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Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1980s arts and culture enthusiasts, Marvel Comics fans and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the early 1980s and examine an alternate universe portrayal of Wolverine and some other characters as told in one of the comic books of the first volume of the series What If.
Wolverine is one of the most iconic characters of Marvel Comics and he has been part of some of my retro reviews (click here, here, here, here, here, here and here). Wolverine made his first appearance in comics in Incredible Hulk #181 which was published way back in 1974 which marked the first conflict of the two Marvel icons. Years later, Marvel decided to revisit that event with a What If story.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at What If #31 published in 1982 by Marvel Comics with a story written by Rick Margopoulos and drawn by Bob Budiansky.
The story begins with Wolverine and the Hulk in combat with each other in a forest within Canada. It turns out, Wolverine was sent by Canadian authorities to capture not just the Hulk but also the Wendigo.
With the Wendigo down on the ground, Wolverine and the Hulk struggle with each other. The Canadian’s speed helped him dodge the green giant’s powerful punches and as the fight goes on, so does the impulse and emotion from within. Suddenly, Wolverine decides to deliberately disobey his orders by deciding to kill the Hulk. In a few but strategic strikes with his Adamantium claws, Wolverine kills the Hulk. The Canadian authorities eventually got rid of the corpses of the Wendigo and the Hulk.
Soon enough, news about the Hulk’s death spread like wildfire all over America catching the attention of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and General Ross and his daughter Betty…
To start with, I can say that I immensely enjoyed this alternate portrayal of the events that happened in relation to Wolverine’s first-ever appearance in comics. For one thing, the concept of Wolverine actually killing the Hulk is not only shocking on its own, it also set a chain reaction of events that involved or affect a whole lot of other characters within the Marvel Comics shared universe.
Let me start with Wolverine himself. As the story was set before he joined the X-Men, you will see Wolverine as a super-powered agent of Canada whose career really goes down as he failed to restrain his wild self from killing not once but twice. This results in a Wolverine who is deeply troubled with guilt and becomes desperate believing that running away and hiding will somehow solve his dilemma.
Wolverine’s entry into a gang of evil mutants led by Magneto (note: this comic book’s main villain) is itself worth getting this comic book. This shows Magneto – always obsessed with his belief that mutants are superior to humans – putting his diabolical plan into action with Wolverine as the key participant. This itself led to Wolverine’s encounter with the X-Men (the one team he was destined in reality to be with).
The creative team clearly exerted a lot of effort to not only ensure the plot made sense but also have a solid structure that can accommodate twists, intrigue and superhero spectacle altogether complete with enough room for character development. Lastly, I should say that this comic book’s climax is both compelling and shocking to read.
What If #31 (1982) is indeed a great Marvel comic book to read. It has a very engaging alternate universe portrayal of Wolverine and this paved the way for a new and fresh approach on showcasing how the X-Men and Magneto’s gang reacted with the clawed Canadian. While the scope of the consequence of Wolverine’s killing of the Hulk ultimately ending up narrowing on Marvel’s mutants could be disappointing for those who seek a bigger impact on other Marvel universe characters, what was shown here in this comic book still made sense and ultimately turned out believable. This comic book also has another tale exploring what if there was no Fantastic Four which ultimately ended up as a decent additive.
Overall, What If #31 (1982) is highly recommended.
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