What If Wednesday #9: What If The Avengers Had Been Formed in the 1950's? (On a Thursday. Whatever.)
On Wednesdays, 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.
I meant to post this yesterday, but then I didn’t. So you get it today. Just pretend it’s Wednesday or something.
Well, I promised you a good one, and I sort of am delivering. I admit, I’m way more into this issue than probably most people, because I like obscure comic book characters, and, well, that’s what this issue is about. But the 1950’s Avengers have since starred in some really great comics as the Agents of Atlas over the last few years, and that might not have happened without this book. So I’m a little sentimental about it.
That being said, the framing device IS pretty lame, but whatever.
We open in Avengers mansion, where Iron Man has summoned 4 other Avengers- Captain America, Beast (see the X-Men movies), Thor (see the Thor movie), and Vision (too complicated to explain here, he's a robot, and otherwise just go with it)- for a top secret pseudo-briefing. He says he'll explain later, but first, he asks them the question that is this issue's title. What if the Avengers had been founded in the 1950's? Preposterous, I know.
Using a bit of continuity nonsense not worth explaining here, Iron Man shows the gathered heroes a version of the 1950s filled with “I like Ike” buttons and other random crap you might have seen on “I Love Lucy”. We come to a scene in San Francisco in the late 1950's, where secret agent Jimmy Woo, patrolling the streets of Chinatown, is attacked by a vicious gang of bikers. See, way back in the 50's, before the Marvel Age of comics, Atlas Comics (Atlas was Marvel before Marvel was Marvel) made comics about Jimmy Woo, Asian-American agent of the FBI who hunted down the evil Chinese communist (and in no way Fu-Manchu analogue) Yellow Claw. It was a different time.
Anyway, as Jimmy Woo gets his ass handed to him, he's spotted by the 3-D Man. Probably should have warned you, this issue involves a lot of crazy continuity. This issue of What If waits to explain all this later, but I'll fill you in now. So the 3-D Man... uh, okay, this is pretty crazy, so shortest version possible: Experimental test pilot, ran into some aliens that turned out to be the shape changing Skrulls (see my review of Essential FF vol 1), crazy stuff happened, and he and his younger brother sort of ended up combining their bodies, which... turned them into the 3-D Man... look, I don't even know, dude. He wear's a half green, half red jumpsuit, and can see Skrulls. Just go with it. 3-D Man beats up all the bad dudes, and then Marvel Boy shows up to mind read them and find out that the motor cycle gang works for Yellow Claw. Yes. Marvel Boy.
Okay, so, Marvel Boy. This shit’s about to get REALLY crazy, guys. (Crazy. Awesome.) When he was just a baby, his mom and sister were killed by Nazi's. So, naturally, his father built a spaceship and he and his dad went to Uranus, because, you know, why not? There, he grew up with the native Uranians, and got super-powers. I warned you about just going with it. Anyway, Agent Woo is setting up a team to fight Yellow Claw, and 3-D Man and Marvel Boy are two of his recruits. You know how the Avengers movie is coming out next summer? Well, this is basically the same plot, but in the 50's, with Jimmy Woo instead of Nick Fury. Jimmy sends Marvel Boy and his space ship with Jann of the Jungle (uh... think Tarzan's Jame, but in a comic) to find Gorilla Man, and convince him to join the team.
Believe it or not, Gorilla Man rules the schools. See, Ken Hale was a big game hunter who learned of a Gorilla Man, who, if killed, supposedly turned the killer immortal. So, he found this Gorilla Man, and shot him dead, only to discover that the Gorilla Man was really a curse. Turned out that who ever killed the Gorilla Man became the next Gorilla Man, and was super strong and awesome, but also a gorilla. This makes more sense than it sounds, I promise. Anyway, Gorilla Man joins the team, and Jann stays behind, because no one cares about her. Also joining the team is Namora, Namor the Sub-Mariner's cousin who has all his powers; the Human Robot, a super awesome kill-bot who is human in name only, he’s seriously just a crazy robot built to kill stuff; and Venus, who's essentially what she says she is, the Goddess of Love.
It's at this point that we flashback to the REAL Avengers, asking what the hell Iron Man is talking about, and he explains everything I just already covered about who these people are. Anyway, the gangs all together now, and thus the Avengers of the 1950's is formed! Meanwhile, Yellow Claw has formed his own team, which, to be honest, is lame as hell, and you don't care about. Believe me, if I don't care bout them, then I KNOW you don't either. But Yellow Claw has his own team now, and obviously, now the good guys have to fight the bad guys. For CAPITALISM, god damn it!
Anyway, the Yellow Claw's agents kidnap President Eisenhower off the golf course, cuz they're dicks, but Jimmy sneaks underground with them. The 50's Avengers are busy in a fight amongst themselves (it is, after all, the Merry Marvel Manner of superheroing), until they get a coded message from Agent Woo. Then they all band together to go save the President! Back in the Yellow Claw's headquarters, Ike is held captive, and Jimmy visits Suwan, Yellow Claw's grand-niece and Jimmy Woo's long time love interest. Jimmy gets his make out on, until he's captured by the bad guys, cuz he's a worse secret agent than James Bond.
Luckily, the day is saved by Agent Woo's team! The good guys beat the bad guys, Suwan lets Jimmy go free, and although Yellow Claw escapes, Eisenhower is saved, so yay the good guys! Except, uh, it's the 50's. So, because aliens and communists are everywhere in the public subconscious, Eisenhower asks the team to disband, and pretend they never existed. Eisenhower wants to make everyone think none of this happened, because McCarthyism was a crazy time, kids.
So, the team disbands, and we learn why Iron Man selected this particular group. It's kinda silly, but basically: Cap= 3-D Man, Iron Man = Marvel Boy, Beast = Gorilla Man, Vision = Human Robot, and Thor = Venus. Try not to think about it too much.
Seriously, though, Jimmy Woo’s team is awesome, and if you’re bored and looking for something to read, go find a copy of the Agents of Atlas books by Jeff Parker and co. And if you want to ignore all the nonsense involving the Avengers as stand ins for the 50’s Avengers, this isn’t a bad story.
Next time, well, it’s gonna be a weird one folks. Next time it’s “What If Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor?” I’m not entirely sure how Jane’s going to be found worthy, or what this means to Dr. Donald Blake, but apparently it involves the Stone Men From Saturn from the first Thor story, and I am a HUGE fan of them. So there’s that I guess.