Friday, September 14, 2007

The End of the Matter: What If The Silver Surfer Had Not Betrayed Galactus? (Marvel comics)
What if...? #70 When: February 1995
Why: Chuck Dixon How: Joe Barney & Don Hudson

The story so far...
So it was, when the devourer of worlds came to destroy the Earth, that the Fantastic Four stood against him. Toppling his gleeming herald, the Silver Surfer would come to land on the balcony of an inner city studio belonging to the blind sculptress, Alicia Masters.

Though blind, she would see something inside the Silver Surfer thought long dead, and with an awareness of all things great on the planet Earth, the Silver Surfer remembered what it was to be Norrin Radd, inhabitant of Zenn-La. Thus, he rebelled and proved to be the crucial factor in defeating the devourer of worlds, Galactus.

Alas, there are other worlds, where events such as this deviate in minor, but devestating ways. Just such a world saw the Silver Surfer remaining steadfast, forcing the Fantastic Four into retreat in the wake of Uatu's death, and the wounding of Reed Richards. With the FF absent, other heroes are forced to pick-up the slack, but can they possibly stand against the might of Galactus?...

Previous Form:
The Avengers [#3]: Victorious over She-Hulk, Atlantis & Sinister Twelve.
Galactus (#338): Suffered a poetic defeat, eaten by alternate universe zombies.
Silver Surfer (#22): Major victories over Green Lantern, Ronan & Super-Skrull.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Galactus 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: Galactus 7 (Infinite Wisdom)
Speed: Silver Surfer 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: Galactus 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Thor 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Galactus 7 (Solar Power)

Alright, convenient filler here is the note to be made that I actually wrote this post yesterday. Through a string of unfortunate circumstances I fumbled my way to a select all, which was instantly autosaved as three accidental key strokes.

We've got to flash back to the sixties for this one. This is a time when the Avengers formula was just beginning to form, long before Brian "Baby Carrot*" Bendis would break it apart and rebuild it in the New Avengers form.

If a giant alien showed up, and the Fantastic Four disappeared opposing him, I probably wouldn't want to think about it either...This particular version of the team, led by Captain America, consists of; Quicksilver, Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Giant-Man, Iron Man and Thor.
A classic line-up of Avengers to be sure, and over time one of the most seasoned groups of heroes on the block, but in their infancy in 1966 you really have to doubt their ability to cope with a threat the scale of Galactus!

The Fantastic Four coped with Galactus perhaps most importantly through the scientific awareness and preparation of Reed Richards. In that capacity, only Hank "Giant-Man" Pym comes close, with Iron Man's genius being more specifically regarding the realm of technology. Pym's science, though fairly specific, at least approaches an awareness of varying forces in the world.

Characters like Wasp, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and even Captain America are really out of the depth with cosmic threats. They represent some very strong urban combatants, and certainly in battle with many other villains they'd be among the first you'd choose to represent, but Galactus represents an entirely different level.

In fact, it's perhaps only Thor who truly poses a challenge for the cosmic-borne menace of the world devourer and his shining herald. Iron Man might be able to hold Silver Surfer up, but even the might of a Norse God is probably better directed at Silver Surfer than the looming threat of Galactus.

I guess all of this amounts to a longer way of saying, not bloody likely.

The Math: Avengers (Total) Galactus/Silver Surfer (Average)
The Pick: Galactus/Silver Surfer

What went down...
With the Fantastic Four out of the picture, the Avengers respond in their absence, charging in to meet the space menace that may very well have killed the FF for opposing his clearly hostile motives.

The airborne Iron Man is the first to lodge a specific challenge, firing repulsor rays at the giant manifested visage of the would-be planet devourer.

On the ground, the Wasp takes leave of Captain America to seek more obscue methods of defeating their opponent in his technology sphere. Sadly, the bug-sized Avengers finds Galactus well prepared for such an incursion. His defense technology includes a laser, which does fine to knock her out cold.

Outside, Hawkeye fires off an explosive arrow that bursts against Galactus' mighty chest. Tired of the interference of what would amount to little more than insects, Galactus extends his powerful hand and exterminates the unprepared Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and Quicksilver.

Only Captain America survives the spray of cosmic energy, able to raise his indestructable shield at the very last moment to defend against the assault.

Lurking somewhere behind the action, Hank Pym grows to giant proportions to take Galactus on in a battle of his own size. Sadly, the scientist's physical efforts are in vein, completely ineffective against the cosmic power of a being far beyond physical squabbles.

Galactus flashes with energy, radiating power enough to send Giant-Man hurtling across the rooftops of the Manhattan skyscrapers.

Meanwhile, having struggled against the board faring herald, Iron Man finally suffers the brunt of the power cosmic. Though rattled, the Surfer leaves Iron Man roasted, smouldering from inside his suit.

Captain America uses his shield to maintain his balance, clearly suffering from the power of the blast that killed his fellow Avengers.

Though aware he and his team have been defeated, he declares his defiance to Galactus, unwilling to ever quit -- even in the face of death!
He throws his mighty shield, bouncing it off the gigantic jaw of the world devourer, who turns and silently gazes down at the super-soldier, ending his long career with a merciless blast of cosmic power from his eyes. The Captain dies in flames.

Late to the battle, Thor swings mjolnir above his head, swearing to turn the vengeance of the Odinson against the murderous aliens. The Silver Surfer swoops in to meet his challenge, suffering a direct blow from a hurled mjolnir, for his troubles.

Thor swoops in to retrieve his legendary hammer, clasing head-on with the silvery being that rides atop the board. With the sky and city aflame all around them, the sky reigns down lightning as he and the Silver Surfer grapple.

Thor's lightning proves a fair challenge, but the Silver Surfer's unfiltered cosmic power is more than a match for even a god. Facing his demise like a warrior, Thor's final thoughts are to expel his own energies in taking the Silver Surfer to the afterlife with him, but alas, the Surfer is too strong.

"No... I cannot die... So long as the stars burn I cannot die..."
The Avengers, however, can...

The hammer...
In true What If fashion it's a bloodbath!
The decisive victory going to Galactus and the Silver Surfer.

The Avengers may die in this world, but the battle with Galactus is not yet finished. Like a lot of these sorts of stories [Marvel Zombies], there's an issue of scope here, and that's highlighted by the fact that there's a multitude of heroes who don't appear.
While Cyclops' visor appears on the cover, the X-Men of the day make no appearance, nor do any of the other heroes established in the Marvel universe by 1966.

Granted, it was a far more barren landscape of heroes, and certainly the likes of Spider-man or Daredevil weren't going to have any affect on the situation, but maybe it would've at least been nice to see them. Dare I mention Namor, even?

It's definitely a fun one, and we'll probably revisit this issue at a later date for some of the other tussles featured within. There's a fairly attractive appearance clocked in by Dr. Doom, where we'll get another chance to take a look at one of the many battles in the long rivalry between Doom and the Surfer.

It was around about this time in the second volume of the What If series' life that you can start to see the wheels falling off. The stories start to fatigue around about this time, and it's only a year or so before the stories completely remove themselves from the tried and true formula of changing one crucial element of a historical event in Marvel comics.

Instead, more abstract stories unfold, which frees them up from the shackles of things like the scope we mentioned. Less disturbing than that error of judgment, is the opinion of even prominent writers who believe there isn't enough material to do more than fifth week specials with the concept.

I've probably mentioned before how much of a bee in my bonnet the comments of then- recently appointed EIC, Joe Quesada, were regarding the cancellation of the Mutant X title, deeming alternate reality books to be summarily irrelevent.

This probably brings it all back to my surly stance on recognising the rich history of comics "continuity," but does it not seem a little absurd to consider a book like What If, which represents infinite accounts of events a finite or irrelevent concept? Am I the only person who sees the distinct divide between the potential to be mined from alternate reality stories, and the poor decisions that led to the demise of quality in the What If title?

Well, bitching aside, at least we have the back issues, and joyous websites like ours. Celebrating What If stories seems to be a widspread, if irregular phenomena amongst the blogosphere. They can take the Uatu out of the comic, but they can't take the What If out of the fans... Or something like that...

As mentioned back in the tape, I did actually type this entry up already, so it's a bit of a hassle to have to go back and do it all again. I might leave it at that and move on. I should throw out another thanks to When Fangirls Attack, who featured yet another of our entries right up near the top in their list.
Always greatly appreciated, and a lot of fun!

Speaking of lists, it's Friday (or rather, was) and we'd usually tip our hat to Bahlactus, but he's out of action for a couple of weeks. He was presumably shunted into a parallel universe. The Secret Earth? Still here. Representin'!

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 4
[A very fun comic, that might've benefitted expanding the basic concept to examine more of the working parts of the Marvel universe. Not one of the greatest What If stories, but certainly a highlight in the declining years.]

* Not an actual nickname for Bendis.

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