Friday, July 27, 2007

The What If? Top 5: What If the Invisible Girl Had Died?

Welcome to the What If? Top Five, a look at my personal favorite issues of Marvel's long-running What If? series.

We're at number one in our countdown, What If?#42 by Peter B. Gillis and Ron Frenz:

What If the Invisible Girl Had Died? still gets me teary when reading it. Not that that takes much these days. I'm old and sentimental now, as likely to cry at an oatmeal commercial as anything, but this one even choked me up as a callow youth of fifteen. In the original story from Fantastic Four Annual #6, Sue Richards was ready to give birth, but there were complications due to the cosmic ray exposure that turned her into the Invisible Girl. Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic) determined that only a control element from the Negative Zone could save her, and led the Human Torch and the Thing into the Zone to retrieve it. Of course, the element ended up being part of the Cosmic Control Rod of Annihilus, and they had to fight him. Eventually, they wrested the rod from him, escaped the Negative Zone, returned to Earth, and Sue had a healthy baby boy named Franklin.

In this alternate time line, however, Annihilus catches up with and imprisons the team. They escape, but return too late to save Susan:


A funeral is held, and old foes call off their vendettas, among them the Sub-Mariner. Namor returns to the Baxter Building with the remaining FF, concerned about what he saw in Reed's eyes at he funeral. Some of the best, most resonant scenes in this issue are the individual scenes of mourning:



This story also reminds us that for all his carefree ways, Johnny is only one sister away from losing his entire blood family:



And then there's Reed...


Reed is so lost, so devastated, that he has only one goal: embrace oblivion and take Annihilus with him. He launches himself into the Negative Zone on a mission of death.

Reed pursues the terrified creature with single minded fury, as Namor, Ben and Johnny follow. They finally confront Reed, and try to talk sense into him. But Richards is too far gone - he draws a stun weapon and tells them to get back. Like a panicky animal, Annihilus starts biting and clawing at Reed, and Reed fires wildly, hitting the Torch. Ben follows, but the battling pair is speeding closer and closer to the lethal anti-matter dimensional interface that separates earth from the Negative Zone:



(Sniff) I... I've got a bit of somethin' in me eye...


...buh...buh...BAAAaaaaWWWWLLL!


(Schnorrk, snuffle...HONK!) Another heartfelt, heartbreaking story from the talented Mr. Gillis. Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott provided some outstanding artwork, very evocative of Kirby, but bristling with emotion. Look at that picture of Reed telling Annihilus he's going to die and tell me you don't get chills.

That concludes our look at my favorite What If? stories. Let's hear about yours, friend! That's why the comments are there.





What If...I stop talking about What If? for awhile?

6 comments:

The Fortress Keeper said...

Dang!

I forgot about that one.

It's positively heartbreaking, much more emotional than what you see at Marvel these days.

googum said...

A great one. The Cap vs. Cap one is possibly my favorite, but might get edged out by Conan vs. Thor. (The later, Wolverine vs. Conan one, is staggeringly disappointing in comparison to Conan's old What If? appearances.)

Maxo said...

Great, great stuff. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go call my wife and tell her .. tell her ... sniff ...

Anonymous said...

Reeds speech of how imporant Sue is to him blows anything that occurred or has come out of that damn Civil War crap.....

All the people involved with CW should be senetenced to a mandatory reading of this one in the hope of learning of who Reed really is.

Juisarian said...

Looks like a good comic. Somehow makes Fantastic Four: Death in the Family seem even worse.

Anonymous said...

i gotta say, the one WHAT IF story that still resonants with me is "What If Daredevil was an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." Tony Stark swooping down in his S.H.I.E.L.D. issue flying car to take care of a young, injured by the isotope Matt Murdock. Written and drawn by Frank Miller. That was one cool comic!