Stan Lee a treat
My overall rating was decided by breaking down the issue and rating it's individual parts, as well as the expectation of the issue as a whole, being it's the 200th commemorative issue and
advertised as such has that to live up to.
I really don't do issue reviews, but I felt it in place as I have a long standing history with the What If? series. I've always found this too be a fascinating concept. The series itself veers in different directions at times. Originally, and for the bulk of the series, it's usually divergences on pre-existing continuity with an alteration made in events, with the issue usually seeming very much like or a homage to the comic that it's stemming from, though in most cases with more resolution in the end rather than leading into more continuity. In a lot of cases it's used to show what if one character had held the title/rank/position/power/ect. of another. Another frequently played feature is to have a very comical, if even cartoony spoof version of reality, sometimes even poking fun at the creators, the industry, or moments in comics generally accepted as lame by the readership in good fun (these types being my personal favorites). Still in other times this series has gone to a different level entirely, not really even focusing on an altered event, rather a differently modeled version of reality, much like DC's Elseworlds comics tend to be, and in these instances usually grittier and darker toned then conventional continuity. In the last few years What If? has been a string of 1-shots, many of the stories tending to be versions of stories filled with deaths left and right, and usually accompanied by gore, and in the opinion of a few I know and respect, lacking in any substance, and personally, and sadly has represented a decline in the series quality overall from time in my opinion.
My point of view established on to my review of this issue.
Story#1: What If Osborn Won The Siege Of Asgard?
writer: Marc Guggenheim
artist: Dave Wilkins
Endless blood death (and I mean no exaggeration in this statement. There was so much gore that for a moment I wondered whether Tom Savini was involved with this from the shadows). i could almost say that this story culminated the worst parts of many of the gripes about Siege found around this sites forums into a single visual opus.It employs the same killjoy and type of art as has many recent 1-shots. The art is fine to look at sometimes, though repetitive at times, and a few of the scenes barf bag influencing.
The story begins by a Watcher named Atau explains that in the common 616 reality Sentry had lost much of his mojo killing Ares, (explaining a long debate about what happened in the 616 version of this story though, point for that), but in this reality we are reading of now Ares see's through Osborn's lies and is taken out early by Sentry, allowing him to be fully rested for the battle to come (seems somewhat weak retrospectively?) The Caba l: Dr.Doom, Emma Frost, Loki and Namor come together to stop Osborn by revealing to Mark..The Sentry that his wife was actually assassinated by Hawkeye/ Bullseye on the order of Norman Osborn/Iron Patriot. But this momentum however is quickly cut off as Sentry/Void kills everyone...and I do mean everyone, aside from those he already did earlier in the issue, and the story itself just falls off to the wayside. There's a scene where Norman and the President of the USA ( Obama) seem to be starting some kind of conflict, likewise this goes nowhere as well.
If your not a fan of pages of watching your favorite and most despised characters die with really no subtext or fighting, much less a story around it, this isn't for you, as it wasn't for me.
rating: * (mostly for the art, and maybe the story set-up. Too bad it didn't follow though)
Story#2: What If I, The Watcher, Killed Galactus?
writer: Stan Lee
artist: Dale Eaglesham
This story is a divergence of Galactus original invasion of Earth from classic Fantatsic 4 #48-50 where Galactus and his herald, the Silver Surfer attempted to consume the Earth, but where
thwarted by the efforts of the Fantastic Four. In this alternate universe however Uatu The Watcher interferes with events, and kills Galactus prior to the point that Silver Surfer would turn on his master. Being that his actions represent the greatest of all crimes for a member of his species the Watchers, Uatu is brought to trial and to be punished by his peers, whilst witnessed and objected to by the Fantastic 4, and the Silver Surfer mad with vengeance against him for killing his master Galactus. Everything leads at a great pace to a twist ending. (which I prefer not to spoil)
This story was perfect in my opinion. Firstly, it's written by Stan Lee, giving the longtime What If reader and Marvelite a real treat, but more importantly making it read like a timepiece of an issue done around the time. Melding perfectly with this is Dave Eagleham's art, which has this look like it's directly from the time period as well, yet hasn't aged nor dated a day. Another high mark here is the fact that the main character of this story is Uatu The Watcher (near the end of the issue misprinted as Utau The Watcher...where's my No Prize Marvel? ;) ), who is the spokesperson for the entire series itself and the tie to it's very core concepts design, adding even more to how well this story commends the series. The longtime reader of What If will be pleased with this in high regard.
Interlude 1: Roy Thomas interview
Roy Thomas, the creator of What If? is interviewed about the series itself in it's history and his critique of the series itself, as well as drops a few fun facts. A large point pressed is how many of the classic stories ended up becoming continuity later on. A decent piece of bonus material and good bookend for the long run.
rating: ***** (given a rating as it represents a bulky enough portion of what's given in the whole)
Interlude 2: What Was Your Favorite What If?
A short spread where a few talents in the industry name their favorite issue of What If? and briefly say why. By the listed, the most voted for was #3 (What If The Avengers Had Never Been?).
rating: I don't feel its applicable individually, but needed mention as it explains what the books bonus material was and explains a few other factors in my review.
What If Bullseye Had Not Killed Elektra? (reprint/remastered)
writer/penciler: Frank Miller
inker: Terry Austen
This is a remaster of the first story that ran in What If? #35 (What If Elektra Had Lived?) by Frank Miller. In the " Favorite What If? " portion preceding it this was stated favorite of both Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker (note: in that section we are treated to a label that shows a picture of What If #35 and an arrow shaped dialogue box leading the reader to turn the page stating " And now presented in it's entirety...", yet, only one story from the issue is given to us, whereas the original had more. Two No Prizes in one issue? Only in an alternate timeline could it be so! :P ). This issue did claim high accolades, as is described earlier in an interlude, do to the fact that the alternate story itself was done by the same talent that did the original. As well, it comes off partially canon, as the story of a reality in which Elektra had not been killed by Bulleye is being told to a grieving Daredevil in 616, all in a manner to teach him a lesson. It's solid and classic Miller Daredevil work and Miller work period. A very nice refurbishing of the art as well, especially for the nostalgic to this particular story.
Outtro: A gallery of every What If? cover (sans any variants?) runs by, all printed nice, tiny and cramped in two images, each followed by a codex naming all of them, but more noted explaining how all of the various volumes and runs of What If renumber and culminate this being the 200th issue.
rating: again, not applicable onto itself just the overall
End: An advertisement promoting four other What If? 1-shots currently on sale (he also says how much he loved the Daredevil story)
writer: Justin Gabrie
rating: same as the rest, but this cheesy way to go out definitely hurt the overall rating
secret message: Remember to drink your Ovaltine ?
- opening salvo is unsavory, unoriginal, and not really anything the 200th should have been opened with, the most points were lost over this.
- again, Uatu/Galactus story adds high marks here in the overall importance of the issue by highlighting easily the most important character in the entire series.
- Stan Lee as a guest star writing new material adjacent with the original Fantastic 4 story and very important piece of Uatu's history, and still, is the first What If? story Stan has actually taken the writing chores on, really couldn't be topped.
- needed better bonus material. this could have been in the form of pin-up art, some old rejected material, classic covers revisited by other artists, shorts, a gatefold cover, anything really other than the nothing that was there.
- given the large focus on both series creator Roy Thomas and especially of his first issue ( What If Spider-Man Had Joined The Fantatstic 4), this issue could have been boosted by having a new story written by him, likely replacing the Siege one, or possibly substituting the Elektra one with the Spider-Man/F4, or better still issue 13 (What If Conan Had Walked The Earth Today) which was stated as the issue that held the most meaning to Thomas, or at the very least could have included this as an additional reprint.
- While the Frank Miller reprint was a perfect story unto it's own self, when What If? comes to mind Frank Miller rarely ever does, at least, not as a representative of the series itself.
--- on a side note I would have liked a silly story here, as I mentioned I felt was a large part of
the legacy of this series, but I didn't hold it against it since I have a personal affection for those stories (and they were provided well and in mass recently by Strange Tales Vol. 1 and 2
Final judgement: Is this book worth your coin? Well, despite some questionable parts, and the first story in particular, this does however have both a beast of a new yet classic Stan Lee Fantastic 4 story in it, as well though not really fitting, a overly credibly and powerful Frank Miller reprint. So at least two stories for your buck? I have to yes, read it and savor the good portions?
--- on a way outside note my favorite issue was What If? Vol.2 100 for its independent and overall parts. (Greatest Secret Of The Marvel Universe: Paper Skin (staring Rogue, Gambit and Mr.Sinister), Fantastic Voyage (a gut bustingly funny parody of the Wizard Of Oz), and various What If: What If? cover pin-ups.