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Yeah, Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, BUT DID HE SMOKE WHILE HE DID IT? – What If? #14

November 10, 2011

Before we do anything else, let’s take a lingering look at that cover. There are four magnificent things going on, apart from the broader “World War II IN SPACE” pants-soiler. I’ll lay them out succinctly, as elaboration would only detract from their value.

Nick Fury is smoking a cigar in a space helmet. Dum Dum Dugan is wearing his bowler hat in a space helmet. Reb Ralston is twirling a space-age lasso. And Gabe Jones IS BLOWING A GODDAMN SPACE TRUMPET. In space no one can hear you scream, BUT NO COLD VACUUM CAN STOP A TRUMPET.

Well. Moving on.

Nick Fury is one of those characters who’s utterly ripe for What Ification. His unabashed manliness is a bottomless well for humor. Apologies to Razor Ramon, but it can truly be said of Fury that he “oozes machismo.” He’s the sort of man who’d recite his wedding vows with a lit stogie clenched between his teeth. And his bride would LOVE him for it. Any What If? with him as its subject has a chance to outstrip Conan’s foray into 1977 in terms of awesomeness. It’s an uphill climb to be sure, but I’m sayin’ there’s a chance.

Here’s Uatu the Watcher, with a head and biceps whose normal proportions have been inverted, to give us the set-up for this Gary Friedrich/Don Glut/Herb Trimpe/Pablo Marcos affair:

Who loves ya, baby?

This alternate reality has Enemy Mine-looking reptilians living on an alter-Earth on the other side of the sun, Harry Turtledoveian lizard-men that want to wipe out and/or enslave humanity. Hence the World War II of this reality isn’t an intramural affair, and a middle-aged Hitler is presumably churning out his crappy art with a big smile on his face.

But who cares about that? We want to know why people are allowed to have tobacco products inside space-helmets — and it’s not just Fury who’s doing it:

Not only does it look like the pipe is poking through the helmet, but what happens if it falls out of his mouth? Does it just clank around in there until he gets back into breathable air? Also, Fury’s cigar pops out on multiple occasions and then magically reinserts itself in the next panel. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE? These are the sorts of things that can really hang you up. “One giant leap for mankind. Where’s my lighter?”

Moving on to the reason for this advanced 1940s tech that’s given Earth space-lassos and wars with lizard-people. We can credit (or blame) Leonardo da Vinci for this nonsense:

Farfetched.

That one word sums up the big problem with this comic, and it’s an indictment that’s hard to hand down in a world of capes and cowls. This whole issue is disappointingly lame. To be fair, it’s hard to follow the irresistible grin-inducement of the cover, but the letdown remains. There’s an underwhelming attack on a space station called (wait for it) Pearl and an equally underwhelming battle on a space station called (wait for it) Midway. Baron Strucker appears in a most predictable fashion. Things remain open-ended at the conclusion, always a problem with an alternate reality tale — we know we’re probably not going to get a part deux, so we naturally want a nice Law & Order bow wrapped around it.

I was and remain unenthused. Not even Gabe’s LASER-TRUMPET OF DESTRUCTION can rescue it:

This one doesn’t come close to the aforementioned Conan masterpiece. I wouldn’t even rank it above the Venom What If?, an unthinkable placement seeing as how Fury’s rock should always beat the symbiote’s slobbering scissors. But there you have it. After the cocktease of that cover, the convoluted innards really put you down in the dumps.

Can that laser-trumpet play Taps?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Thelonious_Nick permalink
    November 11, 2011 10:09 am

    You review crushed me. I have never before seen this issue, and as soon as I saw that cover I knew it would be mine. It still will be mine, it’s just that now I know I have to read a lame story after I get it.

    Also, imagine how many incredible comic stories would exist if the contents inside always lived up to the cover on Silver and Bronze age comics!

    • November 12, 2011 6:07 pm

      You may like it. For me it was “meh,” but as you say, a lot of times what we buy is the cover and the cover alone.

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