Marvel dares to ask the question "What If the heroes of Earth decided to act like reasonable adults for a change?"
It's a long running tradition for Marvel Comics, following their semi-annual EVERYTHING CHANGES FOREVER!!!11 event comics, to publish a What If? story that shows what would have happened if EVERYTHING CHANGES FOREVER SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY!!!11. While Marvel has not yet announced their What If? Avengers vs. X-Men book yet, potential spoilers for the comic have begun to leak out, and The Outhouse has been working diligently to piece them together into a complete story, which we can then reveal while Bleeding Cool is busy spoiling all the New York Comic Con announcements.
What If? Avengers vs. X-Men, written by The Great One Brian Bendis and drawn by John Romita Jr., will present an unlikely scenario in which the Avengers are not complete and total douchebags.
“I want to be clear,” Bendis stated in a totally made up interview, “The Avengers will still be douche bags. It’s who they are. It's core to the characters. It’s just that they won’t be COMPLETE douche bags this time around.”
One of the major differences takes place early in the story, when Captain America, in an act of rare and unprecedented common sense, decides to get a second opinion after Wolverine attempts to convince him to blow up Utopia without first making a real attempt to reason with the X-Men.
Steve asks the non-murderous and mentally stable Beast, who tells him that, while Scott Summers can be hot-headed and has made decisions that Beast disagrees with, he is a hero who has saved the world countless times and has a lot of direct experience in dealing with the Phoenix. Cap agrees to talk things out with Scott.
This leads to one of the most glaring discrepancies between the Marvel Universe and this alternate one: Wolverine is not the moral center of the event. Sure, we still get a scene where Wolverine barges into a room full of children in an attempt to kidnap or murder teenage Hope Summers, but his actions are viewed, as they should be, as those of a violent psychopath who needs to be put down. The Avengers are rightly disgusted by Logan's behavior and team up with the X-Men to make sure he never kills another child, resolving to deal with the Phoenix later together.
Once Logan is subdued and expelled from every super team in America for his long history of violent criminal activity, Captain America and Cyclops are able to have a frank discussion about the Phoenix Force. They have this talk over coffee at Starbucks, instead of on the beach with a floating aircraft carrier full of armed soldiers waiting to attack. After some convincing, Scott comes around and realizes that even if the Phoenix can restart the Mutant gene, Hope is probably not prepared to wield the power and some preparation is probably in order, as opposed to simply having "faith." “What a cop-out that was.” Bendis should have told us, “Really, after 12 issuess, Tony Stark of all people makes a descision based on ‘faith!’ How did that make it past the editors?”
Together, The Avengers and X-Men along with Reed Richards, Dr. Doom, Bruce Banner, and Amadeus Cho work day and night to find a way to defeat the villain – without first fighting each other.
“This was the most difficult part of the comic for me to illustrate.” Romita might have told us, “To have all these different heroes together and not fight! I had to draw actual sequential art instead of giant splash pages featuring fifty characters punching each other in the face. Of course the Shi'ar still show up to kill another red headed mutant and her family, but they are no match for the combined might of all of The Earth’s heroes, and are easily defeated."
Meanwhile, reeling from Steve’s dismissal of his opinion and robbed of the chance to kill a teenage girl, Wolverine gets drunk and sleeps with a twenty-something who he then kills when he finds out she’s his daughter… like usual.
It’s not until Dr. Strange and Iron Fist show up with a dusty old book from another dimension that everyone realizes that the secret to controlling and using the Phoenix is Kung-Fu. Hope goes all 'grasshopper' in several days worth of intense training montages under the careful eye of Iron Fist and Tony Stark, who decide that Scott’s faith in her was right all along.
At this point, the Scarlet Witch, shows up to offer her help, which the group is grateful for, as Wanda is powerful, though really not more powerful than the rest of both teams put together. The X-Men are anxious about her addition to the team, since she almost single-handedly destroyed the mutant race, but eventually they come to realize that her actions were due to events and circumstances beyond her control, as well as her inability to wield great power that has been thrust upon her. This theme of understanding and forgiveness is paramount to the story, another core difference between What If? Avengers vs. X-Men and the actual Avengers vs. X-Men event.
When the Phoenix does show up on Earth, the Avengers and the X-Men are ready for it. Hope accepts the power of the Phoenix Force, and with the combined support of both teams of heroes, she is able to set things right, reignite the X-gene, and save the Universe, all without enslaving the entire human race.
“Without Tony’s awesome plan of blowing up a cosmic force so close to home the X-Men never have the Phoenix Force thrust on them. That is why this story is only two issues long, even I can’t drag out a reasonable and well thought out solution to a problem for more than that” remarked Bendis who is known for taking six issues to kill off Uncle Ben. "Of course, we couldn't make it too boring, so we threw in some action. For instance, Wolverine still gets tossed out of a moving Quinjet and lands in Antarctica, though there are no polar bears there, as that would be factually inaccurate."
The Outhouse staff has been debating the merits of this story since we received the script, and although it makes much more sense, we are unsure of the commercial viability of story that is true to the history of all the characters involved, and we're afraid we find a future for comic books where the heroes are not complete douchebags to be extremely unlikely.