The worlds of "What If...?" comics are fascinating, as they give writers the freedom to do pretty much whatever they want with Marvel's cast of characters. The funny thing is, though, that most writers have typically wanted to do basically the same thing -- kill lots and lots of people.
As it turns out, changing pretty much any decision ever made in the Marvel Universe will lead to certain death and destruction. If Wolverine stopped off at Starbucks instead of Dunkin' Donuts, for example, then at least 12 X-Men would have died. Interestingly enough, Wolverine has been at the center of many "What If...?" tales. As one of Marvel's most popular characters, he always finds himself being killed off in those stories, usually in some horrific way. Because Wolverine. Here, then, are the 15 best Wolverine deaths in "What If...?" comics.
15 What If... The New X-Men Had Died On Their First Mission?
It was a close call for the kick-off spot on the list. All of them were general "everyone died at once" stories, but we figured that since this was specifically an "X-Men" related issue, it should take precedence over "What If...? Secret Wars" #1 (where Dr. Doom successfully kills all of the heroes on Battleworld, including Wolverine) and "What If...?" (Vol.2) #19, "What if the Vision Conquered the World?" (where an attempt to kill Vision with a nuclear bomb instead just killed nearly all of Earth's heroes).
In this issue, from "What If...?" (Vol.2) #9 (by Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler and Sam De La Rosa), the All-New, All-Different X-Men were formed and rescued their original counterparts, just like in "Giant-Size X-Men" #1. However, this time, when Jean Grey and Polaris sent Krakoa into outer space, the X-Men were unable to get off the island, so all the X-Men present were killed. A new team of X-Men was formed to fill in, led by the only surviving original X-Man, Beast (who was with the Avengers at the time). The "What If...?" issue also features one of the coolest surreptitious crossover ever.
14 What If... The Avengers Had Lost Operation: Galactic Storm?
This is the last Wolverine death that was merely part of a larger group of people dying. This one made the list because at least Wolverine's death was specifically highlighted among the many other people who died. In "What If the Avengers had lost Operation: Galactic Storm" from "What If...?" #55 (the first of a relatively rare two-part "What If...?" story, by Len Kaminski, Craig Brasfield and Frank Turner), the Avengers actually stopped the Shi'ar assassin, Deathbird, from killing the two leaders of the Kree Empire.
Oddly enough, that was actually a bad thing (for Earth, at least), as it prevented the Supreme Intelligence taking control and ending the war by, in effect, nuking his own world (in a twisted attempt to build a stronger Kree race, as the survivors of his attack would mutate into more powerful beings). The Kree leader ordered the destruction of Earth and Captain America had to sit and watch from millions of miles away as the entire planet of Earth was destroyed by a powerful Kree weapon. Wolverine, in particular, was shown to be annihilated.
13 What If... Wolverine: Father
In the one-shot, "What If...? Wolverine: Father" #1 (by Rob Williams and Greg Tocchini), Wolverine discovered the existence of his son at his birth rather than much later in life (by which time his son was the evil Daken). Here, Logan withdrew from society and raised his son himself on a mountain sanctuary, hiding their mutant powers from the son, who he named John. However, in trying to protect them from all of the evils of the world, he also kept himself from doing some good, like turning down an offer from Professor Charles Xavier to join the All-New, All-Different X-Men because he did not want to leave his son.
In the end, all of Wolverine's efforts were for naught, as Sabretooth tracked them down anyway. John learned of his powers and left his father, eventually becoming a criminal known as Daken. Wolverine had to track him down and kill his own son with the special Muramasa blade (which counteracted any healing powers). Logan then turned the blade on himself, blaming himself for how his son turned out.
12 What If... Norman Osborn Won the Siege of Asgard?
The 200th issue of "What If...?" told the story of "What If Norman Osborn Had Won the Siege of Asgard?" Mark Guggenheim and Dave Wilkins tackled the topic, which basically revolved around one minor point. In the end, Osborn was undone because Sentry was defeated by Thor and Iron Man. The theory here, though, is that Sentry (and the Void, who is part of the Sentry) was weakened by having to fight (and kill) his own teammate, Ares, right before the battle. So this time around, the Sentry dispatched with Ares early enough that he was totally fresh in time for the big battle.
As a result, the Sentry was practically a one-man killing machine. His Dark Avengers teammates did their fair share of killing, as well, like when Daken (as Dark Wolverine) killed the Thing. But Sentry killed a whole bunch of heroes, including memorably decapitating both Wolverine and X-23 in one swing of his arm.
11 What If... Captain America Had Formed the Avengers?
"What If...?" (Vol.2) #29 was the second part of a two-parter, the first issue of which saw what would happen if Dr. Erskine was not killed after Steve Rogers got the Super-Soldier Serum and if the United States Government had made a full army of Super Soldiers. After time passed, Captain America took over the country with his Super Soldiers and essentially became a dictator; people who didn't look like Captain America's Aryan ideal were put into camps or eliminated period. At the end of the issue, though, a group of soldiers came across one of the rebels to the government, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and in the ensuing battle, they came across the real Captain America!
As it turned out in the second part (written by George Caragonne and drawn by Ron Wilson and Ralph Cabrera), the real Captain America had been frozen in ice for years. The Red Skull was just pretending to be Cap. So the real Cap put together a team to take the Skull down. They called themselves the Avengers, one of the members of whom was the Hulk. The Hulk, though, was actually a version of Wolverine who had been transformed into a Wendigo; luckily, his mutant powers allowed him to maintain control over the change, making him his own unique being. The Avengers ended up freeing the world from the Red Skull, but first they had to stop his hundreds of Super Soldiers. In the process, they were all killed.
10 What If... Stryfe and Apocalypse Had Killed the X-Men?
In "What If...?" #69 (by Mariano Nicieza, Justiniano and Roy Richardson), the "X-Cutioner's Song" crossover took a much different road based on a rather odd chain of events. It all began when Apocalypse failed in his attempt to save Professor X's life. Then it got weird. Professor X's death sent off a giant psychic death throes-type deal, which distracted Stryfe, who was on the moon with his "parents," Cyclops and Jean Grey. He was using his telekinesis to keep them protected from being out on the moon without spacesuits or breathable oxygen. The distraction, though, caused him to drop his shield, and both Cyclops and Jean Grey died. This, of course, enraged the rest of the X-Men, who were also on the moon (in the Blue Area, which has oxygen, being the home of the Watcher).
Wolverine and the other X-Men attacked Stryfe, but he sent the Dark Riders to fight them. Wolverine, being Wolverine, sliced them up nicely. This, however, tired him down enough for Stryfe to easily pick him up and toss him out of the Blue Area of the Moon and off into outer space, where he promptly suffocated.
9 What If... Phoenix Had Lived?
Mary Jo Duffy, Jerry Bingham and John Stuart delivered "What If...?" #27, which answered the question, "What if Phoenix had lived?" It followed the original basic idea that instead of Phoenix sacrificing herself, the Shi'ar would give her, in effect, a psychic lobotomy. She would then return to Earth with the rest of the X-Men. However, in a later battle when Cyclops was in danger, Phoenix burned through said lobotomy and returned to her powers.
She managed to control herself okay at first, but over time she would keep sneaking off into space to destroy something. At first, it would be something small and then something bigger and ultimately she was back to destroying stars, but only ones around uninhabited planets. Kitty Pryde discovered she was doing this, though, and when she confronted her, she struck out and killed Kitty, turning into Dark Phoenix. She then quickly destroyed the X-Men. When Colossus did a "fastball special" and threw Wolverine at her, she stopped him, reversed his direction and sent him back at Colossus, using her powers to switch Colossus' power off, so Wolverine stabbed his friend to death. She then sent Wolverine to his death in a pile of hellfire she had created to kill Nightcrawler.
8 What If... Danger Had Become the Bride of Ultron?
The one-shot, "What If...?: Astonishing X-Men" #1 had two stories in it. The first one was about Jean Grey being brought back instead of Colossus. The second one, by Matteo Caselli and Mike Getty, dealt with Danger, the X-Men's Danger Room, who had become sentient. In the real comics, Danger turned against the X-Men, but was ultimately defeated through the help of Professor X. Here, though, Danger instead hooks up with Ultron.
Ultron uploads his code into Danger's matrix with the intent of making Danger his bride. The two then take on the X-Men and it does not go well (for the mutants). Wolverine is a tough guy, but he is no match for a device that Ultron had used to great effect on Thor in the past: the Encephalo-Beam. With the X-Men conquered, Danger and Ultron head for the stars to take on the people who gave Xavier the technology to create Danger in the first place, the Shi'ar!
7 What If... Marvel’s Heroes Had Lost Atlantis Attacks?
Jim Valentino, Rik Levins and Ralph Cabrera were the creative team on "What If...?" (Vol.2) #25, which postulated what would have happened had Set actually come to Earth. The crossover, "Atlantis Attacks," dealt with a multi-faceted plan that was to result with the people of Earth transformed into lizard creatures and Set entering this dimension. The heroes of Earth managed to stop both plans, which was especially important for a selection of some of the most powerful female heroes, who had been chosen to be the brides of Set when he returned.
However, in this reality, the drugs did transform the population of Earth into lizard creatures and Set did show up on Earth killing a bunch of heroes. It eventually came down to just a select group of heroes and villains who were resistant to the lizard virus, including Wolverine and Sabretooth. They took their battle to the lizard creatures and killed a whole bunch of them, but then Set's brides showed up and their combined might was too much for the remaining heroes. Scarlet Witch used her power to turn Wolverine into anti-matter, which collided with Aquarian's positive force field and they both went kablooey.
6 What If... Phoenix Had Fallen for Wolverine?
"What If...?" #60 was a special "Wedding Album" issue to coincide with Cyclops and Jean Grey's wedding, which was happening at that point in time. The issue was written and drawn by Kurt Busiek, Ron Randall and Art Nichols. The first two stories answered the questions of what if Scott and Jean had married very early and had then left the X-Men, and what if Scott and Jean had never fallen in love at all? The third story, though, dealt with how things would have gone had Phoenix hooked up with Wolverine after he joined the X-Men.
Things went pretty much the same as they did in the original continuity, but a big difference happened in the final battle against the Shi'ar. Just like the original continuity, Jean stayed close to her love, only this time that love was Wolverine. In the original story, Phoenix was able to focus on her love for Cyclops and calm herself down to control the Dark Phoenix long enough so that she could kill herself first. In this continuity, though, their bond was still fresh and thus not strong enough to calm her down (and really, Wolverine was never great at calming people down), so she couldn't kill herself before she turned into Dark Phoenix and then destroyed the whole universe.
5 What If... Hulk Had Killed Wolverine?
"What If...?" #50 came complete with a special foil variant cover, the only issue of "What If...?" to ever get a special cover. The foil cover showed Wolverine's adamantium skeleton in a grave, as this issue shows the Hulk killing him. John Arcudi and Armando Gil pick up from where the mid-point of Hulk and Wolverine's battle ended in "Incredible Hulk" #340, where Wolverine had torn out the guts of the now weaker grey Hulk. The Hulk managed to heal himself, but slowly, and thus the fight only slowly re-engaged. It gave time for Hulk's friends in the Hulkbuster van to catch up to the fight and break it up so that the two heroes parted company. Wolverine continued towards Dallas with the rest of the X-Men while Hulk got back with his friends in the Hulkbuster van.
In this reality, though, the Hulk healed a little bit faster and thus the fight picked up right away, with the Hulk in better shape and enraged. He decides to end Wolverine once and for all, attacking him with such savagery that he manages to sever Wolverine's adamantium spinal cord, a tremendous feat of strength for any Hulk, let alone the grey Hulk! Hulk's friends show up, but this time they were too late. Wolverine was dead.
4 What If... The X-Men Lost Inferno?
The creative team of Danny Fingeroth, Ron Lim and Keith Williams told the compelling story of Earth being conquered by demons in "What If...?" (Vol.2) #6, after the X-Men lost Inferno. Only a ragtag group of Doctor Strange, Thor, Baron Mordo, Shadowcat, Human Torch, She-Hulk, Spider-Man and USAgent remained unpossessed by demons. Meanwhile, Wolverine was leading the demonically possessed X-Men as the lead of the invasion of Earth. In their first battle, almost all of the remaining heroes were killed, including Thor (who covered for the escape of Strange, Mordo, Torch and Kitty).
Things got a bit better when the heroes were able to free Rachel Summers, the Phoenix. However, things got worse again when it turned out that Baron Mordo sold them out, which begs the question... why would you ever trust Baron Mordo? In the end, it was just Kitty, Strange and Rachel vs. Mordo, the Goblyn Queen and all of her possessed X-Men, including Wolverine leading the charge. Things took a dramatic change, however, when Wolverine accidentally killed Kitty Pryde. The shock brought him back in control of his body and he killed Mordo, but not before Mordo killed him, as well. Eventually, Rachel had to use the Phoenix Force to wipe the Earth clean and humanity had to start all over again.
3 What If... Wolverine Had Become the Lord of the Vampires?
In "What If...?" (Vol.2) #24 (by Roy Thomas, R.J.M. Lofficier and Tom Morgan), Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men were transformed into vampires by Dracula. However, Wolverine then quickly decided that he should be in charge, so he fought and killed Dracula, becoming the new lord of the vampires. He soon turned the rest of the superheroes of the Marvel Universe into vampires and ruled New York City, making sure to kill seemingly the only threat to their reign, Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme (using Juggernaut to kill him).
However, one man remained alive and killing vampires: Frank Castle, the Punisher. As it turned out, Doctor Strange was still out there in his astral form and he sent his Cloak of Levitation and Eye of Agamatto to the Punisher (which made for a striking visual). Punisher soon found himself fighting his way to Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum to gain access to the Darkhold, so that he could recite the Montesi Formula. During their battle, vampire Kitty Pryde was accidentally killed by the Punisher. Thus, just like the previous entry on this list, Wolverine was struck by Kitty's death that he regained his humanity. After first killing the Punisher (he did kill Kitty, after all), Wolverine then recited the Montesi formula, killing all of the vampires... including himself.
2 What If... Wolverine Killed the Hulk?
In "What If..?" #31, written by Rich Margopoulos and drawn by Bob Budiansky and Mike Esposito, Wolverine ended up killing the Hulk in their first encounter and it really went to his head. He began picking fights, thinking that he was so great because he beat the Hulk. Eventually, he accidentally ended up killing a guy in a bar fight. When James Hudson refused to cover up the killing, Wolverine went on the lam and ended up joining the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Magneto then had him go undercover as a new hero wanting to join the X-Men. Once Wolverine was on the X-Men, though, he ended up falling for Marvel Girl and realized that he wanted to be a hero. So, in the big battle where he was supposed to turn the tide in Magneto's favor, he instead turned on Magneto. However, after his big moment heroically deciding to not be a villain, Wolverine is then murdered by Magneto, when the Master of Magnetism used Logan's own claws to kill him. It's a really bleak story, honestly.
1 What If... Wolverine Was Never Deprogrammed?
In "What If...? Featuring Wolverine: Enemy of the State" #1, Jimmie Robinson, Carmine Di Giandomenico and Robert Campanella delivered yet another great "What If...?" story that involved Wolverine and Kitty Pryde. This time around, though, rather than Kitty Pryde's death shaking Wolverine out of being evil, it is Kitty's responsibility to take out a brainwashed Logan, who had been raised from the dead and turned evil by The Hand.
Robinson plays the whole "can Kitty turn Wolverine good again?" angle well, even after Wolverine murders Invisible Woman, Magneto and Captain America right in front of her. She still has hope that her friend can be saved, but ultimately she makes the final decision to phase her hand into Wolverine's brain and then solidify it, losing her own arm, but also killing him instantly. It's a brutal image but it's also a powerful story of Kitty Pryde making the most difficult of decisions. That's why it is our #1 pick.
What is your favorite Wolverine "What If...?" story? Let us know in the comments section!