What If...? (2nd series) #114

Issue Date: 
November 1998
Story Title: 
Brave New World

Jay Faerber (writer), Gregg Schigiel (penciler), Jose Marzan Jr. (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Paul Tutrone (colorist), Frank Pittarese (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

25 years after the Secret Wars came to an end, the heroes and villains that participated in it are still stranded in Beyonder’s world, without knowing a way to go back home. They all now live in peace with each other; some have even married and had children. Doom’s son with the Enchantress, the ruthless and ambitious Vincent von Doom murders his father and recruits several youngsters, offspring of former villains so together they can rule this planet. Ultimately, though, Vincent and his recruits are defeated by five offspring of retired heroes: Crusader, Balder, Mustang, Firefly and Torrent. Doom also reappears alive and well and teleports away with his son to punish him. The ex-heroes/villains are reunited with the Hulk, who was wandering in the wilderness for years trying to find a solution for a way back home. He now has the answer: they will be able to return if they combine Kang’s technology with Thor’s hammer in order to navigate through interdimensional portals and find their own Earth. Three weeks later, when they are about to try it, they are startled by the appearance of the Watcher. Convinced his appearance means the trip back to Earth will be dangerous, they all decide to postpone it for the time being. However, the five youngsters decide to travel on their own through the dimensions and arrive to Earth, only to find it ruined and taken over by Sentinels. They decide to stay in this Earth and fight the robots.

Full Summary: 

Battleworld, 25 years after the Secret Wars

Three teenagers, Balder Blake (son of Thor and the Enchantress), Sarah Rogers (daughter of Captain America and Rogue) and Clinton “CJ” Barton Jr. (son of Hawkeye and She-Hulk) stand above an inscription fixed on a rock on the ground which reads: “Let this mark the spot where both sides laid down their weapons, and the Great War came to an end.” Close to the inscription lies Thor’s hammer, the Mjolnir.

Balder exclaims that today is the day: the day where he will lift his father’s hammer. CJ highly doubts that: Balder has been trying to lift his old man’s hammer for the past three years. Balder disagrees: today he has turned eighteen; today he’s a man. CJ is willing to bet money. Sarah reprimands him for not supporting Balder. Balder thanks her for knowing she supports him at least.

Balder kneels down and tries to lift the Mjolnir. Despite his hard efforts and the sweat dripping from his face, he doesn’t succeed. CJ tells him he’s sorry and assures Balder his time will come eventually. Balder thanks him but reminds him he doesn’t know what it’s like. CJ never had any problem lifting his dad’s bow since he was a baby. Similarly, there is no enchantment preventing Sarah from lifting her father’s shield. Still, Sarah tells him she has faith on him and suggests they all head back to town.

Back to town – which stands amidst the huge desert that is this planet – the whole superpowered community – sole inhabitants of Battleworld – is throwing a big surprise party for Balder’s 18th birthday. Basically, everyone is present: all the former heroes and villains that are living in Beyonder’s world for the last 25 years, ever since they were stuck here: Captain America, Rogue, Wolverine, Storm, Absorbing Man, Human Torch, Wasp, She-Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye and many others.

Balder can’t believe they threw this party - he’s exhilarated! Captain America asks his daughter whether Balder suspected anything to which she replies “Not a thing, pop.” Steve tells his wife, Rogue, – whom he calls Carol, indicating that her Ms. Marvel persona is dominant – he is not sure whether he approves of his daughter being a good liar. With a smile, Rogue/Carol assures him she got that from her.

Nearby, while people are sitting in couches, drinking and chatting, Hawkeye confesses to his wife, She-Hulk, he still can’t get over the fact half of the people in this room used to be vicious criminals. She explains it’s been twenty-five years; people do change, especially given that much time and isolation. Just like them, the ex-villains have been separated from just about everything they love for so long it’s bound to cause changes.

Absorbing Man and Wrecker gossip about Spider-Man and his status. Absorbing Man insists he saw Spidey eating two weeks ago, whereas Wrecker insists he hasn’t eaten for years ever since the whole symbiote mess. Their gossip is cut short by Spider-Man approaching them after hearing them with his enhanced senses and clarifying he doesn’t appreciate gossip-fodders. Nearby, the ever-grumpy Wolverine complains to his wife, Storm, about Wasp’s strong perfume. After all these years, she still can’t wear a perfume that doesn’t make his nose burn from three blocks! Holding their infant son, Storm reminds him it’s a party and he should have fun to which he replies “Yeah, Ororo, but I just had fun not five years ago.”

Outside this community, in Doom’s castle, the young Vincent von Doom holds a book and admits to his father, Doctor Victor von Doom he finds this Napoleon fellow quite inspiring. Doom assumes his son’s studies are going well. Vincent assures him Ultron is a fine teacher. Between the tales of his father’s youth and his studies on famous Earth rulers, Vincent is rather galvanized. Doom reminds him Earth is a very different place from the current world they inhabit. Should they ever find their way home, Doom will undoubtedly want his son by his side but no action is to be taken in the current world. “Are we clear on that?” Doom asks.

“If mother were here” Vincent dares to say, only to be reminded by Doom the Enchantress is not there and never will be again and it’s in Vincent’s best interests to forget her. Doom repeats his question: “Are we clear?” to which Vincent coldly replies “Yes, sir.”

Walking in a path adorned with statues of heroes who fell during the Secret Wars, teenager Kendall Logan (daughter of Storm and Wolverine) asks Iron Man whether he thinks about Earth anymore. It bothers her she’s never seen Earth and probably never will. She envies her mother’s connection to the planet and the fact she was once thought to be an earth goddess. Iron Man opens up his helmet: it is actually Professor X that now dons the Iron Man costume. Xavier admits the Earth is indeed a wonderful place. However, he reveals that mutants like Kendall and himself were hated and feared there. He often wonders how his fellow mutants have fared since he and his X-Men left that world.

In Doom’s castle, Vincent announces to his father he has made his decision: Doom is wrong. This planet is not that different from Earth; at least, not for Victor’s purposes. Just because Doom is old and has let this planet domesticate him, there’s no reason Vincent shouldn’t be true to his nature. He tells his father to turn back and face him. When Doom does so, Vincent pulverizes him with a blast, exclaiming “The king is dead. Long live the king.”

Meanwhile, CJ and Trudy Creel (daughter of Titania and the Absorbing Man) are sitting under a tree in the open air. Trudy tries to force CJ admit that Trudy is better looking than Sarah Rogers! CJ jokingly tells her that if she keeps beating up on him, the Hulk will come and take her away like their folks used to say. Trudy laughs; she hadn’t really thought about the Hulk since she was a little girl. She never believed there was really this big green monster that headed for the wilderness at the end of the war. CJ reminds her stranger things have happened. He tells her he has to go now. He promised his dad they’d go target-shooting.

After CJ leaves, Vincent approaches Trudy. She is not delighted to see him and addresses him as “Vinnie,” asking him what he wants. He insists she calls him either “Vincent” or “Malefactor” and adds he has a proposition for her.

Nearby, Matthew Storm (son of Human Torch and the Wasp) sits on a rock with his girlfriend and teases Tucker Reece (son of Molecule Man and Volcana) by challenging him to use his molecule-control powers to cover up the nasty scars in his face. An angry Tucker insists he has told Matthew his powers don’t work that way; it takes too much concentration. Matthew keeps taunting him by saying he doesn’t believe Tucker can make them disappear. Wanting to prove he can, Tucker concentrates and his scars are gone. Matthew and his girlfriend walk away, with Matthew mockingly claiming he doesn’t see a big improvement anyway! As the scars return in Tucker’s face, he is approached by Vincent and Trudy who have a proposition for him.

Later that night, Vincent and Balder, the two half-brothers (they share the same mother) meet in the desert. Balder is puzzled by Vincent’s choice of meeting place and is untrustworthy of his half-brother. Vincent offers Balder and his friends a part in restructuring this planet. Balder angrily retorts that Vincent has become unhinged. “It’s that silly mask, isn’t it?” he adds. Vincent warns him not to be petulant with him; after what Balder’s father did to their mother Vincent ought to slay Balder where he stood. On second thought, though, Vincent admits he could be accused of hypocrisy given what he just did to his own father.

Infuriated by Vincent’s accusations, Balder tries to punch him, only for Vincent to vanish and rematerialize himself behind Balder’s back. He is disappointed to see his half-brother isn’t very bright: he didn’t catch on anything their mother taught them about sorcery. Again, Vincent offers Balder and his friends a chance to join him so together they can rule this planet. Vincent has already gathered some allies. Balder angrily reminds him there has been no war in this planet for over twenty years. Vincent explains it was because their parents were too old and they’ve been too young: but not anymore. Before departing, Balder promises they’ll stop him.

The following morning, Captain America asks his wife whether she has seen his shield. He was looking some of his old stuff in his closet and he can’t find it anywhere.

Cap is unaware that his daughter took his shield. Sarah, Balder, CJ, Matthew and Kendall fly towards Doom’s castle – Matthew, Kendall and Sarah using their natural flying abilities with the latter also lifting a rock carrying Balder and CJ thanks to her superhuman strength. The quintet lands not far away from the castle, preparing for their mission. They address each other with codenames: Sarah is Crusader, Balder is Bravado, CJ is Mustang, Matthew is Firefly and Kendall is Torrent.

Assuming the position of leader, Sarah tells Balder he is their ticket in. He will cloak them all with a spell of invisibility. Sarah is counting on Vincent not expecting them this soon; they still have the advantage of surprise. They will try and outflank the enemies, converging on the castle from different positions. Firefly insists they should have told their parents; after all, they spent half their lives doing this sort of thing. Sarah reminds him that just as taking over this planet seems to be Vincent’s legacy, defending it is theirs. Torrent asks who gets to say “Avengers Assemble?!”

Later, inside the castle, Balder is slyly approaching his half-brother. Benefactor turns on him, telling him he wondered when he’d get there. He could easily see through Balder’s flimsy spell and now counteracts it on both Balder and his friends. Indeed, at that moment in another part of the castle, just as CJ is about to attack Teddy Garthwaite/ Raze (son of Wrecker) the invisibility spell is cancelled and Raze is able to see CJ. The duo starts fighting.

Simultaneously, Matthew is fighting Tucker (now also known as Moleculon). Tucker assures him he’s going to make him sorry for ever making fun on him. Matthew replies his talk is as cheap as his mom is ugly! Enraged, Moleculon takes away all of Matthew’s oxygen molecules, making him fall unconscious on the ground.

In the battlements of the castle, Kendall takes on Trudy (now also known as Chokehold). As Kendall flies above, Trudy mockingly asks if she’s going to rain on her. Kendall releases her lightning bolts on her. Chokehold absorbs the bolts and laughs, reminding Kendal her dad is the Absorbing Man. As Torrent growls, she asks her whether she has forgotten who her dad is. Outside the castle, Sarah easily renders Gator (son of the Lizard) unconscious, despite his claims that he’s smarter than his dad.

In the castle, Balder and Malefactor are fighting. Malefactor is taunting him by saying it’s a pity the Enchantress left his father after such a short time; had she remained with Balder, she’d have taught him more about sorcery. Balder reveals that if she had stayed with Thor, maybe Vincent’s father wouldn’t have killed her! “You lie!” Vincent screams and captures Balder in bonds of magic. Sarah flies in from the window assuring him it’s true. She also asks him to call the invasion off so they can end this peacefully. In response, Vincent blasts her miles away with a repelling spell. Having captured Balder, he confesses it’s too late to call his invasion off; it’s already begun.

Indeed, at that moment, the former generation of heroes and villains are using their combined strengths to fight Doom’s robots that raid their community. Cap screams “Avengers Assemble,” the first occasion after quite some time. Thor admits that if he had time to retrieve his hammer, this battle would be finished. Absorbing Man boasts that the robots weren’t briefed that he is capable of absorbing anything they throw at him!

While the fight against the robots continues, Storm asks her beloved Logan how he is faring. While tearing a robot apart, Logan assures her she shouldn’t worry about him; she should worry about the kids. Nobody knows what they are up against. Nearby, the villain Klaw, who has apparently sided with Victor, strikes Spider-Man with a sonic blast, causing him to scream with pain, momentarily revealing that underneath Spidey’s symbiote there is no flesh anymore: only Peter’s skeleton remains! Human Torch rushes to his aid, knocking Klaw out and noting that he may be sick of Spidey after all these years but not that sick. Nearby, Molecule Man uses his powers on two robots, sarcastically noting he wants to see how well they’ll function when they are made of granite.

In the castle, Tucker is about to squash the diminutive-sized body of Firefly with his foot when the Hulk suddenly appears out of nowhere, urging the boys to play nice! Tucker mumbles their parents weren’t lying; Hulk is real; and then faints from the shock!

Nearby, Balder breaks himself out of the spell Vincent contained him with, just as Sarah reappears. She informs Vincent that his spell carried her all the way to the original battlefield and there she picked up the famed Mjolnir, which she now proudly carries! Vincent is even further startled when his father reappears alive and well. Vincent thought he had killed him. “Hardly” Doom replies. Just like the Enchantress, Doom also knew how to conjure a teleportation spell. How could Vincent think he could succeed where so many others have failed? Doom tells his son he doesn’t tolerate assassination attempts, especially from his family. He assures him he shall pay and they both teleport away.

Sarah and her gang, together with the youngsters Vincent recruited – who are now chained up, return to their folks. Sarah and her friends are exhilarated for having won. Much to the teenagers’ surprise, the former heroes/villains are all upset with the superheroics of Sarah and the others. Cap accuses Sarah of taking his shield without permission and also stealing Thor’s hammer. And all these, for violence! They’ve spent their entire lives teaching their children that violence is to be used as a last resort. Sarah tries to apologize. Thor intervenes, telling Cap that, if Sarah was able to lift Mjolnir, then she should keep it as hers.

Cap also welcomes Hulk/Bruce Banner back. Human Torch asks Hulk what made him come back; they thought he had given up on them “puny humans.” Hulk explains that when Galactus and the Beyonder killed each other and Reed Richards in the process, thus robbing them of their best chance to return to Earth, Hulk took it upon himself to find them a way home. It took him over 20 years to just sit down and think but now he has finally found a way for them to go back home.

Three weeks later, they are all gathered in the desert, presented with a strange machine. Hulk explains that his problem was focusing on one solution. Two years ago, he realized the answer was in utilizing two different forces. Thor’s hammer long had the ability to open interdimensional portals, although they could never find the right pathway. Now, using the 30th century technology of the deceased Kang, they can navigate through the dimensions and find Earth.

Suddenly, the Watcher makes his appearance, much to the shock of all present. Whne CJ asks who this being is, Cap grimly informs him what they all know: that this being who observes Earth – and apparently this world, as well – only reveals himself when something bad is about to happen.

Later that night, Sarah, CJ, Balder, Kendall and Matthew are the only ones standing by Kang’s machine in the desert. Their parents don’t want to risk the trip to Earth because the appearance of the Watcher is an indication of the trip being dangerous. Sarah and the others want to convince them otherwise; the only way to do that is by taking the trip themselves. Donning Cap’s shield and Thor’s hammer, Sarah uses the Mjolnir to open the interdimensional portal and Firefly activates Kang’s machine to find Earth. The five teenagers pass through the portal. They are indeed transferred to Earth.

It is night and the kids are impressed by the stars on the sky. They all walk through a park, enthralled by the beauty of this world. Kendall is astounded by how dark the buildings are and Matthew reminisces of his mother telling him stories about how the buildings are lit up during the night. Sarah urges them to try and find the Avengers Mansion so they can help them get back to their folks.

Suddenly, a Sentinel appears identifying them as unauthorized mutants and orders them to surrender. The five teenagers make short work of it. They are puzzled, though, as there was nothing about Sentinels patrolling New York City in their history lessons. The worst is ahead of them, though, as they reach a vantage point from which they overlook the city in flames and hundreds of Sentinels ruining it. Kendall realizes what has transpired: Professor X had told her mutants were being persecuted when they had left the Earth. Somehow, anti-mutant hysteria evolved into this nightmare: Sentinels slaying mutants.

Balder nervously asks if this was the danger the Watcher was trying to warn them about. Sarah replies that maybe it is. But, since they can’t go back to their world with the hammer alone, she suggests they stay here. She doubts whether the Avengers – if there are any left – will be much help in getting them home, considering the condition of the city. After all, protecting the world is their destiny and birthright. She explains they shouldn’t give up entirely on getting home but it is their duty to bring peace to this planet or die trying.

“Are you with me?” she asks them. They all put their hands on top of each other, symbolizing their union. Kendall says she can’t find a more dignified cause. Balder remarks that, as his dad says, songs will be written about this day. CJ hopes he has brought enough arrows! And Matthew admits he knows he will regret this. Nevertheless, they all stand together, intent on saving this world, no matter what the cost.

Characters Involved: 

Bravado/Balder Blake, Crusader/Sarah Rogers, Firefly/Matthew Storm, Mustang/CJ Barton, Torrent/Kendall Logan (new generation of heroes)

Chokehold/Trudy Kreel, Gator, Malefactor/Vincent von Doom, Moleculon/Tucker Reece, Raze/Teddy Garthwaite (new generation of villains)

Doom’s robots

Absorbing Man, Captain America, Dr. Doom, Hawkeye, Hulk, Human Torch, Klaw, Professor X (in Iron Man costume), Rogue/Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Spider-Man, Storm, Thor, Titania, Volcana, Wasp, Wolverine, Wrecker (former generation of heroes/villains)

Unnamed infant son of Storm and Wolverine

Unnamed girlfriend of Matthew Storm

The Watcher/Uatu


Story Notes: 

This is the last issue of the series. It lasted for 9 years (July 1989-November 1998) and 114 issues.

The issue's story title is taken from the same-titled novel by Aldous Huxley, which is set in a dystopic future.

Various heroes and villains were once transported to the Battleworld, an artificial planet created by the entity known as Beyonder, with the purpose of battling each other. After the Beyonder vanished, the heroes and villains returned to Earth, thus bringing an end to the so-called “Secret Wars.” [Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1-12] The reality of this issue diverges from a change in the events of #12, most notably Reed Richards’ death, which robbed the heroes and villains from a chance to return to Earth, thanks to Reed’s genius.

In the proper 616 Universe, the heroes returned to Earth by reversing the effects of the machine that had brought them there in the first place. The villains returned by way of Molecule Man’s power. However, in this alternate reality Molecule Man hasn't apparently helped them. The reason for that seems to be that the Molecule Man used to force limitations on himself since he isn't naturally destructive. In the 616 timeline, Doctor Doom, who was powered by The Beyonder at the time, removed those limitations from Molecule Man. With the limitations removed, Molecule Man had more confidence to get him and the other villain's home. However, in this alternate reality, Doctor Doom failed to gain The Beyonder's powers, hence Molecule Man never became that confident in regarding the use of his powers. [Thanks to Robert McCurdle]

The powers (and sometimes appearances) of the new heroes/villains are basically reiterations of those of their parents: Bravado can conjure some magic like the Enchantress. Malefactor wears a mask and armor reminiscent of Doom’s and has also been taught magic by his mother. Crusader has superhuman strength and the ability to fly like Rogue. Mustang is green-skinned like She-Hulk and equips bows in battle like Hawkeye. Firefly assumes a diminutive-sized body with wings like Wasp and unleashes bolts of fire like Human Torch. Chokehold can absorb energy like the Absorbing Man. Torrent can manipulate the weather like Storm. Gator has reptilian features and abilities similar to the Lizard’s. Moleculon can manipulate molecular structure like Molecule Man and Raze has superhuman strength like Wrecker.

Rogue permanently absorbed Ms. Marvel’s psyche in Avengers Annual #10, leading to her having two personalities in her head. In the 616 universe, Rogue was taken over by Ms Marvel’s personality for the first time in Uncanny X-Men #182, shortly after the end of the Secret Wars.

In the scene where Kendall and Professor X walk through a path, one can see statues of heroes and villains that died during the Secret Wars. There are statues of Reed Richards, Dr. Octopus, Julia Carpenter/Spider-Woman II, Thunderball, Henry Camp/Bulldozer, Magneto, Monica Rambeau/Captain Marvel II and Cyclops.

In the proper 616 universe, Spider-Man first encountered the alien symbiote and bonded with it in Battleworld in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8. Apparently, in this reality, the symbiote has bonded permanently with him after so many years, as there appears to be no human flesh on Peter anymore.

Strangely, the ex-heroes/villains act as if they are trapped in an alternate dimension, given they have to open an interdimensional portal in order to return to Earth. In the Secret Wars limited series, Battleworld was clearly presented to be a planet rather than a parallel reality.

The Watcher’s appearance at the end is also a nod to the fact the Watcher was the series narrator and provided the historical context in each issue for most of the early part of the What If second series.

Chokehold, Gator, Malefactor, Moleculon and Raze will later be summoned to the Citadel at the End of Time by the Time-Keepers, amongst other summoned Avengers from timelines gone awry, with the mission of holding off the Avengers while the Time-Keepers prepare the Chrono-Cannon, which will eliminate all such realities that threaten their existence. Among those opposing them will be a second generation of Avengers from alternate timelines including Bravado, Crusader, Firefly, Mustang and Torrent. The Forever Crystal will be destroyed, causing them all to return where they came from. [Avengers Forever #11-12]

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