What If..? Event Horizon

Super heroes are known to rely on luck as much as they rely on skill. These are characters that spend most of their time literally dodging bullets or disarming bombs at the last possible second. So what if their fortune was reversed? What if instead they made a different choice, believing as they always do that they’ve made the right one– even if it led them down a different path. What if that path was part of a destructive cycle that destroyed them and their friends?

Event Horizon is a collection of brief comic short stories which ask just those questions. Heavy hitters like Captain America, Wolverine, Professor Xavier, and Spider-Man are presented with places where their lives came to a crossroads, and for the sake of literature, they took a different path. In this review, we will focus on four of the stories.

Wolverine

Wolverine is famous for being an X-Man. But prior to that, he was a living weapon developed by the government who became impossible to control. His story poses the question of what if this side of himself was unlocked and his mind put to the grisly task of murdering each and every last super hero on Earth. But this story is not about Wolverine. It is about Kitty Pryde. When it comes down to it, she is the last hero standing when Wolverine attacks a bunker housing a few survivors. Wolverine’s mind had been taken from him, and he had little conscious choice in his rampage. Rather than precipitating this disaster as the choices in the other stories did, the circumstances in this story demands a choice from Kitty, as she is forced to sacrifice her body to kill Wolverine and end the slaughter once and for all.

Spider-Man

In this story, Peter Parker rejects the spider influence in him, rather than embracing it as he did in the actual continuity. The result is his being lost, cocooned in his own webbing, with his body and mind both dormant. Having rejected part of himself, Parker ceases to exist and he is just a figurative shell of disassembled parts. Parker believed that this choice was the correct one, opting for the purity of what was left of his humanity for the hybridization of himself and his spider genes. He doesn’t realize that this will leave him broken, or that his will lure the symbiote known as Venom back to his side.

Upon reuniting, Parker and Venom are essentially two halves of a person, and unite to become one– who calls himself Poison. Poison’s first order of business is to go to Peter Parker’s widow Mary Jane Watson. She casts him out, calling upon Wolverine and other super hero friends to protect her. Poison departs, as she requests, to live out his life finally unified, but forever broken.

The X-Men

In this story, we meet an X-Man whose heroism has made him one of the preeminent super heroes of his day. Vulcan, also known as Gabriel Summers, brother to Cyclops (Scott) and Havok (Alex), is an energy yielding mutant and leader of a relaunched X-Men team sent by Professor Xavier to save other X-Men who are lost on the dinosaur island of Krakoa.

He holds a secret though. Vulcan’s bungling on the island lead to the deaths of those he was supposed to rescue, including his brother Alex. His hiding of this crime leads to his downfall, and eventual exile to Krakoa to relive the events every day for the rest of his life. Gabe’s own decisions brought him to that point, and it was his arrogance, hubris, and need for attention and adulation that caused things to end like they did for him.

Captain America

Finally, we see a world where things are not what they seem. Captain America’s unwillingness to acknowledge certain difficult truths has lead him and the Scarlett Witch to deceive and restrain all the heroes of their world in an effort to maintain an autocratic order, ending war and crime for good. This decidedly un-American notion makes the idea of Captain America being behind the plot difficult for his friends to swallow. But ultimately his decision to abandon reason and logic and to manipulate the Scarlett Witch to his own ends not only ends his life and hers– but leads to further chaos.

Super heroes are lucky in that they always throw the right punch and always get out in just the nick of time. What If..? is an opportunity for the genre fiction of comic books to engage in speculative fiction of its own. Few examples in literature appear at which a “second take” can be made. Melville could not have written Moby Dick over again such that the whale and the captain become friends through some twist of fate, no matter what equally important story we might learn from it.

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