What If? #200

It's no secret that I've been less than impressed with this year's crop of "What If" comics. "What If? Iron Man: Demon in an Armor" was "a truly disappointing way to begin this year's batch of 'What If?' titles" while "What If? Spider-Man" was "a lazy, intellectually devoid" comic, and "What If? Dark Reign" was "another in a month of disappointing 'What If?' issues that have shown a surprising lack of imagination and scope." That I didn't review "What If? Wolverine: Father" is the only thing that saved it from the same treatment. It's been a bust for "What If?" comics in 2010.

That is, until "What If?" #200, which features a fairly entertaining lead story, an amusing back-up, and then some really cool 'issue 200' bonus features like an interview with Roy Thomas, creators discussing their favorite "What If?" comics, and a reprint of the Frank Miller written and drawn "What If?" #35: "What if Elektra had lived?"

The lead story poses the question "What if Norman Osborn had won the siege of Asgard?" and bases his victory around Ares being killed before the attack because of his reluctance to support Osborn's plans. With the Sentry not as weakened from his fight with the god of war, he isn't as easily opposed by the heroes or mentally weakened enough to be killed. The Sentry hands Osborn his victory and the heroes that defeated Osborn soon find themselves dead. From there, it falls to Osborn's former allies in the Cabal to try and stop him. Guggenheim follows the logic of the Sentry as unstoppable to its logical conclusion and delivers a fittingly grim story.

Dave Wilkins's computer-painted art is abrasive and stiff. The continued use of this style of art, one divorced from the story it's doing a twist on baffles me, because the quicker, denser pace of the story requires an artist that can deliver more than stilted, posed panels that may or may not have any relationship to the other stilted, posed panels sharing the same page. Wilkins' line art isn't too bad and he shows that there's a unique style under all of that computer color mess with cartoony characters that don't suit the coloring style at all. A more traditional approach would have worked a lot better.

The back-up story by Stan Lee and Dale Eaglesham is entertaining and brief. It wonders what would have happened if the Watcher killed Galactus back when Galactus first came to Earth. With Eaglesham currently in the middle of channeling Jack Kirby more than ever, he's a fitting choice for this story. Lee is focused on point and the twist at the end is a fitting one. It's a great example of a back-up strip perfectly suited to its length, presenting a small, simple story that works best in this format.

For the rest of the issue, an interview with Roy Thomas on the beginnings of "What If?" is a very cool treat. Him discussing how the series came about, how it shifted from his book to something bigger, and its relationship to the regular Marvel universe should prove interesting to fans of Marvel and "What If?" And who can complain about a complete reprinting of the Frank Miller "What if Elektra had lived?" issue of the series? There's also the standard 'Marvel anniversary issue' collage of all of the covers of the series, complete with a list of the 'What if?' question each issue asked.

"What If?" #200 may have been preceded by some clunkers of issues, but it ends the month strongly with a twisted lead story, a fun back-up strip, and some fantastic bonus features. If you're a fan of "What If?" this issue is a fitting celebration of the title's sporadic 33-year history.

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