Monday, May 16, 2016

Insane Comics Moments, Part Ten

Normally, it would take a lot for an issue of "What If?" to make a list of insane comics moments. I mean, it's a series that basically takes as its starting point the idea of checking out all the crazy consequences that might happen if Wolverine had become a vampire, or the High Evolutionary had turned everyone on the planet into a giant telepathic hive-mind. There's a certain baseline expectation in these stories of bizarre events that can't happen in a canonical Marvel title, is what I'm getting at. So I wouldn't generally say these count as "insane"...

But then I saw this.

Take a good, long look at that, if you will. Imagine being a fly on the wall during that pitch session, hearing either an editor or a writer enthusiastically proclaim that you can get twenty-two non-crazy pages out of the concept of "Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos Fight Space World War II". Imagine being the person who has to actually sit down and write this thing. Imagine being the person who has to illustrate this collage of insanity, setting it out for posterity in pictorial form. You can't either? I don't blame you.

The basic premise, as outlined by the Watcher, is that Leonardo da Vinci was taken more seriously in this reality, and so humanity got a five-hundred year (or so) head start on air travel. Which turned into space travel, which turned into intergalactic travel, which means that by 1945, we've colonized big chunks of space and are running into the Betans, who look (and are explicitly described as in the narration boxes) "even more nightmarish than the worst caricatures of the Japanese." So, you know, we're not dealing with any kind of awkward and cringeworthy racism on top of this ludicrous premise.

The Betans attack one of our early warning stations (which, in this book's closest stab at subtlety, is not actually named "Space Pearl Harbor") and before you know it, we're at war! Nick Fury leads a group of Space Howling Commandos, who are pretty much the same as the normal Howling Commandos except that Gabe Jones has a "sonic laser bugle" and I'm so sorry if that phrase just made your head implode, and they train under the watchful eye of their computer base commander and his robot adjutant. Because of course they do.

As it turns out, the computer has a plan to lure the enemy into an assault on Midway Station (hey, remember what I said about subtlety? GONE NOW!) But the Betans have a secret ally among the humans who is feeding them information! Who is this traitor? Why, none other than Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, of course! But he's not allied with the Betans solely because this is Space World War II and he was a bad guy in the comics. No, he plans to draw the Betans and the Earth...ers? ...icans? ...erosities? ...anyway, he plans to draw them into a war while Germany hoards its resources in secret, the better to overwhelm both groups after the war and institute the rule of the Nazi Party! Which is still a thing in a world where space travel was invented by the time of the Wright Brothers.

Needless to say, Nick and his boys take care of the Betans, dish out a little chin music to the Ratzis, and even manage to save the robot adjutant from being scrapped in the assault on Midway. All in a space day's work! There's a suggestion that more lies ahead for Space Nick Fury and His Space Howling Space Commandos in Space, but thankfully this particular alternate timeline has never been revisited.

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