Welcome to the What If? Top Five, a look at my personal favorite issues of Marvel's long-running What If? series.
This time around, we're talking about number three in our countdown, What If?#44 by Peter B. Gillis and Sal Buscema:
What If Captain America Were Revived Today? obviously struck a nerve with a lot of us. This particular issue has already been well-covered in the blogosphere but I never claimed that these were going to be especially original choices.
In this alternate reality, the Sub-Mariner never disrupted the Eskimos who were worshiping the frozen Captain America, so he was kept by the tribe for several more years. Meanwhile, a disgruntled worker at a secret government holding facility decides that America needs a Captain America, and he frees the Cap and Bucky that are held there in suspended animation. Problem is, this is the deranged, commie-smashing Cap of the cold war era who was made unstable and paranoid by a 1953 attempt to replace the real Cap. This faux star-spangled avenger captures the imagination of the public, and soon hooks up with Secret Empire member Senator Norman Chadwick, who uses Captain America's reputation to push forth a raft of oppressive, racist laws.
Time passes, and eventually, the real Cap is discovered and revived by an American submarine crew, who start to fill him in on everything he's missed. America has become a police state, with most freedoms eliminated in favor of battling a non-existent Communist threat. "Captain America" appears on television regularly to promote obedience and loyalty, and the military, ironically enough, is the last bastion of freethinking, since it does not answer to the federal government (this seems a bit much to swallow, but go with it.) The real Cap is outraged and gathers together a rag-tag (is there any other kind?) group of freedom fighters, including Snap Wilson and Spider-Man to revolt. It was also fun to see J. Jonah Jameson running an underground newspaper. Finally, the two Captain Americas duke it out in one of the best Cap battles ever:
Oh. HELL. Yeah.
The true Cap then turns to the audience and tells them that America is trash without the freedoms of the constitution, and ends with him singing the Star Spangled Banner, first alone, then with a swelling chorus from the audience.
N ow, more than ever, this story speaks volumes about the risk of sacrificing freedom for safety. You can read more about What If? #44 HERE, HERE, and HERE.
What if...I went on to #2 in our series next?