So here we are again at the most obvious What If story ever: What if Jean Grey AKA Marvel Girl, Phoenix, Dark Phoenix and according to her 1994 Marvel trading card just Jean Grey hadn’t been replaced by the Phoenix force, stuck in a cocoon and impersonated for like eight years? So we start with Jean’s heroic sacrifice on the moon completely fucking up and instead the alien Shi’ar cut out a sizable portion of Jean’s brain so she can’t access her mutant powers anymore. Then they kick the X-Men out which is probably a good choice for the entire Shi’ar empire in the long run.
Back on Earth, Scott and Jean have the saddest wedding ever, the Angel buys them a house on a cliff and Jean gets into some serious full time moping.
“You can’t understand what it’s like to lose your powers, Scott!” she cries.
“Jean’s right.” Scott thinks. “But doesn’t she know I’d give anything to lose my accursed optic blasts. With a glance, I could level a building…”*
And then Magneto shows up and kidnaps Jean to his Asteroid Base where she can at least complain in a vacuum. Once there, Magneto offers Jean some new clothes and such but she’d much rather spend half the issue in her underwear so whatever. Then Mags offers Jean her heart’s desire. He can restore the Phoenix Force to her and all it will cost… is her very SOUL. MOO HOO HA HA. No, but seriously, it’s not going to cost anything. Mostly Magento is just hoping once she’s repowered, he can get her on board with his whole pro-mutants agenda.
Meanwhile, Scott’s grabbed the X-Men and they’re all heading to Asteroid M to beat up Magento because this is how the X-Men solve their disagreements. Real mature, guys. While they distract Magneto by punching his face, Jean has a crisis of conscious, remembers the billions of people she killed when she was Phoenix, realizes she probably got off pretty lucky and then smashes up Magento’s power restoring chamber with a big stick. Fuck you, Magento and fuck your gifts too!Annoyed by her vandalism, but respectful of her in that weird way Magneto always is, he lets Jean and the X-Men go. Jean eventually puts on some pants.
Things slowly return to normal back at the X-Mansion. Jean graduates from a college that isn’t secretly a paramilitary cult and starts teaching the New Mutants at Xavier’s. She and Scott have a baby who they name Rachel, drawing a direct line from here to the Days of Future Past universe so no matter what, we know this is all going to end well.
One fine afternoon, while the rest of the X-Men are teaching the Beyonder to poop over in Secret Wars II, Jean and Rachel are attacked by gross pervert Mastermind again, who uses his Castle of Illusion, I mean powers of illusion to torture her for a while. Jean gets pissed and fights back and then it turns out it isn’t Mastermind, it’s Mastermind possessed by the Shadow King because stacking villains is definitely the way to go here. And because the Shadow King isn’t super into the idea of long protracted revenge plots, he shoots Jean like eight times in the chest and she dies. Huh. Guess we should have called this one what if the Phoenix died slightly later in the year.
So Shadow King steals baby Rachel to be his new host (Why do demonic forces always want to live in babies? Being a baby sucks almost as much as having to spend time with a baby.). Meanwhile, Jean who is actually the Phoenix Force discovers that while her host body’s dead, she’s the Phoenix and therefore can’t really die. She also realizes that she’s replaced the real Jean Grey and flies off to Jamaica Bay where Real Jean is cocooned. And then Phoenix accidentally kills her. Whoops. Well, this is going to be a fun story to tell Cyclops next week.
So we open this week’s adventure with a flying dog saving his owners from a hot air balloon disaster. Already, this is the best issue of What If I’ve ever read. It’s really just there to introduce us all to the idea of Captain Universe, the Hero Who Could Be You!™ Then Uatu draws us away from the interesting story of a heroic flying talking dog to tell us about Spider-Man, damnit.
Once upon a time, the Enigma Force possessed Spider-Man and gave him Godlike powers. Which he used to beat up guys dressed like animals. The Enigma Force eventually left Spidey because if there’s one rule in Marvel Comics, it’s that Peter Parker can’t have nice things. But this week, we’re gonna see what happens if Spidey kept his incredible powers. And what happens is that Spidey dresses his wife as himself and then fucks her. It’s really upsetting. Especially for a guy who has had as many clones as Spidey has.
The next thing Captain Spiderverse does is permanently mutilate the Hobgoblin. So this is the 90s Hobgoblin who has a fucked up monster face. “Well,” thinks Spidey. “ I know Hobgoblin has a messed up face. I can probably fix that like I kinked up MJ’s wardrobe so I could weird-sex her. I don’t know what Hobgoblin’s face looks like so I guess I’ll just wing it.”
Which is a perfectly rational thing to do to somebody! Spidey uses his nearly infinite imagination to… turn Hobgoblin’s face into Peter Parker’s. Well. There’s no way THAT can possibly go wrong.
Well, it’s been ten pages in a 90s Spidey comic so it’s time for Venom to show up. He and Spidey wail on each other for a couple minutes and then Spider-Man flies Venom into space.
“You see that big beautiful blue marble down there?” Spidey says. “That’s what I’m protecting now. I don’t have time to fuck around with you and your big tongue and your gross drool. I’m Super- Spider-man. I’m Spider-Man. Spider-Man. Nobody else.”
Of course, Venom hears none of this because he’s freezing to death in Earth’s orbit. Anyway, Spidey dumps Venom in New York, where Venom becomes the new Spider-Man. By which I mean, he’s just Venom but now Spidey doesn’t fight him and Venom kills the occasional mugger. Mostly what he does is beat up the Hobgoblin, an insane asshole with the face of the guy he hates most in the world.
This is the part where Spidey starts doing all the stuff we see in all those comics where people get Superman powers. Spidey throws all of Earth’s garbage into the sun, feeds the children, the usual. Of course, while he’s off doing that, his hot wife isn’t getting any gross sex. She finally draws the line when Pete bails on a dinner with Aunt May. And by “bails,” I mean “bursts into flames and flies out the window.” MJ splits, leaving Spidey with some final words. “You’re not a God, Peter.”
“No,” Peter thinks. “But I know one.”
Then Peter flies off to Avengers Mansion, beats up Captain America for no reason and takes Thor to Africa so they can make food grow there. Thor’s not into it because… I honestly have no idea why. It’s just one of those comic things, I guess. So Spider-Man gets all mad and beats up Thor a little and then he has a serious crisis of faith where the Enigma Force and Spider-Man’s natural sense of guilt fight for possession of Spidey. And that’s when Doctor Doom shows up and shoots Thor with an energy draining ray.
So it turns out that Doctor Doom’s been looking for a way to steal the Enigma Force because that is how Doom rolls. Spidey’s guilt irritates the Enigma force enough that it abandons him and heads over to Doom. Of course, the Engima Force also realizes that Doom is the biggest asshole on the planet and leaves pretty quick. Also it turns out that this is a Doombot because why not.
So the Enigma Force briefly returns to Spidey and then uses its powers to spread Spider-Man[s sense of responsibility across every person on the planet. It’s a brief moment of genuine world peace as everyone is mentally united. It’s actually… sort of nice. When the dust clears, Peter Parker has lost his spider powers and all of his clothes. But it’s okay because he hooks back up with MJ and nine months later, they give birth to a terrifying eyeless Universe Baby.
This week we’ve got a special treat for everyone! It’s a double feature based around Sue Richards’ miscarriage! Doesn’t that sound fun? For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the Fantastic Four children, and who could blame you if you were, there have been two Richards kids: Franklin, who had prophetic dreams, joined Power Pack, created the Heroes Reborn universe and was thoroughly unlikeable until Jonathan Hickman started writing him and Valeria Richards who was named after the woman Doctor Doom loved and then skinned to turn into magic armor. Less well known was the middle Richards child who died after pregnancy complications due to… I think cosmic rays or something. I remember Reed hired Doctor Octopus to help with the delivery but then he saw a billboard featuring Spider-Man and freaked the fuck out. Probably for the best, I’d hate to see Doc Ock try to yank the baby out with his tentacles. Wait, no. I would LOVE to see that.
Anyway, this week we’re addressing two stories about the Richards baby living. In the first one, Sue’s pregnancy is difficult from the start. She spends the nine months physically drained and eventually discovers she is unable to turn invisible. While this is happening, Franklin watches from the shadows in a suitably dramatic fashion. When the baby is finally born, not even the combined genius of Doctors Richards, Octavius, Morbius, Langowski and Banner can save Sue’s life. Of course, the fact that only one of these guys is a medical doctor and none of them have been trained to deliver a baby probably didn’t help. In mourning, Reed names the new baby after Sue and offers it to Franklin who runs off terrified. That’s okay, kid. I had a similar reaction when my siblings were born.
Years pass, little Suzie grows and gosh, wouldn’t you know it, friends of the FF just keep dying. First it’s Alicia, then a number of Suzie’s baby sitters, teachers and school chums all succumb to a bizarre wasting disease. What on earth could be causing it? Franklin obviously suspects Suzie which results in a lot of Reed yelling at him. I guess it’s tough being a single dad. When Franklin realizes that Johnny Storm has started to succumb to the wasting sickness, he goes to his father again. Reed, in his role as loving father, slaps the kid in the face. Okay, I think it’s time for a little less sympathy for the single dad. Anyway, Johnny fucking dies.
Reed assumes that all this death is a result of the FF’s cosmic rays, although he apparently doesn’t try to limit anyone’s contact with himself or the Thing to prevent more dying. Speaking of the Thing, that dude’s energy has drained enough that he is no longer permanently orange and rocky. His disease has actually cured him. Which is too bad because then some asshole shoots him like eight times. Ben is rushed to the hospital where he may recover. Until Suzie decides to pay him a visit…
With most of the FF dead and his father clearly fucking insane, Franklin travels to Latveria… somehow and contacts the only person left who can help: Doctor Doom. Doom isn’t exactly overcome by the love of the common man to help Franklin out but Franklin does mention that Suzie could eventually become a threat to Latveria. And also that Doom will get the chance to observe a stark raving mad Reed Richards whom he can then prove wrong. That’s like Latverian christmas. If Doom hadn’t banned christmas in Latveria six years ago.
Team Frankledoom arrive back at the Baxter Building to find Reed in full-on freak-out mode.
“How DARE you turn against your wonderful perfect sister! How DARE you contact my greatest foe to help you!”
“Richards,” Doom replies. “You’re not yourself. Look, you’re making me seem calm and collected and I regularly refer to myself in the third person.”
This is the part where Suzie reveals her true self, turning into a giant energy devouring monster that was clearly cribbed from Alien. Reed realizes he may have made a mistake or two in the last few years. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late and the creature drains Reed of his energy, killing him.
Doom attacks the creature, hoping to give Franklin time to escape. It works too, but Suzie is still too much for Doom and she drains first his armour and then him. His last words are a futile “Curse you, Richards and your cosmic sperm!”
Suzie then stalks Franklin into the depths of Reed’s lab, taunting him. Suddenly, Franklin bursts in with a big… Ghostbusters looking backpack gun and shoots Suzie in the chest, knocking her through an open portal into the Negative Zone in a way which is nothing like the end of the first Alien movie which this comic is in no way like. So stop asking.
Franklin pauses over the body of his father. His entire family and everyone he knows is dead. But he WAS proven right in the end so I have no choice but to label this one a HAPPY ENDING. Hooray!
Meanwhile, in a less depressing reality, a baby Richards is also born. This one is named Mary because Sue doesn’t die so we’re already off to a better start. Reed and Sue carefully observe Mary for any signs that she might have also inherited powers from her parents so they aren’t totally shocked when she starts flying around her crib.
From there, Mary has a pretty normal childhood with absolutely no mysterious deaths surrounding her. When she’s fourteen, she goes on a walk with Ben and Johnny and watches a dog get hit by a car and is able to save its life by touching it. Which is good because it’s really hard to summarize comic when I am hysterically weeping over a dead fictional dog.
Mary learns that she has incredible healing powers which she uses to save as many people as possible. She also starts working with environmental groups to save more lives and going on equality marches in Washington. Because the only way to enact real change in the world is if it’s led by a pretty, blonde white girl with rich parents.
The evil US president isn’t particularly thrilled by this development and orders the Avengers to have nothing to do with anyone speaking out against the status quo. This results in the Avengers disbanding, except for Captain America which is weird considering that dude is always the first guy to speak up when the government is getting too evil.
Eventually, the evil President orders well-known Marvel sleazebag Henry Peter Gyrich (Boo, hiss) to assassinate Mary which he does by dressing up as Captain America and stabbing Mary at a huge rally. As far as assassination plots go, it’s pretty goddamn terrible but it does manage to spark a massive riot. Luckily, Mary is able to stay conscious just long enough to spray the crowd with her peace powers and calm everyone down. Then she faints.
Mary awakens from a coma a week later to find a vigil outside of her hospital, waiting for her to lead them as the new messiah. According to the Watcher, she eventually overthrows the corrupt government and saves the world. Meanwhile, the real Captain America beats the ever loving shit out of Henry Gyrich.
Last time, as you’ll recall or can just go and read about, Professor Erskine, creator of Captain America’s super soldier serum was not killed by anyone at all. Instead, the serum was made available to the US Army, giving them an advantage over all other countries which they used to make the world a better place. Ha, I kid of course. The US has conquered the Earth, with an evil racist President Steve Rogers in command. But the day might somehow be saved if Alan Moore beard Namor can save the real Captain America from being worshipped by sterotypes!
Luckily, he can! Namor quickly rescues the frozen patriotcicle before being shot in the back by Frank Castle in an Iron Man costume. Luckily for Frank, in this universe, the squad of SHIELD hunters he works for all wear black costumes with big skulls on them, It’d be a shame to lose that look. Frank and his squad are escorting Cap and Namor back to Evil Empire HQ when Cap awakens and beats everyone up. Namor explains about how America is evil now mid-fight and Cap gets REALLY mad. Then Frank realizes that he’s a horrible monster and murders his squad mates and joins with Namor and Cap.
“You killed them!” Cap says.
“I punished them.” Frank replies. “Yeah, I like the sound of that. I’m some kind of… Iron Punisher.”
“Well, we’re just gonna call you Iron Man. Also don’t kill nobody.”
“Lame.” says Frank, the smell of still-burning friend in his nostrils.
Anyway, Captain America forms the Avengers and then goes to look for some guys to add to his team because three guys ain’t great. Luckily, Cap knows some guys to help who are inexplicably still alive and not decrepit after forty years. They start by heading to British Columbia, Canada (The 57th State apparently, and fuck you, Dictatorial America by the way.) to pick up Cap’s old friend, Logan. Unfortunately, this Logan never became the popular character Wolverine. Instead, he was cursed by an ancient Indian spirit to forever transform into the giant canabalistic monster know only as… the Hulk! Okay then. Everyone fights for a while because being a cannibal monster somehow made Logan MORE ornery. Also he hates Evil President Cap.
After the mandatory tustle, the Avengers add Wolverhulkdigo to their team. Next they go to Hank Pym’s house to pick him up. Because Cap… knows about him. Somehow. Unfortunately, Hank and his totally cannonical wife are already dead but it’s okay. They’ve arrived just in time for Sam “Never Got To Be The Falcon” Wilson who just happens to be robbing the place. Good representation there, Marvel. Cap offers Sam a place on the team despite Frank’s racist arguments. I guess Frank was under the impression we were returning freedom just to White America. No, Frank. No. No. No. So Cap gives Sam Hank Pym’s giant man pills and Sam becomes what I am really pleased is not called Black Goliath. No, he’s just regular Giant Man.
With their awesome team assembled, Cap’s Avengers begin their raid on the SHIELD helicarrier. It’s really REALLY easy since Frank’s passcodes allow them to walk right in. They’re barely there for five minutes when they basically trip over a bunch of SHIELD guys torturing Thor of all people. Well, a quick rescue attempt and we’ve got our complete team. Except for any women at all but who’s counting? With the Avengers all together, Cap goes off to find Professor Erskine who is still alive and has been holding the super soldier in his head for forty plus years. Cap takes him out of his bunker, turns on the tv and shows him the horror that is America.
“Nice one.” He tells the horrified professor.
Then Evil Steve appears and yeah, he’s totally the Red Skull. He just had his conciousness beamed into a Steve Rogers clone and then had Cap and the Howling Commandos’ boat destroyed. He allowed himself to be rescued by American troops and then slowly took over the country. What an asshole. Anyway, he and Cap fight, Erskine sacrifices himself to save Cap and then Cap… kills the Skull? Maybe. Anyway, with the Skull dead(?), the Avengers press their attack on the forces of SHIELD and… they all die. Every one of them. Except then the Watcher shows up and tells us everything worked out fine. Because that is exactly what happens when the leader of a dictatorship falls with nobody to prevent more dictatorial assholes to rush in and sieze power. So good job, Avengers!
We’re back from our month-long break! I have a new appartment, faster internet and a mighty need to once again tell you fine folks about the alternate wonders of a Marvel universe not your own! This week, we travel back in time to the only war that matters in comics: World War II! In a secret government lab, American Wuss Steve Rogers is given a dose of the new Super Soldier Serum, instantly transforming him from the skinny guy in the Charles Atlas ads to the bully! In the regular Marvel Universe, the serum’s creator Professor Erskine is killed by nazi spies and the serum is lost forever BECAUSE NO ONE THOUGHT TO GIVE ERSKINE A PEN AND SAY WRITE THIS DOWN, DUMMY. Instead, Steve notices the murderer and saves the professor just in time!
Cap does indeed go on a series of adventures during World War Two with his best pal, Bucky but he’s eventually called away. Bucky retires to a lifetime of being alive and Steve heads to Washington where he’s put in charge of an army of super soldiers! Nick Fury! Dum Dum Dugan! The One With The Trumpet! Others As Well!
On December 24, 1942, Captain America’s army of Super Soldiers invade Germany, their rallying cry “Eat Shitler, Hitler!” Wait, no. It’s “Wa-hoo.” Excuse me, notes from this time in history are extremely sketchy. Anyway, they make short work of the German army and are easily able to arrest Hitler for war crimes. It’s basically a good time all around. In a concentration camp, Cap teaches a small boy named Magus, Magnus or possibly Erik Lehnsherr that while Nazis are racist assholes, Americans believe that all people are equal! Thus the threat of Magneto never emerges. Also the good of Magneto never emerges but whatever.
The Super Soldier army boards the good ship Queen Mary for its celebratory trip home. The war has been won and now it’s time to go home and start the Baby Boom. That should end well for everyone! Sadly, the Queen Mary never makes it as it is blown the fuck up by a U-Boat who was never informed the war was over. Whoops.
Only Captain America lives because that dude is amazing at not dying in water in any universe. He returns to America, the sole surviving hero of the war. Cap unmasks himself as Steve Rogers, forms the American peacekeeping taskforce SHIELD*, and begins building an army of blonde haired blue eyed white supermen. Well, I’m sure that’s just fine. He also announces that the super soldier serum requires a booster shot every 18 months or it will wear off and thus cannot be given to the general public yet. Okay,well, I mean that’s an outright lie but I’m sure Cap has his reasons, right.
SHIELD quickly becomes a force to be reckoned with. They easily topple Stalin’s regime and end the Cold War before it even begins. A new era of peace begins in the United States. And by peace, I mean fascism and racism. Now President Steve goes on the news again and announces that “Yeah, sorry, the super soldier serum doesn’t actually work on the dirt races I mean non-caucasian races. We’re working on that. Really. I’m sure we’ll get to it any day now. *snicker*”
To the surprise of literally no one ever, this announcement leads to rioting and protesting among the non-white people of America. Which leads to a lot of people being thrown into concentration camps. Huh. I could have sworn Steve Rogers literally just visited a concentration camp and was disgusted by it. Weird.
Meanwhile, Loyal** Americans are gifted with physical perfection and a personally appointed squad of SHIELD Hunters keep the rabble in line. This includes executing Reed Richards and his friends before they can steal their rocket ship, murdering Bruce Banner for exploring the forbidden research of Gamma Radiation and killing Peter Parker for obtaining superpowers through a non-state approved way. They also execute his aunt and uncle, just in case. No Spider-Ma’am or Golden Oldie for THIS parallel universe.
It’s decided very quickly that America really doesn’t need all that unnecessary “voting” thing. I mean, why try to get a new president when they one we’ve got is doing such a great job for everyone. We can probably just stick with a known winner, right? Decades pass and very little changes for America until a squad of SHIELD Hunters led by Frank Castle tries to arrest a homeless man and instead chases him into the sea. Being fully immersed in water, combined with realizing that he’s been wearing the same pair of green sea shell underwear since World War II ended reminds the homeless man that he is in fact Namor! The Sub-Mariner! Holy shit!
Namor speeds off to his home in Atlantis, only to find it destroyed. He immediately assumes that it is the fault of the American government which isn’t exactly a hard sell at this point. By completely random chance, Namor stumbles upon the wreck of the Queen Mary and even more randomly finds a… sigh… race of ignorant eskimos worshipping a giant block of ice with… Gasp! Steve Rogers frozen in it! WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THIS DEVELOPMENT COMING? And then the Watcher pops up to tell us this is a two-parter. Thanks, Watchy.
An Infinite Number of Universes. All featuring Spider-Man.