Tag Archives: Hulk

What If Every Kid In The 90s’ Fantasy Came True?

When I started doing the second volume of What If, I knew it was only a matter of time until we started getting the 90s guys. Wolverine’s shown up a few times already and in What If vol 2 #1, we got the first Punisher appearance. Complete with giant head. Now, of course, it’s Venom’s turn.

This display is not accurate to the Venom trading card I had as a kid.
This display is not accurate to the Venom trading card I had as a kid.

For those who are unaware or only know Venom from Spider-Man 3 as the ooze monster that possessed Peter Parker and made him dance, Venom first appeared… sort of in the giant Secret War crossover. Peter had shredded his usual costume and started wandering around, stopping at the first thing that “looked like it wanted to create a costume.” Impeccable logic there, Spidey. Anyway, it did indeed make Spidey his kick-ass 80s black costume. Then it turned out it was an evil parasite, tried to possess Peter, had to be murdered with bells (All aliens hate bells, as you well know.) and later possessed some asshole and became one of the most popular villains ever if you are polling people’s younger brothers.

So this week we ask what would happen if Spider-Man never got rid of the symbiote. Peter’s feeling pretty run down lately (Mostly due to the symbiote running around with his body after Pete’s gone to sleep at night but also because of regular sex with his current main squeeze, the Black Cat. Often while suspended in webs which is goddamn weird.) The Cat suggests Spidey picked up some sort of space bug whilst Secret Warring. Then she runs off before she gets Space Clap or something. Classy.

"I find this a little worrying, Cat."
“I find this a little worrying, Cat.”

Peter visits his friend/foe Curt Connors AKA the Lizard AKA who diagnosis Pete as completely space flu free. He’s less of an authority on the effects of evil costumes on people so that bit of research has to wait a couple of days for the Fantastic Four to get back into town. When they finally do, Reed gives the costume the once over.

“Bad news, Spider-Man.” Reed says. You’ve got a full body skintight tapeworm.”

“There is literally nothing good about what you just said.” Spidey replies as his body clenches with seizures and the costume takes over. Luckily, Reed manages to stun Spidey with one of his giant science guns. Then he seals the webslinger in a giant glass case because we all know symbiotes are afraid of glass. A quick phone call to Dr Strange leads to some mystical backup but even that doesn’t help when Spidey kicks his way out. So much for the glass idea. Spidey knocks Strange and Richards out and then heads off into the night.

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If you’re saying “I must quickly–“, you’re not being quick enough, Doc.

 

Meanwhile, for some reason, the Avengers are fighting it out with a (surprise surprise) extremely pissed off Hulk. They’re very excited when it appears that Spider-Man has arrived to help out. They’re less excited when it turns out he’s just there so that the symbiote can ditch Peter’s now burnt out body and take over the Hulk instead. Well… this probably could have gone better.

Well, that's deeply disturbing.
Well, that’s deeply disturbing.

Venom Hulk fucks off, leaving Earth’s Mightiest Hero and Starfox to help Peter. It seems the Symbiote feeds off adrenaline (something that has never come up in any Spider-Man comic I’ve ever read but whatever, other worlds than these, blah blah.) and it’s pretty much drained Peter leaving him with the appearance of an eighty year old man.

"Help me... I don't have pants."
“Help me… I don’t have pants.”

When he regains consciousness, Old Man Peter goes to visit his Aunt May for one last time and give some last touching words about… power or responsibility or something. Then he leaves before she dies of a heart attack. Ironically, said heart attack kills Pete  that night while he’s going over his symbiote notes. This tragic death will lead to Aunt May making a deal with Mephisto to save Peter and destroy her marriage to Mary Jane but that’s not important right  now.

Better get the mop.
Better get the mop.

The next day, Black Cat and the Kingpin meet up at Spider-Man’s secret funeral. I guess Fisk gets really sentimental when people he hates dies. I don’t remember any of this crap when he thought Daredevil was dead but whatever. Anyway, he and Cat seem to hit it off finally and he gives her a lift home.

Meanwhile, Reed’s working on another giant science gun that will actually kill the symbiote which is probably a great idea since it’s strapped to the fucking Hulk right now and that dude is terrifying when he’s not freaking out on tanks in the desert. He also figures out a way to track the symbiote and brings the Avengers to Mt. Rushmore to finally put a stop to Venom Hulk. The rest of the FF stays home for some reason. I guess nobody thought having the Thing who regularly beats up the Hulk or the Human Torch who is basically made of the stuff the Symbiote is afraid of was a good idea. Nice job, smartest man in the world.

So Venom Hulk appears, pleads for mercy with Thor and then attacks him because he’s a total douche from space. Thor does some excellent shitkicking on the symbiote and it eventually drains off, leaving only Bruce Banner. Thor examines the wad of alien smear on his hammer when it jumps off, engulfing him as anyone who has ever seen a horror movie could guess. I’ll let it slide because I don’t imagine Thor is a big movie guy.

Gross.
Gross.

Having now possessed an actual god, the Symbiote takes the next obvious step and… goes and hides in a cave. Master strategist, this fellow. It’s a shock we’re not already dead. Anyway, this cave hiding gives Reed a chance to make a really long distance call to Black Bolt of the Inhumans. Luckily for everyone, the Symbiote is also weak against sonics and knuckles and Black Bolt has both. He yells into the cave, blasting the symbiote off its Asgardian host. And also completely destroying Mt. Rushmore. Whoops.

Not even Venom can resist Thor's gorgeous hair.
Not even Venom can resist Thor’s gorgeous hair.

Reed and Dr Strange argue over what to do with the beaten Symbiote when Black Cat appears and zaps it with her own stolen giant science gun. Turns out she found Peter’s notes on how to build the thing and then took them to the Kingpin whose scientists put it together. Now she’s gotten revenge for her boyfriend and all it cost her was a lifetime of servitude to New York’s most powerful gangster. So, I guess that’s a win!

What If The Hulk Got Mad? …wait, seriously?

This week we explore the Hulk, the implications of the logical conclusions of angering said Hulk and whether or not these implications will be found palatable. Or to put it simply, what if the Hulk got really, really, REALLY angry. Like, message board angry.

Let's all just take a moment to admire this gorgeous Bill Sienkiewicz cover. And applaud me for spelling his name correctly on only the third go.
Let’s all just take a moment to admire this gorgeous Bill Sienkiewicz cover. And applaud me for spelling his name correctly on only the third go.

Our story begins, as it often does in tales of intense rage with Rick Fucking Jones. Of course, in this case the rage is mine but that isn’t important. We follow the usual chain of events as the dumbest teenager in the Marvel Universe drives Archie’s jalopy out to an atomic bomb testing site so he can play the harmonica and win fifty cents for an egg cream. Fortunately for him and unfortunately for anyone who owns property in New Mexico, Dr Bruce Banner races out to save Rick’s life. In this case, he fails to knock Rick into the radiation proof trench that all nuclear test sites feature and the two are both belted by gamma rays.

Kidnapped by mindless ones!
Kidnapped by mindless ones!

The military takes the two radioactive idiots back to Gamma Base and they’re both put to bed and given all the ice cream and ginger ale they could want. Problems arise when Bruce realizes he wants more vanilla and Rick telepathically reads his mind. Then, angered by indescribable pain and lack of that peanut butter stuff you drizzle on the ice cream and then it hardens, Banner freaks the fuck out and turns into the Hulk. He kicks a wall down and runs out into the desert.

When General Thunderbolt Ross arrives seconds later, Rick tries to cover for the man who saved his life. “Uh, yeah. Bruce WAS here. But then a giant… green guy busted in and kidnapped him. I think he was a robot.” Fortunately, in a post-Kirby Monster Comics universe, this is completely plausible and so the Army begins its search for a green, scientist kidnapping robot. Arch Hall Jr and a jeep with a shovel in the back are mobilized at once.

"Son, I fought in the Fin Fang Foom wars and what you're saying makes complete sense to me."
“Son, I fought in the Fin Fang Foom wars and what you’re saying makes complete sense to me.”

Meanwhile, the Hulk is absolutely hysterical, feeling nothing but pain and also really worried about the annoying teenager that apparently lives in his head. He tangles with the army a few times before Rick can convince him to go into hiding. Unfortunately, Ross observes Rick slipping the Hulk mental mash notes and realizes that they two are mentally linked. Desperate to hush up the unstoppable rage monster before the public finds out, Ross decides his best course of action is to start torturing Rick. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, ladies and gentleman. The man who never met a hornet’s nest he couldn’t poke with a stick.

"HULK HAVE DEEP PERSONAL EMOTIONS."
“HULK HAVE DEEP PERSONAL EMOTIONS.”

Surprising literally no one, inflicting pain on the guy whose brain is psychically linked to the strongest scariest motherfucker on earth is a TERRIBLE idea. Hulk starts freaking out worse than ever, throwing around tanks and actually killing people. And since that isn’t bad enough, Ross goes ahead and tortures Rick to death. Now, personally, I have no problem with this but the Hulk oddly takes issue.

Whoops.
Whoops.

After a devastating attack on Gamma Base, Ross calls in the only people who can possibly help him: The Fantastic Four in their 43rd What If appearance. Unfortunately, the FF have little effect on the Hulk as Johnny fails to burn him, Reed almost gets torn in half and Sue fails to confuse him by turning invisible. Which is not a very good plan. Finally, the Thing takes a crack which would have been my first go-to but whatever. Unfortunately, then the Hulk hits the Thing with a nuclear missile.

With a single puff, the Hulk ruins children's birthday parties across America.
With a single puff, the Hulk ruins children’s birthday parties across America.

Everyone thinks the two monster men are both dead until a human Ben Grimm carries an unconscious human Bruce Banner out of the giant crater. So it looks like everything’s going to be fine, right? Not so much.

Bruce regains conciousness, is flooded by the mental anguish of Rick’s death, turns back into the Hulk and snaps Ben’s neck. This causes Johnny to attack and the Hulk swats him like a fucking fly, reducing the Fantastic Four to the Fantastic Fiancees. “Well, I’m out of ideas.” Says Reed.

At this point, Thor and Iron Man, who have been watching the whole thing unfold on TV, arrive. Thor uses his lightening powers to overcharge Iron Man’s transistors (Silver Age Iron Man was always solving his problems with transistors. The only thing they couldn’t cure was alcoholism.) hoping to make the Golden Avenger stronger. What it mostly does is make Iron Man’s armour light up like a pinball machine when the Hulk twists his spine backwards.

The best part is that this headbutt comes out of fucking nowhere.
The best part is that this head butt comes out of fucking nowhere.

Finally, with no other ideas, Thor just fucking grabs the Hulk and breaks his neck. Which probably would have saved time in the long run. As the Hulk dies, he turns back into Bruce Banner and Thor zaps the corpse with lightning, giving a proper burial to a fallen foe. And disposing of the corpse of the guy he just killed. Meanwhile, Ross is digging his own grave behind Gamma Base for that sixteen year old civilian he tortured to death. Whoops!

 

What If Wolverine Couldn’t Cover Up ONE LOUSY MURDER? Also: Lumpy Thing Ruins Everything!

So this week we follow the adventures of Wolverine up in Canada in his first appearance. That’s his first official appearance. Starting from Incredible Hulk 181, we’ll be getting Wolverine flashback comics that basically go back to the beginning of time when Logan was a bad-ass assassin for a secret team of Galactus Heralds.

Anyway, this story picks up with Wolverine sent to capture the Hulk and the Wendigo for the Canadian government. Everything’s pretty much going according to plan until the Hulk punches Wolverine in the face one two many times and Wolverine freaks the fuck out. He murders the Hulk and Wendigo and this is treated like a huge deal despite the fact that Wolverine has killed more people than actual old age.

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GRRRR!

The news that the Hulk has been mysteriously murdered races across the Marvel universe and a nation mourns the death of an infantile engine of destruction with a history of yelling at people. Also people who were fond of professional bomb builder Bruce Banner, I guess. Honestly? I’m not seeing a downside here.

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“In other news, local monster the Hulk was murdered today in a shocking act of random violence. Will this mystery in the super hero community spark a genre defining twelve issue miniseries? Probably not. More at 11:00.”

Back in Canada Logan, drunk on his own sense of self-worth and also about ten thousand weak Canadian beers, gets into a bar fight and accidentally kills some dude. Whoops. He does what the most popular character in Marvel comics and one of the most bad ass characters ever invented always does when he commits murder.

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“Crap! This was my 800th murder! I’m supposed to get a free sandwich!”

He runs home and begs his boss to get him out of it. Seriously, he hauls ass back to Department H and begs James McDonald Hudson (AKA Guardian, Vindicator or possibly Weapon Alpha. Guys, I’m from Canada but I do not give a shit about Alpha Flight.) to get him out of this.

“Look, man. You did a bad thing.” says Hudson. “You’re going to have to face the music. But this is Marvel Universe Canada, one of the most powerful countries on the planet. We can get you the best Canadian lawyers and get you off easy.”

Unfortunately, facing the music is not something that interests this universe’s lame Wolverine so he panics and runs off instead. Seriously, Logan. Buddy. You know how to disappear a murder. You’re starting to look like a bit of a chump.

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“Feets don’t fail me now!”

At this point, Wolverine is stopped by Magneto and the Brotherhood of Not Going to Be Defined by Your Labels Mutants. Magneto’s been keeping an eye of Wolverine since the murder of the Hulk and he thinks he can slip Wolverine into the All-Old Classic X-Men as a spy. Wolverine agrees because he has no place to go and also is seriously a total chump.

The X-Men welcome Wolverine into their ranks with open arms when he just randomly shows up on their lawn a couple of days later. He dodges their questions and blocks Professor X’s mindscan with some device Magneto gave him.

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“Cyclops, you smell like somebody I’m going to be cooler than for forty years.”

Then, because some things don’t change, he starts hitting on Jean Grey. Which is WAY creepier when she’s in her old X-Men costume for some reason. Makes her still look sixteen.

What little worries the X-Men had over Wolverine quickly vanish after he blows up some Sentinals and he’s completely gained their trust in like two days. He’s having conflictions about betraying the X-Men but that doesn’t stop him from disabling their security when Magneto tells him to. Charles Xavier has some of the most high tech security on the planet. The only possible way to disarm it is to stab it with claws.

The next morning, Cyclops and Wolverine compete for Jean’s affections in a variety of different ways (Carving her name into steel, getting rid of your stupid Kitty Whiskers mask.)

"I heard you like giant  engraved steel blocks, Jean!"
“I heard you like giant engraved steel blocks, Jean!”

when the Brotherhood attacks. They make short work of the X-Men which is shocking because this current line-up (Magneto, Mastermind, Lorelei, the Blob and fucking Unus the Untouchable) sucks. The tide turns when Magneto tries to throw a tile at Jean and murder her. Wolverine blocks the attack and rejoins the X-Men. Eventually, the X-Men are able to turn the tide and somehow defeat a guy named Unus.

Gross.
Gross.

Then Wolverine murders Magneto.

With his last breath, Magneto forces Wolverine to cut his own throat with his claws and they both bleed to death on the floor of the Danger Room. With the most popular character dead, this chilling universe’s X-Men are cancelled and kids in the 90s grow up super into Ghost Rider: The Animated Series.

This is so much easier than pulling the adamantium out through his pores.
This is so much easier than pulling the adamantium out through his pores.

So, meanwhile, in an entirely different story, the spaceship containing Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm crashes to earth blessing three of the crew with wonderous powers. And one guy with rock hard scabs all over his body. And when Reed Richards has finished dubbing himself Mr Fantastic and proclaimed that he and his friends shall help to save the world, Scab Guy tells him to go fuck himself. Which, given the circumstances, is understandable. Basically the Thing freaks out and then fucks off.

Well, this is embarrassing.
Well, this is embarrassing.

So the Fantastic Three leave Ben to wander across America wreaking stuff while they return to New York to… something? Look for him? I don’t know, it’s not a great plan.

"Hmm. Yes, we should probably do something about this."
“Hmm. Yes, we should probably do something about this.”

Luckily for them, Ben’s arrived back in New York after walking across the country, being angry. He’s finally decided to go back to Reed for help. Unfortunately, his “giant coat, scarf and sunglasses” disguise doesn’t work particularly well in the middle of August so the crowd (including the Thing’s blind girlfriend Alicia and her creepy uncle, the Puppetmaster) realize there’s a giant rockman in the vicinity pretty quickly.

It's too bad they caught him. That disguise was fooling everyone.
It’s too bad they caught him. That disguise was fooling everyone.

Ben gets pissed off again and starts up another rampage on THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY IN MARVEL HISTORY. In the course of an hour, he frightens Peter Parker away from his science exhibit and delays Donald Blake from his vacation in Norway. And then Tony Stark is called away from his business trip to Vietnam and Bruce Banner from his bomb experiments to stop the Thing. I assume on this same day, a truck carrying toxic isotopes stays home, an asshole surgeon doesn’t get in a car accident and nobody teaches a motorcycle stunt racer how to summon the devil.

Not shown: In this universe, Aunt May still becomes Spider-May.
Not shown: In this universe, Aunt May still becomes Spider-May.

 

Where Loki, Ulik, the Midgard Serpent and Ragnarok itself fail, the Mighty Thor is defeated by traffic.
Where Loki, Ulik, the Midgard Serpent and Ragnarok itself fail, the Mighty Thor is defeated by traffic.

The Thing attacks as Stark and Banner prepare their cosmic gamma ray gun in an attempt to cure the Thing. The Fantastic Three try to distract him using their new powers and finally the ray is fired. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to actually DO anything aside knocking everyone except Ben out. Ben considers murdering all of the downed normal people but decides he isn’t a complete monster and disappears into the sewer. Everyone regains conciousness and the F3 discover that their powers are gone. For some reason. With no super powers, every one breaks up and goes home leaving the Watcher to wonder how Earth will be defended from alien and Galactus invasions. X-Men had better step the fuck up.

Quick reminder: Classic Thing is fucking ugly.
Quick reminder: Classic Thing is fucking ugly.

 

What If the Hulk Just Fucking LIED Right To My Face?

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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…

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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That night, as Hulk ponders his new status as King of Tinytown, Jarella is attacked by an octopus assassin.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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! 

What If the Hulk Needed A Place To Hang Out?

fuckandyes:

What If Rick Jones had become the Hulk?

Okay, I was fully expecting to hate this one. First because, goddamnit, I was promised a tale of Conan walking the earth in the 1970s and that sounds fucking awesome. Secondly, because seriously fuck Rick Jones. My dislike of this character has been fully documented in a couple of these things so I basically went into What If 12 with a bug up my ass, ready to hate it. Luckily, this turned out to be one of the better issues I’ve read so far.

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We’ve seen this opening before, way back in Incredible Hulk 1 or possibly less way back in Forbidden to Interfere 2. This time around, Doc Bruce Banner drives out to save shitty teenage Archie stand-in Rick Jones only to have the little shit save him instead. Rick knocks Bruce into safety of the gamma radiation proof five foot deep concrete trench and is bathed with green radiation. He seems fine so Bruce drives him back to the military base to see how much of Rick’s body is now pure cancer.
Turns out to be none. None cancer. In fact, Rick seems fine until the sun goes down, at which point Rick turns into the Hulk. Specifically swinging sixties this-is-what-Stan-and-Jack-thought-teenagers-sound-like Hulk. It’s hilarious.

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Seriously, I had to fight hard to not just have every picture in this thing be shots of Rick Hulk calling Banner a square.

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Anyway, Rick Hulk escapes into the night and Bruce gives chase. The Rick is spotted by General Thunderbolt Ross but he sneaks away using all the stealth power of a giant green greaser and hides in the desert. Banner eventually finds him but Ross never does. He’s eventually shipped back to Washington to fill out paperwork, dreams of wasting taxpayer money throwing tanks at the Hulk washed away.

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Meanwhile, the Rick is about to smash the holy hell out of puny square Banner when the sun comes up. Bruce takes Rick to a secret underwater base out in the desert(?) where he can keep Rick stashed during the night while Bruce works on a cure during the day. It would actually be a pretty good plan if not for the fact that Loki decides that the best way to get revenge on Thor is to free the Hulk and then get him to blow up a bridge. Apparently Loki tricking the Hulk into blowing up a bridge is pretty standard across the multiverse.

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Anyway, long story short. Hulk joins Avengers, beats up Loki, beats up Space Phantom, quits Avengers. At exactly that moment of Avengers quitting, Banner shows up and zaps Rick Hulk with his new cure laser. It turns Hulk back into Rick permanently. That done, Bruce ditches Rick to return to the exciting field of comic book science.

We jump forward a couple of months to Rick randomly wandering around New York when he happens to come across Captain America getting his ass whipped by Hydra* Agents. But while these mighty foes may be a threat to the Living Legend of World War II, they’re no match for a whiny harmonica player. Rick helps Cap defeat them and in return Cap agrees to train Rick to be the new Bucky. This seems like it’d be an important twist in the story but don’t be fooled. On a mission to fight more random Hydra guys, Rick Hulks out again and runs away. The fact that this issue of What If does not feature the Hulk dressed as Bucky is a huge missed opportunity.

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So Rick runs away again and we jump forward another couple of months (Does Captain America come looking for his new sidekick? No, he does not.) to more random wandering. Say what you will about this issue, it certainly keeps alive the tradition of sad Hulk wandering. Suddenly, an image of Captain America appears guiding Rick to some strange bracelets. He puts them on because this is a superhero comic and is instantly contacted by Kree hero Captain Marvel. Marvel tells Rick that he must bang the bracelets together and when he does, Rick is transported to the Negative Zone. Which is basically space but you can breathe there. Which is lucky because Rick needs to breathe.** Marvel goes on to explain that Rick will only have to stay in the Negative Zone for three hours before he is swapped back and that he will be safe in the Negative Zone. Which is an outright lie because then Rick is attacked by giant metal bug monster Annihilus.

Huh. Really? Annihilus is in my googledocs spell checker? Alright then.

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So Rick is getting his ass whipped by Annihilus when he suddenly blasts the ugly sonnuvabitch with new mind powers and is then rescued by a hideous giant green head. It’s the Supreme Intelligence! Ruler of the Kree Empire and gross thing! The Supreme Intelligence needs Rick’s special brain to stop a war with the Skrulls! Which happens off panel and ends with Rick bushed out on the ground. Rick finally returns to Earth and hooks up with a foxy lady named Lou Anne. He also tells Captain Marvel where to stick it because he’s frankly tired of always having to go to space. And frankly I don’t blame him. Kid’s been having a weird year.

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Eventually Captain Marvel is forced to return when Rick is attacked at the lab of Professor Savannah (No, not the one you’re thinking of. Different Captain Marvel.) by a large gold man. He too is defeated off panel and Rick returns to the Negative Zone. This time, Lou Anne visits with Dr Banner and the two of them go to get help from Reed Richards, the only guy who knows anything about the Negative Zone. Bruce brings his giant Hulk shooting laser again.

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Back in the Negative Zone, Rick has ended up in another fight with Annihilus, who is clearly stalking the little bastard. Rick turns into the Hulk again and he and Annihilus beat on each other for a while. Eventually, Bruce and Reed are able to zap Rick with the Hulk Laser, this time seperating Rick and Hulk into two people. While Rick is rescued by Reed and his gross stretchy arm, Hulk uses the martial arts he learned from Captain America to kick Annihilus into an asteroid where he explodes to death.

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Rick returns to Earth, freed of the Hulk, Captain Marvel, Captain America, the Fantastic Four and various other Marvel super heroes and is able to freely date his attractive lady-friend, while playing the harmonica in places a harmonica ought not be played. In the Negative Zone, Hulk is worshipped as a hero and gets to jump around on flying rocks. A solid win for everybody!

 

*Hydra does not stand for anything.

**Rick’s needed to breathe oxygen since his first apparence in Irritating Baby Comics #1, True Believers! -Marvelous Matt

 

What If the Avengers Had Never Been?

What If: The Avengers Had Never Been?


Okay, let’s skip Uatu’s opening monologue because yes, he’s still doing them and just set the stage. So the original Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Giant Man and Wasp) formed to defeat Loki, a threat so powerful no one hero could stop him. Except that Thor routinely stopped him but whatever. The reason the team stayed together was that the Hulk freaked out and ran off to the surprise of absolutely everybody and everyone decided it might be a good idea to track him down before he breaks anything and maybe/maybe not kills somebody depending on the writer and if the Hulk is currently in a movie.

So in the normal continuity, Hulk hooks up with Namor the Sub-Mariner who has a fish up his dick about humanity and finding his lost people (See What If #1 for another time Namor got in a shitty mood, true belivers!) and the two jerks pick a fight with the Avengers for some reason. The Avengers show up, there’s a sweet silver age style fight in the Mighty Marvel Manner, Namor and Hulk get the floor wiped with them, and the Avengers resolve to be just sort-of popular until the 21st century when someone has the bright idea to stick Spider-Man and Wolverine in there and sales go fucking nuts.

Anyway.

So in this reality, the Avengers resolve to… not actually go after the Hulk. Giant Man reasons that, hey, we never said the Hulk HAD to be an Avenger. Why not just let him go? Iron Man responds by saying “Well, sure. Nobody said he HAD to stay but he is a giant, moronic green guy with a tendency towards temper tantrums. Maybe we should keep an eye on him, what with our being super-heroes and all.”

“Nah,” says Thor. “Fuck that guy. I’m out. Oh, uh… thou. Verily.”

And he bombs out of the story. Giant Man, watching Thor steal his dramatic exit, also heads for the door. The Wasp appears to want to stay but a quick “Shut up, Janet. Men are talking.” from Giant Man puts that shit to bed.

Still worried about the Hulk, Iron Man contacts the Hulk’s buddy Rick Jones (“Young Rick Jones is the Hulk’s friend. I’ll contact him! He’s a short-wave ham radio operator! I bet he’s at his set right now!”). Luckily, Rick is indeed ham radioing and agrees to help Tony find the Hulk. Then the Hulk kicks the door down and… well, he leaves actually. Just smashes up the wall to the room Rick is in and then goes and rampages somewhere else. Weird, Hulk. That’s really weird. Anyway, Tony arrives, Hulk whoops his ass and Iron Man carries Rick back to New York.

We then cut back to Uatu who tells us what happened to the Hulk, which is exactly what happened to the Hulk in the normal continuity. (He and Namor move into an electronic cave and plot to destroy the Avengers, unaware that laziness has done the job for them.) Namor sends a message to Iron Man, telling him and the rest of the Avengers to meet them at the electronic cave for some fist fighting. Iron Man agrees, worrying that, if he tells them that the Avengers have disbanded, they’ll think he is a coward. He decides that being beaten to death will be easier.

Fortunately, this plan doesn’t last too long and Tony falls back on the plan that will serve him well in the 2000s. He builds a whole bunch of new armors. Then he calls up Giant Man, Wasp and Rick to use them. Wasp is unsure but luckily Giant Man is there to tell her what to think. Seriously, it’s embarrasing how shitty that dude treats her. They all try testing their new armor and fail miserably at it. (My favorite scene involves Iron Man telling Rick that he doesn’t need to flap his arms to fly.) Finally, Tony loses his shit and fires them all again. So much for the Avengers again. That’s okay, nobody wants to read the adventures of Rick Jones.

So Tony fixes his armor so that it will be more powerful than ever (It has something to do with overloaded transistors because Iron Man used to be all about transistors.) and then flies off to fight Hulk and Namor. Meanwhile, Rick grabs Wasp and Giant Man and mentions that maybe they shouldn’t fucking bail on their buddy before he gets killed by a fish guy and the Hulk and try… oh, I don’t know BEING FUCKING SUPER HEROES.

Iron Man arrives at the electronic cave and fights Namor and Hulk for a while. He’s actually doing okay at first, bamboozling Namor into a rock and then gluing Hulk to the water(?) and electrocuting him. Unfortunately, Namor recovers from his head wound and the fight goes underwater, like all battles with the Sinister Sub-Mariner. Namor finally beats Iron Man and then gloats at Hulk for awhile when the cavalry arrives in their Iron Wasp, Iron Rick and the Iron Giant (“Sooooperman.”). They get Namor on the ropes by shooting him with needles and then Iron Giant bonks him with a rock. Namor is defeated but Hulk pretty much shit-kicks Iron Giant until Iron Man uses the last of his energy to make Iron Giant super powerful. They defeat Hulk but at what cost? Tony dies of a broken heart and the team resolves to… still be the Avengers without him? I guess. So the story ends basically the same as it normally would but more depressing! Hooray for What If!

 

Forbidden to Interfere 2: What If the Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner?

We enter on the Hulk doing what he does best: smashing army guys and wanting to be left alone. We get the usual “Why men no leave Hulk alone?” from Hulk and the less regular “Why Hulk no let men arrest him for destruction of property?” from the army guys. Sad and shirtless, the Hulk retires to a mountain somewhere to weep about his inability to think about things. Unbeknownest to him, the Hulk is watched by… the Watcher! Because I guess it’s his turn or whatever.

Remembering last issue, the Watcher explains the premise of the book to everyone (BEHOLD, HUMAN! FOR THERE ARE MANY WORLDS AND I, UATU THE WATCHER, MUST BUT WATCH UPON THEM ALL! FOR SUCH IS THE SACRED VOW WHICH whatever.) and then tells us the origin of the Hulk (BEHOLD, HUMAN! DOC BRUCE BANNER! BELTED BY GAMMA RAYS! TURNS INTO THE HULK! AIN’T HE UNGLAMOUROUS!?). Then we get to the meat of the issue: What if the Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner! Which turns out to mean, what if the Hulk was smart, not what if the Hulk had the actual brain of Bruce Banner. Like, in a jar or something. And it turns out that, in this universe, everything is bat shit crazy. Oh, and the Hulk shakes people’s hands like he is running for office.

Bruce is finishing up work on the extremely phallic looking gamma bomb in between ackward flirtations with the Dr Girlfriend-esque (Or Jackie Onassis, fine, fine.) Betty Ross and being called a milksop for the seven thousandth time by General Thadeus “Thunderbolt” Tiberius Ross. Everything’s going about as well as a devestating planned explosion can go when Banner notices Marvel’s Dumbest Teenager Rick Jones hanging out in the testing zone, playing some swinging tunes on his harmonica. Unfortunately, the bomb cannot be stopped due to the influence of russian spy Igor who sabotages the test by making sure it goes forward as planned, the fiend. Bruce sucessfully saves Rick, the dumb little shit, by pushing him into a radiation proof trench but finds himself bathed in gamma rays, making the gamma bomb the least successful explosion in history. (“How’d that new bomb we developed work?” “Well, nobody died and the country we attacked is now populated by giant green supermen.” “Hmm. Somebody fire Bruce Banner.”)

So, first of all, the reason why Banner never gets stupid is never revealed. He just doesn’t. That’s some real imaginative work there, Uatu. Nice job. Night falls, and the power of the moon or whatever turns Bruce into the Hulk, destroying his first of many, many shirts. Rick shows Bruce himself in the mirror and Bruce takes the time to remark that, while his body may have changed, his brain is just fine, thanks for asking. And to prove it, he smashes through a wall and runs away.

Bruce and Rick head for Bruce’s isolated cabin in the woods where they can make out, smoke pot and search for an antidote when they find Igor rifling through Bruce’s drawers looking for more effective bombs. Bruce realizes that Igor is a dirty commie rat and shakes him a little before he and Rick leave to alert the authorities. Igor is imprisoned in the unlocked cabin, presumedly under the honor system. Down, but not beaten, Igor uses an advance artificial thumbnail to contact his superiors in Moscow.

With Igor arrested or ignored or whatever, Rick and Hulk head home when they run into Betty looking for Bruce. Rick quickly explains that the bomb blast turned Bruce into the Hulk and absolutely no follow-up questions are asked. Then the tip of a rocket crashes next to everyone and a hideous russian  crawls out. It’s Igor’s superior, the Gargoyle! Lured to America by Igor’s promises of a shirtless green dynamo, Gargoyle shoots the Hulk with his Hulk piercing pellet gun. Luckily, the Hulk beats back this new and terrible weapon by believing in himself. In this way, any man can walk away from a gunshot. The Gargoyle starts crying because he is ugly and then the Hulk pats him on the shoulder. “So!” says Gargoyle. “You too know what it is to be branded a freak and an outcast by humanity!”

“No,” says the Hulk. “I’ve only been a monster for… like an afternoon. But I’m sure people will get around to ostracizing me soon enough. This is the Marvel Universe after all!”

Then the Gargoyle resolves to stop being an asshole and work for peace instead and they shake hands and the Gargoyle climbs back into his busted-ass rocket and heads home, promising to do good in Russia. And maybe get some surgery. Because Jesus. Dude is not attractive.

Dawn breaks and Bruce returns to normal because we’re going by classic Hulk rules, I guess so he and Betty go on a date. The Watcher, realizing that we’ve still got a bunch of shit to do, decides to skip Bruce and Betty’s actual relationship and just has them fall in love while on a picnic. Night comes again and Bruce takes Betty home to  meet the parents. Unfortunately, as he drives the car in,  he turns into the Hulk again, just in time for General Ross to see him. Ross calls him a milksop AND an oversized monster and Bruce gets pissed off and wrecks up his car, causing Ross to see the error of his ways. Nice one, General. Didn’t even need a pardon from NASA unlike SOME people. So Ross and the Hulk shake hands and then Hulk snaps Betty in half having hot, premarital sex in his science cabin. Wait, no.

So Bruce and Betty get married and stuff actually seems to be working out when Bruce gets a letter from Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. He invites Bruce to the Baxter Building in New York to see if Bruce can help turn the Thing back into a human. Because clearly, if there’s one thing Bruce knows, it’s de-freaking yourself.

Bruce arrives at the Baxter Building and he and Reed shoot rays at Ben until everything works out. Now Thingless, the FF breaks up because that’s just what happens in alternate realities, and Hulk and Betty move in, forming the Avengers’ science bros decades early! They are soon joined by Professor Charles Xavier, who pulls that Spider-Man shit by inviting himself to a job interview nobody agreed to and then using his powers to wreck up the place. The Fantastic Four: You broke our coffee table! You’re hired!

Once again, everything is totally awesome. The team of scientists do some great science and it’s all coming up Milhouse. And then Galactus shows up because fuck you, Earth. Bruce turns into the Hulk during the day for the first time ever (Once again, no explanation whatsoever is given for this.) and gets his ass whooped. Then Reed tries… stretching at Galactus. This works about as well as any time you try defeating a powerful foe by reaching for him. Finally Professor X attacks using all the power of his incredible psychic mind. Just kidding, he flies around in a little rocket-powered go-cart.

Their individual attacks proving useless, the Science Bros. do the only sensible thing they can. They combine themselves into a giant gold man in orange shorts who calls himself X-Man and then challenge Galactus to a staring contest. Seriously. Although the plan works… somehow, it turns out X-Man is a jerk and, before he turns back into three fully clothed guys, he bitchslaps Ben Grimm which turns him into the Thing again. For some reason. The Science Bros regain conciousness to discover that their various powers are gone. For such is the price that must be paid, when one has turned into a giant gold man. They also see the new Thing. Who is evil now by the way. Or at least a jerk now. So Jerk Thing jumps out the window and goes rampaging. “Hey, Reed.” Bruce asks. “You think we maybe outta do something about that?”

“Nonsense, Bruce.” Reed replies. “What could we, the three smartest people on the planet do without our super powers. Now let’s get back to our researches. Let the army chase down my best friend.”

Reed Richards is kind of a jerk.

So now it is the Thing who runs around, ducking the army and smashing stuff where, in another reality, it was the Hulk. A powerful lesson and one we will come back to in our exploration of What If time and again. No matter what happens in an alternate reality, it’ll more or less be the same as in our reality.