What If... Captain America Hadn't Vanished During World War Two?

What If #4, What If the Invaders Stayed Together After World War Two isn't really a What If at all. It's Roy Thomas' last Invaders story, recounting for the first time what happened to Marvel's Golden Age characters in between 1945 and the advent of the Marvel Universe proper in 1960. It's since passed into canon - the All-Winners Squad, the various patriotic heroes standing in for Captain America like the Patriot and the Spirit of '76 - and though I don't necessarily know how the Agents of Atlas and the Twelve fit in these days, I'm sure that's still part of continuity. So let's skip right ahead to #5, the "flip-side" of the previous issue.

What If Vol.1 #5 (October 1977)
Based on: What If #4
The true history: In the latter days of World War II, Baron Zemo ties Bucky to a missile, leading Captain America to jump it. Not only does he not manage to save his sidekick, but he falls in the freezing waters and disappears until awakened by the Avengers.
Turning point: What if Captain America dissabled the missile that killed Bucky?
Story type: Agent of SHIELD.
Watcher's mood: Melty.
Altered history: Cap successfully disables the missile and both he and Bucky are picked up by a British boat. Cap fights beside Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos and helps them win a crucial battle - though Fury still loses an eye, he isn't hurt badly enough to be subjected to the Infinity Formula. Quite possibly, this is why he is killed in Korea years later. Meanwhile, our heroes go on to fight dirty commies throughout the 50s. Bucky grows up and becomes, simply, "Buck."
Yeah, that's much better. In the 60s, an ageing Cap is slowing down, but he is set in his ways and refuses both membership in the Avengers and leadership of a nascent SHIELD. He does recommend Buck for the latter position though, and Buck Barnes takes Nick Fury's place in history. However, it soon becomes clear Captain America isn't all he was, and Buck has to pull his ass out of the fire.
Has Steve Rogers really lost it? Touch his "guns", I dare you!
Oh, they were really soft? Oh well. The two men switch roles, with Buck as the new Cap and Steve Rogers - Agent of SHIELD (a recurring theme in What If?). Just like in our world, Rick Jones becomes the new Bucky. You can pretty much follow issues of Captain America from our timeline and insert Bucky in there in place of Steve, right down to the love affair with Sharon. Sharon who, by the way, can't pose as a Hydra goon to save her life.
No girls allowed, huh? Well, that explains a few things.

Buck, Rick, Steve and Sharon infiltrate Hydra headquarters and are surprised to find the Supreme Hydra is Baron Zemo! In this history, a displeased Red Skull put Zemo in a state of suspended animation for 20 years, at which point he fell into the Hydra gig. You can't escape destiny though, and he is killed by molten lava!
Speaking of destiny, Buck is also killed on this mission. Is this to be a world without Captain America? Not if Rick Jones has anything to do with it! But for now, Steve Rogers grieves, and he's not letting anyone else near that costume.
Books canceled as a result: There's no way Captain America is ever cancelled, even if Cap dies. I think that's been proven. I do wonder if Zemo had time to beget a son though, and if he didn't, how does that affect the creation of the Thunderbolts?
These things happen: Something not happening can't all of a sudden happen... or something like that. Elements from this story do eventually crop up though. Bucky Barnes did indeed turn up alive, and did indeed become Captain America. Yet another What If that seems incredibly familiar today.


Anonymous said...

in the remark no gitls allowed at hydra base does this means this hydra is based ON SWASTIKA NIGHT


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