What If? Spider-Man #1
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Diego Orlotegui
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Patch Zircher
Variant Cover Artist: John Tyler Christopher
What If? Spider-Man is written by Gerry Conway, with art from Diego Orlotegui, and explores the different possibilities of what could’ve happened in the world of Spider-Man.
Bitten by a radioactive spider while he was still in high school, Flash Thompson gained the power to do whatever a spider could, and more. With this power, he donned a suit and mask, going by the name of Spider-Man. However, no one taught him that with great power came great responsibility, and as he continues to be aggressive and reckless in his crime fighting, it’s only a matter of time before Flash realizes what truly makes a hero.
This book has a whole lot going for it, with some fantastic character moments, parallels, and homages, but also a whole lot going against it. To start off with what I liked, I thought the art was very well done, and everyone all around did a great job. While the colors were lacking a bit, the rest of it is still gorgeous, especially the cover. Flash Thompson (before he became a better person) as Spider-Man is such a unique, but risky concept, and the way it was done here was very realistic. For one, I definitely enjoyed that, as it got down into the bare consequences of his actions, some of which are surprisingly astronomical. I won’t spoil what they were, but the culmination of those mistakes was beautifully done, and a great homage to a certain famous early Spidey comic.
However, it’s unfortunately held back by a few things, which is a shame because this is such an ingenious concept. My main problem is that the Unseen / Nick Fury Sr. narrates through the entire book, rather than just the beginning and the end. Much of the important stuff, such as how Flash became the Spider-Man he was today, is glossed over as he narrated, telling a philosophical story about soldiers that had no context here, since this version of Flash was never a soldier. It came across as rushed and forced, and never gave the story enough time to sink its teeth into the readers.
This leads into the other issue I had, which is that this story would be much better suited for a mini-series, rather than just a one-off. With most What If? issues, it serves its purpose as a one-off, but this one to me just has so much potential in it that its a shame it got overshadowed by the Unseen’s narration and the What If? format. It’s not a stretch to say that shocking things happen in this issue, and they might’ve hit closer to home if we got to know these versions of these characters for a bit longer.
Overall, this issue was an enjoyable read, but also a bit of wasted potential. Gerry Conway’s writing is superb, but needed to take a step back and allow the story to flow naturally. I hope in the future that this concept can be adapted into a small mini-series, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on it. I can definitely recommend this issue for anyone who wants to see more of Flash Thompson, but they’re not gonna get the one they grew to love.