Monday, April 16, 2018

Longbox Junk - What If?

I've always been a fan of alternate reality stories. . .what would have happened if THIS would have been different, or if THAT was said, and so on.  Books, movies, T.V. shows, comic books, I love it all.  It's just interesting to me considering the path not taken.

Both Marvel and DC ran with this idea. DC had "Elseworlds" (Coming soon to Longbox Junk) and Marvel had "What If. . .?".  Personally, I like Elseworlds better, but since I have a small handful of random What If. . .? floating around my collection, then Why Not?

WHAT IF. . .?

ISSUE 2 (VOL 2)
 WHAT IF DAREDEVIL KILLED THE KINGPIN?

SCRIPT: Danny Fingeroth
PENCILS: Greg Capullo
COVER: Keith Pollard

During the events of "Born Again" Matthew Murdock finally snaps and shoots Kingpin in the face, setting off a chain of events that leads to a mental breakdown, a showdown with Spider-Man and Punisher, his own death at the hands of Hobgoblin, and Kingpin's son taking up the mantle of Daredevil.

I found this to be a fantastic issue! The story was engaging and well-written and the early work of future New 52 Batman superstar artist Greg Capullo on art was superb and really helped elevate this story. All that an an awesome cover make this issue a winner in just about every way.

ISSUE 32 (VOL 2)
 WHAT IF PHOENIX HAD LIVED?


SCRIPT: George Carragone
PENCILS: Rodney Ramos
COVER: Rodney Ramos

After the Shi'ar remove Jean Grey's mutant abilities (including her ability to use the Phoenix Force), her peaceful life as a normal human married to Scott Summers (Cyclops) is interrupted by Magneto, who has a way to return her powers. . .but she refuses, knowing it's only a matter of time before she loses control and becomes Dark Phoenix again.

Later, she's attacked by Mastermind and killed, but is resurrected by The Phoenix Force. . .revealing the truth that Jean Grey did not become Phoenix, but Phoenix became Jean Grey. Driven slightly insane by the knowledge, Phoenix finds where she hid the body of the real Jean Grey and murders her in cold blood. . .

Overall, this was a pretty good issue. A lot of reliance on convoluted X-Men continuity bogged it down a bit, as quite a few pages were completely devoted to exposition. Still, the story was well-written. The art was a bit inconsistent, with the first half being well done and the back half of the book looking a bit rushed and unfinished. The cover was deceptive in the classic Marvel newsstand "Clickbait" way, but was probably the best part of the book.

All in all, a decent issue. Not great, but not bad either.

ISSUE 43 (VOL 2)
 WHAT IF WOLVERINE HAD MARRIED MARIKO?


SCRIPT: Ron Marz
PENCILS: Scott Clark
COVER: Scott Clark

Wolverine leaves the X-Men to marry the love of his life, Mariko. He seeks to help her regain the honor of the Yashida clan, and in doing so, Wolverine discovers that The Kingpin has expanded operations to Asia and is taking over all the Japanese crime families.

All out war ensues between Wolverine and The Kingpin until it all comes down to a challenge of personal combat between them. Family betrayal and revenge result in the deaths of Mariko, Silver Samurai, and Kingpin, with Wolverine returning to the X-Men at the end of it all. . .

Overall, I found this issue to be pretty much average. Nothing really stood out as above average except an occasional nice panel of art. The story was predictable and the art was mostly bland. This issue demonstrates the throwaway nature of the What If? stories perfectly.

ISSUE 51 (VOL 2)
 WHAT IF PUNISHER BECAME CAPTAIN AMERICA?

SCRIPT: Simon Furman
PENCILS: Paris Cullins
COVER: Art Nichols

When Captain America is blinded and almost killed, the government searches for a new Captain, but their first choice, Marine Frank Castle, refuses until his family is gunned down by criminals in front of him.

Soon, Castle realizes that Captain America can't fight the street-level war against crime such as that which took his family from him, so he takes on the secret identity of The Punisher and wages a bloody war against organized crime until Steve Rogers convinces him that he's on the wrong path and Captain America, not The Punisher, is the legacy that would make his family proud. . .

Overall, this issue was pretty good. Not great, but the story was well-written and interesting. The art was a little too bright and cartoony for the dark subject matter, but it wasn't bad, just the wrong choice of artist for the story.

ISSUE 64 (VOL 2)
 WHAT IF IRON MAN WENT PUBLIC?


SCRIPT: Simon Furman
PENCILS: Geoff Senior
COVER: Geoff Senior

Instead of keeping the Iron Man technology to himself and becoming a super hero, Tony Stark decides he can benefit the world and save more lives by going public with it.

Unfortunately, his decision leads to an international arms race that escalates to the point of all out war against Magneto as the mutant population is decimated, leading to the death of The X-Men, Spider-Man reforming The Avengers, and Tony Stark going to extreme measures to stop his technology from being abused.

Overall, I found this to be a great issue. Double-Sized at 48 pages with very few ads, they packed a LOT of story into this book for the money!

The writing was engaging, the story was interesting, and the art was very nice. This could have easily been a stand-alone prestige format book back in the day.

WHAT IF. . .? CAPTAIN AMERICA: FALLEN SON
 (ONE SHOT)


SCRIPT: Marc Sumerak
PENCILS: Trevor Goring
COVER: Ed McGuinness

In the aftermath of Tony Stark's death at the hands of an enraged relative of one of the casualties of Marvel's Civil War (Giant Man) and Captain America's imprisonment, the world is left without the leadership of two of its greatest heroes.

Tony Stark's Iron Man technology gets into the wrong hands, the national Superhero Initiative comes under the control of politicians and is gutted, The New Avengers are beaten and imprisoned, and instead of a Secret War, the Skrull take advantage of the situation and move in for a full invasion of Earth. . .

Overall, this one shot was pretty good. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. . .just pretty good.

The story is told mainly through short glimpses of what happens after Iron Man's death. These vignettes are only a page or two long each, so the story jumps around a bit too much.

The art is hit and miss. It's good at the beginning, but as the book goes on, it gets sketchy and some panels look really rushed and unfinished. The cover is VERY nice, though.

All in all, this seems a bit rushed, and doesn't have much impact out of context from the larger story it was part of.  It doesn't stand alone very well at all.

WHAT IF. . .? CIVIL WAR
 (ONE SHOT)

SCRIPTS: Christos Gage & Kevin Grevioux
PENCILS: Gustavo & Harvey Tolibao
COVER: Marc Silvestri

Main Story: What If Captain America Led All The Heroes Against Registration 
(AKA a very long and sort of awkward title)

Tony Stark is dead before the Superhuman Registration Act is passed, leaving Captain America as the only voice of reason or opposition as Henry Gyrich goes off the rails trying to exterminate unregistered superheroes with a new generation of Sentinels. After Captain America is killed, Gyrich is elected President and the future is grim. . .

Second Story: What If Iron Man Lost The Civil War?

It should really be titled "What if Captain America and Iron Man were able to reach an understanding and end the Civil War" Because that's just what happens. They stop fighting each other long enough to agree that the Registration Act needs to exist, but Captain America is the only man to be trusted to run it right. . .

Overall, this was a good one shot. I liked the art and story better on the second entry, but there was nothing really bad about the first (longer) story. . .just that the overly-exaggerated art wasn't to my liking and the story was a bit more muddled.

The main problem with this one shot is that it doesn't really stand alone. Outside of the context of the larger story of Civil War it doesn't make much sense. That doesn't make it bad in general. . .it just makes it a bad one shot for future readers who might not know much about Civil War.

WHAT IF. . .? WOLVERINE
 (ONE SHOT)


SCRIPT: Daniel Way
PENCILS: Dave Lanphear
COVER: Tony Harris

What if Wolverine wasn't a mutant and became The Punisher in 1920's Chicago and The Watcher wasn't an immortal alien being, but was a modern-day hacker who can see other dimensions through the internet?

In this one shot, you get the answer to questions you never knew you had!

Overall, this "Wolverine as Punisher" story was interesting, but a bit flawed in execution. It feels rushed and more than a bit contrived. The art is pretty good on average, but definitely hit or miss. . .some places it's very nice. . .in others it's borderline bad.

All in all, I'd have to say that this is less of a "What If. . .?" story and more resembles DC's "Elseworlds", as it doesn't show the results of going down a different path, but is a complete re-imagining of an existing character in a different setting.

CONCLUSION

Overall, I found my small handful of What If. . .? to generally be enjoyable, if a bit on the average side.  Some of them depended too much on knowledge of (then current) continuity (Phoenix and the two Civil War one shots), and one of them was more of an Elseworlds than a What If. . .? (Wolverine one shot), but there weren't any really bad ones. . .and there were a couple that were really good (Daredevil and Iron Man).

All in all, after a bit of a closer look at What If. . .? I think I'm going to keep my eye out in the back issue bins for some more.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Up next. . .

ONE SHOTS! I love the one shots!

Aliens, Ruse, Batman, Captain America, The Goon, Hellboy, Punisher, Red Sonja, Boba Fett, Dracula, X-Files, and. . .Saddam Hussein?

Be there or be square!