A Look Back at What If #9 (1990)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Long before the renaissance of Hollywood-produced superhero movies even started, the X-Men established itself as one of the most popular franchises of Marvel Comics. What some readers do not know was that while the X-Men indeed started in 1963 under Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Marvel’s mutants actually started getting successful in the mid-1970s with the 2nd X-Men team (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Sunfire, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Banshee and Thunderbird) handled by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum.

That new team literally made a splash with readers with the release of Giant-size X-Men #1 in 1975. That comic book, which is very valuable now, saw Charles Xavier recruiting new mutants to form a new team with Cyclops being the only pioneer remaining. Subsequently the X-Men monthly series of that era saw lots of stories of this particular team solving problems and fighting evil. Along the way, Chris Claremont got hired as the new writer and then the rest was history.

In this retro comic book review, we will take an interesting look at what would have happened had the 2nd team of the X-Men died on their first mission.

This is What If #9 written by Roy Thomas, drawn by Rich Buckler and published by Marvel Comics in 1990.

The cover.

Early story

The comic book begins with the Watcher of Marvel’s universe explaining what actually happened during the X-Men’s mission in Giant-size X-Men #1. Then he offers an alternate version of the events asking “What if…the new X-Men had died on their very first mission?”

The new reality begins in Scotland where Moira McTaggert receives a telegram from the United States. The message read that her friend Charles Xavier is ill which compels her to leave immediately. Before leaving, a little girl named Rahne comes to Moira followed by Craig who asserts his authority on her. Subsequently Moira and Rahne arrive at Salem Center, New York, greeted by Hank McCoy/Beast who confirmed that he was the one who sent the telegram to her.

Moira finally meets Xavier who expressed surprise to see her. As it turned out, Xavier had isolated himself in a room using Cerebro. After separating from Xavier, Beast explains to Moira what happened previously to Cyclops, Jean Grey, Havoc, Polaris and Ice Man on a far away island (read Giant-size X-Men #1). Cyclops was fortunate enough to survive and return to Xavier who was compelled to use Cerebro to trace mutants around the world (note: the 2nd X-Men team).

When trouble hits the world…

This leads to events told in Giant-size X-Men #1 but something drastic happened…


Storytelling is easily the strongest and most defining element of this comic book, especially if you are fortunate enough to read what happened in Giant-size X-Men #1 from 1975. The alternate plot by Roy Thomas is pretty intriguing and highly dramatic, and yet it still manages to add some spectacle to maintain balance.

What If #9 strongly delivered on what it promised what would have happened had the 2nd X-Men team died on their first mission complete with the narrative shifting dramatically through the eyes of Moira McTaggert, Xavier and Beast.

In terms of characterization, I really enjoyed the dramatization of the close friendship between Xavier and McTaggert. Having read lots of X-Men comic books through the decades, I should say that McTaggert was often limited to supporting roles or guest appearances. As seen in this comic book, she and Xavier made a solid pair of mentors. Lastly, the portrayal of Xavier being somewhat broken and regretful is wonderfully executed. Adding to that, the portrayal of McTaggert as a strong provider of direction and support for a fragile Xavier is memorable.

When it comes to the visuals, Rich Buckler scored nicely. The characters are all recognizable (with Beast looking a bit more visceral than how he actually appeared in the 1970s to 1980s) and their facial expressions were nice to see. Buckler also proved to be good with visualizing the action and the suspenseful parts.


Very nice artistic presentation by Rich Buckler. Readers of 1975’s Giant-size X-Men #1 will be able to relate with this.

Overall, What If #9 is a great comic book to read. It is the closest thing you can get when it comes to seeing Marvel’s mutants led by Xavier with McTaggert working behind the scenes together. Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler really scored a homerun with this non-canon X-Men story!

For the comic collectors reading this, based on the rates at MileHighComics.com as of this writing, a near-mint copy of this comic book’s regular version is $24 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition is priced at $51.

What If #9 (1990) is highly recommended!

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