A Look Back at What If #44 (1992)

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.

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?

Cover
The cover.

Early story

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.

15
Punisher/Venom goes against the criminals!

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.

Quality

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,

Conclusion

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Punisher/Venom and Spider-Man!

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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A Look Back at Solitaire #1 of the Ultraverse

When you fight evil, you do it alone.

solitaire2
Solitaire in action in Solitaire #1 published in 1993 by Malibu Comics under their Ultraverse line of comic books.

The concept of vigilante figures taking the fight against crime alone backed with resources (in the form of weapons) is a long running tradition in superhero comic books. DC Comics has its iconic Batman doing lots of detective work and fighting criminals many times on his own. Similar stories were seen with the Punisher and Daredevil over at Marvel.

When Malibu Comics launched the Ultraverse line of superhero comics in 1993, they added variety into the big mix. They had their own parallel to Marvel’s Punisher and DC’s Batman in the form of Solitaire and they boldly launched a comic book series of the character.

Released in late 1993 with story by Gerard Jones and art by Jeff Johnson and Barb Kaalberg, Solitaire #1 introduced readers to Nicholas Lone who wears a purple-and-blue costume with mask and fights criminals as Solitaire. He’s not just a brave, tough guy who daringly goes against thugs. He’s is very talented with martial arts, acrobatics and weapon use.

The comic book begins when thugs working for a crime lord called the King are about to catch a helpless lady who gets saved by Solitaire. The hero easily outmaneuvers the bad guys and he proved to them that he really is hard to hurt.

At his headquarters, the King made it clear to readers that Solitaire has been a problem to him for some time already and feels bad when the hero disrupts his operation. Solitaire meanwhile prepares himself for the next move against the King by returning to his hideout (an old theater), doing some research by computer and coordinating with his contacts on the streets.

Regarding the quality of the comic book, I say the script is nicely paced as it does a good job introducing Solitaire to readers while still having spare spotlight for the King. Within twenty-five pages, the hero got clearly defined as a man of action as well as a person with a purpose. His fight against crime is defined by key parts of his past especially with the fact that his own father – Antone Lone – is a crime lord.

When it comes to super powers, Solitaire has very quick reflexes which makes him a hard target for armed thugs. He also has healing factor which works rapidly and gives him a major advantage over the bad guys. In fact, the presence of the healing factor (which works like that of Wolverine) makes Solitaire more daring and more willing to take risks engaging the bad guys with violence. He can get stabbed and his body can be shot with several bullets and still he will recover quickly to get the job done.

Solitaire is indeed super and yet there is something intriguing with his personality. Apart from being the son of a crime lord, Nicholas Lone’s acquisition of his powers is a painful mark on him personally. This was because his father gave him those powers as a result of his attempt to commit suicide. The powers are the result of the installation of nano-machines into his body.

solitaire1

Overall, Solitaire #1 is a good and intriguing read. It really comes with a flavor that makes it distinct from other superhero-versus-criminals stories and the introduction of Solitaire alone is worth the cover the price. If you can find copies of Solitaire #1 on the back issue shelves of the comic book stores, I recommend buying it as well as the other issues.

It’s too bad that the Ultraverse ended after Marvel Comics acquired Malibu Comics back in the 1990s because like Prime, Hardcase and Prototype, Solitaire is very unique and intriguing at the same time. In my opinion, Solitaire is the most defining crime fighter of the entire Ultraverse and it’s too bad stories featuring him are not too many.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to your fellow comic book geeks and Ultraverse fans. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format for you to order.

Author’s Note: This article was originally published at my old Geeks and Villagers blog. What you read on this website was an updated and expanded version. In other words, this newest version you just read is the most definitive version