Comics : What If... Spider-Man House of M?

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This review was first published on: Jan 2010.

Background...

During the reality created by the Scarlet Witch known as the House of M, Spider-Man had an ideal life: rich, respected, and married to Gwen Stacy. Their lives of privilege ended when the public learned that Spider-Man was not a mutant and were forced into hiding. Their peaceful days were brought to an end once again when Peter was recruited by his teammates in the New Avengers to confront the Scarlet Witch and restore reality. When the House Of M reality ended, so did Gwen.

In this reality we find out what would have happened if Gwen had somehow been brought back into the Marvel 616 universe.

In Detail...

"What If... Gwen Stacy Survived The House of M?"
What If... Spider-Man House of M? (Story 1)
Feb 2010 : SM Title
Summary: House of M Spider-Man appears
Editor:  Justin F. Gabrie
Writer:  Sean McKeever
Illustrator:  Brian Haberlin
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Review

Our story opens after Peter faked his death and the Parker family moved into the wilderness. Gwen Parker sleeps contently under the stars with Peter. Despite the loss of their wealth, she is thankful just to have Peter and their son Richie.

Days later the X-Men appear at the Parker camp. Emma Frost telepathically restores Peter's memories of the proper reality. She does not remove the knowledge of this incident from Gwen, which proves to be a poor choice. When they leave for Genosha, she follows her husband. During the final battle, Gwen is by her husband's side when the Scarlet Witch restores the proper reality and is brought back with everyone else.

Peter awakens in his bed looking at the ceiling. Mary Jane asks what's wrong, but Peter tells her it's nothing. Later when he meets with the the New Avengers, he becomes emotionally overwrought. At this point Dr. Strange becomes very weak and teleports away.

Time passes and Mary Jane confides in Aunt May that she feels a great divide growing between her and Peter. He acts as if nothing is wrong, but she knows he's keeping something from her. She then sees him rush off on an Avenger's mission to bring in Electro, Tiger Shark, and Living Laser. During the battle they villains disappear as well as the Sentry.

They later reappear with reinforcements (Dr. Octopus, Venom III, Ultron, Bullseye, and Sabretooth) at a SHIELD facility to free Norman Osborn. They want him to lead them in a final battle with the Avengers.

Elsewhere a confused Gwen Parker goes online to find Peter and the world she now inhabits. The more she reads, the more distraught she becomes. Peter is married to Mary Jane. Their son Richie does not exist. Her father is dead. Spider-Man is vilified in the media. Dr. Strange appears and informs her that her presence is a threat to their reality. Minor changes occurred at first, but they are becoming more frequent and more deadly. Even though it is not her fault, her existence threatens their reality.

At Avengers' Tower, Captain America leads the discussion about their recent mission. They are all a bit confused as to what happened. Not only did the Sentry cease to exist, but Cap mentions he saw an eighty year-old Bucky Barnes on the street. Peter's spider-sense goes off, prompting him to get Mary Jane and Aunt May to safety. Within seconds, the top floors of the skyscraper explode. The Avengers mobilize to confront their assailants led by Norman Osborn, who has resumed his identity as the Green Goblin. As part of the dimensional disruption she caused, Gwen appears in Avengers Tower and has a front-row seat for the battle royal.

During the fight Venom – who is aware Peter is Spider-Man - informs him that he's killed Aunt May as well as Jarvis. Spider-Man attacks Venom in a blind rage, knocking him out. As he weeps over the body of Aunt May, he ignores his spider-sense. The Goblin attacks him from behind, intent upon killing him with the infamous metal spear hidden in the head of his glider. At the last minute, Mary Jane pushes him out of the way, intercepting the fate meant for her husband. Peter loses what little control he has left and beats Osborn to death with his bare hands.

Gwen can no longer stand the pain she has caused Peter. Her presence has killed those closest to him. To complicate the situation, the city is beginning to crumble around her. She decides to commit suicide in the hopes that it will stop this destruction.

As Gwen walks toward the edge of the tower, she finally moves into Peter's line of sight. He is obviously shocked to see her alive. He is even more shocked when he sees her jump. Instead of webbing her like before, he jumps after her and catches her. However his webbing does not sufficiently slow their descent. Peter twists his body and absorbs most of the impact as they land on top of a car.

As Peter lays dying on top of the car, he is satisfied that he was able to save her this time. He tells Gwen that he remembers their son from the alternate world. Gwen kisses Peter one final time as the world burns white.

In General...

We'll go ahead and get the one obvious statement out of the way first. Why did Gwen's appearance set of a chain reaction that destroyed reality? Hawkeye was killed and revived after the House of M and the world didn't end.

Even allowing for this possibility, the threat wasn't big enough to justify this type of resolution. Dr. Strange acts weird, Sentry dies, Bucky's alive, Norman Osborn leads an incarnation of the Masters of Evil, and at the end some buildings start to topple. Although the characters mentioned that other changes were happening, it comes across as too little too late.

It's very difficult to get behind an act of self-sacrifice when there seems to be more time to find a solution. The intent seemed to be to move toward a re-creation of Peter's attempt to save Gwen in Amazing Spider-Man #121. To make matters worse, the webbing malfunction at the end cheapens the story even further. The webbing should have held the weight of both Peter and Gwen.

Overall Rating...

2 webs. The story had great potential, but fell flat because it didn't provide a significant threat. The reader is expected to provide too much of the disaster created by Gwen's presence to be effective. While the basic outline is provided, there is an insignificant amount of detail to create a true sense of urgency.

This is a shame because the painted art in this story is beautifully rendered.