Thursday, March 31, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #1

One-Shot (2009)
What if Doctor Doom kept the Beyonder’s power?

CoverWritten by Karl Bollers
Drawn by Jorge Molina

Victor von Doom knows that he is the most capable man on Earth. His intellect is shocking, and his power – a marriage of science and mysticism – is astounding. If only the world recognized his greatness, it would submit to his absolute rule.

But even Doom is mortal. He may usher in an age of unprecedented peace and prosperity, but he cannot guarantee utopia's survival beyond his own demise.

In a future not our own, Doom has become a demigod. It no longer matters how or why. All that matters is the result of the coming contest between Doom and the Celestials: the stellar custodians of Earth whose power is beyond description…

“What man hath wrought… let no god put asunder.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #2

Volume 2 #2 (1989)
What if Daredevil had killed the Kingpin?

CoverWritten by Danny Fingeroth
Drawn by Greg Capullo

Matt Murdock has spent years fighting for justice both as an attorney and as the masked crimefighter Daredevil. But Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime and Murdock’s greatest enemy, has just learned that Matt and Daredevil are one and the same. And so, he devotes his limitless resources to ruining Matt’s life.

Matt’s bank accounts are frozen. His law license is revoked. His home is bombed. In a matter of months, the Kingpin robs Matt of everything, including his sanity. Without any reasoned plan, Matt confronts the Kingpin in his headquarters, armed with nothing but a nightstick. Fisk beats Murdock into unconsciousness, frames him for murder, and arranges his own death. The Kingpin's victory is complete.

But in another universe, Matt is more calculating. He enters Fisk’s headquarters unarmed, but he lifts a gun off of a guard. Moments later, the Kingpin looks down the barrel of that gun and calls a man who isn’t bluffing. With the squeeze of a trigger, Matt secures revenge at the cost of all that he has ever stood for…

“There is only one solution. A man breaks the law… he’s got to pay the price. And again, Matt Murdock goes in pursuit of justice.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #3

Volume 2 #76 (1995)
What if Peter Parker had to invent Spider-Man?

CoverWritten by Terry Austin
Drawn by Stuart Immonen

During their high school days together, Peter Parker and Flash Thompson shared a singular relationship. Flash was the BMOC, and Peter a nerdy nobody; the duo’s bully/victim dynamic was simple… until a radioactive spider bite imbued Peter with superhuman strength and agility. Using these powers, Peter became the masked crimefighter Spider-Man, and Flash his foremost fan; yet Flash continued to mistreat Peter at school, not knowing that it was he behind his hero’s mask.

Given the countless times that Spider-Man has saved New York from costumed villains, it can be easy to forget that Peter could just as easily have joined their ranks instead. In one alternate universe, events transpire with only a grotesque sort of familiarity after Flash is the one granted spider-like superpowers.

“Tell the Daily Bugle that the Vulture is old news-- the kind they wrap fish in! The Spider is the criminal of tomorrow, gents!”

In line with his sense of entitlement, Flash becomes what Spider-Man is unfairly alleged to be: a menace. And thanks to his sense of responsibility, Peter must rely on nothing but his terrific intellect to find a way of stopping him…

Friday, March 25, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #4

One-Shot (2005)
What if Dr Doom had become the Thing?

CoverWritten by Karl Kesel
Drawn by Paul Smith

Years ago, Empire State University admitted two students of unusual genius named Reed Richards and Victor von Doom. Whereas Reed allowed himself time for leisure, Victor devoted himself entirely to a number of clandestine experiments. One day, Reed noted a flaw in the calculations of his jealous rival. Victor shrugged off the remark, and soon, the criticized experiment literally blew up in his face.

Yet even the arrogant Doom could have paused and reconsidered his work. Finding that Richards was right after all, Victor could have partnered with Reed to share ideas and achieve the impossible. In a universe unlike our own, he did.

It is now five years since Reed and Victor began working together, and the final products of their research will soon be unveiled. Two civilian passengers are presently flying into space with the scientist pair to prove the safety of their first commercial spacecraft. Success seems assured until potentially lethal cosmic rays begin to bombard the ship, and Victor makes a sinister announcement…

“I’ve already dredged the most useful ideas from Richards’ mind. And so I will finish the research and bask in the glory alone…”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #5

Volume 2 #104 (1998)
What if the Impossible Man obtained the Infinity Gauntlet?!

CoverWritten by Thomas Virkaitis
Drawn by Gregg Schigiel

The inhabitants of the planet Poppup can shift their shapes on a whim. Years ago, a Poppupian visited Earth and - upon realizing that his powers far exceeded those of any human - chose to wreak havoc in myriad absurd ways, thereby earning the moniker “Impossible Man”. Humanity ultimately rid itself of this bizarre mischief-maker only by depriving him of the attention that he so obviously craved.

Years passed before the Impossible Man was seen again; in the meantime, Earth was faced with yet more terrifying alien threats. One of these was Thanos, a mighty madman who hailed from the Jovian moon Titan. Following a first, failed attempt at galactic conquest, Thanos devised a new scheme that was sure to succeed: collecting for himself all six of the universe’s inconceivably powerful Infinity Gems, he crafted a wearable omnipotence called the Infinity Gauntlet.

It is said that Thanos used this gauntlet to snuff out half of all sentient life in the universe; and it is whispered that most of Earth’s superheroes died in a battle to reverse that unthinkable destruction. But it is furthermore rumored that none of that actually occurred; instead, the Impossible Man simply popped up and stole the Infinity Gauntlet to use it for his own ridiculous purposes…

“This is not happening.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #6

Volume 1 #22 (1980)
What if Doctor Doom had become a hero?

CoverWritten by Don Glut
Drawn by Fred Kida

Years ago, Victor von Doom was a poor Romani youth growing up alone in the tiny kingdom of Latveria. During Victor's early childhood, both of his parents were put to death: first, his mother for practicing witchcraft, and later, his father for failing to cure the Latverian baron’s wife. Upon becoming a graduate student in America, Victor swore that he would find a way to reach the mother he had never known.

Although Victor was hugely intelligent, he was also so arrogant as to refuse to acknowledge his rare mistakes. Reed Richards, a fellow student of equal genius, once noted a critical flaw in Victor’s calculations, but his warning went ignored. Thus, when Victor finally attempted to contact his late mother, his machine exploded in his face, leaving him with nothing to show for his work but scars.

If only Victor had listened to Reed, his experiment might have succeeded. In a world unlike our own, Victor’s machine locates his mother’s soul in Hell. Instead of finding a reason to hate Richards, Doom finds a reason to thank him before departing to pursue a fantastic new project: the liberation of his mother’s soul…

“Yes, farewell, Victor von Doom… though I can’t shrug off the feeling… that tragedy will follow your accomplishments, no matter how noble they may be.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #7

Volume 2 #11 (1990)
What if the Fantastic Four all had the same power?

CoverWritten and Drawn by Jim Valentino

The Fantastic Four have saved the world – and each other’s lives – on a great many occasions, thanks to the complementary nature of their powers.

Johnny Storm can light on fire and take flight; his sister, Sue, can become invisible and create force fields. Would a Fantastic Four sharing just one of their powers always use it responsibly for the good of mankind?

Reed Richards possesses an odd stretching ability; his friend Ben Grimm wields super-strength at the expense of a monstrous form. Would a Fantastic Four in either of their places seek to become superheroes?

Tasked with observing all that transpires on Earth, the otherworldly Watcher has had a special interest in the Fantastic Four since their founding. All of the realities considered above have – in other universes – played out before his eyes…

“Four different worlds, four different fates. Each one could have been yours, had only circumstances been slightly different.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #8

Volume 2 #13 (1990)
What if Professor X had become the Juggernaut?

CoverWritten by Kurt Busiek
Drawn by Vince Mielcarek

Years ago, Charles Xavier realized that he belonged to a species other than mankind: a splinter race that would come to be called mutantkind. Using his awesome power of telepathy, Charles located young mutants across the country and brought them together at a school of his founding. There, he instructed them in the safe use of their powers, so that they might protect themselves and others.

But there are other universes in which Charles could not safeguard the destiny of mutantkind. More probable than it sounds is a reality in which Charles is made invulnerable and immediately thereafter buried beneath a mountain of rubble.

In this other universe, Charles spends years clawing his way to freedom instead of designing a special school. During this time, a madman nicknamed Magneto calls together the mutants of the world for his own sinister purposes. Driven half-mad by his telepathic knowledge of Magneto’s actions, Charles shows remarkable restraint when he at last reaches the surface and confronts the mutant dictator.

“Your presence is no longer required.”

With Magneto out of the picture, Charles proceeds to eliminate every other threat to mutantkind, beginning with Earth’s artificially super-powered humans…

Monday, March 14, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #9

Volume 1 #35 (1982)
What if Elektra had lived?

CoverWritten and Drawn by Frank Miller

There was once a woman who meant everything to Matt Murdock. Her name was Elektra, and the assassin Bullseye ran her through with a sai.

But murder for hire is a treacherous trade, and Bullseye was nearly killed himself before things ever came to that. What if Bullseye had indeed died?

Matt is still Daredevil, the sightless superhero. And Elektra is still an assassin in her own right. Tonight, she’s been assigned to kill Matt’s best friend…

“You’ve gone too far, Elektra. No matter what I’ve felt for you… no matter how much I may still love you… you’ve gone too far.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #10

One-Shot (1995)
Punisher kills the Marvel Universe

CoverWritten by Garth Ennis
Drawn by Dougie Braithwaite

Somehow, traditional military conflict persists in a world filled with superheroes. The Vietnam War claimed the lives of 60,000 American soldiers, all while our nation’s spandexed saviors continued to battle familiar villains. Ordinary men like Marine Captain Frank Castle were the ones who risked all in that Hell overseas.

Finally home again in the States, Frank seeks little more than to raise his young children with his loving wife. But domestic work for the military lands Frank and his family in New York City, where hardly a month goes by without an alien invasion. Today, Frank’s wife and kids are at Central Park; and suddenly, so are the Brood.

The X-Men and the Avengers have just concluded their explosive battle with this menace from outer space when Frank arrives on scene. Amidst the devastation, Frank finds his entire family dead, his entire life over. When Cyclops, the X-Men’s level-headed leader, musters his best apology, Frank shoots him in the face.

Frank receives a life sentence for this crime, but his transport never makes it to prison. Instead, it brings him to the Adirondack estate of an old man whom he has never met. This stranger, missing an eye and an arm, introduces Frank to several other cripples. Like Frank, these ordinary people had their lives devastated by the carelessness of those with extraordinary powers; unlike Frank, these victims are wealthy enough to finance a war against the entire superhuman community…

“We want you to kill them all.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #11

One-Shot (2005)
Wha… Huh?

CoverWritten by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Brian K Vaughan, and Ed Brubaker
Drawn by Jim Mahfood

Travel back in time with me to August 2005.

Brian Michael Bendis is writing Daredevil, New Avengers, and Ultimate Spider-Man. And the limited series House of M… and Powers… and The Pulse.

Mark Millar is writing both Ultimates 2 and Wolverine. He just wrapped up a year on Spider-Man, and he’s returning to Ultimate Fantastic Four next month.

Brian K Vaughan, meanwhile, is writing only Runaways and Ultimate X-Men… for Marvel. He’s also writing both Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina for Vertigo.

Ed Brubaker, finally, is taking it easy by just writing Captain America… plus twelve issues each of Sleeper and The Authority: Revolution for WildStorm.

These four men would have to be crazy to find time to collaborate on a humor special. Luckily for us, their workloads have driven them all quite insane…

“I have never seen anything so pathetic as your purchase of this incredibly stupid comic book. And I’ve seen pathetic. I was there for CrossGen.”

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #12

One-Shot (2005)
What if Aunt May had been killed instead of Uncle Ben?

CoverWritten by Ed Brubaker
Drawn by Andrea Di Vito

“A spider! It bit me. But why is it glowing that way?”

Spider-Man’s origin story is perhaps common knowledge. Bitten by a radioactive spider, high school student Peter Parker gains an array of arachnid super-powers; once a professional wallflower, he soon becomes a TV sensation. But when Peter chooses not to trip up a burglar who crosses his path, that thief goes on – in a freak coincidence – to murder Uncle Ben, the elderly man who raised Peter.

Peter’s beloved Aunt May is thereafter his only family and support. Without her late husband, May can barely make ends meet, and Peter must think of a way to pay their bills on his own. After rejecting the idea of becoming a super-villain, Peter settles on the idea of selling photos of himself fighting crime as Spider-Man to a wealthy newspaperman who obsesses over the wallcrawler.

The plan works. Peter never erases the guilt that he feels regarding Ben’s death, but it pains him a little less every time that he provides for May. Ultimately, Peter’s one moment of selfishness leads him to a lifetime of compassion.

But Peter could just as easily have lost both of his foster parents. And if that had happened, he would have seen no reason to use his great power responsibly…

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #13

Volume 2 #83 (1996)
What if Daredevil was the disciple of Doctor Strange?

CoverWritten by Ian Edginton and Mike Baron
Drawn by Rafael Kayanan

Years ago, surgeon Stephen Strange wrecked his car and ruined his hands. Hoping that he might be healed, he sought out not the Ancient One but the Chaste, and he learned from them arts martial rather than mystical.

Years ago, teenager Matt Murdock lost first his sight and then his father. When he located this troubled youth, Strange found both his first pupil and his final patient.

Tonight, Strange descends upon a high-rise rooftop amidst a shower of shuriken. The ninja clan known as the Hand have lured the doctor out of his dojo.

“My hands, which used to operate on human flesh with the greatest delicacy, are now fit only for killing. [They] have been broken and reset, broken and reset. So I use them to break this Hand… to atone for a sin I can never outlive… as long as he lives.”

“He” is Daredevil: Strange’s greatest disciple become his greatest enemy…

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Brief "What If...?" Apology

Shortly after I uploaded my last post, the scan site that I’ve been visiting for years abruptly went down. Over the past month, I’ve set this blog aside and hoped that said site would return to life. That hasn’t happened, and I doubt that it ever will.

To make a long story short, this means that I won’t be able to illustrate any of my future posts with scans of interior pages. And that sucks. The best apology that I can offer is the following brief assessment of 2011’s “What If…?” offerings.

“What If? Wolverine: Father” and “What If? Dark Reign” were just okay. These were the two best issues of the year, and I couldn’t recommend either of them.

Both stories found in “What If…?” #200 – “What if Norman Osborn won the Siege of Asgard?” and “What if I, the Watcher, killed Galactus?” – were lame. “Iron Man: Demon in an Armor” and “What if Venom possessed Deadpool?” were, too.

“What If? Spider-Man”, lastly, was downright awful. If I ever follow up my “Best of ‘What If…?’” with a “Worst of ‘What If…?’”, this story may well make that list.

But before I start on any new projects, I should finish the one I’ve already started. In that spirit, look for “Best of ‘What If…?’” to resume – and wrap up – in March!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #14

Volume 1 #24 (1980)
What if Gwen Stacy had lived?

CoverWritten by Tony Isabella
Drawn by Gil Kane

When Peter Parker first gains the proportionate strength and agility of a spider, his thoughts are not of becoming a superhero, but of making a quick buck. This selfishness soon leads to the murder of Peter’s surrogate father, teaching him – at a terrible cost – that with great power comes great responsibility.

As the spectacular Spider-Man, Peter goes on to protect the people of New York City from innumerable super-powered criminals. Like most of these super-villains – and like Spider-Man himself – the maniacal Green Goblin wears a mask to hide his identity; unlike virtually anyone else, the Goblin knows who Spider-Man is.

Years ago, the Goblin sought to hurt Spider-Man by kidnapping Peter’s first love, Gwendolyn, and holding her hostage atop the George Washington Bridge. During the battle that ensued, the Goblin sent Gwen plummeting towards the Hudson, and Peter shot one desperate strand of webbing after her.

“My webbing caught your leg. I thought I had done it. I thought I had won.”

But the sudden arrest of Gwen’s fall served only to snap her neck, killing her. And even now, Peter wonders what might have been if he had succeeded…

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #15

One-Shot (2005)
What if Karen Page had lived?

CoverWritten by Brian Michael Bendis
Drawn by Michael Lark

Everything you know about Matt Murdock is true. By day, he fights for justice as one of New York City’s most knowledgeable attorneys. By night, he wages a one-man war on crime as Daredevil, the man without fear.

Matt's efforts are as thankless as they are tireless. But one woman, Karen Page, sees all that Matt does and loves him.

Meanwhile, Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, understands Matt and hates him. Fisk knows that if Karen were to die, Matt would be destroyed.

“He steals and murders and no matter what Matt Murdock does, no matter what Daredevil does… Wilson Fisk always, somehow, dances between the raindrops.”

By means of his favorite mercenary, the Kingpin has just orchestrated an attempt on Karen’s life. Matt is now determined to ensure that this stunt is Fisk’s last…

Pages 2-3 Page 10

Friday, January 21, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #16

One-Shot (2007)
What if Wolverine was never deprogrammed?

CoverWritten by Jimmie Robinson
Drawn by Carmine Giandomenico

The savage mutant Wolverine is no stranger to death. Thanks to his razor-sharp claws and his ability to survive any injury, he has delivered and recovered from more than his share of mortal wounds. It therefore comes as a shock when the terrorist organization known as HYDRA succeeds in killing him.

More startling, however, is the revelation that an order of mystical ninja called the Hand has resurrected him. Motivated by the Hand’s brainwashing and assisted by HYDRA’s teleportation tech, the already bloodthirsty Wolverine has become an unstoppable killing machine. Most superhumans are now dead.

Kitty Pryde, one of the few superheroes left alive, has just been recruited by Captain America to help put Wolverine down at last. Despite Cap’s reputation as a master strategist, Kitty has good reason to doubt that any plan can survive contact with the man who was once her mentor…

“We were screwed from the start.”

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #17

Volume 1 #30 (1981)
What if Spider-Man’s clone had survived?

CoverWritten by Bill Flanagan
Drawn by Rich Buckler

The scene is unlike any other: Spider-Man versus Spider-Man. One is the real Peter Parker, the other is Peter’s clone, and not even Miles Warren, the clone’s creator, can tell the two apart. Ultimately, this mirror match ends only when both Warren and his clone are killed in an explosion meant for the real Spider-Man.

Yet this fight was so evenly matched that no outcome was inevitable. The bogus Spider-Man could have gained the upper hand; the real Peter could have died alongside Warren. But how, thereafter, would the false Peter have coped with a reality three years removed from the one in his mind?

Peter’s clone visits the childhood home that he fondly remembers only to find its windows boarded. He learns that an old friend of his is now his girlfriend and that an old girlfriend of his is now married. What Peter’s clone does not realize is that the many holes that he perceives in his memory are in fact one massive void…

“Parker, my boy-- I think we’ve been asleep for a very long time.”

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #18

One-Shot (2006)
The devil who dares

CoverWritten by Rick Veitch
Drawn by Tommy Lee Edwards

If the multiverse is as vast as the all-seeing Watcher leads us to believe, then it should come as no surprise to learn that some Earths differ vastly from our own. Another Earth’s 19th-century Japan could even resemble present-day New York.

The blind hero Daredevil could be the son of an aging samurai. The evil Kingpin of Crime could be a corrupt Shogun. And the femme fatale Elektra could be the daughter of a man merely posing as an ambassador from Greece.

On one improbable Earth, this is all precisely the case.

The year is 1857, and Old Devil is walking home with his infant son, Masahiro, when he is halted by the Shogun’s messenger pigeon: a masked man known as the Owl. Old Devil would sooner die than assist the Shogun, but the Owl has come prepared for this. Removing a radiant stone from his belt, the Owl punishes Old Devil as only the Shogun could have devised: by casting this ore into Masahiro’s eyes, he blinds him completely. While Old Devil succeeds in killing the Owl, he may never restore his son’s sight…

“How brave you are, little Masahiro. Too young, perhaps, to yet know the meaning of fear.”

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #19

One-Shot (2007)
What if the Hulk landed on the peaceful planet that Reed Richards promised?

CoverWritten by Greg Pak
Drawn by Rafa Sandoval

How does one man explain to another that he must be exiled for crimes that he did not commit? When Reed Richards banishes fellow scientist Bruce Banner for the misdeeds of his monstrous alter-ego, it is with the sincerest tone of apology.

“There will be no one there to hurt you… and no one you can hurt. You always said you wanted to be left alone… May you finally find peace.”

Years ago, the explosion of a gamma ray bomb transformed Dr Banner into the super-strong, untameable Hulk. Although that initial change was temporary, subsequent high-stress moments have repeated the trick, and Bruce has ever struggled to limit his involuntary stints as a rampaging brute.

At last, Dr Richards has cut the Gordian Knot: since nothing on Earth could stop the Hulk, he has removed the Hulk from Earth. Stranded on an alien world, the Hulk resigns himself to his fate; Dr Banner, however, does not…

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best of "What If...?": #20

Special (1988)
What if Iron Man had been a traitor?

CoverWritten by Peter Gillis
Drawn by Steve Ditko and Pat Redding

Anthony Stark is brilliant, and he is dying. Days ago, American soldiers were escorting him through the jungles of Vietnam, where he was observing tests of weapons which he himself had designed. Then, one errant footstep set off an anti-personnel mine, killing Tony’s guards and embedding shrapnel in his chest.

A band of guerrillas soon stumbled upon the unconscious weapons designer and carried him off to their leader, Wong Chu. This mountain of a man informed Tony upon his revival that the metal buried in his breast would reach his heart in under a week. But until that time, his considerable intellect would not be wasted.

Commanded to invent an awesome new weapon, Tony spends what could be his final days designing something truly amazing: a suit of armor fitted to double as his life-support. With the pull of one final switch, Tony shall become invincible.

But before Tony can power his armor on, he is set upon by Wong Chu and transported to the headquarters of a superior officer. When this man learns of the dual purpose of Tony’s armor, he modifies it so that it can be powered off at the push of a button. And then, he offers Tony an ultimatum: betray America or die…

“You will go along-- and try to find a loophole. Think of it as a battle of wits…”

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