What If comics have always been a fan favourite. Based on the idea of alternate realities we are given snippets of how the Marvel Universe would change should one significant event be altered.
These one-shot stories have always been a blast for fans, but for the writers, at the greatest comic publishing company in the world scribing a What If must have been a dream. It offered them the chance to completely rethink how important milestones impact the superhero world. This change-up from the standard was more than just fun for the writers, but also pushed their creative boundaries.
There are many brilliant What If’s and no matter how aged they are all great stories. However, I have selected this Iron Man specific piece that shakes up the hero’s origins. An important plot that defined the MCU when the Iron Man film kicked off a decade of amazing film. This book explores what could have been if things did not go according to plan when Stark originally built his powerful exo-suit.
Iron Man is a true powerhouse in the Marvel Universe. If indeed he was a traitor, if his intentions were dark, then he would be one of the most dangerous villains out there. Though this book was published in the 80’s, the world we explore is from some of the original runs of the 60’s. Pre-Avengers, pre-Captain America’s return, and the few heroes we see on the cover would be all there was when Iron Man came to be.
Iron Man’s origins are pretty well known, but the one factor that changes this book entirely is Stark’s new suit not getting the energy it needs to fight back when the time came. Instead, he and his suit are captured by the villains. Instead of using the suit for themselves, the evil Chen Lu (later to become Radioactive Man) implants a tracker and a device that will shut down the suit, which would cause Stark’s heart to succumb to the shrapnel in his chest.
Iron Man returns home and much of the heroes story plays out as it should. Though, the impending time bomb in his body leaves him knowing that he will one day have to turn on his friends and country. Nick Fury (pre-SHEILD) is very suspicious about Stark’s simple return, and he goes to Reed Richards for assistance. Thankfully, the smartest man in the Universe is able to decipher what is happening. And, in a final battle, Richards is able to save Iron Man’s life, though he may never wake and be a hero ever again.
There is one significant issue with this whole idea. Tony Stark is too damn smart and resourceful to allow to return home. It is kind of a stretch to believe that he would not have found his way out of this bind, the same way he came up with the original concept of the suit to begin with. Though, for the sake of disbelief that there even is an Iron Man, I will go with it.
This book did offer me something that was a joy to read and imagine, Iron Man vs Mr. Fantastic. One on one, in the Baxter Building, that is a fight that I would love to see go down. Sure, Stark is smart enough to get through the Baxter Building defences, but if Richards knew he was coming he’d have tricks up his sleeve. That battle made this issue go from good to great.
I love this book. It’s a wonderful concept that predates Superman’s Red Son storyline. Though I don’t believe there was a political message hidden here, as communism was all but defeated by its publication, it’s still a fun idea to play with. All What If’s are enjoyable as much as this one. As a comic nerd, these creative stories are what it’s all about.