What If EponymousKid Liveblogged What If...?

Eponymous Kid

What If... The Vision Had Destroyed the Avengers/Wonder Man had not Died? (Vol. 2, #5)

I'm moving on from Volume 1 for the nonce, but I'll be back to that eventually. The fact of the matter is that Volume 1 only ran for 47 issues (and a special done to keep the rights to the name) - Volume 2 ran for 114! However, while many issues in Volume 1 aren't up to snuff (Watch your back What If Four Other People had been Nova?, because I'm coming for you), volume 2 is home to the majority of the most bizarre stories the series has to offer. Even worse, later in the series they not only proudly dropped the Watcher, they stopped bothering to ask "What If" questions, instead simply showing us an alternate world where, for example, Jay Guthrie has a pet Sentinel.

Thankfully, this was in turn abandoned with a return to the old formula, but the book was soon canceled. Since then, there hasn't been a regular What If... series, but instead a succession of one-shots and specials. Some of them were pretty good. Lately, it's become tradition to do a What If...? depicting a recent Crisis Crossover turning out a different way; What If...? #200, for instance, is about the Sentry going berserk and how that effects the events of Siege.

But enough talk, have at you! Before we begin, I'd really like to give a shout out to this issue's writer/artist, Jim Valentino. Today, he's best known as one of the artists who left Marvel to co-found Image Comics (where, like the other founders, he had his own imprint — Shadowline, in this case), but I know him mostly as the creator of irreverent superhero parody normalman. I have to admit, I'm not especially familiar with his work outside of normalman, so I'm interested in seeing where he goes with a serious story like this.

Goddamn, three paragraphs in and I'm not even talking about the cover. Okay, the cover. I'd just like to point out that Covers Always Lie; "Plus — What If Wonder Man hadn't died?" is tucked into the bottom right corner, despite actually forming the crux of the issue's plot. Anyway, on the cover the Vision phases his hand through Wonder Man's ionic body, grimacing in malice as he does so. Wonder Man's wearing his gaudy original costume, which is a shame because his black muscle shirt look is just so incredibly superior. It's not even like Daredevil's yellow costume, which has a certain charm, this outfit doesn't look good. The other Avengers crowd around, looking on in terror as their leader is killed. Leader? Well, uh...

Our old buddy the Watcher actually gives an origin recap for himself before kicking things off. His race was old when time was young, and once foolishly tampered in the affairs of another world. When that world was destroyed as direct consequence of their meddling, they decided to atone for their sins by forever observing the cosmos — and never again to interfere. Uatu was assigned to monitor... Earth.

Now it's time for an origin recap for both Wonder Man and the Vision, too! Okay, Wonder Man is Simon Williams, a Flying Brick slowly dying due to a unique form of radiation poisoning. The villainous Baron Zemo controlled him by using his twisted genius to delay his imminent demise. He commanded Wonder Man to join the Avengers — and betray them to Zemo and his Masters of Evil. But Wonder Man had a change of heart, freeing an incapacitated Thor to give the Avengers a fighting chance. Enraged at his insolence, Zemo killed him with a blast from his ionic ray gun.

Giant Man, Dr. Hank Pym, managed to copy Wonder Man's brain patterns before he bit the big one. Those brain patters would later be used by Pym's sinister creation Ultron to give life to a creation of his own: The Vision. Like Wonder Man before him, the Vision infiltrated the Avengers and betrayed them — nearly defeating the entire team singlehanded. But, also like Wonder Man, he started to have second thoughts, renouncing his evil master and truly becoming an Avenger. In the Avengers, he found a home, a family... a wife! This is how it went down on our world.

Destiny differs on parallel earths, however. Take Wonder Man's, for instance. On our world, he was eventually revived and joined the Avengers himself. And I do mean "eventually"; he first appeared in Avengers #9 and joined the team anew in Avengers #194. In any case, the Watcher gets to the point: What If Wonder Man had not died? See, I told you the cover lied, this is clearly the plot of the issue. What, did they think Wonder Man headlining wouldn't sell? I suppose I have to admit that "What If The Vision had Destroyed the Avengers?" is a more gripping title.

Okay, finally some action. On the alternate world the Watcher examines, Wonder Man's change of heart came much earlier. After the Masters had already captured the Wasp, Wonder Man comes clean with his teammates. Zemo sent him as an inside man, and the Masters are going to ambush them. Cap asks why they should trust an admitted traitor. Wonder Man says the Avengers have treated him with dignity, with respect, things Zemo's never even been capable of. He's not going to repay their kindness with treachery — even if it costs him his life!

Moved by his words, Giant Man confers with Reed Richards to seek a cure for Wonder Man's illness, as Wonder Man joins the remaining Avengers in repelling the Masters' onslaught. After the battle is over, Giant Man arrives just in time to provide Wonder Man with a cure for his ionic poisoning, "a cure that, ironically, his own duplicity prevented him from obtaining on your world." The Avengers are touched by his valor, and unanimously vote him in as an official Avenger - evidently he'd simply been a friend to the team up to this point.

Wonder Man soon proved himself a valuable ally... but his success engendered feelings of inadequacy in a teammate of his. Giant Man became convinced that with Wonder Man on the team, he was just a liability. After the Wasp sustained a critical injury, the two of them finally made their decision: Compared to the other Avengers, they're strictly C-List. They leave the team and soon retire from heroism altogether.

The Watcher theorizes that this may have played a hand in prematurely bringing about Thor and Iron Man choosing to leave, as well. Cap and Wonder Man don't begrudge them, but Cap feels a little uneasy with all of the founding Avengers gone. Soon, the two of them recruited three new members: the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye. Okay, just to point something out. In mainstream Marvel, this happened in Avengers #16 and it was the team's first big roster shake-up. Moreover, all three of the new members were former criminals; the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and Hawkeye was an Iron Man villain. This team was widely derided by the press and public in-universe as "Cap's Kooky Quartet" - until the former baddies gradually started showing their stuff as true heroes. I just think that's significant.

Anyway, things started to go sour quickly. Hawkeye is adamant that they should elect the team's leader, "not be saddled with some World War II has-been!" Wonder Man defends Cap's integrity, touting his years of experience and undeniable skill. The Scarlet Witch is enthralled by Wonder Man's strong character and confidence. She says, with a girlish smile on her face, that if it came down to a vote, Wonder Man would be her pick. Quicksilver's Big Brother Complex and emotional immaturity cause him to go wild at the implication that his sister loves another man besides him.

After the argument is settled, Wonder Man thanks the Scarlet Witch for backing him up and asks her out to dinner. She doesn't know... she normally hangs out with her brother. "Uh, well, hey, that's fine. We could make it a threesome!" I'm almost positive that was Getting Crap Past the Radar, look at that line. Wonder Man just wants to get to know her a little better... and that's when Quicksilver comes in. He tells him the answer is no — "I know of you Americans and your decadent ways!" Yeah, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch hail from Transia, I think. Quicksilver says he knows exactly what Wonder Man wants — and he wants him to stay away from her.

The siblings retreat to their rooms, and Wonder Man tells Cap he doesn't even know what he did. Cap tells him that Wanda and Pietro come from a very austere culture; their courting rituals and family ties are quite different from ours. His advice is to sort things out with Quicksilver before he tries to talk to the Scarlet Witch again. Unfortunately, however Wonder Man would try to make amends with him, Quicksilver was utterly unreceptive - and his ire for him only grew with every smile and every aside glance his sister gave him.

Eventually, Captain America took his leave from the team, leaving Wonder Man to serve as leader in a decision supported by all of the Avengers... except for one. Quicksilver states that if Wonder Man will lead the team, he and his sister quit. Wanda argues with him as he packs his things. Out of a desire to appease her brother, she vows to end her flirtation with Wonder Man and the two of them remain on the team.

Soon, further milestone events in Avengers history are altered. Dr. Doom decides that with Wonder Man, the team would be more trouble than they're worth to manipulate - meaning the classic events of Avengers #25 never came to pass. Elsewhere, the Mandarin charges the infamous mercenary Jaques Duquesne, the Swordsman, with joining the Avengers and betraying them. The Swordsman scoffs at the idea — even with his Implausible Fencing Powers, he's no match for Wonder Man. The Mandarin decides that if he won't do his bidding, he must die, and so kills him with blasts from his magic rings! As a consequence of the Swordsman's untimely demise, Mantis, the Celestial Madonna, would never join the Avengers.

The Avengers soon receive an urgent distress call from Hank Pym, who claims to have been the Avenger Giant Man. He says the Wasp is in danger. Giant Man was briefly a teammate of Wonder Man's, but he never knew the big guy's secret identity. He hopes Pym can provide proof that he's Giant Man as the team rushes to meet him. It turns out he can't grow giant anymore — it's been so long, it would put a perilous strain on his body. Wonder Man says it's alright — the Wasp can confirm his story after they rescue her. They do so, and the Wasp re-joins the group. In this reality, the pair married much earlier, and their union would be a long and happy one. After all, this Pym never became Goliath or Yellowjacket, never subjected himself to the mental stresses that drove his marriage past the breaking point in out world.

After the wedding, Wonder Man macks on Wanda - who gives into her passion despite her promise to Pietro. Quicksilver sees it all from the shadows, and storms out of their company, inwardly vowing revenge for corrupting his sister and tearing his family apart. Not long after Quicksilver's disappearance, the team met with Hercules and asked him to join. He declined, reasoning that with Wonder Man the team had power to spare. Meanwhile, Quicksilver found his way back to his former leader in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (and, unknown to him, his father), Magneto. Magneto convinces Quicksilver to join his crusade against humanity once again... but he'll need a disguise, a new identity.

Shortly, the Avengers find themselves contending with the Grim Reaper, whose deadly power scythe cut them all down to size except for the Scarlet Witch and the newly joined Black Panther! This proved a mistake, for the Scarlet Witch knocks him cold with a Hex Bolt. The Black Panther removes the unconscious Grim Reaper's mask... it's Pietro! In mainstream Marvel, the Grim Reaper was Wonder Man's brother, Eric Williams, who sought revenge against the Avengers for the death of his brother. When the Avengers come to, they discover a message from Pietro, who says that he has no sister — and the next time he and the Avengers meet, they will all die!

Soon Quicksilver and Magneto pitted their greatest enemies, the Avengers and the X-Men, against one another. In the ensuing melee, Magneto attacked the Scarlet Witch... but Quicksilver shoved her out of the way, determined not to see his beloved sister harmed. He payed the ultimate price for his love, crushed under the massive metal console Magneto had levitated. Flying into a blind rage, the Scarlet Witch unleashes hex bolts containing untold fury at Magneto, forever ending his menace. Quicksilver was honored as the first Avenger to fall and buried in his ancestral homeland. No one ever knew that Magneto was his and Wanda's father.

In an attempt to comfort his lady love, Wonder Man asks for her hand in marriage. Upon their union, the pair was finally happy after so much hardship. Oh, come on, he's actually wearing his costume as he gets married? She isn't! Of course, her wearing an actual wedding dress seems sort of realistic, but come on, man, have a little self respect. There's some cute easter eggs in the wedding scene, like Jarvis crying and Hawkeye romancing Mockingbird.

End of Part one

Okay, we're back.

The Watcher reminds us that in our world, Simon Williams' brain patterns were used by Ultron to give life to the Vision. But on this world, Wonder Man had never died, forcing Ultron to... improvise. He promises to show us the answer to the horrifying question: What if the Vision had Destroyed the Avengers?

Our story continues in Dr. Pym's lab, where a robot he had been tinkering with comes alive despite not being connected to its power source. A.I. Is a Crapshoot, of course. Anyway, the robot's speech evolves from infancy to childhood in mere seconds — before it fires a deadly beam at Pym, saying it wants to "play". Pym theorizes it's developed some kind of Oedipus Complex as he's knocked out by the beam. Ultron bursts through the wall and leaves the lab, vowing to finish the job Pym started — a flawless creation!

Fast forward a few months. Ultron's been a busy boy, upgrading his body from crude sci-fi prop to a humanoid form with a chilling, ever-screaming face. He hopes to complete his evolution soon and kill his "father" as proof of his superiority. He monologues about his creation - the Vision! He had toyed with the idea of placing human brain waves into the Vision to give him life, but soon realized the folly in giving his flawless creation a potentially treacherous mind. Meaning he imprints his own mental signature into the vessel, transferring his consciousness into the Vision's body. He revels in his new power... making himself hyper dense to gain incredibly physical might, or reversing the process to become an Intangible Man - not to mention the deadly solar rays!

Soon, he ambushes Janet Pym in her home - only to collapse from sudden, unbearable pain. Hank rushes home, having received a message from Jan via his tranceiver belt. Upon arriving, Hank decides he should take a look at their mystery guest in his lab at Avengers HQ, with the rest of the team around in case anything happens. Hank's examination reveals the Vision as 100% human... but composed entirely of synthetic materials! Out of the blue, the Vision awakens, breaks free of his bonds, and goes ape on the Avengers, knocking out the Black Panther and Hawkeye immediately. Wonder Man tackles him, not wanting anyone to get hurt after the Quicksilver incident. The Vision doesn't want to talk about it - he just wants the Avengers to die! Wonder Man is put down by the Vision's solar rays.

The Wasp tries to get him with her stingers, but the Vision swats her away, calling her an "insignificant flea!" Hank is outraged at the Vision's treatment of his wife, but there's nothing he can do to stop this... man? The Scarlet Witch steps up and fires a few hex bolts, but the Vision goes intangible and her beams only incapacitate Pym! He then phases his hand through her chest and then turns it solid, likely killing her. So fall Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The Vision gloats over his victory - many have tried, but only Ultron has succeeded.

Not so fast! The famous "Big Three" of Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America burst onto the scene. Ultron, they would have words with thee. Thor voices his objection rather clearly. "I say the nay, base villain! The Avengers shall ne'er be beaten so long as one of their number hath breath enow to yellAVENGERS ASSEMBLE!"

The Vision only smiles at this turn of events. We see why he's so smug when he takes out Cap and Iron Man with pitifully minimal effort. Thor starts giving him a bit of trouble - just as Wonder Man wakes up and rejoins the fight. Pym has come to as well, and realizes he heard the Vision call him "father" - just like Ultron! He sneaks away further into his lab, thinking that he knows what's going on. And while Thor and Wonder Man might be able to hold the Vision, only he can truly defeat him!

Unfortunately, Thor and Wonder Man can't seem to get a proper feel for the Vision's strategy and keep stumbling over one another in combating him. Pym has found what he was looking for: the Ant-Man helmet. He really hopes this thing still works, because he hasn't worn it in a very long time. The Scarlet Witch turns out to be alive, and renews her attack. The Vision's ready for her, and gives her a killer backhanded slap to remember him by. Wonder Man is provoked to terrible rage as Pym dons the Ant-Man costume, triumphantly returning to the superhero biz in his original heroic identity.

Wonder Man starts pounding at the Vision, but he's so blinded by his anger that the Vision soon gets the upper hand. Distracted by Wonder Man, the Vision finds himself restrained when Thor and Iron Man hold his arms back. Wonder Man wants them to hold the Vision still for him. Thor protests. "Nay, Wonder Man. 'Tis cowardly to strike a foe thus!" Wonder Man's not hearing it, rushing at the Vision and declaring his intention to rip his heart right out of his chest. The Vision thinks that's a great idea - so he does it to Wonder Man, phasing his arm free and planting it in Wonder Man's chest. Thor is shocked at the Vision's brutality and starts to fight him with new vigor. Iron Man, however, is worried about Wonder Man. He has a weak heart himself, and he'd know those convulsions anywhere - he's having a heart attack!

Iron Man hoists Wonder Man into his arms and hopes what he'd guessed about Thor is true as he tells the god of thunder that they need Dr. Donald Blake in the infirmary immediately. Thor dutifully complies, as Ant-Man distracts the Vision with a swarm of flying ants before jumping into the android's mouth. Inside, he runs through corridors before pulling what he guesses is the main synapse to the Vision's artificial brain. Leaving the Vision's motionless body, he rushes to the infirmary to find Wonder Man near death. So near death that Dr. Blake has taken him off the artificial respirator; there's nothing that can be done for him now.

Hank has an idea. He can copy his brain patterns and put them in the Vision. Wanda's against the idea of her husband's mind in his killer's body, but Pym tells her this is about saving his life.

The Watcher returns, saying that eventually the Scarlet Witch comes to accept her husband's new body - for unlike our Vision, his mind is a perfect replica of Wonder Man's rather than a rough imprint. Then he sort of points out how things more or less turned out like they did eventually in our world, but with a few relatively inconsequential events never happening. Man, that ending was a cop-out to an otherwise really great issue.



Yeah, What If... tended to either the Downer Ending (everything went much much worse) or In Spite Of A Nail (the ending winds up being 95% like the way it played out originally.)
SKJAM 15th Mar 11
Rest assured I'm going to touch on a few more of those "mostly the same" issues in the future. And, I guess, the ones where everything goes wrong, too.
EponymousKid 15th Mar 11