Bubonic Comics: What If…#40

Free advice for thieves
Marvel Comics

What If…? was a remarkable series in that it always asked the questions us fanboys liked to debate when we would get together. What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four? What if Captain America had stayed frozen until modern times? These were pressing questions we wanted to see played out.

But I guess at some point the idea men at Marvel had to run out of ideas, and WHAT IF…? #40 addressed a question no fan could have ever possibly wondered or cared about: What if Storm of the X-Men had remained a thief?

Seriously. They filled an entire issue answering this lame excuse for a question. Hmm, what if Storm remained a thief? I suppose she would probably steal things. That is what thieves do … or is it?!?!?

Well, I’m sure you’re sweating over what becomes of Ororo Munroe; I know the Watcher is, so let’s get going.

A wistful Uatu asks the readers if we ever wondered what our lives would be like if one or two things had happened differently. Sheesh, talk about making me want to start singing “Memories!” Anyway, the twist of fate that prevents Ororo from ever becoming an X-Man occurs while she’s a young pickpocket on the hard streets of Egypt.

She attempts to swipe the wallet of an old man named Herman Hassel, an elderly chap who enjoys wandering around Egypt (they never specify a city, guess they figure Egypt is just one big city) in the wee hours of the morning thinking to himself things like, “If it’s dawn, it’s time for me to find my bed. Well, maybe just one more cup of coffee… might be a hip cat or two prowling around looking for some java.”

Groan. This dialogue… Well, at least we know Ororo’s target is a “hip cat.” That’s not all he is. Believe it or not, Hassel is a master thief. I know what you’re thinking: “What are the odds?”

Hassel coming out of hiding
Marvel Comics

Hassel catches Ororo in the act, and although she was crappy enough to get caught, he finds enough potential in her to haul her halfway around the world, to New York City. Hassel takes on Ororo, now going by the name Jack Black (I shit you not), as his apprentice.

Learning the thieving trade goes pretty well until Ororo (Jack) is almost raped. Luckily, a hooker bludgeons the attacker before he can commence with the raping. Both Ororo and the hooker end up in jail for the night. Ororo’s mutant powers finally develop while in the slammer.

When Hassel discovers this, he decides to take full advantage of her powers. And, lucky for the reader, we fast forward six or seven years.

I have to pause here to reflect on something I find ridiculous. Perhaps I’m too critical, but stop and think. Professor X’s favorite pastime is detecting young mutants, yet he never once tries to track down Ororo. She’s in the same state as Xavier, and here she is thieving away, using lightning bolts to disable alarm systems and flying around. (I guess Cerebro was on the fritz.)

Okay, back to the “action.” Ororo has stolen a gemstone for Hassel that has powers so awesome the X-Men are looking for it. (Let’s overlook the fact that she stole this all-powerful gem out of a wall safe with no guards protecting it.) Next thing you know, the X-Men come looking for the gem; Hassel hides in a trunk to avoid those big nasty mutants, and the team leaves with the gem. When Ororo arrives, she’s furious at how the X-Men scared her elderly friend. This is the impetus to get to the big battle we all anticipated from the cover.

Ororo faces down the X-Men
Marvel Comics

Speaking of the cover, I like how Wolverine’s uniform on the front of the issue doesn’t match the classic brown and orange uniform he’s wearing on the interiors. Someone screwed the pooch there, but I’m not sure who.

Anyway, Ororo is flying to the X-Mansion to confront them. Having never been an X-Man, I have no idea how she knows where the mansion is, but magically, she does. I guess crucial details like that weren’t meant to be included in this tale.

Ororo arrives and attacks Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Wolverine and Colossus all by herself. And she does fairly well for someone who has had no formal training with using her mutant powers. She pulls off such maneuvers as electrocuting Wolvie through his claws. Honest.

Xavier appears, so clearly the battle is over. He informs Ororo that the gemstone was crucial for the X-Men to save the world. Yep, somehow in the time between retrieving the gem and Ororo showing up at the mansion, they managed to save the entire frigging world. Hmm…

Regardless, Xavier offers her a role on the team to harness her powers, but Ororo (still calling herself Jack) declines because they’re big-time heroes and she would rather take care of her own. That’s a sweet sentiment. Maybe she really cares about old man Hassel and her hooker best friend. Oh wait, further down the same page Ororo decides to bid the two of them farewell and leave New York to return to Africa. Ta-dah! The end. No planet-shattering repercussions. The X-Men aren’t lost without her. That’s it for the issue. And that’s it for this week.

I still have fond memories of What If…? but I won’t be reading this issue again, even if the fate of the Morlocks depended on it.