What If The Punisher’s Family Died? …wait, what?

We open our story on a warm, idyllic day in New York’s central park as Vietnam vet and loving family man Frank “Francis Castiglione” Castle plays with his beloved children and wife. What could be more beautiful and carefree than this man who has forsaken violence to return to his city and his beloved family? Normally, this is the part where things get depressing. Frank’s family runs afoul of a mob hit. Being carried out in busy Central Park. In the middle of the day. Truly these are history’s stupidest mobsters. Anyway, they all get murdered, Frank lives, vows revenge and spends the next thirty years murdering every criminal in the city. With occasional trips to LA, the bayou and space.

"I hope nobody comes across our gang murder in this crowded park in the middle of the day. Hey, did we check to see if Times Square was full up? There might be more witnesses."
“I hope nobody comes across our gang murder in this crowded park in the middle of the day. Hey, did we check to see if Times Square was full up? There might be more witnesses.”

But in this chilling new reality of alive children and effective mob hits, a freak rainstorm sends the Castle family home early. The mob is able to carry out their horrible murder in peace and everyone goes home happy. Hooray!
The next day, Frank begins his new job as a New York City police officer. Poor dope. You know, Frank, your life would be so much easier if you got a job as… like, a fisherman or something. Except then, I dunno, your family would be murdered by a mafia boat shootout or something and you’d become the avenging Punisher of the High Seas and team up with Namor or something and actually that sounds really good, you could have like a combination Punisher/Pirate costume.

Anyway, Officer Castle begins his first day of patrol by arresting the traditional webbed up Spider-Man crook. Unfortunately for Frank, this leads him to see New York’s so-called “justice system” in action. Frank watches in disbelief as a mafia goon hands the presiding judge a handful of money and the judge calls the evidence of the criminal’s arrest inadmissible. This probably would have been the case anyway since the criminal in question was found in a giant spider web with a sign taped to his face but let’s not pick at that scab that holds the entire Marvel Universe together if we can help it.

"You mean elected city officials sometimes take bribes? WHAAAAAAAAAT?"
“You mean elected city officials sometimes take bribes? WHAAAAAAAAAT?”

Time passes and Frank sees more and more corruption in New York’s criminal justice system. It’s like the first issue of Batman: Year One all over again except… you know, Jim Gordon changes the police department for the better. Frank goes to Captain Carmody, a former Vietnam vet Frank used to work with during the war. His captain tells Frank to continue collecting evidence so they can mount an ironclad case. Then when Frank leaves, Carmody makes a direct call to Crime and totally rats him out.
Back at Castle HQ (AKA a house a family lives in.), Maria Castle prepares Frank Jr’s costume for Halloween. Frank Jr is a big fan of superheroes so obviously this is the direction a loving mother chooses to take. I guess it was too hard to stitch all the webs on a Spider-Man costume.

"That's a good costume, son. I might borrow that if I decide to kill thousands of people."
“That’s a good costume, son. I might borrow that if I decide to kill thousands of people.”

That evening (apparently), Maria’s cousin Jake arrives. Oddly enough, he looks EXACTLY LIKE FRANK except for his big fucking mustache which speaks weird volumes about what Maria is into. The Castle family pops Jake on the couch where he can basically serve as bullet bait for the rest of the family. Then the entire Castle family cuddles up in bed together just in time for a mob hit team to show up and murder them. And Cousin Jake, the poor bastard. WHAT A BIZARRE ALTERNATE REALITY.

HOW COULD THIS POSSIBLY HAVE HAPPENED?
HOW COULD THIS POSSIBLY HAVE HAPPENED?

Frank regains conciousness later, as his family’s corpses are shipped off to the ol’ funeral home. As is Cousin Jake, whose mustache was burned off in a fire so everyone thinks Frank is dead. Carmody speaks at the big family funeral, talking about how brave Frank was and how much he loves his family and then Frank snipes him from a nearby building because FUCK CRIME.
Thus begins Frank Castle’s war on crime… like three months late. He murders his way across New York’s corrupt police force and the mafia. He also starts wearing his dead son’s Captain Punisher costume which is actually really fucking weird. “I need something to terrify the criminals of this city! Of course! My eight year old’s skeleton costume!” Meanwhile, the Watcher looks on, and considers this story shockingly similar to the actual Marvel Universe.

whatif5805

 

What If Charles Xavier Managed To Kill TWO Generations of X-Men? (Three If You Count the Deadly Genesis Team.)

We begin our tale this week in Scotland where genetic expert and yellow jumpsuit enthusiast (That’s a full club featuring her and 80’s cartoon era April O’Neil.) Moira McTaggart receives an urgent telegram from America. It’s not, as she assumed from her old boyfriend Charles Xavier but it is about him. He’s fallen into a deep depression, possibly due to so many people telling that he is a jerk. Moira leaves for the states at once, stopping only to grab the young and adorably check-dressed Rahne Sinclair before her asshole adopted father can utterly ruin her. It’s sort of like the last scene in Matilda.

Little Rahne is adorable!
Little Rahne is adorable!

“Ye canna take me adopted daughter, Lady Moira. She’s moine ta do wit’ as ah please. An tha’ includes beaten ‘pon her with yon shillelagh.”

“Aye, ‘tis yoor right as her guardian, Father Craig, abusive and awful though ye are. But let me ask ye this: Whut if oi were te donate a huge amoont ‘a money te ye and buy yon child straight out.”

“Wull, that’d prob’ly be just foine.”

So ends Horrible Accent Theater. Until we do another Claremont comic. Anyway, Moira and Rahne travel to America, eventually arriving at the Westchester home of Charles Xavier and apparently Hank McCoy, the Beast. We find Xavier in a deep depression with Hank as his only caretaker. Hank is also weirdly normal looking so the whole scene is pretty much exactly like the beginning of the Days of Future Past movie, minus the flagrant drug use. That I am aware of.

See, what Chuck really needs is a hug but he won't abide it any longer.
See, what Chuck really needs is a hug but he won’t abide it any longer.

It turns out that Hank is indeed still big, blue and beastly, he’s just been wearing a rubber mask to disguise his features, a plan which literally only works in comics. Listen, you met a giant gorilla man wearing a rubber mask to look like a normal person, you would be utterly terrified. That is some Uncanny X-Men Valley shit right there.

Picture a latex replica of Hank's real face pulled over that head. Terrifying. Also Rahne is identifying Hank as grey rather than blue in this scene. She can see his blue fur just fine but Father Craig taught her that identifying colours was sinful.
Picture a latex replica of Hank’s real face pulled over that head. Terrifying. Also Rahne is identifying Hank as grey rather than blue in this scene. She can see his blue fur just fine but Father Craig taught her that identifying colours was sinful.

Xavier is still in a mope, so Hank explains that the original X-Men (minus Hank, who has been off Avenging and occasionally Defending when the mood strikes.) were sent on a mission to Krakoa THE ISLAND THAT WALKS LIKE A MAN AND ALSO FLOATS IN THE OCEAN LIKE AN ISLAND. Krakoa whipped the OG X-Men’s asses and then Cyclops home to get some more chumps. Or Cyclops escapes. It depends on what retcon you’re reading. Anyway, Xavier formed an all-new, all-different team of X-Men. And it turned out that they were also all-ineffective because now they’re all-dead.

Hank’s been taking care of Xavier for a month now, which is really enough of a mourning period after causing the deaths of thirteen people so he contacted Moira to try to snap Chuck out of it. It doesn’t work because nobody on Earth funks like Charles Xavier. Except maybe Spider-Man. Moira agrees to stay on as housekeeper and also because it keeps Rahne away from her piece of shit father. Win win.

What follows are a few quiet weeks, as Hank teaches Rahne about Cerebro and they bond. Everything is going depressingly fine until a worldwide video message appears on the TV from Count Nefaria! Yes, Count Nefaria! He’s not a well known villain but he dresses impeccably. Nefaria proclaims that he has captured NORAD (“Never mind how.”) and will launch America’s missiles at every country on the globe unless they “a ransom from each nation on Earth. The amount determined by each nation’s ability to pay.” Which I always thought was really considerate. Nefaria expects the little shitty countries to do their part but he certainly understands that they can’t all pay American ransoms.

"It's none of your fucking BUSINESS how I took over NORAD, okay? Stop asking."
“It’s none of your fucking BUSINESS how I took over NORAD, okay? Stop asking.”

As a true hero, Beast prepares to spring into action but Xavier is having none of it.

“Let the Fantastic Four and the Avengers handle it. I’m sick of killing people. Except for the seven billion people who will die in nuclear fire since I refuse to help. God, I AM a jerk.”

Beast tries contacting the Avengers and the FF but alas they’re both off planet and the Enterprise is the only ship in the Quadrant so it’s up to him. Hank uses Cerebro to find some new mutants (Not to be confused with the New Mutants, much as I was hoping the rest of them would show up.) to save the day. He’s eventually able to contact the Scarlet Witch on her honeymoon with the Vision, jerk-ass speedster Quicksilver, Namor’s cousin and future New Warrior Namorita, Sean Cassidy’s daughter Siren I mean Banshee II and Thunderbird’s brother New Thunderbird who only wears a loincloth and a headband for the entire book because “Indian.”

Incidentally, pants and no shirt is my favourite Beast Costume.
Incidentally, pants and no shirt is my favourite Beast Costume.

Beast uses Cerebro to teleport all the mutants to Cheyenne Mountain because I guess Cerebro can do that now. Beast says it has something to do with Cerebro having Nightcrawler’s teleportation powers on file but let’s face it, he’s just making shit up at this point. He also accidentally brings Rahne along. But that’s odd, Cerebro was only supposed to teleport mutants.  I WONDER WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED.

Well, there’s no time for that MYSTERIOUS MYSTERY because the X-Men have to save the world and also do battle with Nefaria’s ridiculous animal men. My favourite is Cat-Man, the purple cat looking motherfucker with antenna. Dude is amazing. There’s an extended fight scene because of course there is and then Dragonfly Girl uses her hypnotic vision (A power shared by all dragonflies, of course.) to stun the X-Men.

Xavier, who has finally snapped out of his depression enough to be fucking useful, notices this and contacts Rahne, who has been waiting outside. He tells her that she’s a mutant and that he has known since he met her. He just never told her because, well, Professor Xavier is a blah blah blah. Xavier uses his psychic powers to activate Rahne’s powers early, causing her to turn into a wolf. She then runs into the main room where everyone is fighting and wrecks up the place, breaking Dragonfly Lady’s control over the X-Men.

I was desperately hoping for Rahne to turn into a puppy but no such luck.
I was desperately hoping for Rahne to turn into a puppy but no such luck.

While Xavier cancels the countdown to armageddon (Helpfully displayed in your nearest copy of Watchmen.), Nefaria escapes in a fighter jet to live and polish his monocle another day. Unfortunately for him, Banshee II arrives just in time to blow his fucking plane up with a sonic scream. This also knocks her out but she’s saved by New Thunderbird so it all works out.

The All-New All-New X-Men return home where Xavier meets them to congratulate them and offers to start a new team of mutants with them. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver leave because they’re really Avengers characters but will return if they’re needed or if the X-Men movie that they are offered to appear in is really good. The rest of the team stays behind as the X-Men including ten-year old Rahne which is probably illegal.

Fat Watcher getting sassy.
Fat Watcher getting sassy.

What If Blonde Iron Man Teamed Up With Stilt Man?

So this week, we travel back to the 1980s Armour Wars (or Stark Wars as they were originally called to tie in with some popular film franchise of the day.). Tony Stark discovers that his Iron Man technology has been stolen by billionaire industrialist and Sam Rockwell character Justin Hammer. Hammer has, in turn, sold the technology to villains all over the world. Terrifying villains like Stilt Man. And the Beetle. With the world in danger from being Beetled, Tony scours the globe, defeating guys good and bad alike to retrieve his armours.

"Sorry, Steve. Let's never fight again."
“Sorry, Steve. Let’s never fight again.”

In order to do this, Tony hires Scott Lang (AKA Ant Man AKA Paul Rudd AKA Me.) to hack into Hammer’s computer system and retrieve the list of armour buyers. Scott takes a rather unorthodox path to hacking by actually shrinking down into the computer and running around. He eventually finds the list (by using a tiny monitor, I assume.) and escapes. But not before Hammer’s security system catches him. Apparently when you live in the Marvel Universe, it is entirely possible that your computer may be raided by a tiny man which is why Hammer installed Tiny Man Spraying Knock-Out Gas. In the regular universe, Lang escapes and Stark wages his war on everybody in the Marvel U with a robot suit. But in this issue of What If….

Scott does indeed get knocked out and awakens in Hammer’s office in a lovely glass jar with holes poked in the top and a little grass for Scott to sleep in. Hammer begins the interrogation process (Waterboarding is easy when all you need is a thimble and the edge of a hanky.) but Scott refuses to crack until Hammer’s guards come in with Scott’s daughter Cassie held at gunpoint. Then Scott spills the beans like any decent shrinking father.

Please Don't Shake The Cage.
Please Don’t Shake The Cage.

Now knowing that Ant-Man has been working for Stark, Hammer devises a way to take control of Iron Man’s armor much as he did during Demon in a Bottle (AKA Tony Stark is drunk and gross!). He foils Tony’s attempt to stop Stilt Man from robbing a high rise apartment (which is seriously the only thing Stilt Man ever thinks to do with his million dollar armor. “Oh, I’ll get really tall and then steal some TVs. I’m an incredible super villain. I hope the Punisher never shoots me in the fucking face.”) and forces Tony to fly to his office.

After some hilarious fun and games controlling Tony’s armor (“Jump! Dance! Touch your nose! Oh, never mind. This armor has no nose.”), he forces Iron Man to unmask and learns his secret identity because this was back when all superheroes had them, not just Spider-Man.

If you thought a billionaire weapons designer had better things to do with his time, you were wrong.
If you thought a billionaire weapons designer had better things to do with his time, you were wrong.

Hammer then forces Tony to put on some sort of slave collar thing so he can control Tony’s speech as well as his body. Then he forces Iron Man to destroy a number of important buildings like SHIELD headquarters and the home of the West Coast Avengers. (They’re the LA based Avengers led by Hawkeye, if you can believe that. Fucking Hawkeye. Dude can’t take care of a fish, never mind lead a team.) Finally, he forces Tony to go on national TV, reveal his identity, take full responsibility for all this destruction and murder and finally blow his own head off with a repulsor blast. Or at least he’s about to when AIM busts into Hammer’s home and kill or possibly knock him out.

Either way, Tony uses the confusion to rip the slave collar off and escape. He goes on the run, dyeing his hair and shaving his trademark moustache. He also destroys his armor in a trash can like so much depressed Spider-Man. Tony tries to reach out to the Avengers or the Fantastic Four but he discovers that some sort of post-hypnotic message from the slave collar has forced him to be unable to turn to his friends for help. Or possibly all of this is bullshit to force the story along. Whatever. Instead, Tony begins contacting all the criminals wearing his armor, telling them their lives are in danger.

"Today I am Iron Man no more! Now and forevermore, I am Underwear Guy!"
“Today I am Iron Man no more! Now and forevermore, I am Underwear Guy!”

The Armor Brigade meet up with Tony outside of LA in one of those old caves where they used to film Star Trek. He tells them that Justin Hammer and also apparently AIM will be looking to murder them all and they eventually agree to allow him to fit their armor with anti-getting controlled by AIM and killing a bunch of people discs.

That night, Tony and the Armor Brigade attack Hammer’s mansion and of course find it jam packed with AIM troops. Minus their customary beekeeper helmets, alas. The Armor Brigade does quick work on AIM, thanks to Stilt Man’s ability to kick people from across the room, probably.

He was truly the best of us.
He was truly the best of us.

Meanwhile, Tony sneaks off, first finding AIM’s new giant Firepower armor, which he steals and then Ant-Man and his daughter whom he frees. Scott and Cassie escape and call for help from Hammer’s nearby phone booth, I guess, while Tony and the Firepower armor join the Iron Brigade in mopping up the rest of AIM.

Unfortunately for Tony, the smug blonde asshole currently leading AIM has already leaked Tony’s armor technology across the world. It’s become public domain and now anyone can use it to make weapons. Tough luck, Tony!

With nothing else to do, Tony insists that his armored buddies ditch their armor (which can now possibly be controlled by anyone in the world) and turn themselves into the police. Oddly enough, this group of thieves and communist heroes have a problem with this plan, turning on Tony and beating the everloving crap out of him.

"How did I not see this coming? HOW?!"
“How did I not see this coming? HOW?!”

Luckily, the Avengers (responding to an emergency call from Ant-Man’s daughter, thank God!) arrive and quickly defeat the remaining Armor Guys. They arrest them all and also Tony who’s been acting weird and blowing places up. As they take him into custody, Tony laments the loss of his technology which will probably be used to make cheap VCRs or something.

What If Wolverine Became An Agent of SHIELD Despite His Baby Eating Past?

We open the issue with our quite possibly most 90s cover yet!

All he's missing is  a girl with her boobs and ass facing the reader at the same time, some chromium foil and an appearance by Ghost Rider!
All he’s missing is a girl with her boobs and ass facing the reader at the same time, some chromium foil and an appearance by Ghost Rider!

Let’s see here. Wolverine? Check. A Marvel character smoking? Check. A giant impractical gun? Check. An unnessesary number of belts? Check! (I count six depending on your definition of belt!) All drawn by Rob Liefeld? Check check check. Jesus, look at this thing. It’s gorgeous.

Our story this week opens the way many Wolverine stories open. Actually, the way one Wolverine story opens. Specifically his first appearence in Hulk 181. You can tell by the giant double page spread of Wolvie and a suspiciously Macfarlene looking Hulk fighting it out while the Wendigo watches and waves his hand like the third ninja down the line in a fight movie. Side note: Look how much Wolverine is spitting! That’s disgusting. Get yourself a tissue, Logan. Jeez!

Your action heroes just the way you like them! Covered in phlegm.
Your action heroes just the way you like them! Covered in phlegm.

Anyway, Wolverine defeats the Hulk when who should arrive but Nick Fury! Agent of SHIELD* appears to offer him a job.

“No thanks, bub!” Logan replies in a hideous close-up of his gross wrinkle face. “I work for Department H in Canada!

“Then it’s a good thing I brought your boss, James Hudson!” Fury replies as the James in question merrily waves in the background.

AAAAAAAAAGH
AAAAAAAAAGH

With permission from Dad to go and play in America’s giant flying backyard, Fury and Wolverine leave. Fury fills Wolvie in on the problem. The SHIELD helicarrier (Comes with everything you see here, batteries not included, your parents put it together, fun to play with not to eat.) has been infiltrated by Hydra LMDs.** Fury’s sensors and electronics have been unable to detect the renegade robots so he’s turned to Wolverine’s ability to smell evil. Luckily, Wolverine finds the first LMD really goddamn quickly. It’s former circus strongman back when that was an occupation that could get you a job as second in command to the world’s foremost anti-terrorist team Dum Dum Dugan who Logan basically eviserates. Fury looks on in shock and the Black Widow looks on in what I can only describe as ‘dumbfoundedness.’

She looks like somebody just hit her in the back of the head with a bat.
She looks like somebody just hit her in the back of the head with a bat.

Seeing how good Wolverine is at murdering robots (Anyone who watched the old 90s X-Men cartoon could have told you that.), Fury sends him and the Black Widow on a seek-and-destroy mission across the Helicarrier. The two easily dispatch the secret army of androids, stopping only so Wolverine can give the Widow a quick haircut. Seriously.

The Demon Barber of Westchester.
The Demon Barber of Westchester.

When Wolverine and the newly shorn Widow (Looking ADORABLE by the way.) return to Fury, he assigns them a new task. Take the fight to Hydra and rescue Dum Dum Dugan in the most bad ass way possible!

One flying motorcycle ride later, Wolverine, Fury, the Widow and Fury’s giant Rob Liefeld gun arrive at the Hydradome (A term I just made up for Hydra’s headquarters but that’s pretty good, right?). They rescue Dum Dum pretty easily, mostly because evil mastermind Madame Hydra has chained him up right next to the front door. This seems both cruel and stupid, putting Madame Hydra firmly in the Cobra Commander school of villainy. While the Black Widow battles Madame Hydra (Because only women can fight evil women, SIGH.), Fury and Wolverine fight evil Nazi relic Baron Strucker and his MOTHERFUCKING SATAN CLAW. Which is basically a big metal fist but it’s called the Satan Claw so show a little fucking respect.

Black Widow, shown here about to drop a serious deuce.
Black Widow, shown here about to drop a serious deuce.

Wolvie cuts the Satan Claw (and also Strucker’s hand) off but then Strucker ignores Wolverine to fight Fury some more instead. Mostly by attempting to punch Fury with his arm stump for some reason. Unfortunately for him, “actual hand” tends to beat out “bloody flesh wad” in a fist fight so Fury quickly wins by shoving the remains of the hand into a light switch, electrocuting Strucker to death.

Light switches are extremely dangerous. Do not keep them in your home!
Light switches are extremely dangerous. Do not keep them in your home!

Okay.

The forces of Hydra defeated (Hail Hydra! Cut off one limb and… eventually we will run out of limbs!), Fury offers Wolverine a permenent spot in SHIELD. After some consideration, Wolvie accepts, destroying his contract with Department H. Probably with a paper shredder if you were interested. This leads to a long and fruitful career as well as a montage page that includes a Rob Liefeld drawn picture of MODOK, something I cannot recommend to anyone.

Just amazing. Look at it.
Just amazing. Look at it.

A few months later, Fury is attacked in his flying car by Baron Strucker again. It’s probably a LMD but the issue doesn’t really spend much time talking about it before Fury crashes the car, killing them both. At the funeral, Dugan suggests Wolverine taking over as leader of SHIELD. Wolvie’s not really sure the US government will go for it, seeing as he just joined but Dugan points out that Wolverine is really, really popular. Nobody considers asking Black Widow if she wants the job.

*I Am Having Trouble Making New Versions of this Joke. -Out Of Ideas Matt!

**Life Model Decoys! They’re like Nick Fury’s Doombots.