Ok, this is probably going to be the last Spidey post for awhile. Unless Chris has something else to say about him or the movie. Anyways, I know some people don't like the What If... series (I've heard they recently started a third volume to lukewarm response), but I loved this kind of stuff when I was a kind. Alternate universes, twists on a popular storyline, the What If... series had it goin' on. I collected some issues from the first series if a particular issue interested me, but I was pretty faithful to the second series, despite it's egregious use of the font Serpentine for the masthead. It's #3 on my list of most hated/overused fonts of all time. Anyways, this issue is my favorite one from the second series, with What If #5 coming in at a very close second, and that was mainly because I was a big Vision fan. And the story/cover was great. Anywho, if I remember correctly, this ended up being a popular series and I personally think it kind of sparked the whole reboot/Ultimates madness of the late '90s, because there's only so many earth shattering events the same characters can keep going through.
Anyways, this issue starts out like all others in the What If... series, Uatu provides us a blow-by-blow recap of events, just in case you were sleeping under a rock somewhere (enlarge the pic to the right). So the beginning of this story holds true, Spidey gets whisked away for the Secret Wars fiasco and gets a new suit in the process, which turns out to be the symbiote, Venom. He starts to feel a little run down, so much like the real he decides to swing by the FF's pad and get checked out by Reed Richards. This is where the stories part ways, because in this reality, Reed and the FF are off either saving the world or on a vacation somewhere, so Spidey decides to skip the checkup. A couple of days later, he's still feeling run down, so he decides to stop by Dr. Connors office for a checkup. Prognosis, negative. He tells him to go see Reed ASAP, but when he does, Reed tells him that the suit has bonded to him and it's going to be tough to separate the two. While he's working on something, VenomSpidey breaks out of the cell they put him in and gets loose. Parker tries to assert himself and much like the real storyline, he ends up in a bell tower. But in this timeline Venom's bond is still too strong and that trick doesn't work. Poor Parker. He has to ride shotgun while Venom wrecks his life. Case in point; Venom's a pretty busy guy, but he does find some time to call Felicia at her apartment (where apparently she just hangs out in costume waiting for the right time to steal stuff) and breaks up with her. Over the phone. Yup, Venom's that guy, that's just how he rolls. Felicia does not take it well and starts trashing her apartment:
So Felicia is pissed and since she can't yell at VenomSpidey (apparently he's in the middle of changing cellphone providers and it takes a day or two to transfer the number), but she has to yell at a someone, so she heads over to the FF's HQ and rips Reed a new one, which is pretty tough to do because, you know, he's pretty elastic. So to get back at him, she breaks into a prestigious New York auction house and rips some stuff off and then gives it to the poor. Somehow, this makes her feel better.
Anyways, a couple of days later, the Hulk and Thor are beating the living crap out of each other for some reason, when the the Avengers and Doctor Strange show up to help out. Now, I know what you're thinking here, but even a Doctor Strange appearance can't drag down the awesomeness that happens in this book. While they're fighting, the Dr. creates a crossroads dimension so the Hulk can chill on a timeout and not kill anyone. The Hulk bumrushes him, but he opens the portal to the crossroads dimension right in front of him, so the Hulk will run right into it. BUT, VenomSpidey shows up out of nowhere and pulls Hulk out of the portal and then transfers his bond from Spidey to the Hulk. This ejects Parker from the equation and we find out the reason why Venom debonded from him: he's old. Apparently running around as VenomSpidey takes a lot out of a guy because now Parker is like 185 years old.
So now we've got a VenomHulk. He starts running around totally out of control and no one can really do anything about it. All the big brains can do is sit around and try and develop a tracking system and a sonicblaster to try and knock him out so Doc Strange can put him in the crossroads dimension. Sounds like a plan. Parker helps out, but ends up dying of old age. However, he does manage to head over to his Aunt May's pad and has a very awkward conversation with her, but he's a wimp and instead of telling her the truth, he tells her he was a friend of Peter's from the Bugle. But you can't fool Aunt May. She has a sneaking suspicion that the old dude was Parker and gets a little upset because apparently he's still "missing". MJ tries to calm her down, but even she doesn't know what really happened to Peter, I guess they were "on a break".
Back to the action, the heroes track VenomHulk to Mt. Rushmore and split up to try and find him. Thor ends up spotting him and they continue their scrap from before, but Venom decides to debond from the Hulk and tries to bond to Thor because Thor is a god and is more stable/powerful than the Hulk. Thor resists and summons a lightening bolt to strike himself to try and destroy Venom, but it only succeeds in weakening himself and Venom gets a stronger hold on Thor's body. So now we've got a VenomThor. This is still cool, but it's kind of getting a little out of hand here. Banner is left in his normal human form, and he didn't age at all. Apparently Venom burnt out the Hulk in him.
So now the heroes don't really know what to do here because VenomThor's holed up in a cave still trying to cement the bond with Thor, but he's in control enough to smackdown anyone who comes close enough. So they decide to call in the big guns: Blackbolt. Oh snap, the shit's about to go down right about now. So Black Bolt screams and ends up saving Thor, but he levels Mt. Rushmore in the process:
I'm sure the Inhumans are going to get a giant bill from the U.S. Government for that. Or at least a sanction or an embargo. Dude, that was a national monument you totalled. Anyways, there's still the problem of what to do with the creature. Reed wants to create a special cell for it, probably so he can study it (that's so like what he would do), while Dr. Strange wants to banish it to the Crossroads Dimension, so it won't hurt anyone (and that's so like what he would do). Felicia, however, has other plans. She comes outta nowhere, and quick SHZZAAAK! later, she kills Venom, using a copy of Reed's Sonic Blaster. She was with Parker the night he died so she copied the plans and got the Kingpin to get his scientists to make her a version, in return she just owes the Kingpin her services. For life. Like most What If endings, some people die, everyone learns a lesson and one person ends up getting royally screwed. Only it kinda, sorta, didn't even really happen.