A Look Back at What If #72 (1995)

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.

Spider-Man is not just the icon of Marvel Comics co-created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. He is an icon of American culture! From comic books to video games, toys, movies, TV shows and merchandise, Spider-Man’s legacy will always be visible to the public. The fandom of the icon is also undeniable. As if that was not enough, a futuristic, sci-fi version of the superhero was realized in 1992 when Marvel Comics launched its 2099 comic book universe with Spider-Man 2099.

Not even Stan Lee himself anticipated how famous Spider-Man would become.

“”It’s so indescribably thrilling to realize that so many people really care about a character I dreamed up and wrote so many years ago. Although it’s probably lucky I didn’t know how big Spidey would become in later years—because, if I suspected that, I’d have been too nervous to write the stories, worrying if they’re good enough for posterity to judge,” Lee stated.

Considering his relevance and attraction to the public, Spider-Man unsurprisingly got featured in issues of the What If monthly series. What I’m about to review is a comic book that explores what would it be had Spider-Man became a murderer.

You read it right!

Anyway, here is a look back at What If #72, published by Marvel Comics in 1995 with a story written by Simon Furman and illustrated by Craig Brasfield.

Cover
The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Peter Parker/Spider-Man alone in a dark prison cell. A flashback begins set inside a particular warehouse showing how he (dressed as Spider-Man) savagely beat up a man whom he believed was responsible for the death of his beloved Uncle Ben. By looking at the man’s face, Spider-Man noticed that the guy he just beat up was the fugitive (a burglar) who ran past him…the one man whom he could have stopped when he had the chance. Spider-Man realizes that he just killed the man and starts regretting it.

Suddenly a loud voice from outside the warehouse startled him. It turns out New York’s police officers are located outside and they know he is in the warehouse. They called Spider-Man to surrender. He thought about doing the right thing to surrender but eventually decides to escape and go home.

The next morning, Peter Parker is at home with Aunt May. The guilt of killing a man is bothering him personally and he knows how much his aunt depends on him. He knows that she is already struggling to make ends meet for them both. Aunt May notices Peter looking bad from a lack of sleep.

Then Peter goes to school feeling very burdened with guilt…

Quality

11
Peter Parker bothered by guilt…

I can clearly that this is a very well-written story crafted by Simon Furman. Not only did Furman really strongly focused on the very theme of this comic book, he went the extra mile exploring a darker side of Spider-Man brought out by the burden of guilt. I also enjoyed the scenes crafted showing Spider-Man to not only act different but also become more unsure of himself and even becoming afraid to use his super powers. Worth mentioning is how Peter Parker handles his relationship with Aunt May while carrying the guilt deep inside.

The comic book is not a 100% pure character exploration. There is still a good amount of superhero spectacle here and there to keep you entertained. There are also a few other classic Spider-Man characters that fans will enjoy such as Flash Thompson, Dr. Connors/The Lizard and Sandman. Furman cleverly created nice encounters between Spider-Man and the two mentioned villains which also added further to the hero’s development.

Visually, What If #72 is nice to look at thanks to Craig Brasfield’s work. He proved to be good in drawing Spider-Man although I find his art on the Lizard better and more detailed to look at. When it comes to superhero action, Brasfield delivered the goods.

Conclusion

8
With the guilt bothering him, Peter Parker is unsure of doing something in a bad situation.

What If #72 is quite compelling to read. It explores how Spider-Man would act while carrying the guilt of accidentally killing someone. That being said, I should say that this comic book achieved its goal of emphasizing its concept – what if Spider-Man became a murderer? – but it ended on a whimper. Remember how the 2012 James Bond movie Skyfall literally broke rules and traditions of James Bond storytelling only to revert back before the movie ended? That’s how I look at this comic book. It went deep with its concept but not all the way. How exactly did it end? You should read the comic book to find out.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of What If #72, be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $17 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition is priced at $51.

Overall, What If #72 (1995) is recommended.


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