We're just about to enter the 90s (as far as cover dates go anyway), but we're already there in spirit: A Wolverine story drawn by Rob Liefeld? Early Liefeld is more palatable than his later work, for some reason, perhaps because of the inkers (Karl Kesel on Hawk & Dove, for example), or someone else doing the layouts (Valentino in this case), but there are still some pretty dodgy anatomy here and there. As to why Liefeld is credited for "inspiration", I don't know. The story was his idea? Because it's a pretty terrible What If? story. To begin with, I've never been enamored of "Agent of SHIELD" stories. There's not much of a turning point in any of them, and in this case, the changes to the timeline either aren't earned, or all happen AFTER the issue as told in narration. But I'll let you decide for yourself...
What If vol.2 #7 (December 1989)
Based on: Incredible Hulk #181
The true history: Wolverine never joined SHIELD.
Turning point: What if SHIELD asked Canada's Department H for help?
Story type: Agent of SHIELD
Watcher's mood: Cabled
Altered history: After Wolverine, the Hulk and Wendigo fight in the "wilds of Quebec", Mac Hudson of Department H arrives to pick him up, and he's with Nick Fury. Seems like SHIELD requested help to sniff out LMDs (Life Model Decoys) sent by Hydra to infiltrate the organization. Logan is loaned out, more or less against his will. He quickly finds out that the Helicarrier's chief of security, Dum Dum Dugan, has been replaced.
Wolverine and the Black Widow hunt all the LMDs aboard ship, with Logan's sniffer preventing friendly fire where it can. Oh yeah, and in this reality, Wolverine is the one who gave the Widow a haircut.
It was always meant to be. Destiny at work, ladies and gentlemen. SHIELD rescues Dum Dum from Hydra, after which Nick offers Wolverine a permanent job. So long, Canada! And no thanks, X-Men.
Later, Baron Strucker gets his final revenge on Nick Fury, forcing his flying car to crash into the river and exploding. Normally in comics, that would mean he's still alive, but whether that's true or not, Wolverine is made SHIELD director in his stead.
This is when we're told how the world was changed for the better. Wolvie used his authority to stop Steven Lang from re-creating the Sentinels. The X-Men never went to the moon to stop them, so she never became Dark Phoenix. Wolverine also used his connections to discredit Senator Kelley and defeat his Mutant Registration Act, and so persecution of mutants was halted and Days of Future Past never resolved as a potential timeline.
Books canceled as a result: No Dark Phoenix Saga, no Days of Future Past, no Wolverine in the X-Men... That means the X-phenomenon doesn't really happen. To this day, there's only one X-Men book, though there might still be multiple Wolverine titles, and there's certainly none of the Cable/X-Man garbage.
These things happen: Wolverine has worked with Nick Fury in a couple of mini-series, but hasn't actually joined the organization. In the Ultimate universe, the Weapon X project was overseen by SHIELD, and in Super Hero Squad Show, the Squad (including Wolverine) is part of SHIELD (Ms. Marvel is SHIELD leader) and based on the Helicarrier.
Next week: What if Iron Man Lost the Armor Wars?
My guess: No worries, Tony's sitting on a powered boxers patent.