Hey kids! Remember when this used to be, like, a comics blog, or something? Weird. Don't know what's with all the politics/multiple eulogies/calling dead artists awful racists lately. Let’s get back to doing what I do best, namely drinking irresponsibly and talking about superhero bullshit. Yes, it's the triumphant return of everybody's favorite feature, What If Wednesday!!!!
On Wednesdays, The Amazing Justin Palm! gets drunk as shit and reviews an issue of Marvel Comics’ “What If?” so that you, the reader, can enjoy his drunken ramblings about a comic book whose sole purpose is to talk about shit that never happened, so it doesn’t matter at all. Dear Internet: You’re welcome.
Okay, full disclosure on this one. I love Rick Jones. I love Rick Jones like Chris Simsloves Jimmy Olsen. And I realize that most of that is because one of my formative-years-comic books was Peter David'srun on Captain Marvel- which is highly under-appreciated, by the way- and thus I'm terribly biased. But bias aside, I do realize that the life of Rick Jones, stalwart sidekick of basically every Marvel superhero, is COMPLETELY INSANE. And so is this comic. I've tried to explain things in all the other What If Wednesdays, but this time, man, even I've gotten to the point where you just had to be there, okay?
That said, honestly, I think this one might be the most fun, so far. Unfortunately, I realize that part of being in on the fun means that you also have to be in the know. MAJOR CONTINUITY BONERS AHEAD, is what I'm trying to say, I guess. Onward!
Hey, no intro nonsense! Right into the action! Awesome. So it's the beginning of Hulk #1, and Bruce Banner is racing to save teenage troublemaker Rick Jones, whose stupid ass is sitting on ground zero of where the new Gamma Bomb is about to tested. Dr. Banner tries to throw Jones into a ditch to save the boy's life, but then, in a moment of heroism, Jones insists that Banner protect himself first. So, uh, yeah. Bomb goes off, and Jones turns into the Hulk instead of Banner. Nothing like getting this all out of the way by page 3.
Rick-Hulk has hilarious dialogue- "Quit gawkin' at me! And get off my back, unless... unless you wanna RUMBLE!" "Bah! Square is too chicken to fight!" "Nix! Hult a'int no murderer! So better split!" I have no idea what the exclamation "nix" means when it's not relating to Germanic water sprites, but it's awesome none the less. Anyway, General Ross and his men understandably freak right the hell out at this jive talking green monster, and Rick says, I swear to god:
"Soldiers... Uncool! Soliders don't fight fair! Use shivs... heaters!"
Seriously, what the fuck is this kid talking about? But anyway, Rick-Hulk flees from the military base, only to be found latter by Bruce Banner, as Rick-Hulk turns back into regular Rick. The classic Rick/Bruce dynamic from the very earliest Hulk comics is reversed, with Banner locking up the Hulk and taking care of him instead of Rick doing it.
Anyway, Loki knows he should wait a year or two before he manipulates the Hulk into accidentally forming the Avengers, but that's boring, so he decides to set off THAT chain of events right away. After lying his way into getting the Hulk to act out, Loki laughs it up until the combined might of Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Wasp talk him down (which actually doesn't make sense, since Rick Jones himself made the call to assemble the heroes in Avengers #1, but whatever, we'll just go with it). Rick Jones' dialogue continues to blow my mind- his reasoning to join them? "So Ant-Man wants to make us a combo, huh? Then HULK will join the gang. Hulk NEEDS a place to hang out." AMAZING.
Rick-Hulk immediately then quits the team, for reasons that are barely explained. But as he does, Banner blasts him with a device he's made to un-Hulk him forever. It seems to work, so Rick decides to go back to his normal life. Except, after being a giant green monster and punching out aliens all the time, having a normal life is kind of sucky and boring for Rick. One day, though, he stumbles upon a back alley where Captain America is punching out a bunch of Hydra assholes (you know, as Captain America is wont to do), and he decides to help Cap out.
Cap likes Rick's "spunk" (hey, don't blame me, Cap put it in quotes too), and just like in the regular universe, Captain America- the living embodiment of the American spirit- decides to deal with his partner-abandonment-due-to-death-and-also-hyper-sleep issues by dressing Rick up like his dead teenage sidekick Bucky. He also has Rick train with him in the shortest running shorts I've ever seen, which manages to make this even creepier than the real comics, I'm pretty sure.
Too bad Banner's ray gun magic didn't really work though, because the very first mission Rick and Cap go on together Rick's anger gets the best of him and he Hulks out all over again! Rick-Hulk thinks that Cap is too much of a "square hero" and he immediately leaves Cap to fend off Hydra by himself. This makes Cap sad.
So, since this comic is a total slave to Rick Jones regular Marvel continuity, which, as I mentioned, is COMPLETELY INSANE, next up, Rick Jones is mopping about New York when he gets tricked into putting on the Nega-Bands, clanging them together, and switching places in the Negative Zone with Kree-traitor-turned-Earth-hero Captain Marvel.
Look, okay, HERE'S THE WIKIPEDIA PAGE. I promise, this really does make sense (or whatever counts as 'sense' in comic books), but they'll explain it better than I can. Needless to say, there's a reason Rick Jones hasn't been in a movie yet. Shit is mother-fuckin’ complicated. Just go with it.
Then shit goes completely (even more) insane. Annihilus shows up in the Negative Zone, for, like, NO REASON, and is all "Raarh! I am the evil space bug ruler of this dimension!" Then Rick starts manifesting his mind powers, and the Kree Supreme Intelligence is suddenly in his head going "Yup, beat this prick and immediately lets have you end the Kree-Skrull War!" If this all seems a little confusing to you guys, that's because we've just jumped 97 separate issues of "The Avengers" in the course of exactly 6 pages of story. That's like, 8 years’ worth of stuff. I know this crap, and even I can barely keep track of what's happening here.
Rick saves the universe off-camera (I wish I was joking), random crap from issues of Captain Marvel that I haven't read yet happen, but then Rick's new girlfriend Lou Ann (I don't know anything about her, but she is a pale comparison to real-continuity-Rick's future wife Marlo) calls Dr. Banner to inform him that Rick and Captain Marvel are sharing a body like a timeshare. I'm not really sure why she does this, but whatever- Banner knows that the world's greatest expert on the negative zone is
that complete monster the leader of the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards!
He and Richards have a plan to separate Rick and the Rick-Hulk once and for
all, mostly in the name of (comic book)science!
Okay, so here we are at the epic climax. Annihilus randomly shows up again (cuz he's a dick) right next to Rick in the Negative Zone. Rick tries to contact Captain Marvel to change places with him and blast Annihilus' gross bug ass to hell- but Captain Marvel has inconveniently been knocked out fighting some random supervillain, because of course he has. But as Annihilus tries to eat Rick (or whatever space bug despots do to people), Rick turns into Rick-Hulk, and proceeds to mop the floor with this asshole.
Why did Rick try to hold back his anger before? Because he was being a WHINY BITCH. Rick-Hulk bitch-slaps Annihilus in an awesome splash page, which I'm going to quote in its entirety:
Rick-Hulk: "Don't JIVE Hulk with fancy lingo, Bug-Man! Hulk doesn't DIG it! And Hulk doesn't dig YOU, Bug-Man! Doesn't like being CHOKED! So Hulk's gonna SWAT the Bug-Man, like RICK'D swat some crummy FLY!"
Uatu's narration: "An alien-sounding whoop of APPROVAL meets the ears of the Hulk."
Guys. I'm just saying. If you were looking for a Christmas present for me, you could do a hell of a lot worse than a poster sized print out of this splash-page. It is pretty epically awesome.
Anyway, Annihilus and Rick-Hulk have a punch out. Back on Earth, Banner and Richards are busy being super-scientists while they watch the fight on Richards' patented Negative Zone Viewing Screen. Also, they do science stuff, because PLOT. Using nonsense logic, they shoot Banner's de-Hulk-ifier into the Negative Zone, somehow splitting Rick and the Rick-Hulk from each other, but leaving both floating in the Negative Zone. It's all very dramatic, I assure you.
Rick Hulk goes back to punching Annihilus in the face, which is rad. Reed uses his stretching powers and stretches his arm far into the Negative Zone, pulling the floating and now Hulk-less Rick Jones out and back to Earth. And thus, we get the happiest ending in a What If yet. Mar-Vell (Captain Marvel's genius real name) wakes up, and he and Rick are both on Earth. Rick gets to make out with Lou Ann. Banner never became the Hulk. And Rick-Hulk goes on to become God Emperor of the Negative Zone, by means of not being the downer than our Hulk is, and also because he can punch out aliens better than anyone, ever. He is so fucking happy to be punching shit by the end, you guys- it's adorable.
Whew! Okay, are you confused yet? Sorry about all that. That comic really was not for the uninitiated. But as a fan, really, that splash page I mentioned is awesome. So is basically everything Rick-Hulk says. And hooray for happy endings! They are a rare occurrence in these comics, and honestly, I just had a lot of silly fun this issue. This was excellent.
Next What If! What if... CONAN walked the EARTH TODAY? Emphasis Marvel's, not mine. Also, I'll have to do some hunting, cuz, actually, this sucker has never been reprinted, due to copyright reasons. From what I've heard it's pretty great, though, so if you know where I can find a copy, let me know. Otherwise... well, otherwise, we'll have to skip to issue 14, and I don't know what that is about off the top of my head. Sgt. Fury, maybe? Anyway, until next time!