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Are you a fan of Venom and you want to find out how he was presented within the realm of alternate realities within the Marvel Comics universe as told through their What If? monthly series?
Join me in exploring something new in What If #44, written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Luke McDonnell and published in 1992 by Marvel Comics.
The key scenario here: What if Venom had possessed the Punisher?
The story begins with Venom already armed with guns moving around the city. In broad daylight, he stalks criminals walking down the street. Using the symbiote’s ability to alter his looks, Venom approaches a certain Mr. Vance (accompanied by bodyguards) and kills him quickly in public.
It turns out, Venom is actually Frank Castle/Punisher already with the symbiote. With his intent to eliminate crooks, this new Venom daringly goes up against the gangs even without the usual hardware (weapons) since the symbiote already provides him with uncanny weapons.
Elsewhere in the city, Spider-Man (wearing his black suit that shared the same style as Venom) swings by a lady who begged him not to hurt her. This sparks Spider-Man’s curiosity since he believes that he succeeded in killing the symbiote that tried to possess him.
In another part of the city, Daredevil senses Venom passing by and recognizes the heartbeat as that of Frank Castle. He also senses other readings that something is odd. He decides to take a close look at Venom/Punisher.
Let me start with the core concept of this comic book: it’s a bold and great concept to explore, and it was well executed! To put things to perspective, I personally witnessed the debut of Venom in 1987 and back then seeing Eddie Brock/Venom as a new mortal enemy of Peter Parker’s was a tremendous event of its own. On top of that, having Brock already with the symbiote forming Venom together established an undeniable consequence that goes back to the alien world in Secret Wars where Spider-Man first got the symbiote. Gradually through the years in real life, Venom became one of the greatest super villains of not only Marvel but in superhero comics in general.
That being said, to show the Punisher getting possessed by the symbiote made a nice alternate reality. Frank Castle lost his family and this alone drove him to become a vigilante and often used lots of guns and explosives in his one-man war against crime. To see him have the symbiote and become the new Venom is both interesting and intriguing. I won’t forget how the Punisher used the symbiote to organically form guns on his arms and actually fire bullets.
One of the things I like most in this comic book was the presentation of the encounter between Spider-Man and Punisher/Venom. It’s a great alternative to the classic first encounter between Spider-Man and Eddie Brock/Venom!
Ultimately, Kurt Busiek’s storytelling is strong and engaging. Art by Luke McDonnell is serviceable at best but he really exerted effort to add impact on the action scenes which are plentiful to see. Lastly,
I really enjoyed reading this comic book. To put things in perspective, What If #44 was released several months before the Punisher and Venom actually appeared together in Venom: Funeral Pyre #1. This comic book was also released before Venom got his own mini-series with Lethal Protector.
If you are serious in collecting a hard copy of What If #44 soon, be aware that as of this writing and based on the ratings of Mile High Comics online, a near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $51 while a near-mint newsstand copy costs $153.
Overall, What If #44 (1992) is highly recommended.
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