Saturday, March 19, 2011

What If... the All-New, All-Different X-Men Had Never Existed?

As it was back in 1991, so it is 20 years later. I'm fast losing interest in What If? all over again. I'm not saying there are no more good issues, but my impression remains that through the 90s, there were far more stinkers than winners. Frequently lackluster - or outright terrible - art, and an overuse of mutant characters and anti-heroes, made be drop the book after #25. Today is my last weekly What If feature for many of the same reasons. It may just become an occasional thing (as it was before), or it could show up as much as twice monthly, but I'll be looking to spend my Saturdays some other way. I think you'll like what I've come up with (in fact, you used to, I'm resurrecting an old feature). For now, enjoy our last regular What If? story, by a young Kurt Busiek who obviously put a lot of thought into tracking the events in the X-Men's lives to come up with his alternate chronicle. I sadly found it... inconsequential. But that may be the Watcher Fatigue talking.

What If vol.2 #23 (February 1991)
Based on: Giant Size X-Men #1
The true history: The original X-Men land on Krakoa the living island and get captured by the monster. Professor X assembles a new team of X-Men who free their fellow mutants. After the dust settles, many of the original X-Men leave their spots for the all-new, all-different guys.
Turning point: What if Krakoa had not gotten the jump on the original X-Men?
Story type: Hockey Trade
Watcher's mood: Cross-eyed
Altered history: In this new reality, the X-Men send Krakoa spinning into space with Polaris' magnetic powers much earlier, obviating the need for Xavier to recruit a new team. Not only does the team stick together, but Beast even leaves the Avengers and comes home. So what of the X-Men that MIGHT have been? Well, Nightcrawler and Thunderbird (now Proudstar) get conned into attacking the X-Men by a Shi'ar posing as Eric the Red.
Nightcrawler escapes at the end. As for the old X-Men, they have to face pretty much the same threats the new X-Men did in our continuity, but there are differences in how they handle them. For example, though Jean Gray is all about sacrificing herself o bring down a shuttle from a Sentinel base in orbit, Polaris reminds her that she can do it easily with her magnetic powers. And so, the Phoenix Force is never attracted her way and never comes to possess her. No Dark Phoenix, no genocide, no death and return of Jean Gray. The X-Men just have to find a way to overcome threats originally handled by the Phoenix, that's all.
Other adventures do happen though, and the all-new, all-difference mutant concepts appear here and there. The Warhawk who infiltrates their mansion is now Colossus. They go to Africa to prevent Arkon from kidnapping Storm. And when they help Sunfire with Moses Magnum, the Japanese government also enlists the help of Canadian super-team Alpha Flight. And who's a member? None other than Wolverine! I guess he'll take any Japanese missions he can get so he can see Mariko.
Logan inspires Cyclops to ask Jean to marry him, but Hellfire Club trouble comes knocking before they can order the flowers. Of course, without the Dark Phoenix's influence, Jean isn't tempted to become the Black Queen. But speaking of the Phoenix Force, the X-Men are suddenly whisked away by the Shi'ar who want to destroy our sun, where the Phoenix has been hiding all this time. The X-Men ask for a few days to try and fix the problem themselves, and Cyclops' plan is to allow the Phoenix to take him over so that the Shi'ar can immediately kill HIM. Well...
So who is this shadowy figure willing to sacrifice himself for Cyclops/the universe? Here's a clue:
"Unglaublich." Yes, believe it or not (and I have trouble myself), it's Nightcrawler. He's been following the X-Men since he escaped from them and has seen they do good works. He eavesdropped on the plan to kill the Phoenix and decided to redeem himself for that time another dude tricked him into attacking the X-Men. He's the Phoenix for all of 2 seconds before the Shi'ar blow him up, leaving the X-Men depressed and Professor X expounding on how "no man is beyond redemption, no man." A fine speech for the likes of, I dunno, Magneto or, you know, Parallax, but a random mutant dude who was at best misguided that one time? I sure hope to hell he could be redeemed! The Marvel Universe is a harsh mistress!
Books canceled as a result: Depends. It's entirely possible that the revised first appearance of Alpha Flight would have led to their own series and from there, Wolverine's rise to popularity. However, the X-plosion of the late 80s and early 90s seems less likely when you consider that Uncanny was only a lukewarm seller before it made the big cast changes. It would have continued to plod through, month after month, without attracting much more of an audience. Imagine a world without New Mutants, X-Force, Excalibur, X-Factor and so on. Heck, it might even mean we'd have been spared DC's Sovereign Seven (Claremont no longer prized super-star) and quite a few early Image comics.
These things happen: All the X-Men who dropped out after Giant Size X-Men eventually returned to at least one of the X-Men books, and Nightcrawler is indeed eventually killed (in Second Coming).

Next week time: What if Wolverine was lord of the vampires?
My guess: Things would have gone down the Twilight.


ShadowWing Tronix said...

Better than the death he got. And that sounds like a Wolverine I wouldn't despise.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me that the "new" feature will be Batman & the Outsiders again. Because this was my fav feature here, right next to the What Ifs. I hope the "What If" feature will not disappear completely. I would like to see you cover the remaining issues and (gasp!) the late 90s What Ifs.

Siskoid said...

It's not the Outsiders, which I still trot out now and again (now in blazing color!) and will continue to do so. Summers are good for me, how about for you?

Because my new/old feature can be a bit long to write, What If will likely return to its Saturday spot at least once a month, if it doesn't outright alternate with the other feature.

I know I tweeted about my intentions some time ago... you might still be able to find the clue if you can't wait 6 more days.

kingbeauregard said...

I think I had this comic. Best part was Scott and Jean going through the whole angsty "But you'll never survive!" "But I have to try!" sequence as lifted from the original X-Men comic, with Polaris unable to get a word in edgewise.

MOCK! said...

Siskoid wrote "I'm fast losing interest in What If? all over again."

This is the last one in my collection until the obligatory Phoenix story in 32 and 33. I picked up 34 in hopes the humor issue would be worth it....if I remember right, it wasn't.

Beyond those, my collection is littered with quarter bin issues...

Siskoid said...

Originally, my purchases ended two issues later with the Atlantis Attacks one.

Of course, I dropped EVERYTHING Marvel at that time within the space of a couple months.

Teebore said...

For the record, that anonymous up top begging for the return of the Batman and the Oustiders feature WASN'T me, so there's at least two of us out there that love that feature.

I haven't read this issue before, but I might have to track it down eventually and feature it in my X-Men posts. Nightcrawler-as-Phoenix? That's a bit of a stretch, even for you, What If?...

Robert said...

But, but, but....

Didn't the Shi'ar want to execute Jean Grey because *she* destroyed a sun?