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.