By Jim Beard
The Marvel Universe abounds with possibilities and it's that potential upon which it's built. Those possibilities also sometimes lead to startling offshoots in which we dare to ask, "What if...?"
This December a brand-new series of WHAT IF? one-shots delves deep into not only some classic Marvel sagas but also a few recent blockbusters as well. Spearheaded by editors Justin Gabrie and Chris Allo, WHAT IF? 2009 delivers stories by some the hottest writers and artists this side of the Negative Zone.
WHAT IF? SPIDER-MAN: HOUSE OF M-The Scarlet Witch's alternate reality serves as a springboard for two views of Spider-Man's beloved Gwen Stacy. Writer Sean McKeever asks, "What If Gwen Stacy Survived the House of M?"
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Meanwhile, Frank Tieri posits: "What If Gwen & Richie Parker Existed Outside the House of M?"
"We all know that Peter Parker returned from the House of M reality, but what would happen if he didn't come back alone," he offers. "And when we thought about it, the answer sort of whacked us in the face like a Mike Tyson punch: Gwen Stacy and his son Richie. The one thing you have to make sure you do above all else when you tackle a WHAT IF? story is, no matter how you reshape whatever classic story you're handling, you have to stay true to the character."
WHAT IF? SECRET INVASION-The recent Skrull invasion lays the foundation for a pair of stories questioning its outcome. Writers Kevin Grevioux and Karl Bollers team up to investigate, "What If the Skrulls Won?"
"Our point of divergence has to do with Reed Richards' kidnapping aboard the Skrull ship," notes Grevioux.
"In our universe, Reed survives and has figured out a way to detect the Skrulls," Bollers adds. "The most important thing to accomplish in a WHAT IF? is to take fans on an amazing ride into an alternate reality that is every bit as relevant and authentic as the 'official' Marvel Universe. Our
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On the other hand, Chris Acosta poses, "What If the Secret Invasion Stayed Secret?"
"The story's pivot idea needed to work from a very early point in the genesis of the
Secret Invasion in order for it to work logically," he explains. "The funny thing is we kept going further back until it made sense to start at the very early scene where the Invasion was hatched. It had to feel like it actually is a natural event within the context
of a pivot point. That's what makes WHAT IF? stories so great."
WHAT IF? WORLD WAR HULK-The Incredible Hulk's sprawling revenge on the world and its heroes sets the stage for two titanic tales. First, Mike Raicht wonders, "What If the Heroes Lost World War Hulk?"
"I really wanted to push the end of the World War Hulk saga towards a much more tragic conclusion," he explains. "So my entry point was the battle between the Sentry and the Hulk; with two forces of nature fighting like that anything can happen. I think the most important thing is to immerse the reader in the new world order that is created and give them a full story with a satisfying conclusion that leaves the reader sad the world didn't end up this way, or thankful for the heroes and villains involved in it that it didn't!"
Writer Mike Gallagher hypothesizes, "What If Thor Returned During World War Hulk?"
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WHAT IF? DAREDEVIL VS ELEKTRA-The heart-rending story of the Man Without Fear and his ill-fated lover fills out an entire book by itself. Karl Bollers returns to inquire, "What If Daredevil Died and Was Resurrected By the Hand?"
"What could corrupt Matt Murdock," he muses. "Or who? And that's the direction we decided to go in. Matt is corrupted by outside forces and becomes an agent of evil. Elektra's father not dying, though, is what starts the dominoes tumbling-or falling into place, depending on how you want to look at it."
WHAT IF? ASTONISHING X-MEN-Lastly, the most well-known mutants on the planet and one of their most popular titles win their own pair of possibilities. Writer Jim McCann explores, "What If Jean Grey Had Returned from the Dead?"
"For me, the story divergence had a personal meaning because just before that issue came out, I was part of the marketing team that sent out the hoax page that revealed Jean would be back in [ASTONISHING X-MEN #4," the writer notes. "Everyone knew someone was coming back, and at the end of issue #3, even Cyclops thought it was Jean who was being tested on. It's kind of neat to be the one to tell the story of 'What
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Across the way, Matteo Casali dares to tell the tale, "What If Danger Became Ultron's Bride?"
"There's actually two 'sliding doors' moment in my story," observes Casali. "The first happens when Wolverine and the X-Men successfully destroy the command core of the Danger Room, severing its comm-link and preventing Danger from using the Blackbird against them. The second and dramatically more decisive moment is when the titular robot decides to answer an unknown call. Had he remained focused on his plan involving Victor Mancha and the Runaways, things might have gone they way they were supposed to.
"What I've always loved in the WHAT IF? stories is that sense of cause-and-consequence that always comes with making a decision. We don't get to use the 'Undo Key' in the real world, and 'fate' means nothing but what we make of it with every single choice in our life. It's great to play with these life-defining concepts within a comic book story."
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