Welcome back to Strange Times & Places, where today, in honor of Avengers: Endgame, we are talking about What If? #55-56: “What If the Avengers lost Operation: Galactic Storm”.
How’s It Different?
This is a For Want of a Nail story, spinning out of the Avengers crossover “Operation: Galactic Storm”. Named for the then-recent first Gulf War, that crossover saw the Avengers sucked into an intergalactic war between the Kree and Shi’ar empires. In the actual crossover, the Shi’ar (who are nominally allies with Earth through the X-Men) won. In these issues, The Watcher looks at what would have happened if the much more militaristic and genocidal Kree had won.
What’s The Story?
As punishment for The Avengers (and other Earth heroes) constant interference in Kree affairs, the Kree flat out blow up Earth before a captive Captain America’s eyes. They follow this up with the destruction of the Shi’ar throneworld, and a bloody campaign of conquest across known space. Iron Man and Clint Barton, currently using Pym Particles to be the size changing Goliath, are the only two Avengers at liberty in Kree space and will need to free Cap if they have any chance of rallying and such a move will require some sacrifices…
Best of Differences
- The Kree do what no alien race in the Marvel universe has ever succeeded in doing, what few have even dared try, and the most logical move for them to make: destroy the Earth and kill almost all of it superheroes (Spider-Man, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, et al).
- Surviving members of both the Avengers and the Shi’ar imperial guard come together to form a larger Avengers rebel army.
- Thor and Quasar, among the surviving members of The Avengers, recruit godlike heroes from Asgard and all around the Galaxy to serve as the cavalry for the last of the Avengers in the final battle.
- The fact that the comic book versions of Hawkeye (AKA Goliath AKA Ronin AKA Clint Barton) and Captain America (AKA Nomad AKA Steve Rogers) look weirdly alike (especially under older school comic art techniques) unmasked is used to great effect to save Captain America from execution.
- While killing off established characters left right and center is usually the cardinal sin of an alternate reality story, most of the many deaths that happened in these two issues have power and impact due to the dire nature of the circumstances. As such, they feel more “real” than What If?’s standard “kill ’em all just cuz we can” plots.