There may be no more powerful combination of two words in the Marvel universe than “what if?” Rather than a rhetorical question about hypothetical possibilities, Marvel’s version of What If? demotes a very specific type of alternate timeline. And the weirdest Marvel What Ifs? are hands down some of the most ludicrous stories put to print in the publishing giant's history. These crazy Marvel What If? stories are an anthology series of alternate realities spanning over half a century, usually exploring a specific moment in the continuity and positing what would have happened if things had gone differently. In most instances, these stories are narrated by the all-seeing Uatu the Watcher, an extremely powerful being in the Marvel universe.
Comic books are rife with trips to alternate dimensions and parallel timelines, but what sets the What If? brand apart is its complete and total disregard for any sort of continuity. Fans have known from the beginning that What If? tales “don’t count,” and this freedom has allowed decades of writers to craft some impressively bizarre stories. In the world of Marvel, it appears that the answer to the question “What If?” is almost always “something crazy.”
In the mainstream Marvel continuity, Iron Man and Doctor Doom really did take a trip back to the time of Arthurian legend, so the premise behind What If... Iron Man Was Trapped in the Time of King Arthur? isn’t all that bizarre. In this version of events, Doom leaves Tony Stark stranded in the past, which leads to Stark teaming up with King Arthur to take on Morgana le Fay.
Arthur is killed in the battle, leading Iron Man to take up the mantle of his fallen friend and become the King of England, inheriting both the throne and Excalibur. Stark ends up reigning in peace for a hundred years, which is more than most real world kings can claim.
Poor Spider-Man just can’t catch a break when it comes to family. What If... Spider-Man’s Parents Destroyed His Family? played on a storyline in which the Chameleon used robotic-duplicates to trick Spidey into thinking his parents were alive. In this version of events, the evil robots discover Spider-Man’s secret identity, show up to his house, and murdered Aunt May and Mary Jane.
They also frame Spider-Man for the murders, leaving him on the run from authorities and the Avengers. Spidey goes on a vengeful rampage, and ends up killing both his robot-parents and the Chameleon, before giving himself up to the police. It's a pretty massive bummer.
For a team based on genetic mutation, the X-Men have a surprising amount of conflict with supernatural forces, including more than a few battles with vampires. Dracula once attempted to turn Storm into a vampire, and What If... Wolverine was Lord of the Vampires? sees him succeed. Storm then manages to turn the rest of the X-Men into vampires, but Wolverine’s healing factor allows him to maintain self-control and kill Dracula, becoming the ultimate vampire king.
Undead Wolverine proceeds to travel the world, wiping out threats to his rule like Doctor Strange and turning other superheroes into vampiric allies. In the end, Doctor Strange’s spirit inhabits the body of the Punisher, and the two heroes team up to take out Wolverine. They fail, but in a moment of clarity Wolverine reads from the Darkhold and eradicates all vampires from the planet, including himself.
The cover of What If... Thanos Joined the Avengers? features a striking image of the purple, wrinkle-chinned titan wearing Captain America’s costume. Set during the epic cosmic event known as Infinity, the story sees Thanos joining Earth’s forces in their war against the Builders, rather than using the conflict as an opportunity to take over Earth.
Thanos’ aid helps make short work of the Builders, but his intervention comes at a cost. The world soon finds itself under the bootheel of a tyrant wearing the colors of their former protectors.