Reviews of Old Comics: What If? #35
What If? #35
Matt Murdock is mourning at Elektra’s grave. A large mysterious bald man visits and asks him to imagine a world where she didn’t die, because Bullseye was killed while escaping from prison.
Elektra is contracted to kill Matt Murdock’s friend, Foggy Nelson. When he recognizes her as Matt Murdock’s girlfriend from college, she lets him go. This angers the Kingpin who contracts a different assassin to kill Elektra. Foggy Nelson runs to Matt Murdock to tell him what has occurred. Matt sends Foggy home and goes after Elektra as Daredevil.
Elektra goes to gather her belongings and flee New York, but is ambushed by several assassins, all of whom she dispatches but not without being shot in the arm. Daredevil has been unable to find Elektra and returns home to find a trail of blood leading to his bedroom where he finds Elektra, who tells him that if he sends her to prison, the Kingpin will surely have her killed.
Days pass and Matt Murdock has failed to go into his law office. Foggy Nelson goes to his home to find it empty and up for sale. Daredevil and Elektra have fled the country to a coastal retreat. The mysterious stranger tells Matt Murdock that in that world New York lost a champion, so Matt shouldn’t lose himself in grief and live his destiny as Daredevil.
In another story, a wizard named Ebrok has discovered sorcery to evolve a common cat into a human-like form. He teaches it and learns that is adept at alchemy. Ebrok rewards him by easing his loneliness with a mate. Other mystics have Ebrok evolve cats for them, but learn that they still reproduce rapidly. Some find themselves attacked by cat people rebuking unwanted advances or look to turn their Cat People into an army. Seeing it as a threat the other mystics work to exile the Cat People to another dimension, but the original couple that Ebrok evolved have use mystic amulets to disguise themselves and escape exile. They work their alchemy to reduce their breeding rate. They live with Ebrok into his old age and after discovering a dreaded disease, are discovered by a rival sorcerer who kills Ebrok. The cat person flings a vial containing the disease at the murderer who flees into the street trailing a fatal cloud, originating the Black Death. Remorseful for what they unleashed, the couple go far away from the village where one day, their descendants will be the ones that turn Greer Grant Nelson into the superheroine Tigra.
In the final story, Hank Pym is spared disgrace when the Wasp is delayed chasing the Avengers to their battle with Elf-Queen in Washington, DC. Unfortunately this means she is too late to save him from being crushed by a truck Elf-Queen flings at him. Disrought over his death, Wasp counters news reports of Yellowjacket’s irresponsibility in attacking Elf-Queen after she had been subdued with a press conference debuting her new black costume. This puts her in conflict with the Avengers. Still upset after the confrontation she goes on a vigilante spree, killing criminals with a deadly final blast “for Hank.” Just as she’s to be expelled from the Avengers, an apartment fire takes the Avengers away to help. When her anger at the Avengers nearly causes Captain America to be killed, the Wasp voluntarily quits the Avengers.
Frank Miller crafts a What If? story that works with the continuity he had established in Daredevil. After reading it, I almost don’t realize how short and simple it was. After the evolution of his style into the noir renderings of Sin City and later into Dark Knight 2, you forget howhe worked within the restrictions of 1980s comics. The close-ups Miller does here are beautifully done.
The middle story seems like such a throwaway story centering on the backstory of a minor super-hero. The artwork by legendary Steve Ditko elevates it so much that it fits in with a Frank Miller Daredevil story. Reading a synopsis, or even the intro to the story, you’d never think that it’d be a good story, but it surprisingly is, even with the scientific inaccuracies to the story.
The last story is unoriginal and seems almost pointless. The art by a young Greg LaRocque is uninspired and often very stiff. The best parts are the arguments between Wasp and the other Avengers, especially Captain America, and those get cut way too short. The text indicates that Wasp kills the criminals she targets, but almost as if the editor or writer realized that there would be no discussion in the Avengers, only expulsion, it gets quickly turned into nearly killing them. I think there was a missed opportunity, but given that this story has to be so short, the story quality gets cheated for brevity.
This issue has been collected in What If? Classic Vol. 6 (ISBN 078513753X) . You should also be able to find a copy for no more than a couple of bucks, and possibly even in bargain boxes.
FINAL RATING: 8.0 (out of a possible 10)
The last story is just so lackluster and cliche that it drags down the other stories.