Posted by: Graeme McMillan on October 24, 2007
Maybe it was just me, but the old “What If…?” series always seemed better in theory than reality. I mean, sure, the idea of alternative worlds where major Marvel events have gone in the other direction seems like a great idea, but – as anyone who’s bought those What If Classic reprints has no doubt realized by now – it quickly ended up as “What If That That Second Last Panel Of Daredevil #38 Had Happened Differently?” with every story either ending in essentially the same way as the original – as if to prove the existence of some kind of cosmic Marvel fate – or with everyone dying. You never quite got exactly what you wanted, with the exception of that Kirby issue where Stan Lee became Mr. Fantastic.
Luckily, only half of WHAT IF: PLANET HULK sucks.
Actually, that’s not entirely true; of the two main stories in the book (There’s a third story, a one-pager illustrated by Fred Hembeck of all people that’s pretty throwaway, but a nice throwback to the comedy moments of the original nonetheless; Greg Pak writes all three stories), the first may be a disappointment in terms of outcome – It’s essentially “What if World War Hulk happened with the Hulk’s wife instead of the Hulk, and much faster?” – but it’s not really sucky as much as rushed and unsatisfying considering its premise. The second story, however, offers an alternative both in terms of concept, but also execution; much quieter, more optimistic and more of a character piece, it is – despite a last page reveal that I’m not sure I understand properly (Have the Hulk and Banner merged? Or the Hulk become really skinny?) – more successful than the first tale, but much more importantly, a counterbalance to the first half of the book that manages to make the entire issue feel more worthwhile and entertaining; some would say Good. Sure, there’s no Flo Steinberg becoming the Invisible Woman, but what can you do?