Comics : What If? (Vol. 2) #31

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: What If, Whenever, Wherever...

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

The uni-power is an enigma force that traverses the universe and endows individuals with the awesome power of Captain Universe in times of crisis. The host gains an instantaneous awareness of their new abilities and is able to use them to the fullest until the crisis is averted. With peace restored, the uni- power moves on in search of its next host. A scientific experiment altered the energy transfer when it tried to take possession of Spider-Man. All of the abilities with none of the awareness, Spidey found himself super-powered and avoiding the advances of Dr. Doom to steal that power. Only when confronting the Tri-Sentinel did Spidey become fully aware of what was going on. The uni- power craved the emotions and power it shared with Peter Parker, but resisted the urge to linger and departed and began to only seek out those of lesser physical and emotional development like children and animals to avoid future temptation. At least, in our world...

In Detail...

"What if Spider-Man had kept his cosmic powers?"
What If? (Vol. 2) #31
Nov 1991 : SM Guest
Summary: Branch: ASM #329
Editor:  Craig Anderson
Writer:  Glenn Herdling
Pencils:  Scott McDaniel
Inker:  Jim Sanders, III, Sam DeLaRosa
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With the crisis averted, the uni-power should have left Spidey...except it hasn't. Brooding for three hours, Peter determines that it decided to stay because it never met anyone as responsible as him. Returning home, Peter gives Mary Jane an explanation of recent events and decides to make the most of his new abilities, feeling flattered that they chose him of all beings to stay with.

In the following days, Spidey single-handedly defeats the space pirate Nebula and her near-infinite energy source, saving the Avengers a long conflict and having them question their friend's newfound powers. Back on Earth, a contract has been put on the head of Joe Robertson and the Hobgoblin means to execute it... and him! But, Spidey intervenes and takes the Hobgoblin down. He decides to help Hobby out by undoing the curse a demon put on him giving him a monstrous face. Unfortunately, it backfires and gives Hobby Peter's face! Thanks to the spell Doctor Strange put on him to believe his face was normal, Hobby sees his new face as the hideous demon and vows revenge on Spidey.

Meeting up with MJ after, she expresses some concern over his new desires to save the whole world, but he assures her that the power is enhancing him and not consuming him like the alien costume tried to do. Speaking of which, Cosmic-Spidey's next foe is Venom himself! Accepting his challenge for a confrontation in Central Park, the two duke it out. Just when it seems like Venom gets the upper-hand, Spidey propels them into space and himself into victory. He offers Venom a chance back on Earth; if he really wants to replace him so badly, now's his chance. The city needs a Spider-Man and he's got bigger concerns for now. Venom eventually accepts and becomes a new version of lethal protector and a new rivalry forms between him and Hobgoblin; both with traits of their common most hated enemy!

In the following weeks, Spidey deals with one global crisis after another. And each day MJ becomes more and more neglected as her husband is never around. While having lunch at Aunt May's house, she expresses a curiosity over Peter constantly wearing sunglasses to hide the fact the uni-power had altered his eyes to have no pupils. He tells her there was an accident and has to wear them because of doctor's orders and she goes to remove them to look at his eyes. He tries to stop her but a crisis sets off his spider-sense and he zooms out of the house, causing Aunt May to faint.

Crossing the ocean, Spidey encounters a war and puts a stop to it quickly. Deciding that wasn't enough, he uses his powers to seek out the dictator who started it and make him pay for all of his crimes. And thus the middle-east conflict had been ended. Peter returns home only to be chewed out by MJ for the irresponsible way he scared his aunt earlier, but he doesn't seem to care. MJ decides she's had enough and leaves. Instead of going after her, he gets an idea from her comparison of him to a god and streaks off.

Enlisting Thor's help, Spidey takes him to Africa where he tells him his plan of supplying new crops for the starving populace. Thor refuses, citing people must be allowed to fend for themselves. Ticked off, Spidey knocks Thor into space which sets the two into a fight. Spidey takes him down, but before he can knock him out another beam beats him too it. A beam supplied by...DOOM! Doom demands Spidey relinquish his power, citing through his research that it was not meant for merely one man alone. He holds Spidey at bay with the life of the first Captain Universe, Captain Ray Coffin, hanging in the balance. Undaunted, Captain Universe attacks through Spidey, letting Doom blast him and killing Coffin in the process.

A battle ensues, but not in Africa, rather inside the wall-crawler's head between him and the uni-power (much like when the symbiote tried to take him over once before). Ticked that it allowed Coffin to be killed through ruthless logic, Spidey rejectsit and the uni-power leaves his body and heads into Doom. But, something goes amiss and Doom is not able to hold onto the power and it returns to Spidey. Spidey now knows the truth and blasts Doom full force, revealing him to be nothing more than a Doombot.

Spidey decides Thor and Doom were both right, and turns Doom's specialized blaster on himself. The uni-power spreads out and engulfs every living thing on the planet, uniting their consciousness and souls and making all living beings equal with a greater level of understanding. However, in order to catalyze the self-sacrificed, the uni-power required Spidey's original powers, leaving Peter an ordinary human once again. However, the story doesn't end there. Sometime later, Peter and MJ have a baby girl who has very familiar blank eyes...

In General...

A good story with some good art. It was interesting to see what Spidey would do with all that power. Instead of becoming a bad guy trying to do good things, he just kept doing good things until it got to the point he was forcing himself onto others. A nice refreshing change from how stories like this usually go. It's also cool to see that instead of merely traversing the following Spidey arcs from the Tri-Sentinel story, they explored the full-scope of the uni-power and threw him into arcs from other books to solve their conflicts as well. When you've got a cosmically powered Spidey, keeping him restrained to his own titles would've been a big mistake.

A couple of things about the story bothered me, however. First off, MJ tells Peter that she was always terrified to go web-slinging with him and now more so that he flies. Since when? The MJ I know would love to go web-slinging (although wouldn't make a habit out of it). Then there was the Central Park fight with Venom. Spidey said because the park was full of people he had to take the fight to the woods. What woods? The nearest woods would be across the river into New York State or New Jersey. And finally, Venom's speech: "my", "I'll", "me". When Brock got the symbiote, he began speaking in plurals. In this issue, he does not.

Overall Rating...

Four webs. Lost a web for those nitpicks, but otherwise a good read.