Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Every Wednesday, The Amazing Justin Palm! gets drunk as shit and reviews an issue of Marvel Comics’ “What If?” so that you, the reader, can enjoy his drunken ramblings about a comic book whose sole purpose is to talk about shit that never happened, so it doesn’t matter at all. Dear Internet: You’re welcome.
Ok. If I had to select four issues that would single handily define Marvel Comics for the entirety of history, it would be as follows: Fantastic Four #1 (introducing the Fantastic Four, and accidentally beginning the “Marvel Age” of comics); Amazing Fantasy #15 (First appearance of Spider-Man, and creating the perfect character to represent what was different about Marvel from the other comic publishers back in 1961); Incredible Hulk # 181 (First appearance of Wolverine, you’re welcome all you X-Man fans AND Hugh Jackman fans, without this issue NO ONE would care), and Avengers #4, the return of Captain America from the 40s (nerds out there, I know its not quite that that simple, but kindly shut the fuck up for my non-nerd readers at the moment). Captain America is a character that represents the best of our country, and his story (soon to be in (hopefully) awesome movie form) is a perfect representative of that. Born the child of immigrants, Steve Rogers was a weak but fearless boy, who, once the country entered WWII tried his hardest to enlist and serve his country. Because he was raised by poor immigrants who could barely feed him, he wasn’t that strong. But he was brave, and the army decided to use him as a test subject of their super-solider experiments, which went awesome until their lead scientist was killed by Nazis, and later Captain America (Steve) and his teenage sidekick supposedly died. Until Avengers #4. But, you know, this is a What If?, so lets go crazy with it.
So! We start with a recap from the flashback in Avengers #4 & #56. 56 is a long way away, but in my series of Essential Marvel reviews, I promise, Iron Man is soon to be written, then Sgt. Fury, then Dr. Strange, then finally Avengers, and we can talk about this shit. Short version! Captain America and his sidekick Bucky (in the real universe) took on evil Nazi bastard and admirer of purple Baron Zemo. They lost. In a token showing-off of Nazi dickishness that sort of backfired, rather than killing them outright, Zemo strapped the two of them to an airplane rigged with a bomb, and sent them off to die in midair. Because Nazi’s are dicks.
Anywho, Cap manages to break them free, but then the bomb goes off. Bucky dies in the explosion (until recently, but Ed Brubaker’s Cap run has been one of the most amazing comics Marvel’s produced in years, so I’m okay with his retcon), Cap gets frozen in ice, et cetera, et cetera. After this recap, Uatu the Watcher starts telling us all about what happened later. Apparently (and seriously, if this is some how Marvel canon it is the single greatest thing ever), in the Marvel Universe, just as Adolf Hitler was about to kill himself, the original Human Torch (not the one whose a member of the Fantastic Four, some day I’ll explain, just go with it for now) shows up and quite frankly fries the son of a bitch to death. Again, how much of this is canon is hard to tell, and the Watcher is kind of vague, but in this comic THE HUMAN TORCH ROASTS HITLER ALIVE. On like, page 7. I’m going to be honest, I have no idea how the rest of this book will work out, but this comic just jumped to my top 10 favorite comics ever just by this shit.
So, after the Human Torch just stone cold Kentucky Frys fucking Hitler, we cut to Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Now, I know I’ve brough up Namor in the past, but this is an important note: in the 60’s, Namor was a crazy hobo who, when he remembered who he was, raged war against basically the entire human race. In the 40’s though, while he was a total prick to everybody, he hated Nazis more than anyone. AS DID WE ALL.
I’m getting way off topic. SO! Rest of the Invaders consist of: Spitfire! She’s fast, and hot and awesome! Union Jack! He’s like Captain America, but British, and, you know, without any powers! Also, Miss America and the Whizzer (snicker), who I’ll get to later (That was a lie. I won’t get to it later. So... here’s a break down of these two for you. Miss America fights crime and stuff, I guess. And the Whizzer... well, I know you won’t believe me here, but... the Whizzer has super speed power because he was inject with... oh god... no, seriously, I know you’ll think this is bullshit, but... he was injected with mongoose blood. Really, I swear, by Cthulhu above, I am not making this shit up...). Seriously, in this world, everything I know as a drunken comic book fan is different, so I’ll just go with it. Anyway, the team regroups, minus Cap and Bucky, and are told by their Allied superiors that Cap and Bucky are dead. Once more, for the record, if I am to assume this comic is legit continuity so far, this is awesome, because it means in legit Marvel Continuity, the original HUMAN TORCH DEEP FRYED HITLER. And I am totally fine with that.
Okay, now usually I’d bitch about how we’re on page 12 of an issue and still in recount mode. But I’m not this time, because we’re getting into some obscure material, and the Human Torch just fryed Hitler. So! It’s early May 1945, FDR just died, Hitler just died, and Captain friggin’ America just died. Harry Truman orders the American Invaders to come to the White House where they meet.... the new Captain America (and Bucky!)! Yes, Truman (who, for the record, is absolutely right here) points out that the American people need a symbol more than they need a real person, and though Steve Rodgers may die, Captain America must live. Anyway, the new Cap and Bucky are really an old vigilante named the Spirit of ‘76 and a guy named Fred, but lets not go into that for now, okay?
So the Invaders stay a team, because even though the Nazis are defeated, the Japanese are still a threat! (Editor’s note: I’d like to point out how uncomfortable I am about typing that sentence. I mean, I know that in the late 30s and early 40s Japan was going through something of an identity crisis and pretty much being dicks to everyone, but still. People of Japanese decent (Especially American): I want you to know that I think the Japanese internment camps we put you in was horrible, and that despite your culture’s love of octopus porn, I think you’re pretty great.) The team beats up the Japanese until America drops the two atomic bombs on them (seriously, we fucked with their cultural heritage big time here), and World War II FINALLY ends. The Invaders get a telegram from the president or something telling them to stay a team, and after changing their name to match a comic book from friggin’ 1945, the All-Winners-Squad (yes really) hits the streets of America to fight urban crime!
The “All Winners” rock out for a bit, but then things get WEIRD. The Human Torch and his sidekick Toro go visit the Torch’s creator Dr. Horton (okay, quick explanation, the original Human Torch was actually a robot, despite being called the HUMAN Torch. His sidekick Toro, who had all his powers, wasn’t. I know it doesn’t make sense. But, you know.... just go with it. Okay?), only to discover that Dr. Horton has been replaced with a robot and.... you know what? This shit has gotten too crazy for words.
Apparently in this universe, after Horton created the Human Torch, he build a second android who wasn’t all fire powered and stuff. This android immediately became evil, locked Dr. Horton in a closet, named himself “Adam-II” and decided he should take over the world. Because OF COURSE HE DID. Gonna be honest, beyond this point, the last ten pages get hazy, but something like this happens: another random Golden Age super hero, the Patriot, shows up out of nowhere and saves Toro and the real Dr. Horton. A young JFK is in Boston with the pretend Cap and Bucky, only it’s not really JFK, its a robot. Pretend Cap realizes that this JFK is a robot created by Adam-II two because he doesn’t have any irises or pupils (robots are pretty stupid about designing new, impostor robots, I guess). Adam-II and Pretend-Cap fight.
More fighting, Spirit of ‘76 Cap dies, but then a new Cap shows up, robots get destroyed, JFK is saved (until he visits Dallas in a few years I guess), and pretend Bucky asks the newest Cap who he is, only to reveal he’s the Patriot, who, once again, for those that missed it, is never properly explained in this comic. And people wonder why comics come off as uncomfortable to new fans.
ANYWAY! That’s pretty much it. This is a comic where a CAPTAIN AMERICA, the physical embodiment of what makes America so awesome, dies on panel twice. Alternatively, it is also a comic where the Human Torch straight up melts Adolf Hitler’s face right off the bone. I’m kind of conflicted. Parts of this issue were the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, and I freely admit I spent part of my weekend conceiving a story where the captain of the Titanic had a time machine and waited for the ship to sink to rob a secret treasure from the ship and then time travel his way out of it to modern times. My point being, I can think of some pretty sweet amazing things I’d like to see, but the Human Torch roasting Hitler alive? That is baller than hell.
Alternatively, I can’t help but feel that I am gasping for breath in a sea of comics continuity, and that is a sea that usually I sail pretty well. For a none experienced traveller, I can’t help but feel they might be swallowed up, like so much of a Scyllaian victim. (sorry, that is a lot of complicated imagery, but I’ve been reading Alan Moore for the last week and a half, and apparently I can’t help myself. Wikipedia is your friend?) I mean, I barely register “the Patriot” as a golden age hero, and this shit is my fucking expertise. So... plot twist at the end or whatever? A little bit jarring.
I liked parts of it, don’t get me wrong. But clearly, this is not a story for the inexperienced, nor is it a comic for people who casually like the idea that the 50s were relatively peaceful and JFK was awesome until Oswald shot him. Alternatively, it IS a comic for people who want to see Hitler microwaved to death by a guy whose skin turns into living fire.
Next issue! What If Captain America Hadn’t Vanished During World War II?
Seriously, could we please stop getting teasers about next week’s comic after we’ve already answered it (sort of) this week? Originality is key, people!