What if ...? Featuring Wolverine

Issue Date: 
February 2006
Story Title: 
Public Enemy Number One

Daniel Way (writer), John Proctor (pencils & colors), Dave Lanphear (letters), Tony Harris (cover), Nathan Cosby (assistant editor), Mark Pannicia (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Hector Espejo, a kid nicknamed the Watcher, has with the use of his computer discovered a parallel dimension. There, the man called Logan has his first meeting with Matteo DiPriggia, who is in reality a prisoner at Riker’s Island and writer of his own book. In the parallel dimension, the local time is the year 1926. Logan visits the Blackheart bar, where he meets up with Gerard, an old friend of his. Gerard orders everyone else of his customers to leave, as he and Logan has to talk, and the customers to as told. Gerard explains that his wife had a son, but unfortunately Gerard himself is dying unless he gets some help from doctors. He agreed to go visit them with the help of some people who want alcohol in return, but Gerard needs Logan to keep his bar open in the meantime. The following night, Logan goes to sleep in the wilderness thinking about Gerard’s offer. He suddenly hears noises, and notices that the bar has been torched! Gerard’s family has been killed and, before his own death, Gerard reveals that a mob boss named Scarface from Chicago is responsible for it. Logan swears revenge and travels to America. There, after getting beaten up by local thugs, Logan gets helped out and meets Matteo. They combine forces and attack Scarface’s hotel. As Logan fights Scarface, Matteo uses his influence to gain explosives and such, which allows him to blow up Scarface’s hotel, and Scarface himself as well! Logan manages to survive the blast and notices that nothing has changed on the streets. Police officers are still corrupt and criminals running wild. Logan wishes to put an end to it, and Matteo agrees to help out.

Full Summary: 

The Watcher’s introduction:
My name is Hector Espejo. But only Hector’s family calls him that. The kids at school tend to refer to him by some of his many nicknames, which aren’t very nice. They call Hector “dork,” or “geek.” “Nerd,” even. But online, it’s different. There, Hector has only one name: the Watcher.

Hector is not a hacker. He’s much better than that. Or worse, according to both the FBI and the Secret Service. THE worst, in fact. But luckily for them, Hector has almost no interest in classified government files, as he got over that years ago, back when he was ten years old. What Hector is looking for… well, at first he didn’t even knew it existed. He’s not sure that people would call what he discovered is a “parallel dimension,” but okay, people can call it that. And it’s totally cool.

Take the following one, for example: it’s a biographical novel from the forties, written by a prisoner named Matteo DiPriggia. Evidently, in this parallel dimension, Matteo was partners with kind of a scary man.
end introduction

Rat Portage, Ontario. Spring, 1926…
Two men are walking towards a beautiful city. A skipper sarcastically proposes that he’ll give Logan a dollar for the beaver pelts and twenty dollars each for the bearskins. Logan mentions that he needs the skipper to put an edge on his skinning knives as well. Mateo noticed that the blades are worn pretty bad and thinks Logan better goes buy some new ones. Logan stops walking and takes a look around, telling the skipper that, some day, him buying new blades might happen. The skipper wants to know if Logan is going to see Gerard. Logan refuses to answer and goes to a cabin at the docks, leaving the skipper behind. The skipper whispers that he doesn’t like Logan going into the cabin unarmed.

Logan walks into the cabin, which is actually a bar run by Gerard. Gerard greets Logan and congratulates him as well. Logan is confused and doesn’t know what to say. Gerard playfully punches him in the face, smiling that his wife got a boy. Logan gets up again after the punch, looking unpleased at Gerard. He shouts at everyone to run out of the bar now, and they do, realizing that Logan and Gerard got some talking to do. Logan and Gerard stare at each other for a little while, until Logan punches Gerard into his face, causing the guy to bleed. Gerard calms down and offers Logan a seat.

As they drink for a while, Gerard adds that he doesn’t care much about the current situation. He realizes that his wife wasn’t doing much work anyway, and that she even threatened to cut most guys who came near her. Logan wants to know if that’s true, why Gerard punched him. Gerard admits he only did that because everyone expected him to do it. He has to keep up his appearance, as the cutthroats around the place smell someone’s weakness like a coyote smells blood.

Logan wants to know if Gerard is going to throw the girl out. Gerard won’t, as he figured she could stay at the bar, but only if Logan stays with her. Logan is startled, unsure what to response to that. Gerard thinks it will do Logan some good, living inside, no more long winters, no more sleeping in a canoe. He thinks it’s a good life. Gerard admits he sure enjoyed it, though he believes he might have enjoyed it a little too much, but that’s a different matter. Gerard reveals to Logan that he is… dying!

He explains that there is a hospital down south in Minnesota, where his wife is from and she told Gerard that the doctors could help him. Gerard recalls that he has run from nothing his whole life, but this time, for his wife, Gerard will. He adds that he is meeting with some good organized guys from Chicago. With this prohibition these guys got going on in the United States, Gerard learned that these guys are looking for a steady supply of alcohol, and paying top dollar to get it. A whole lot more than Gerard is currently earning.

Gerard concludes that he’s got the barrels all stacked up and ready. Those guys are bringing up the trucks and their money as well. Once that is done, Gerard is done. Him and his wife are heading south. Logan wants to know what that has got to do with him. Gerard tells him to look at the bar. He explains that a lot of guys depend on this bar to keep themselves alive, to keep them warm when the snow comes. This bar isn’t just a saloon; it’s an outpost. Gerard reveals that he came to this place with nothing and doesn’t want to leave with everything. That’s why Gerard wants Logan to take over running the Blackheart bar.

Logan isn’t sure about it. Gerard begs him to do it, because everyone around here is scared of Logan and that makes him perfect to run it. And besides, Gerard adds, it’s a whole lot better place to raise a family than out in the wilderness. Logan mentions that he isn’t a businessman and also that he was never meant to be part of Gerard’s family. He believes that he belongs in the wilderness.

Later that night…
Logan is sleeping at the wilderness, nearby his canoe. Suddenly, he hears a lot of noise and stares in front of him, only to discover that Gerard’s bar has been torched! Logan quickly runs towards it, and notices Gerard and customers running outside of it. Logan asks Gerard if there’s still someone inside the bar. A badly injured Gerard mentions with his final breath that thanks to the whisky the flames quickly spread themselves. He also reveals that the culprit is the man from Chicago. The man people call… Scarface!

Logan watches as Gerard dies, and the surviving customers ask Logan what he’s going to do. Logan notices a shirt with a death skull on it, and picks it up, ready for action.

(Matteo voice-over)
“That’s how it all began. But I didn’t meet up with Logan until much later, when he came to Chicago. My old man had tossed me out when I was ten, but I was doing okay. I traded on information, made a few bucks doing “procurements.” But I made my bread and butter by picking the pockets of the drunk who came in and out of the “blind pigs.”

“That’s what we called the bootleg liquor joints. The cops knew about these places but turned a blind eye for a certain price. That’s the way it was back then… as long as you paid, you played. But if you didn’t pay, it got ugly real fast.”

Logan gets pushed out of a bar into a dark alley, held captive by several thugs. They punch him into his face, not liking the fact that Logan keeps asking so many questions about Scarface. The tell Logan that if their boss wants to see him, he’ll find Logan himself.

(Matteo voice-over)
“I’m not sure why I did it. Maybe I was feeling generous because I had just scored a hefty wad of bills on that last lift. But before I knew it, I was giving the universal signal for “square cop on the block.” Worked like a charm.”

Matteo whispers on his fingers, lying to the thugs that police officers are arriving. They buy into it, telling Logan that he’s lucky and run away, leaving him behind to heal from his wounds. Matteo walks towards Logan and notices that he isn’t from around Chicago. Logan tells the boy to go away, but he refuses. Matteo explains that he won’t do that, because his name is known all over the south side. Logan can ask for it to anybody. When somebody needs something, they all come to Matteo asking for help. Logan thinks that, if that’s true, it’s a good thing he found Matteo.

(Matteo voice-over)
“At that point, I really didn’t know what I was getting into with this guy. But then again, I didn’t really have a choice. And it only got worse. Turns out, Logan was looking for none other than Public Enemy Number One. The Big Fella, himself. I told Logan what I knew: old Scarface was notorious for never being where you, or the police, looked, yet he was always popping up where you least expected him.”

“The best bet to catch Scarface anywhere, though, would be the top floor of the Metropolis Hotel on Michigan Avenue, as it’s the base of his operations. The place was heavily guarded though, and not just by wise guys. Scarface bankrolled a small army of crooked cops, every one of them hard as nails and vicious as mad dogs when it came to protecting the hand that fed them. In other words, Logan didn’t have a chance, but since the guy paid, I played.”

Standing nearby a truck outside the hotel, Logan checks with Matteo if he knows what to do. Matteo knows it all, and gives Logan what he asked for. Logan takes the gun and wants to know how many bullets he’s got. Matteo smiles he got just what’s in the gun. That’s fine by Logan. He puts the gun into the pocket of his pants, thinking he’ll use his knife when he can. As Logan walks inside the hotel, Matteo reminds Logan that he knows he wants payback, but warns that this plan is suicide. Logan knows that but doesn’t care, and walks inside the laundry service of the hotel.

(Matteo voice-over)
“That’s all Logan said as he left, going into the heart of gangland with nothing but a knife and six bullets. He said he had a plan. He didn’t tell me what that plan was, but Logan did tell me my part. The way I figured it, though, all the plans in the world wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans with what Logan was going up against.”

Logan makes it safely inside the laundry service. He turns on the power from the steam pipes, and climbs them up, holding his knife ready for action.

Meanwhile, the actual hotel guests are boiling up inside and go complaint to the manager. He claims to be aware of it and that they are doing their best to do something about it, but apparently they are currently unable to get downstairs to the basement. It seems that the door is jammed.

(Matteo voice-over)
“But I did my part anyway. One thing of use Chicagoans fear more than anything else, is a fire.”

Suddenly, the hotel catches fire and all the guests run outside in full panic! Logan, in the meantime, walks through the hotel halls, until he catches a scent. He takes out his gun and kicks a door open, where behind it are lots of security guards waiting for him! Logan tries to fight him, but gets quickly outnumbered and handcuffed.

A few moments later, Logan wakes up in another room. A voice explains to him that he has just been beaten by Chicago’s finest, yet also most expensive. Logan realizes that he’s dealing with Scarface. Scarface mentions that he really dislikes that name. Logan doesn’t know why, as the name still beats “dog.” Scarface, staring at Logan from behind his desk, remains silent and reveals to Logan the scars on his entire body!

Scarface gets up, reminding Logan that nobody calls him a dog anymore, either. He walks towards Logan, noticing that he’s wearing his old shirt with the skull on it, wanting to know the reason why. It isn’t scaring Scarface at all, so he doesn’t see the point of it. It actually makes him smile a bit, as it remembers him how he burned up that woman and baby, and how he took everything away from Logan, just like he did to Scarface all those many years ago.

Logan growls. Scarface explains to “James” that there will be no more games. No more hiding in a mine or somewhere. This game is ending right now. Scarface takes out a gun and points it towards Logan’s head. Logan wonders if Scarface knows what he did in those mines. He smiles that he worked on the stupid crew that worked there, and that he got real good at it.

(Matteo voice-over)
“What I didn’t mention before is that Logan had some other things in that pouch of his too. This Logan asked me to procure for him earlier that day. Like some electrical wire, an alarm clock and all the dynamite I could scrounge. I wasn’t sure exactly what he was going to do with it all, but at eleven o’clock that night, I found out in a big way.”

Matteo places all the things Logan asked him to get nearby the hotel, and causes the entire building to explode!

(Matteo voice-over)
“The papers made a big deal about Scarface getting blown to Kingdom Come, but nothing really changed on the streets. There were plenty of other mob bosses willing to take over where the Big Fella left off. Within just a couple of days, it was back to business as usual.”

On the streets, a policeman holds Matteo back, telling him he didn’t paid yet. Matteo defends that he already paid this week and wants to have a break, as he’s got to eat. The officer doesn’t care, telling Matteo that his kids also have to eat and wants money. Matteo has no choice and hands some money to the officer. Matteo walks into an alley, where a voice asks him how he can stand it.

(Matteo voice-over)
“Logan had always scared me, but seeing him there like that, with the skull and crossbones across his chest, the guy looked like the angel of death. I was terrified, but also felt comforted. Because people like me, coming from where we come, we don’t get to see angels of any kind.”

Matteo is surprised that Logan survived that explosion. Hesitant, he responds Logan’s question by guessing that he’s used to it all, thinking this is the way it is and will always be. Logan doesn’t think so, confident that it’s all going to change. And that he’s going to be the one responsible for it. But, he’s going to need help. Matteo confidently promises Logan that he’s got it. Standing ready for action, Logan jokes that he’s going to need more guns, and a whole lot more bullets if they want to succeed.

(Matteo voice-over)
“Right then and there, I made the decision to follow this man into hell because I knew that the worst that could happen was end up in heaven. The men that we would punish, however, would not be so lucky.”

Characters Involved: 

Logan/James Howlett

Matteo DiPriggia


Gerard’s wife and son (both unnamed)

Scarface’s goons and hotel guests (all unnamed)
customers at Gerard’s bar (all unnamed)

In introduction pages:
Hector Espejo (Watcher II)

Story Notes: 

First appearance of Matteo DiPriggia, Scarface, Gerard and his family. This issue also surprisingly marks the first appearance of Hector Espejo, who is apparently going to be a new version of the Watcher. In all the previous What If… stories, those stories got introduced and concluded by Uatu, the original Watcher who lives on the Blue Area of the Moon.

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