Review: What If? #1

What If #1 cover
Cover uncredited

What If? #1
Published and © by Marvel, February 1977

Title: “What If Spider-Man Had Joined the Fantastic Four?”
Synopsis: In an alternate universe observed by the Watcher, a young Spider-Man becomes a paid member of the Fantastic Four.

Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciler: Jim Craig
Inker: Pablo Marcos

Review: What If #1 offers compelling evidence that the inmates really were running the Marvel asylum during the 1970s. Roy Thomas has never denied his fanboy roots, but rarely has he embraced them to this extreme. There’s little question the “What If?” concept has potential, but the execution, at least here, is wanting. This issue features too much insider baseball; the story fixates on small details of Marvel continuity instead of finding a voice of its own. Later issues would be better but this debut is a bit of a dud.

Grade: B

Second opinion: “Recommended.” – Frank Plowright, FantaCo’s Chronicle’s Series Annual #1, 1983

Cool factor: The “What If?” concept. While the series often didn’t reach its potential, the concept had a high cool factor.
Not-so-cool factor: Spidey’s Fantastic Five spider logo.

Character quotable: “There are worlds within worlds – and worlds which exist side by side with your own, separated from it only by the thinnest web of cosmic gossamer.” – Uatu, the Watcher
A word from the writer: “… I decided I wanted to deal with the kinds of stories we just couldn’t do in our ‘normal’ books (if there is such a thing around mixed-up Marvel).” – Roy Thomas, from this issue’s “Why Not?” letters page

Editor’s note: This review was originally published by Comics Bronze Age on March 30, 2009.

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