What If...? (2nd series) #78

Issue Date: 
October 1995
Story Title: 
What if the New Fantastic Four had Remained a Team? – 4 Against the Darkness!

Chuck Dixon (writer), Enrique Alcatena (pencils and inks), Tom Smith (colorist), Steve Dutro (letterer), Mark McLaurin (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief), Simon Bisley (cover art)

Brief Description: 

In an alternate reality, the original Fantastic Four perished during the battle with the mole people while Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man and Wolverine looked on. Determined to make up for their mistakes, the four band together as the new Fantastic Four. Working together, they were able to defeat many foes, including the members of the Sinister Six. However, the strain of maintaining a building was proving to be much for the new team members, who were used to all working solo. Eventually one day, the heroes were attacked by Lady Deathstrike and Abomination. Also joining the fray were Paibok the Power Skrull and Devos the Devastator, who took Mary Jane hostage. When it looked like the villains were going to win, Doctor Doom arrived on the scene and proceeded to incinerate them all, stating that nobody would defeat the Fantastic Four, any Fantastic Four, save him. With the battle complete, the four heroes decide to disband and go their separate ways.

Full Summary: 

It was the saddest day anyone could remember. Gathered in front of a large monument dedicated to the Fantastic Four, the preacher states the names Reed Richards, Susan Richards, Johnny Storm, Benjamin Grimm and Sharon Ventura. The world will never see their like again. And the boys were taking it hard. After the funeral, Spider-Man mentions to Hulk and Wolverine that he wishes he knew what to say. Lighting a cigar, Wolverine asks what else is there to say. They screwed up. Hulk adds some heroes they turned out to be.

They fought monsters and Skrulls and those skeevy Moleguys by the bushel-full. They’d defused a bomb that could’ve killed them all. Then that Skrull chippie aims that dingus at the Four. Richards was a second too slow and that’s all she wrote. That thing scrambled their molecules. Couldn’t even have an open casket ceremony. Spider-Man remarks that he just wishes there was something they could have done. As they walk by Agatha Harkness and Franklin Richards, Wolverine tells Spidey that he can’t let regrets eat him up. Spidey replies sure. It’s just that he feels like life handed him more than his share. Wolverine says he can relate to that.

Just then, Ghost Rider appears and tells them that the time for regrets is over. The time for retribution is at hand. When the Hulk asks what he’s talking about, Wolverine answers he doesn’t know but he’s just in time to re-light his cheroot. Ghost Rider tells them that the deaths of the Fantastic Four leave a void in their world. They were often the first line of defense against extraterrestrial evil. Hulk remarks that he’s impressed. That’s the most words he ever heard him string together. Spidey tells Hulk to hear the man out. Ghost Rider continues that they must fill that void. In that way they might redeem themselves for their error. Turning to Hulk and Wolverine, Spidey asks well, guys? Sounds like they have a responsibility.

So we moved into a new address. A tad roomier than our place in Brooklyn. Entering the lab of Four Freedoms plaza, Mary Jane asks Peter if he’s in there. When she asks him what he thinks, Peter tells her he’s a little busy right now. Turning around to take a look at her, Peter is shocked to see Mary Jane wearing one of the Invisible Woman’s old skin-tight costumes. Peter nervously asks her that she’s not planning on going out in that. Mary Jane replies that she’ll leave the grandstanding to him and the boys.

Moving over towards Peter, Mary Jane asks him what’s the haps. He looks like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders. Peter tells her that things were a lot simpler when he was a solo webslinger. Reed Richards left a lot of debts. How’d they ever hang onto this place? Mary Jane proceeds to tell Peter that he worries too much. Has he thought more about letting his Aunt May in on his little secret? Peter answers that he guesses it would be easier to take now. That’d be an upside of this gig. No more secret identity hassles. Sitting on Peter’s lap, Mary Jane tells him that they need to discuss something important. How does he like her costume? Peter smiles and says at least she’s willing to wear a costume.

In another section of the building, Logan tells Hulk to shake a leg. He’s not gonna hold this door all day. Carrying a large piece of equipment, Hulk asks Logan how he’d like that fancy steel skeleton of his hung out to dry. Logan tells him to just haul that hunk of junk to the freight elevator. As he does, Hulk states that he doesn’t get it. If they’re just gonna rent these floors out like bugboy says, then why don’t they just scrap this stuff steada haulin’ it upstairs? Logan tells him ‘cause they don’t know what these dealies do. That’s his day job. He only knows that thing he’s carrying ain’t an icemaker. Hulk says tell him about it. Then tell him when they’re gonna see some action. And some cold cash. He doesn’t do the hero thing unless it pays.

The boys had their work cut out for them. New challenges. New dangers. New bad guys (Paibok the Power Skrull, Lyja, Devos the Devastator). But they hung tough and came up aces every time. And the whole world took notice (including Doctor Doom).

There was also some old business to take care of. One night, in a dark alley, Spider-Man is confronted by the Sinister Six – Mysterio, Sand-Man, Doctor Octopus, Electro, Hobglobin and the Vulture. Doctor Octopus points out to Spidey that he’s narrowly defeated them each singly, by luck and by pluck, but he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance against all of them at once. Electro adds that, once they strip that mask off him, everyone he ever cared about is dead. Spidey replies well then, maybe they won’t mind if he invited a few friends. With ease the new Fantastic Four defeated the Sinister Six. Again and again the boys kicked butt.

I was so glad Peter had some friends with a common interest. Did I say “friends?” More like a family. And I played the little homemaker. Which was really weird. Because I wasn’t even allowed in most of the rooms. Petey and Bruce said they were dangerous. And that was weird, too. Bruce being Bruce all day and the Hulk at night. Still, I kept busy at my new job as the Four’s business manager. Petey and Bruce helped repair an old robot stuck in storage to help me record inventory and check out some of the weirder material. Reed Richards was into some seriously wild stuff.

Entering a room, Mary Jane discovers H.E.R.B.I.E. laying on the floor and on fire. Just then, two shadowy figures – Paibok the Power Skrull and Devos the Devastator corner her. Devos remarks that this one is not known to him. Paibok adds that his scanners reveal she possesses no extraordinary abilities. Smacking her across the face, Devos says she’s a human female, she must die. Paibok tells him not until they have found the Four, then they can die together.

Inside another room, the members of the new Fantastic Four are gathered. Peter informs them that they rented the empty floors out and that puts them in the black for a few months anyway. Dan Ketch adds that he thinks they could shave some costs if they stopped heating the sealed rooms. Logan says good idea. No use maintaining room temperature in the Negative Zone.

Just then, the Hulk interjects and says they’re s’posed to be worldbeaters and they’re sittin’ there goin’ over paperwork. Logan deadpans that he hates to agree with “shoulders” there but this is a stone drag. Peter states that he thinks this stuff is boring too. But it’s got to be done. The FF succeeded where other groups failed because they sweated the details. They were a family. Getting in Peter’s face, Hulk says lemme get this straight… Richards and them kept guys like Galactus and Doom in line ‘cause they were like a super-powered Waltons? When Peter tells him “well… yeah,” the Hulk starts laughing out loud. Logan tells him that it’s not that funny, doofus. The X-Men are like family. They stick together. When the Hulk asks him why he left then, Logan tells him that’s his business.

At that moment, Peter’s spider-sense begins to tingle and the tells everyone that trouble’s coming. Just then an explosion occurs. As the team readies themselves for action, Hulk asks why every psycho has to look up this address. Logan tells him he wanted action, bigfoot, he got it.

Emerging through the newly formed hole in the wall, Lady Deathstrike asks Logan that he thought to hide from her there. He should know that he is destined to die by the hand of Lady Deathstrike. The Abomination tells the Hulk what she says does double for him. When Deathstrike slashes her claws against Hulk’s chest, she reminds Abomination that they are to exchange opponents until the last. Turning his attention to Wolverine, Abomination tells him that means them, “shorty.”

Rushing towards Deathstrike, Hulk tells her that she’s gonna pay for that pain and she’s gonna pay for this shirt. Does she know what these things cost him? Picking Wolverine up, Abomination states that he’d laugh if he remembered how. Look at this shrimp. Slashing Abomination across the face, Wolverine tells him ‘least he doesn’t look like two tons of guacamole. Just then, Spider-Man tells Danny to go do his thing. They’re gonna need everything they’ve got. After Abomination slams Logan to the floor, he tells him that he’s gonna squish him into a grease spot. At that moment, Spider-Man swings in, kicks Abomination in the face and tells him to back off.

Reaching a nearby room, Danny stops in his tracks when he sees Paibok and Devos. Holding Mary Jane under his arm, Paibok remarks that he does not recognize this one. Devos states that he is a friend of the Four and so he dies. Paibok says with pleasure and proceeds to blast Danny with a fire blast. Flying through the air backwards, Danny remarks that he’s not going to do anybody any good if he can’t reach the bike in time. Once Danny reaches the bike, in a flash of fire, what was Danny Ketch melts to make way for Ghost Rider.

As she kicks Hulk in the chest, Deathstrike states that he is an undisciplined monster. He cannot stand before her despite his superior bulk. Hulk tells her to hold on. Now she’s insultin’ him, you… Nearby, Abomination charges towards Hulk with Spider-Man clinging to his back. Upon reaching the Hulk, he punches him and knocks him through a nearby wall and out of the building. Continuing to punch Abomination, Spider-Man asks what it takes to stop him. Slamming Spider-Man into the wall, Abomination answers more ‘n any of them four have.

After the Hulk lands on the street below with a loud thud, he exclaims “ow, that hurt” and that the “walking wastedump” is gonna feel it. Scaling the building with his barehands, Hulk says for every stinkin’ floor he fell… him and all his little playmates.

Back inside the building, Paibok tells Devos that they should finish the powerless human. Devos says it’s better to allow it to live. The weak boy might lead them to the others. Paibok concedes very well, then they leave him a finger to poin… Just then, Ghost Rider rides through them, exclaiming justice will be served. Flinging flame at his enemies, Ghost Rider states that they have spilled innocent blood. And they will pay in kind. Getting blasted with fire, Paibok points out that the boy is gone but he’s called forth the Rider. Devos says that the time for holding back is past, let the war begin. With that, he blasts Ghost Rider and knocks him backwards.

As Deathstrike and Abomination corner Wolverine, Deathstrike tells him that he should never have abandoned his mutant allies for these incompetents. Logan asks that she’s lecturing him on the company he keeps? They might not be too fantastic, but they’re the only four there and they’re more ‘n enough for their like. Just then, Ghost Rider lands in a heap on the ground after getting blasted by Devos. Holding Mary Jane hostage, Paibok says so… they are not the only ones who seek to destroy these imposters. Let the festivities continue.

Standing back to back, Logan tells Petey to cool his pipes. They all hang together or they’re… Peter cuts him off and says that creep has his wife. He turned his back once before and someone he loved paid for it. Not this time! With that, Peter leaps over and punches Paibok, which causes him to release Mary Jane from his grasp. With incredible speed, Paibok counters Peter’s punch with a punch of his own that slams Peter hard up against a wall. Simultaneously, Devos blasts Logan, knocking him to the ground as well. As Mary Jane holds Peter in her arms, the villain’s state now they die. Just then, Hulk reappears on the scene and promptly gets blasted by the combined might of the villains, knocking him out of the building again. When Deathstrike remarks that he cannot have survived this time, Paibok says then they are the victors. Holding Peter in her arms, Mary Jane calls them murderers. Paibok says she’s right. They are murderers. And the “heroes” in this room are only the beginning.

Just then, a voice defiantly says no and proceeds to incinerate them Paibok, Devos, Abomination and Lady Deathstrike. Hovering in the air, Doctor Doom states that no one may destroy the Fantastic Four, any Fantastic Four. No one may claim victory over his enemies. No one save him. His work done, Doom flies off.

Awakening, a bloody Peter Parker asks a Mary Jane if she’s there. Crying, Mary Jane tells him that she’s right there. She’s always right there. Picking himself up off the ground, Dan Ketch asks Logan if he’s okay. Logan answers that he will be. Looking at the charred remains of their foes, Logan says better than these losers, anyhow. Turning to the others, he mentions not much left of the clubhouse, huh? Peter says that figures. They weren’t much of a club. It took Doom to save them. Lighting up a cigar, Logan tells him not to beat himself up over it. There can only be one Fantastic Four and they ain’t it. When he asks if anyone has seen Banner, down on the street, a massive hole has been created. From inside, Hulk says that hurt.

So that was the end of the coolest apartment I’d ever lived in. Four Freedoms Plaza was demolished a year later. They put a hotel up in its place. And everyone went their separate ways. Peters says that maybe they weren’t cut out to save the world, at least not as a team. Well, he’s the big hero in her story. And he always will be.

Characters Involved: 

Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man and Wolverine (all new Fantastic Four)

Mary Jane


Abomination, Devos the Devastator, Lady Deathstrike, Lyja and Paibok the Power Skrull
Agatha Harkness, Captain America, Franklin Richards, Namor and various unnamed attendees at the original Fantastic Four’s funeral

Doctor Doom

Doctor Octopus, Electro, Hobglobin, Mysterio, Sandman and Vulture (all Sinister Six)

In Flashbacks:

Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura) and Thing (all Fantastic Four)

Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine

Various mole people

Story Notes: 

Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man and Wolverine first gathered together as a team in Fantastic Four (1st series) #347-349.

This issue covers what would have happened if the bomb that exploded in Fantastic Four (1st series) #349 had killed the Fantastic Four.

Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man and Wolverine would reconnect as a team in Fantastic Four (1st series) #374, brought together this time by Dr. Strange to bring the Human Torch to justice.

The Walton’s were a close-knit family portrayed on the American television series “The Waltons” that aired from 1972-1981.

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