Currently streaming on Disney+, Marvel’s What If…? invites us to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe from another perspective. Small events lead to significant changes in a big cascading effect that can impact the entire universe. So we learn what would happen if zombies existed, if Doctor Strange had become a villain, or if all the Avengers had died.
Of course, this concept came up in the What If…? comics, which have since had several different volumes and versions. And the idea is the same: stories that twist a single event within the Marvel Universe and cause a significant change in everything we know about its vast chronology. And here, you’ll see some of the best What If…? stories in comics!
What If Magik Became The Supreme Sorcerer? – What If? Magik #1
Many stories in the What If…? series seek to change small things to create enormous consequences. The special issue released in 2018 brings an even bigger perspective to what would happen to Illyana Rasputin if she had left her family and friends behind.
In this reality, after leaving the X-Men, the heroine focuses on developing her mystical gifts by seeking the help and training of Doctor Strange himself. Eventually, she takes her master’s place as the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, becoming even more powerful and well-resolved.
What If Doctor Doom Had Become a Hero? – What If? Vol. 1 #22
Doctor Doom is one of Marvel’s most fascinating villains – no wonder many fans consider him one of the publisher’s best characters and are very eager to see him incorporated into the MCU. However, in this particular story, we are introduced to an alternate reality in which Victor Von Doom becomes close friends and allies with Reed Richards.
The two work together, and Doom’s experiment turns out to be a success. He then studies the mystical arts and even manages to stop Mephisto and rescue his mother’s soul from the hellish realms. He becomes a beloved leader in Latveria, but all does not end well when he is driven to make a bargain with Mephisto again – and the story ends very darkly, showing that he is not as much of a hero as the title implies.
What If Elektra Had Lived? – What If? Vol. 1 #35
In April 1982, Frank Miller gave us one of the darkest stories in Marvel Comics, when Bullseye mercilessly murders Elektra. Then, in October of the same year, he presents fans with a happier alternate universe where this murder does not happen since the villain never gets out of jail and never goes after the Man Without Fear.
The universe where Elektra stays alive is much more positive, especially for Daredevil. Miller makes a point to show that Matt Murdock does not lose his faith in humanity and remains an “up” and fun hero. Eventually, the two need to escape Kingpin’s pursuit and decide to start a new life elsewhere.
What If Someone Else Besides Spider-Man Had Been Bitten by The Radioactive Spider? – What If? Vol. 1 #7
For many years, it was impossible to think of a Spider-Man other than Peter Parker. And while in recent decades, we have met characters who have proven their worth in the arachnid’s mantle. This particular story leads us to examine what would happen if Flash Thompson, John Jameson, or Betty Brant had been given these gifts.
The three stories take place in different universes and bring haunting changes in the lives of each of the new Spideys. For example, Betty Brant gives up her career after stopping a murder, Flash Thompson becomes a murderer, and John Jameson dies because he doesn’t have Peter’s intelligence. Peter Parker develops a special serum to become the Spider-Man we know and love in each of these stories.
What If Starring Spider-Girl – What If? Vol. 2 #105
May “Mayday” Parker is a beloved character to many fans who grew up reading Marvel stories in the 1990s and 2000s. She comes from another reality, known as MC2, and is the daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in that universe, inheriting her father’s arachnid powers and becoming Spider-Girl.
Many people don’t know that the stories of this alternate version began in the What If…? which outlines what would happen if Mary Jane hadn’t suffered a miscarriage. After a dark encounter with Norman Osborn, Peter gives up being a hero, but his daughter continues to carry on his legacy – even against his wishes.
What If Captain America Were Revived Today? – What If? Vol. 1 #44
In the 1960s, Captain America was rescued from the ice and incorporated into the Marvel Universe as we know it, bringing back all his legendary moral fiber to inspire generations of heroes. However, in this terrible universe, the hero was frozen until 1983. When he is revived, and comes across a “fake” of himself walking around.
It turns out that this “other” Captain America is not as noble as Steve Rogers and becomes obsessed with “defeating communism in America at any cost.” To do this, he proclaims various fascist policies and turns the United States into an authoritarian, totalitarian state. Eventually, Rogers joins the resistance and defeats the impostor, proving why he is called the Sentinel of Liberty.
What If The Dazzler Had Become The Herald of Galactus? – What If? Vol. 1 #33
Sometimes all we need to do is accept the ridiculousness of certain premises and indulge in a fun story – and that is what happens here, in a universe where the all-powerful Galactus chooses Dazzler, the mutant and pop star, to be his new herald. Gifted with cosmic powers, she travels the universe seeking planets for her master.
At first, we see the mutant – who can convert sound into the light – increasingly horrified by all the death and destruction that the Devourer of Worlds brings with him. Then, however, she falls in love with Galactus, which generates a series of very… peculiar questions. It’s a story without an ounce of good sense. Yet, great for those who want to see the “messier” twists of the What If…? label.
What If The Thing and The Beast Continued to Mutate? What If? Vol. 1 #37
Unlike the MCU, where everything is family-friendly to avoid scaring the younger audience, Marvel comics now and then decide to go down a route of pure horror and misery. In this double story, The Thing and The Beast undergo even more violent transformations.
The Beast continues to suffer various mutations, losing his intellect and turning into an animal-like creature – all while the character’s suffering becomes more and more evident. On the other hand, The Thing has a happier ending, as his body experiences so many transformations that in the end, the stone plates simply “fall off,” and he becomes Ben Grimm again.
What If Phoenix Had Not Died? – What If? Vol. 1 #27
Written by Frank Miller, this is one of the most brutal stories to ever come out of this title, where a complete subversion of the Dark Phoenix Saga takes place. If you’ve read that mutant epic, you know that at the end, Jean Grey sacrifices herself to end the Dark Phoenix’s reign of terror, leaving her allies behind as a token of love for the team and the universe.
However, in this comic, she does not sacrifice herself, and the Dark Phoenix begins to grow even more insatiable. She then destroys planets, asteroids, and even a star. Finally, angry, she kills the young Kitty Pryde and confronts all her team members – even her beloved Cyclops. In the end, Phoenix consumes the entire universe with her flames.
What If The Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Superpowers? – What If? Vol. 1 #36
Some people are destined to become superheroes, with or without superpowers. This is the case for Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Ben Grimm, and Johnny Storm, as we see in a What If…? special issue. In this story, they do not go into space and thus do not gain their fantastic powers.
Still, the story shows how they never needed that to be quite a team. Instead, we get to see the Fantastic Four using alternative ways to stop terrible villains and strange creatures from destroying our world. The comic even recreates the confrontation in the group’s first comic, where they must face a grotesque monster, even without powers.