Greetings from the Odinson,
Disney+ just launched its animated series What If…?, and it started with an episode that explored WHAT would have happened IF Agent Carter had taken the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers. What If…? is a time honored tradition in the history of Marvel Comics. It explores alternate timelines and realities where one decision, one shift in the wind, one zig instead of a zag can sometimes have thought provoking, sometimes horrifying, and sometimes catastrophic changes on the course of Marvel History.
Some of the Odinson’s favorite All-Time What Ifs include What If Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four? (an alternate reality spawned from the events of The Amazing Spider-Man #1); What if the Hulk Went Berserk? (an alternate reality spawned from the events of The Incredible Hulk #1&3, Fantastic Four #12, and The Avengers #1); What If Wolverine were Lord of Vampires? (an alternate reality spawned from the events of The Uncanny X-Men #159); What If the Avengers Had Fought Galactus? (an alternate reality spawned from the events of Fantastic Four #48-50); and What If Captain America Were Revived Today? (an alternate reality spawned from the events of The Avengers #4 and Tales of Suspense #72-74).
I have spoken often about my love for the What if…? genre. Most recently in The Great Villain Swap and What If the Combatants of Secret Wars Never Returned from Battleworld?: Part 1 and Part 2. And this week I continue to do so by asking one simple question.
What if the Fantastic Four Did not Split up After the Secret Wars (2015)?
Secret Wars (2015) was the culmination of over two years’ worth of buildup. The multiverse was dying. Entire realities were smashing into each other and would continue to do so until none remained. Not even the greatest heroes of the Marvel U could stop the end of days. This is all explored in the pages of New Avengers (2013-2015). In the end, it was Doctor Doom that saved the world.
However, in true Doom fashion, the despot recreated the world in his twisted image. Ultimately, Reed Richards was able to face the villain in a final showdown that restored the Marvel Universe. However, Reed, his wife, the Invisible Woman, their children, Franklin and Valeria, and the Molecule Man did not return to Earth with everyone else. They instead set off into the cosmos to recreate the multiverse. Thus, the narrative of Marvel History continued without its First Family fully intact.
This is where that zig instead of a zag occurs. What If the Fantastic Four had remained together in the years following the Secret Wars event?
We’ll look at the major events and changes that occurred in the wake of 2015’s Secret Wars and we’ll speculate on how these events and changes could have been different if Marvel’s First Family never separated.
Civil War II – The first Civil War not only split the superhero community right down the middle, but it also fractured the Fantastic Four as members of the team choose different sides. This schism almost destroyed Reed and Sue’s marriage. They even had to take a sabbatical in the aftermath making way for the New Fantastic Four. But Marvel’s First Family was not present in their entirety during the 2nd Civil War. How could their presence have affected events?
I believe in a positive way. One, the reason for the divide this time around always came across as rather weak. Heroes were at each other’s throats based on things that might happen? I think yet another rational view point was needed, someone with both ties to the Inhumans and the super hero community. Mister Fantastic could have been that voice of reason, and backed by the respect the Invisible Woman has amongst everyone involved, perhaps the discussions could have been extended and with Reed’s intellect added to Tony Stark’s, the true nature to Ulysses’ vision could have been discovered sooner.
Also, with Reed’s help, perhaps She-Hulk, a former member of the FF, who was gravely injured during the events of Civil War II could have been helped and she would not have devolved into the savage, brutish Hulk persona she has now. Finally, Bruce Banner was unceremoniously murdered during this tale. More times than not, the Fantastic Four has handled the Hulk situation a little differently than the Avengers, whose answer always seems to be attack. More on that in a moment, but suffice it to say, Captain Marvel and the Avengers did not handle that moment well.
Plus, Reed and Susan’s son, Franklin possesses the potential to affect the world on a cosmic level. How long before the wolves are at their door making decisions and arguments about how to handle such a potential threat?
Infamous Iron Man – I believe this could be the biggest impact a complete FF could have had on a Post-Secret Wars Marvel U. At the end of Secret Wars, Reed restored Doom’s face and help set him on a heroic path, perhaps the path he should have walked all along. For a long time it looked like Doom would become one of the greatest heroes the Marvel Universe has ever seen. Unfortunately, and probably in no small part to the interference of Gwenpool, Victor reverts to his despot ways.
It is a shame we never got to see the years where Reed and Victor could have worked side-by-side to make the world a better and safer place. That’s WHAT could have happened IF the FF did not split up at the end of 2015’s Secret Wars.
The Death of Namor – This is extremely interesting. The mighty Sub-Mariner has been both an enemy and an ally of Marvel’s First Family. His romantic intentions toward the Invisible Woman have never been a secret, naturally placing him at odds with Mister Fantastic. His arrogance and ego clashes with the everyman qualities of Ben Grimm. And his water vs. the fire of the Human Torch make them natural rivals.
However, Prince Namor, warts and all, is still a member of the FF’s extended family and I can only imagine all the gold that could have been mined after the Squadron Supreme executed the Sea King. So, unless they do a What If..?, we’ll never know.
The Ultimates – In the wake of 2015’s Secret Wars, Black Panther assembled a proactive super team that sets out to solve big problems before they become a threat to Earth. The biggest problem they tackled was Galactus. They transformed him from a force of destruction into a force for life. I cannot help but think Reed Richards could have played a prominent role in such a task and perhaps with his added knowledge of the cosmic, the positive change in the Devourer of Worlds could have been more permanent.
Inhumans vs. X-Men – Marvel’s First Family has had a tumultuous history with both the Inhumans and the X-Men, to say the least. I could see their presence here going either way. They could have a positive impact on the situation, or a negative one. Odin knows Johnny Storm by himself never helps to douse the flames. If nothing else, the big brain of Mister Fantastic may have been able to scientifically come up with a faster and more effective solution to the Terrigen Mist crisis, the catalyst for this conflict.
The Immortal Hulk – As noted before, the Avengers are like a hammer and their way of addressing the Hulk has always been to attack and/or escalate. As the narrative of the Immortal Hulk Saga has played out, we have seen how Hulk and Ben, who have had a long and well documented rivalry, have grown to respect each other. Hulk does not appreciate being used to ruin the Thing’s vacation and the Puppet Master pays a price it. When the Hulk is at his lowest, it’s his erstwhile sparring partner, Ben Grimm, who shows up as a friend.
As the Immortal Hulk Saga draws to an end, the Avengers once again show up to treat the Green Goliath the same way they always have. That is when the Fantastic Four intervene on his behalf. And it is Marvel’s First Family who ultimately help Hulk and set him on his path toward his final confrontation with the villain of his story.
Where my What If…? comes in is thinking back to how the Hulk has been treated and dealt with in the FF’s absence going all the way back to Civil War II, No Surrender, and all throughout the Immortal Hulk Saga. I cannot help thinking just how differently maybe a lot of that would have played out if the Fantastic Four were present and intact for those little over two years they were gone.
These particular events were chosen because they affected the Fantastic Four’s corner of the Marvel Universe and thus a complete Marvel’s First Family’s presence would have had the most impact. Whether or not these events would have played out differently or exactly the same we may never know, but it is always fun to ponder the question: What If…?
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: For past entries of the So Sayeth the Odinson blog, over a decade’s worth of comic book and pop culture articles and reviews, click HERE. Also, be sure to check out my novels The Survivors and Autumn Dawn, which were inspired by 1980s horror – HERE and HERE