One of the most entertaining aspects of the What If? line of comics is how they can show a fuller picture of the characters within. They may be living different lives than what we’re used to in the regular universe, but the creators can show us who they are deep down even when things are twisted. This issue is a great example of that, showing us a world where Peter Parker is trying to make a living by taking pictures while Flash Thompson–with all his anger–is fighting crime as Spider-Man.
So what’s it about?
Read the preview.
Why does this matter?
The story may seem obvious, but the deeper meaning is where the real enjoyment comes from in this issue. Plus, we get to see our new Earth Watcher.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
If you grew up reading What If? you’re going to get a full force of nostalgic vibes from Gerry Conway’s script. After the usual intro, we get a healthy dose of Watcher action (who is none other than Nick Fury). If you aren’t familiar with how the old school What Ifs worked, The Watcher traditionally opened these books reminding us other dimensions exist and shared these variations of our favorite characters/stories that live on at the same time. He pops into this issue at various points reflecting on the deeper meaning which helps add gravity to the situations taking place. That’s particularly helpful with this issue since some very dramatic things happen.
This is a version of Spider-Man that’s very angry. Flash Thompson is still the bully we know from the onset of Spider-Man history and he’s taken that into his modus operandi as a Not-So-Friendly-Neighborhood-Spider-Man. Conway integrates Peter into the story in a logical way and also includes an incredibly iconic moment too. The deeper meaning about being a hero is explored, though from the perspective of a man who thinks he’s a hero, but must come to the realization that maybe he’s rotten at his core. That message is going to speak to anyone who has been bullied.
Diego Olortegui draws this issue with ink assists by Walden Wong and colors by Chris O’Halloran. The style reminded me of the work of Todd Nauck with a speckling of strokes that give the work detail, but a rounded nature that is somewhat cartoony. The scenes with Watcher steal the show, giving the entire story a magical feel due to the character talking directly at us, but also his magical look. Olortegui simply kills it on the iconic “different take” moments.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I suspect fans of Flash Thompson, and his turn as Venom are going to take issue with how much of a bastard he is in this story. There’s a lesson for this much younger character and the ending reflects that, but a world with a Flash Spider-Man doesn’t get explored too thoroughly. It’s a character-focused piece, for the most part, limiting its scope.
Is it good?
I liked this issue in how it flipped things and then delved into the meaning of who these characters are. In a world where a person with a bad personality gets great power bad things can happen.
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