.

I… I didn’t care for this one.

 

*Strategic Heroic Something Something Whatever, True Believer!

**This one’s just an actual shield, not a secret spy agency.

What If I Knew Anything At All About Shang Chi: Master of Kung-Fu.

The hardest of these reviews to write are always the rare ones where I have no idea who the hell anyone is. I mostly know Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu and Marvel’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of Bruce Lee flicks, from his appearances in Secret Avengers. I think he was also in Spider-Man. None of the old Master of Kung-Fu issues are still in print, due to Marvel losing the license to the series’ main bad guy, Fu Manchu so I couldn’t go back and do any research. Also I refuse to do research.

What I do know is that Fu Manchu has been a character in fiction since the early 20th century. He’s basically THE yellow peril villain. You know, the insidious inscrutable celestial. He’s also… pretty racist by today’s standards. I mean, look at this guy.

Seriously, Spock ears? Jesus.

So we start off with the Watcher explaining the origin of Fu Manchu’s son, Shang Chi. Shang Chi has been trained since birth by Fu and his legion of chinese stereotypes to be a loyal, unquestioning assassin. Of course, he’s also been trained to revere life and be a good person. Which conflicts a little with his father’s whole “take over the world for the glory of China” plan. So Shang’s a little conflicted when Daddy sends him out into the world on his first mission: kill some old man!

The assassination goes off without a hitch, as Shang punches a sleeping man to death. Excellent use of a lifetime of training there. We definitely needed a good karate guy to do that. Shang’s on  his way out the door when he’s spotted by… a different old man in a wheelchair. It’s Sir Dennis Waylan Smith, friend to our new corpse and longtime hater of Fu Manchu.

In our reality, Shang sticks around to watch Sir Dennis mourn his punched-to-death friend and realizes that Fu Manchu’s plans for world domination are wrong. He rejects Fu, tears up his shirt dramatically and stars in a comic book for seventy issues.

In this shocking new world, Shang peaces out early, leaving Sir Dennis to mourn in silence. Shang returns to Fu’s castle where he wonders if murder is worth it. Fu makes the excellent argument that murder is great if Fu Manchu fucking TOLD YOU TO DO IT.

Shang is still a little conflicted on whether or not his father might actually be a bad guy, so Fu sets him up on a less controversial mission than old man murder: Grave robbery!

Meanwhile, in England, Sir Dennis is putting together a team of guys to combat Fu Manchu in the finest 70s Marvel tradition. He hires Black Jack Tarr, the British version of Ben Grimm and his AMAZING mustache, Clive Reston, who is boring, and Leiko Wu, who is also chinese and kicky. In case you thought the racism was only going to be tossed at the bad guys.

Sir Dennis and his team are just about to begin their search for Fu Manchu when Dennis receives a phone call concerning a bunch of Chinamen breaking into a local cemetery. This MUST be the work of the dastardly Fu Manchu. I mean, yeah, it is. But jeez, way to jump to conclusions, guys.

It is indeed Shang Chi and some random Fu Manthugs who have broken into the cemetery. They’re stealing the bodies of some of Fu’s old lieutenants for some reason. Shang continues to be conflicted. Was he not taught that all life is sacred? And why exactly was he taught that? His father is clearly terrible at breeding children as assassins. Shame on you, Fu Manchu.

Back at

we learn exactly what Fu’s plans are for the dead bodies as he injects a dead rat with the Reanimator potion from the hit movie Beyond Reanimator, returning it to life. For no one in all of England can defeat the DEADLY ZOMBIE RATS OF FU MANCHU.

Meanwhile, in England, Shang and his Fu Mancrew are attacked by Sir Dennis’ deadly British people. Shang escapes with most of his pals and all the dead bodies, leaving only a single grave robber behind. Black Jack and co. kidnap him for torture purposes and learn Fu’s deadly plan: Kidnapping the Queen. Which is still better than assassinating her, Naked Gun style, I guess.

Shang returns and Fu promptly locks him in his room while he reanimates his dead lieutenants. Shang weeps as he realizes that his dad would rather bring back dead people than play with him so he runs away from home.

Meanwhile, at the Castle of Queen Elizabeth II, Black Jack and friends arrive. They are prepared to do battle with undead chinese warriors. They are less prepared for said undead chinese warriors to be riding on giant lizards. It’s… it’s just wonderful.

Fu and his ridiculous army attack Buckingham Palace. Luckily, Shang arrives to kick everybody’s problems away before any royals can be kidnapped. Fu tells Shang that they are now enemies and then disappears in a puff of racism. Meanwhile, Black Jack manages to kill the undead lieutenants with his lizard eliminating gun.

With the day saved, Shang prepares to leave but Sir Dennis offers him a job. “You could stay with us and help us fight your dickhead father.” Shang declines. For seriously, is not all life sacred? Even life that has been resurrected by my weird-ass father. Then he leaves, to walk the earth alone. Until he gets tetanus from stepping on a rusty nail. Seriously, dude. Get some shoes.

What If There Were Four Other People Who Weren’t Nova And They Got The Powers Of The Guy Who Is Nova And He Got No Powers?

Also, what if there were a less awkward title for this issue. This week (Well, last week really. Sorry about that.) we open with our old chubby chum the Watcher watching four different realities at once. You know what that means? Yep, What If 15 was absolutely everyone’s last concern over at seventies Marvel Bullpen. On the other hand, we get some pretty sharp Walt Simonson art so it’s not all bad.

So first Uatu gives us the origin of Nova, which is good because I didn’t actually know it, despite reading a lot of Nova comics AND owning his trading card. There’s a reason for that. It’s basically Green Lantern’s origin exactly. Except instead of seeking out the guy on earth with the greatest will, whatever that means, it just seeks out somebody. So it just happens to grab teenage guy, Richard Rider and he becomes Nova: The Human Rocket. The man with the power to fly really fast and crash into stuff. He may also shoot beams.

That out of the way, Uatu postulates “What if some other random people were Nova?”. Would those random people, as the cover seems to lead us to believe, be the Fantastic Four? Or Doctor Doom? Nope, just regular schlubs from all over the damn place.

We start out with Helen Taylor whose husband has just been Batman’d (Killed by some dude in an alley.). She vows revenge on the mugger and, luckily, is then blasted by the Nova force! Handy! Discovering that she now has the amazing power to fuck some fuckers up, she proceeds to kill the entriety of New York’s underworld in a search for her husband’s killer while Uatu gets… weirdly religious.

The police are baffled by this insane woman who leaves only her calling card: Seriously, it’s a card with an explosion on it. Awesome.

Eventually, everyone gets tired of a bucket helmeted Punisher murdering crime (including a pretty great scene where she drops the Kingpin out a window.) and the President sends the Fantastic Four after her.

“Why would the Fantastic Four attack me?” wonders Helen. “They only attack villains. And also heroes. But mostly villains. Well, if they’re attacking me, an obvious hero, it must mean that the most well known team of super-heroes on the planet are actually evil. I’d better murder them.”

Luckily, she does not succeed and Sue Richards drops the old “Suffocate you with an invisible thing” trick. Helen passes out and the FF send her on a one-way trip to the Phantom Zone, er Negative Zone where she’ll be no tribble at all.

That done, we cut to the police pulling a drowned car out of the sea. The cops look inside to reveal… Helen’s husband’s murderer! Why, he died in a car accident months ago! All while Helen was trying to find and kill him! That’s some Rod Serling* shit right there!

Next up, we show a homeless African-american fellow named Jesse and his cat being booted out of a hotel on Christmas Eve for not being able to pay for a room. Which is the very definition of douchebaggery. We don’t see the hotel owner being menaced by three ghosts but if you’re interested, that tale appears in Haunted Hotel Stories #248!

Jesse wanders around talking about how being poor sucks in broken dialogue that could only be written by a white guy.

He also mentions the weird Nova costume he found and how he’d put it on if it wasn’t ridiculous. He may be the first super-hero to think that.

Meanwhile, in space, an invading army of Skrull looks down on Earth and resolves to steal all our precious minerals. The Skrull army lacks quartz, you see and our planet is filthy with the stuff. They also get readings from Jesse’s Nova costume and decide to steal it for the glory of the Skrull Empire, I guess!

Back on Earth, Jesse finds himself a home at a local loving orphanage. He becomes a hit with the kindly old couple who own the place and the cheerful young ragamuffins that live there. It’s fucking revolting, frankly. Luckily, at that point, Skrulls show up to kill everyone.

Jesse puts on the Nova costume and beats up some Skrulls and then allows himself to be captured, drawing the fight away from Norman Rockwell’s Home for Doe-eyed Children. Once back in space, Black Nova (Seriously! It says that in the fucking caption! I think it’s awful too!) leaps into action, killing everyone on the Skrull ship, including himself.

At the orphanage, the kindly couple look up to see a brilliant flash as Jesse sacrifices himself to save the world. “It’s a miracle.” They say. “A Christian miracle!” Once again getting weirdly religious.

“Well, that was a couple of boring nobodies!” Says Uatu, intuiting our boredom with this concept. “How about if Spider-Man was Nova?”

“Hooray!” We cry, excited by the prospect of an intergalactic web-slinging quipster, perhaps fighting the Space Sandman for some reason.

“Not so fast!” Uatu says. “This Spider-Man is even whinier and more annoying than our regular Spider-Man!”

“You suck, Uatu!” We cry. “We’re glad you were recently murdered in Marvel’s current summer event ‘Original Sins’ Also we think it’s hilarious that people keep lugging around your ridiculous giant eyes!”

So Peter Parker gets bitten by the radioactive spider but this time around, it just almost kills him and does paralyse him. Also Aunt May dies from shock because of course she does. Think about this. For every time, Aunt May has almost died in our universe, she’s definitely died in millions of other universes. That’s a giant pile of uncooked wheat cakes and Spider-Man shaking his fist at the ceiling.

So Pete’s a grumbling asshole until he’s struck by the Nova Force for some reason. He realizes he can walk now and also fly, so he heads home to tell Uncle Ben. Maybe they can use his new flying powers for wrestling purposes or something.

Unfortunately, Peter flies in on his uncle about to be murdered by a burgler. (I assume Aunt May’s funeral threw off the burgler’s schedule by a couple of months or something. I’m sure it makes perfect sense.) Peter stops the burgler by diving in the path of the bullet meant to kill Uncle Ben but it ricochets, killing the burgler instead. How ironic.

Tired of killing murderers, Peter throws the costume away, vowing to be Nova no more and leaving a powerful weapon for just anyone to find. Also he forgot that the costume allowed him to walk again, so he falls to the ground. Hopefully into the path of a truck. Oy.

Finally, we come to the best of the four, Evil Cigar Nova. Guy doesn’t have a name but he hangs out on a satellite with Doctor Doom, the Red Skull and the Sphinx. And no, I have no idea who the Sphinx is. I guess he’s a big cosmic guy or something. Anyway, everyone’s really happy because thanks to Evil Cigar Nova, these four guys have killed all the super heroes on Earth. It’s a pretty special day.

So, after an awkward toast to himself, Nova goes to bed and everyone and their dog tries to kill him. First Doom, then the Skull. It’s sad really. Evil Cigar Nova just wants some recognition for a job well done. He’s also perfectly willing to work with history’s greatest monsters. But they just can’t see past their own egos.

Finally, everyone gets killed by the Sphinx who can now turn his attention to wiping out half of humanity in his search for the one person on Earth who can kill him. Seriously, that’s his goal. I just… I’m not super clear on what’s happening here.

Anyway, it turns out the only one who could kill him was Nova. And now Nova’s dead! More Rod Serling shit!**

*Did you guys know it was Rod Serling? I thought it was Sterling for years! Nuff said! – Marvelous Matt!

 

**I also thought his first name was Rob! It isn’t.

What if they found a way for me to give a shit about pre-eyepatch Nick Fury?

If there’s one thing I don’t know (or care, frankly) about, it’s Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. War’s been an important genre of comics up til… I think like the eighties but nobody gives a shit about it anymore, least of all me. So how do you make me want to read a war comic about Nick Fury? Put it in space! Or, I guess, have Garth Ennis write it. That usually does the trick too.

So, we open on Space Station Pearl, on December 7, 1941. In the Hawaiian part of space, I assume. While Sgt. Nick Fury and his good buddy Red Hargrove are playing cards and talking about… I dunno, either space women or stuff from the 1940s, the story goes back and forth, Uatu shows up with his usual big box of exposition.

“I hear you wondering, O reader at home” He says, drawing my attention to the fact that he is not wearing pants. “How is it 1941 and yet we have spaceships and stuff? Why is Space Station Pearl about to be bombed by interstellar lizard men from the other side of the sun? The hell is going on?” Good questions all, but mostly I’m just wondering if we’re gonna get to see Fury lose his eye in space? That sounds AMAZING.

So here’s the deal: Back in the renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci drew a helicopter. In our reality, he didn’t build it because it wouldn’t work so he got back to painting people and co-starring in Assassin’s Creed games. In this reality, it DID work, ushering in a world where all of technology was invented way sooner. This results in man landing on the moon (in paper spaceships, I assume) in the 1600s and traveling outside our own galaxy in 1903. It’s actually pretty fucking awesome.

So, back on the Space Station Pearl, lizard aliens attack and Fury and Hargrove spring into action, shooting lasers and smoking in the space helmets. This is a recurring theme in this issue and I never stop finding it hilarious.

In fact, just when the laughter from Fury’s stogie starts to die down, he and Hargrove find their commanding officer Sam Sawyer dying, a pipe still clutched in his teeth. How is this even a little useful? Far be it from me to judge the Greatest Generation.

With his dying breath, Sawyer begs Fury to lead the new team of commandos Sawyer was building because (I assume.) he knew that the attack on Pearl Station would result in Earth finally entering Space World War I But Earth World War II Except We Aren’t Warring On Earth And This Whole Thing Is Getting Confusing.

We jump forward a couple of months to Fury and his new Howling Commandos training with some fighting robots. In addition to Fury and Hargrove, we also meet Dum Dum Dugan, a circus strongman* who wears a bowler hat inside his space helmet. Seriously, it just keeps being funny. There’s also Gabriel Jones and his bugle that shoots a laser when he blows into it. Through his space helmet.

Apparently, our laser bugle designers were uninformed that AIR CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO GO IN AND OUT OF A FUCKING SPACE HELMET. IT’S LITERALLY THE THING’S ONLY JOB. There’s some other guys too (including a cowboy space guy with a gun that shoots lassos for some reason.) but who cares? They’re basically the “And the rest” guys.

So Fury takes the Commandos to meet their new commanding officer and everyone’s pretty mad when it turns out to be a super computer because space.

Fury tries to pick a fight with it but the Super Computer attacks him with a robot who sprays Fury with freeze gas. The computer then gives them their assignment. The evil Beta Aliens are planning to attack the station so Fury and co. are on 24 space hour guard until they show. And Hargroves’ a pilot now for some reason. Fine.

So now we cut over to the Beta Aliens’ ship, where the Master Betan guides his fleet towards the Earth space station. See, it turns out that the Betans have a spy in the Earth’s guard. I wonder who it could be? Certainly not the bald be-monocled Baron Admiral Strucker who was a promising Nazi until Earth decided to skip the Holocaust and fight aliens instead. Which is definitely MY preference.

However, Strucker’s got a plan of his own. He’s playing both sides of the fence, hoping to lure the Betans into a war they can’t win and then take over Earth for the Nazis. I assume he also plans to reinvent Nazism but one thing at a time.

So, the Betans attack and Hargrove and his team of fighter pilots get into a pretty fucking kick-ass space battle. Unfortunately all of Hargrove’s buddies are slaughtered but he manages to eject so it all works out. For him, anyway. His friends are all dead.

Meanwhile, the Howling Commandos and their robot buddy awake from sleep duty to attempt to defend the space station. Mostly though, they just get knocked around by lasers. The robot is buried under some crap but Nick and Gabe save it, winning its friendship.

At this point, the robot tells Fury that Admiral Strucker is a traitor, although I personally have no idea how it knew and I just read this fucking comic twenty minutes ago. They go to arrest Strucker but he attacks them with his team of Aryan Supermen. Because of course.

Eventually, Fury kicks Strucker out an airlock and the Commandos beat the holy shit out of the Aryan Supermen. Fuck you AND your blonde smugness, A-holes.

There’s some more space fighting, the Betans are blown up to death, Hargrove is saved and the robot is randomly killed by space debris. Just as he and Nick were bonding too. It’s sad.

The war won(?), Fury and co. report back to their computer commanding officer who applauds them for winning the war but also tells them they are loose cannons who should do things more by the book. Fury shoots him with a space bugle.

At no point, does Fury lose an eye and need it to be replaced by a robot eye. A missed opportunity if I ever heard one.

*Yes, there are still circuses in a world where we’ve mastered interstellar travel. I’m as upset as you are. Ugh.