So I was damn excited for this one. Look at that cover. What If the Hulk Had Become A Barbarian? That looks amazing. The Hulk’s wailing away on some monsters, he’s got a battle axe, he clearly stole Cerebus’ wardrobe. This looks incredible. So we crack it open and…
the fuck is this?
So, I know my Hulk pretty well. I’ve got most of a complete collection of Peter David’s decade long run on the book, but I don’t know the Jarella’s World story that well. From what I picked up, the Hulk gets shrunk down so small that he drops into another tiny reality. In this tiny reality, his intelligence returns, he hooks up with the local hot green queen Jarella and lives happily ever after. Until they both get deshrunk back to normal sized and a building falls on Jarella. Because if there is anyone in the entire Marvel Universe who can’t have nice things, it’s the Hulk. And possibly the Punisher.
So instead of the actual stated question of What If the Hulk Was a Barbarian (Not to be confused with the wonderful “Planet Hulk” which is basically the same but the Hulk is a gladiator instead), the book asks us what would happen if Jarella lived. You know, it genuinely shocks me that we’re tackling the question of whether a famous Marvel superheroes one true love didn’t die and it isn’t Gwen fucking Stacy.*
Anyway, Jarella lives and she and the now stupid Hulk wander off. They have no way to return home since some idiot dropped the microscope slide that contained Jarella’s planet, K’ai. (Seriously.)
So mostly they sit by a lake while Jarella tries to ignore the Hulk begging her to tell him about the rabbits.
Just then, SHIELD arrives with Agent Clay Quartermain looking like King Megaphone Douchebag of Stupid Orange Jumpsuit Mountain. Look at this prick.
He tells Hulk and J. Rel that he’s got good news. Specifically, Hank Pym’s taken some time off from being insane to figure out a way to get the two green guys home. It involves shrinking them again. Trust me here, the science makes perfect sense. Anyway, Hank sends them off to leave the Earth forever. “So long, Marvel Universe!” Hulk calls. “You won’t have Old Tricky-Dick Banner to chase around the desert with tanks any more!”
The trip to Jarella’s world is harder than she or the Hulk expected, taking them through the various tiny realms of the Marvel Universe, including the Microverse, Tarraconia and the musky space beneath Ben Grimm’s couch. Finally, they return to K’ai, arriving at her weird castle full of green people. Home at last, the happy couple is wed beneath a fishing rod holding some firecrackers. As is the local tradition.
That night, as Hulk ponders his new status as King of Tinytown, Jarella is attacked by an octopus assassin.
With a mighty smash, Hulk renders the octopus so much unsightly carpet stain and then he and some guards follow the octopus’ trail to the basement. Behind a locked door, they discover a green vampire in a hood worshipping dark gods. Hulk grabs him, but Hoody melts into a pile of goo, giving the castle cleaning staff even more crap to scrub out of the royal carpets.
A few days later, Hulk and Jarella gather together a council of war to discuss the attack. Apparently, K’ai has been under attack all over by various degrees of weirdness ranging from giant robots to fungal attacks. Yuck. Jarella summons the K’ai Justice League, a bunch of green hero guys who fight evil and make the Hulk feel inadequate. I mean, sure. The guy smashes well, but will he ever be as cool as Glunno the Winged One? No. Because nobody will.
Jarella’s wise mustache man tries to figure out where all this evil could be coming from. He’s not sure… but there IS a place nearby called Wol Ulrai: The Heart of Darkness where All Evil Comes From. Might be worth a peek. Hulk and the K’ai L A. hop on some of Glunno the Winged One’s giant birds and head off to investigate. Is there nothing you can’t do, Glunno?
Once they arrive, they are attacked by shadow monsters and some rotting zombie guy I’ve never heard of called Lord Visis. Sometimes I think I should try reading the comics these What If are based on. But then, instead I don’t do that. Lord Visis tells Hulk about the Dark Evil Gods who live in the reality next door. If he can pierce the barrier between here and there, he can send the Dark Gods into all other realities, without shrinking or growing them. Which is a welcome change after the rest of the issue. Then Visis attacks Hulk with a Hulk duplicate, containing all of Hulk’s rage. Hulk looks deep inside of himself, remembers his love and then looks at the cover of this issue. Overcome with anger at not having a giant axe, Hulk tears a mountain down on Visis and Second Hulk, saving the day and ending the story rather abruptly.
This is followed a short story about the Celestials coming to Earth in prehistoric times to do experiments on cavemen. It’s actually pretty cool and gorgeously drawn, but it ain’t a What If story so moving on.
Then shit gets NUTS. In a follow-up to the now-classic What If 7 (featuring the first appearance of fan favourite character Spider Jameson.), we get “What if Aunt May Was Bitten by a Radioactive Spider.” Dan Slott, I know you read this column. If Aunt Spider-May does not appear in your upcoming “Spider-Verse” crossover, please unsubscribe me from your newsletter. Also I love your run on Silver Surfer.
So, while going about her daily routine of not dying of a heart attack, Aunt May realizes that Peter Parker has forgotten his bag lunch and rushes to the local science center where he’s viewing radiation in all its glory. Unluckily for what precious little remains of Pete’s social life, his 90 plus year old Aunt arrives to present him with a still warm bag of cottage cheese and mashed string-beans. Since, in this world, Peter never gets spider powers, we are viewing a world where the guy has literally NOTHING on Earth going for him. Meanwhile, May gets bit by a radioactive spider.
On the walk home, May dodges a car full of troublesome teenagers with her new spider agility and realizes she has super powers. She then decides to try to figure out a way to make some money off it. She returns home (ignoring Uncle Ben passed out on the couch) and sews herself… uh… this.
Which doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense since she seems to think she got her powers from a vitamin supplement. Anyway, Aunt May tries to figure out a weapon she can use… to fight crime, I guess. I seriously have no idea how she arrives at this conclusion. She smells the bread she was baking earlier and forgot about and head to the kitchen to investigate. She finds the oven full of sticky bread dough, expanded from too much yeast and then shoves it into a pastry bag to… spray at foes?
Next on the old insanity parade, May sees that the villainous Leap Frog (Guy in a frog costume on springs, a worthy foe for Aunt Spider-May.) has robbed a jewellery store and swings to the rescue. On sewing thread. Leap Frog takes a swing at the ninety year old woman because he’s a piece of shit and then the fight ends up in the Parker’s back yard because why the fuck not?
Hearing the noise, Peter comes outside to find an old woman fighting Spring Heeled Kermit the Frog in his Aunt’s gazebo and faints because Peter Parker sucks in this universe. Aunt Spider-May finishes her fight with Leap Frog by spraying him with bread dough. She then takes the unconscious Peter inside where she can coddle him for the rest of his sad, sad, sad life.
Look at that expression on Pete’s face. This is a man who knows he will be a virgin until he is twenty-seven.
*Come back next week, True Believers!