Possibly the best issue of WHAT IF and certainly one of the best-looking as a young Klaus Janson inks Gil Kane to great effect. Writer and soon-to-be-Editor in Chief Jim Shooter delivers on all fronts with an emotional story that packs a real wallop to it.
A tour de force by writer Paul Levitz and illustrator Joe Staton, this revelation of the secret origin of the Justice Society of America works as a piece of historical fiction, as nostalgia for those formative characters and their simpler time, or just as a cracking good adventure tale.
Current Marvel Editor in Chief Archie Goodwin gives creator Jim Starlin a pair of Annuals to wrap up the plotlines from his recent WARLOCK run, and Starlin wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter, wiping out Gamora and Pip the Troll casually and ramping up the threat posed by Thanos to eleven. All of the later INFINITY series are chasing the dragon of the experience provided by this issue.
Ever since they began their run on DETECTIVE COMICS a few issues earlier, everybody in fandom was waiting expectantly for Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers to bring the Clown Prince of Crime back to Gotham City, and the pair did not disappoint, with a tale that both hearkened back to the Joker’s earliest appearances and which also heightened the flavor of his madness. The high water mark of this particular run.
It’s become somewhat overlooked as the team went on to do much more popular work together in the months and years ahead, but this first collaboration between writer Chris Claremont, penciler John Byrne and inker Terry Austin took Steve Englehart’s somewhat-unlikeable character Star-Lord and redeemed him, transforming him into a swashbuckling space hero in the Robert Heinlein mold. It’s been reprinted in color a number of times, but is best in its original black and white (and without the later Michael Golden-drawn framing sequence.)