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Welcome back, X-Men fans, superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! It’s time to revisit the What If monthly series of comic books of Marvel Comics that lasted from 1989 until 1998. The old comic book I’m about to review involves the X-Men, Cable and more.
Before starting with this newest retro comic book review, I should state that I was never a fan of Cable even though I read lots of X-Men-related comic books that included him. When I think of Cable, I immediately think of the New Mutants and X-Force comic book series.
You must be wondering what has Cable and the X-Men have to do with the old What If issue I’m focusing on. We can all find out in this look back at What If #46, published by Marvel Comics in 1993 with a story written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Tod Smith.
The story begins inside a tavern in New York’s famous Central Park. Inside, Charles Xavier, Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Jean Grey have a discussion about mutant matters until a small saucer-shaped device flies inside and disrupts everything with its sonic frequency. Suddenly a second flying saucer comes in, touches Scott’s shoe and explodes powerfully killing him, Jean and Xavier. Others got injured by the explosion and the tavern ends up burning.
Outside the tavern, Cable is seen running away and someone points at him as someone who must be responsible for the bombing. As it turns out, the deliberate killing of Xavier, Cyclops and Jean Grey was the result of a division between Cable’s New Mutants and the X-Men in connection to the recent return of Xavier from deep space.
I’ll start with the story Kurt Busiek came up with. This one explores an alternate time in which Charles Xavier returned to Earth (after escaping from the Skrulls in deep space) only to find the X-Men in disarray which compelled him to restore things the way they were. This is not to be confused with his return in the canon storyline of the Muir Island Saga.
That being said, Busiek explored what would it be like had Xavier tried to resolve mutant matters not only with the team of mutants he founded but also with other teams such as the New Mutants (already led by Cable), X-Factor (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast and Archangel) plus several other mutants. I really liked the way the mutants reacted to Xavier given his long absence from Earth, how his dream matters and turned out irrelevant to them as individual mutants, and if he still has what it takes to lead them. In some ways, Xavier looked like a politician trying to convince his constituents that his vision is still the best for them and their interests.
What really made the story running was the start of the division between the mutants when Cable rejects Xavier and points out that the X-Men founder’s devotion to appeasement is dooming mutants. All of these led to the shock opening scene and in terms of writing quality, it was all justified.
The scenes that happened AFTER the burial of Xavier, Cyclops and Jean Grey literally raised the stakes for the rest of the comic book. I don’t want to spoil further plot details but I can assure you all that Kurt Busiek’s script is very sold and there is so much to enjoy here especially if you are knowledgeable enough about the X-Men and the other parts of the Marvel Comics universe (note: the Avengers, Stryfe, Freedom Force and Fantastic Four also appeared).
Visually, the work of Tod Smith looks a bit rushed. His art here is not bad but I felt it could have been better had there been more time to polish his work. In fairness to Smith, his drawings on most of the characters still made them recognizable and he showed pacing with regards to the panels and angles used. I should say he does a decent job showing multiple characters fighting each other simultaneously.
If you ask me, What If #46 (1993) is pretty entertaining and engaging to read thanks to the strong writing as well as the daring exploration of how the comic’s main story impacts others within the Marvel Comics universe. It has drama, action, intrigue and most notably it explores a new concept about how the X-Men would turn out after the death of their founder. It also raises questions on whether or not the X-Men are doomed without Charles Xavier’s presence.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of What If #46 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $40 while the near-mint newsstand edition costs $120.
Overall, What If #46 (1993) is recommended.
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