What If...? (2nd series) #12

Issue Date: 
April 1990
Story Title: 
What if… the X-Men had stayed in Asgard?

Jim Valentino (storyteller), Sam DeLarosa (inker), Tom Vincent (colorist), Phil Felix (letterer), Craig Anderson (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Several X-Men and New Mutants choose to stay in Asgard and make their lives there. Meanwhile, Loki schemes against his half-brother, Thor. Having turned him into a frog, Loki tries to convince the Aesir to elect Storm the new ruler of Asgard. Not only are they attacked by Thor the thunderfrog but also by an unholy alliance of the Norn army (its ruler Karnilla wanting to see Balder the Brave on the throne) and the army of the dead, as Hela wants revenge on Storm. The Aesir and mutants receive help from the dwarves and the wolf prince’s people. The battle takes a turn when Volstagg inadvertently destroys Surtur’s sword, the source of Loki’s power, allowing Thor to return to normal. Suddenly, Balder promises to marry Karnilla if she stops this war, a bargain to which she agrees. Still, Hela wants revenge and, with the help of the Valkyrior Dani Moonstar, kills her. Afterwards, Thor suggests Storm indeed become Asgard’s ruler, so he can return to Earth, and she does. Dani Moonstar takes Hela’s place, Cannonball becomes king of the dwarves and the nine worlds know peace as they never have before. And Loki finds himself tricked by They Who Sit Above in Shadow…

Full Summary: 

The Watcher describes how the X-Men journeyed to Asgard to rescue the New Mutants who were abducted by Loki. In the Golden Realm, some found their life’s desires and others did not. The time came for them to leave when Loki, the prince of lies, offered them a fateful choice – should one stay, all must remain – and they chose to go.

But, in another reality, things happen differently, all due to the changing mind of a shy, love struck young girl, Wolsbane, who bursts out she cannot leave her love, the wolf prince Hrimhari. “No!” Cyclops exclaims. Doesn’t she realize what she’s done to the rest of them? So be it, Loki announces. The die is cast. Wolverine snarls “no.” They all have a flaming say in this! True enough, the New Mutants’ co-leader Mirage announces, but consider what they are going back to. Prejudice… hatred! And look at what they have here, a fresh new start on a world without the persecution their kind has always known. But they do not belong here, Colossus points out. She does, Dani retorts. So do Rahne and Bobby. Sam’s got a place here too. Rogue can touch these people without fear of absorbing their personalities. And what about Storm? She’s got the powers of a goddess again!

Ororo amends it would be selfish of them to stay. Perhaps, Dani agrees, but wouldn’t it be just as selfish for the others to leave? Fully half of them could make new lives here and they would always regret leaving, so who’s being selfish? Either way, it’s a split decision. Either way, some of them lose!

Cyclops agrees there is a lot to what she’s asking and he won’t force his will on the rest of them. So they’ll put it to a vote. They know how he, Mirage and Wolfsbane feel, what about the rest? Karma, Wolverine, Warlock, Shadowcat, Colossus, Magma and Phoenix all quickly explain that they have no place in Asgard.

Storm refuses to answer several times. Sunspot and Nightcrawer are lured by Asgard’s adventurous lifestyle. Cypher by the things he can learn, Rogue by the possibility to be able to touch. Sam has found a home with the dwarves, Magik is the new Enchantress and Storm too finally decides she will stay. Nine to stay, eight to go, Loki announces, but to show them all that Loki is fair and just, he shall reverse his edict (to vie and win the favor of Those Who Sit Above in Shadow), so he will allow the unwilling mutants to leave and return to Midgard.

And so, the remaining X-Men and New Mutants form a larger group of X-Men together with former X-Men Angel, Beast and Iceman and the returned Marvel Girl. The New Mutants no longer exist as a team and X-Factor is never born.

While those who stay in the fabled realm drink deeply from the cup of life and savor all it offers them. Wolfsbane finds a joy she has never known before frolicking the flowered hills with her wolf prince. Cypher is cherished among the Asgardians, who so respect his ability to decipher the ancient scrolls that they make him the realm’s first official librarian, a scholar among warriors.

Cannonball marries dwarf king Eitri’s daughter, Kindra. Sunspot and Nightcrawler live out their fantasies, enjoying battles. Rogue finally finds love with the dashing Fandral. Mirage enjoys her life as a Valkyrie, riding her winged stallion Brightwind. And Magik finds bliss in pursuit of arcane knowledge. In all, their lot is far more joyful than it has ever been in their short lives.

At the amphitheatre of the Althing, the citizens of Asgard have gathered to elect a new leader after the death of Odin. Frigga, widow of Odin, yields the floor to Loki, who presents his champion to rule the golden realm: the goddess of thunder Storm. He reminds them that she has taken the place of Thor as the lord of living lightning in Thor’s absence. Of course, he doesn’t tell them that he has trapped Thor in the form of a humble frog on Midgard. He suggests she should take Odin’s place as well, as Thor surely would if he were here.

In Nornheim, its queen, Karnilla, watches these proceedings angrily. She wants her beloved Balder to win the Althing, not this usurper. Still, she tries to calm herself, the loyal host would never champion a mortal! Would they not? a newcomer asks, the goddess of death Hela. She asks Karnilla to set aside her magic and listen. She explains that Loki has cast a spell of believability upon the Aesir. They will accept his words as truth and they may grant the mortal the boon. While Karnilla wishes to see Balder upon the throne of Asgard Hela also wants to repay the mortal woman for denying her a soul. She suggests a pact and Karnilla agrees.

Back at the Althing, a flash of blue and red sweeps over the wall and faster than the eye can follow it scoops up Loki and flies away with him. Storm orders the Asgardians to arms. A demon has seized their prince! She twirls her enchanted mallet and takes off in pursuit. Led by Fandral and Hogun, as well as several X-Men and New Mutants, the host of Asgard does likewise.

Outside the fabled city, Volstagg is seeking a cure for his ailing daughter, Hildy, a sickness he believes to be caused when the child discovered the sword of Surtur (from which, unbeknownst to anyone, Loki is draining magic through a huge enchanted engine), a sickness he believes can only be cured by finding the blade.

Meanwhile, in the castle that used to belong to the Enchantress, Magik has spied on Karnilla and knows of her pact with Hela. She decides to summon help from one of the few she trusts.

In the meantime, Storm finds her quarry and can scarcely believe her eyes. Loki is being threatened by a 6’6’’ frog, which is wearing the outfit and wielding the hammer of Thor. Loki assures her it’s a demon and orders her to slay it. Still under Loki’s subtle spell, Storm attacks the thunderfrog, unaware he is the real Thor. And so it is that the lords of the living lightning clash their mystic hammers, in battle joined.

Earlier, Loki had transformed Thor and now he weaves a spell to regress his mind, robbing him of the power of speech. However, Loki realizes that Storm is no match for Thor. But at that moment, the Host of Asgard approaches. Loki addresses them and points them to how Storm is acquitting herself against the powerful demon, battling to the death for all of Asgard!

At the mention of the word “death,” Hela feels this is her cue. The next moment, she appears on the battlefield, demanding Storm’s soul in retribution for the one she stole.

Sunspot leaps to Storm’s aid. But, with a gesture of her hand, Hela robs him of life.

As Sunspot falls, elsewhere Vostagg finds the sword of Surtur. After gently setting down Hildy in a momentary spell of weakness, he knocks over some rocks which create an avalanche that falls on the engine, destroying both it and the sword of Surtur.

And at that instant, with the mystic energy Loki had been draining from the sword severed, Thor is himself once more. Of course, Loki has a contingency plan, namely calling an army of giants from the east to war. And at Hela’s signal her army of the dead rises from out of the north. Each warrior hopes to prove his worth in this battle that he may at last be granted entrance into Valhalla. Karnilla’s troops of Norns ride out of the north-east and together these three armies surround the host of Asgard.

And, while the battle is joined, Hela gets ready to claim her quarry Storm, who staunchly refuses to beg for mercy. Hela raises her hand which then is pierced by an arrow. Again, Dani Moonstar intends to fight her off, claiming Storm’s soul for the Valkyrie.

As Mirage confronts Hela, Thor enters the fray, momentarily forgetting the cause of all the carnage, Loki, who tries to flee. However, before he can make his getaway, some mysterious beings announce they would have words with him.

Furious, Hela vows she will have Dani’s heart! The warriors of Asgard are outnumbered, despite Thor’s presence, but help comes. In answer to Magik’s summons, Cannonball arrives at the lead of a fifth army of dwarves to help the Asgardian cause while Magik, the new Enchantress, is battling the Nornqueen Karnilla. She is not very successful at that but, before Karnilla can harm Illyana, Balder the Brave orders Karnilla to stay her hand. He tells her to let the child go and recall her warriors, then he will be her king forever.

Back at the battlefield, Rahne’s wolf prince leads his pack into the fray on Asgard’s side. Hela still wants to claim Storm’s soul but she strikes her hammer upon the ground, a blow so powerful it knocks Hela off her feet. Ordered by Karnilla, the Norn army retreats, which is however too late for some. The dwarf king Eitri falls, as does the wolf prince Hrimhari, who dies in Wolfsbane’s arms.

Magik magically alerts Thor, who turns around to see the trouble Mirage and Storm are in against Hela. He joins them, ordering Hela to cease her hostilities and recall her armies as Karnilla did, or he is forced to join his sister thunderer in smiting her. Hela refuses, assured he cannot harm her.

At Thor’s command, the Valkyrior surround Hela and the air crackles with energies. A blinding bolt of eldritch energy is loosened by Moonstar and kills Hela.

In its wake, the assembled armies cease their fighting. The only sound heard is the clang of weapons as they fall. A silence grips the battlefield, broken only by Dani’s pronouncement that Hela will rest in Valhalla.

A moment later, Magik teleports in, bringing Cypher, who has read the lore. Illyana asks Dani if she is ready to receive his pronouncements. Her eyes inhumanly dark, Dani replies there is no need. She knows what she must do.

The armies return to their points of origin, to bury their dead, to mourn their losses. And in Asgard, three days hence, the Althing is reconvened.

Thor himself announces that he is here to renounce his claim to his birthright. He is a god of two worlds, Asgard-born but the guardian of Midgard. A burden he would not lay down lightly. Since his chosen successor, Balder, has become the king of the Norns, he has chosen a second to rule in his stead. Though mortal born, her courage and valor are like one born to their realm. Twice she stood against Hela, that she might deny the goddess of death the soul of her comrade in arms. She led the battle and made their victory possible and disposed of Hela. And through her enchanted mallet Stormbringer, she will always be in special contact with him and Mjolnir, should they be needed. It is their choice. Will they accept as their sovereign Storm, goddess of thunder?

And so, Thor returns to Earth to protect humans, either with the Avengers or on his own. Storm sits on the throne of Asgard, her reign wise and just, based on the old laws transcribed by her vizier, Cypher.

Cannonball becomes King Sam the first to the dwarves and his wife expects a child. He also made a lasting peace between Asgard and the dwarf realm.

Nightcrawler joins the Warriors Three in place of Fandral, who has left them to marry Rogue.

Mirage has replaced Hela as goddess of death and, for the first time in recorded history, the kingdom of death and Asgard are at peace.

Balder the Brave married Karnilla and took the throne of the Norns, while in the forest Wolfsbane finds some peace in the children her wolfprince has left her with.

And so, peace rules in the nine worlds, as each, an outcast in their own worlds, takes a place of honor there and Loki is told by They Who Sit Above in Shadows that they have seen the death and destruction his machinations have bought. Loki announces they do him a disserve: did he not make it possible that the mortals would come to rule several kingdoms? And through them bring peace to Asgard? They agree, though it was never his intent. They have decided to grant him the boon he requested of them. And so they give him his heart’s desire.

Loki had requested the power to rule the Nine Worlds, and now he does – at the end of time. Asgard lies as a charred ruin careening a black hole. And Loki, the god of mischief, the lord of lies, slowly goes mad with the jest…

Characters Involved: 

Nightcrawler, Rogue, Storm (X-Men who stay in Asgard)

Cannonball, Cypher, Magik, Mirage, Sunspot, Wolfsbane (New Mutants who stay in Asgard)

Angel, Beast, Colossus, Cyclops, Iceman, Karma, Magma, Marvel Girl, Shadowcat, Warlock, Wolverine (new X-Men team)


Balder the Brave

Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg


Host of Asgard

Eitr, king of the dwarves

Kindra, his daughter

Hrimhari, the wolf prince

Karnilla, the norn queen



They who sit above in shadow

Story Notes: 

The story is based on Uncanny X-Men Annual # 9 & New Mutants Special edition # 1.

Thor # 363-366 are the background of the story.

Midgard is Earth.

At the time of the story, Odin is believed to have perished fighting Surtur.

The idea that Rogue can touch Asgardians with impunity seems to come out of nowhere. In fact, she absorbed some of Thor’s power in Avengers Annual #10.

Karnilla’s characterization here, as in the X-Men story, doesn’t make sense. Actually, she wants Balder for herself and is furious when he has to leave to become king of Asgard.

Storm fought for Wolverine’s soul in Uncanny X-Men Annual #9.

Hildy’s sickness is caused by the Sword of Surtur.

Loki made the deal with “They Who Sit Above in Shadow” in X-Men / Alpha Flight #1-2.

Issue Information: 
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