What If... Spider-Man versus Wolverine

Background

In Spider-Man Vs. Wolverine #1 Spider-Man was sent to West Berlin (at the time, the city was divided into a West and East side) to work with Ned Leeds on an assignment for J. Jonah Jameson. Leeds' story led to international assassins that ultimately killed him. Peter encountered Wolverine who was also tracking down the assassins' target: his old girlfriend Charlie. Charlie was an ex-KGB agent that was exacting revenge on operatives that tried to kill her . When Charlie had killed everyone on her list, she contacted Wolverine to kill her quickly since she knew she die a slow and excruciating death at the hands of her former employers. Spider-Man is unaware of the situation and tries to stop Wolverine from killing her, which leads to a prolonged fight. When Wolverine and Spider-Man are separated, she intentionally approached Spider-Man from behind. He was already on edge from fighting Wolverine and when his spider-sense went off, he wheeled around and hits her full-force quickly killing her. The experience upset him greatly as he had never killed anyone. Soon after he and Logan parted ways. Peter returned to New York and Mary Jane his "not girlfriend" to resume his regular life and move past this.

This story takes this premise and asks the critical question: what if Spider-Man never returned to New York and was never able to reconnect to his family and friends?

Story 'What If... The Spider Who Went Into the Cold?'

  What If... Spider-Man versus Wolverine
Summary: Spider-Man stars
Editor: Nathan Cosby
Writer: Jeff Parker, Paul Tobin
Artist: Clayton Henry
Cover Pencils: John Romita, Jr.
Cover Inks: Klaus Janson

Nick Fury is interrogating a prisoner that was captured by the Black Widow. His code name is Nebo, a master assassin in his own right that is responsible for training mercenaries the world over. Fury pulls a picture of a young woman from his dossier and shows it to Nebo.

Her name is Alex, a CIA agent who was the younger sister of Charlemagne aka Charlie. He provides Charlie's backstory and concludes with a startling revelation: Spider-Man hasn't returned to New York in over a year. To complicate matters, Russian agents are turning up dead with either claw marks or a layer of webbing. He wants answers that only Nebo can provide, so he slides the dossier to him and allows him to inspect the pictures.

The Black Widow stands behind him, training her widow's bite on him if he tries anything. He begins his story about how he found Wolverine and informed him about Alex. She was deep under cover in the KGB when a picture of her now-dead sister was circulated. Her reaction outed her as an undercover agent and was captured. She is now a prisoner in the Ural Mountains.

Logan jumped at the chance to save someone that was important to Charlie. He stopped Peter at the airport and offered him the chance to make up for killing Charlie. Logan knows he was manipulated by Charlie and doesn't blame him, he knows what this has done to him. He offers him this chance to balance the scales in his (Peter's) mind at least. Peter makes an international call to Mary Jane to tell her that he'll be away a while longer.

Cut to the snow-covered Ural Mountains. Wolverine and Spider-Man are dropped off by chopper and are under fire the moment they touch ground. They head for cover while Nebo uses the on-board weapons to take out the KGB agents. They proceed to the stronghold, dealing with the opposition in their own unique ways. They are then met with an unnamed Russian version of Storm, who has created a blinding snowstorm. This distracts them from the approaching Crimson Dynamo, who sucker punches Wolverine. While he's down Spider-Man begins to attack Dynamo but has limited effect on his armor. Wolverine recovers and cuts the power to the armor while a frustrated Spider-Man continues to hit him at full strength. The combination proves deadly to the wearer of the armor. For the second time, Spider-Man must come to terms with accidentally killing someone with his powers.

Wolverine snaps him back to reality, ordering him to web the "weather chick". Spider-Man tethers her to the ground long enough for Wolverine to climb a nearby tree and kill her. When Wolverine returns to the ground, he gets a lecture from Spider-Man that he ignores. He reminds Peter that Alex doesn't have to die because of their actions. They break into the compound and split up. Spider-Man rescues Alex while Wolverine blows up their power plant. Nebo follows this marker and extracts them.

Fury interrupts Nebo's story to ask why Spider-Man didn't leave after that. He theorizes that Peter felt that if he could keep Alex alive, now that she's wanted, it would justify all the killing. Fury points out that in doing so, he had gained a very skilled operative. Nebo doesn't disagree.

He continues his story by describing the training that he provided for his new operative. Honing his already impressive fighting techniques and refining his spider-sense as well. It "expanded" to the point where Nebo could not think about attacking Peter without him knowing it. He continued to stay with the group, mostly because he fell in love with Alex, going so far as to redesign his costume.

Nebo continues to explain that his intelligence indicated the Russians wanted Alex back. He mentions one particular encounter with a splinter group called The Black Steppes. They failed to bring her in. He then details other missions that they have completed. Some Fury knew about, some he didn't. Fury mentions that they've been tracking funds sent to Aunt May and asks point blank where the rest of the money they're making is going. Nebo replies that charities receive most of the excess at Peter's request.

Fury reminds him that their activities have almost restarted the Cold War. He demands to know what specifically caused that. Nebo continues by informing him that the Black Steppes would not give up their quest for Alex. Peter became tired of this and took the offensive. He led Logan and Alex on mission after mission to eliminate anyone who knew Alex and destroy any existing records of her. Which brings them to the current date.

Fury explains that their latest mission to a Black Steppes base near Zaragoza is known to virtually every Russian agency that want Alex dead. Fury knows this isn't coincidence; they have all been tipped off by someone.

At the base in question, Logan, Peter and Alex are purging the computers when they come under attack. They defend themselves using all available means. This includes Spider-Man shooting a Black Steppes agent in cold blood with a concealed weapon in his web-shooter rather than waste time with non-lethal means. When they are all surrounded, Peter encourages them to hold out for one more minute. When Logan asks why, the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier arrives.

Fury, Widow, and Nebo are lowered to the ground. The Steppes tell Fury to leave; they want Alex back for reasons of state security. Fury offers them a better deal: they turn over Nebo aka The Rook in exchange for letting the other three walk away. Realizing that The Rook is worth more to them, they agree. Wolverine realizes that Peter has orchestrated this whole affair and is impressed. As Nebo is carried away, he too admits that Peter has now become his greatest student.

Before they leave, Peter gives them a letter to deliver to Mary Jane. It's no longer safe for him to write down an address. Fury agrees to have it delivered.

Fury goes on to explain that their continued efforts eliminated many of the Black Ops groups and made the world safer. He questions whether or not they would have had this much impact had they stayed standard superheroes. He also admits that he read the contents of the letter – it was a goodbye to a past life.

General Comments

The Spider-Man/Wolverine one-shot contains a great intricate story. My only question is why would they choose this as the tangent point for a recent book. Don't get me wrong, the source makes a great "what if" provided you're already familiar with the material. If you're a new reader that sees Spider-Man and Wolverine fighting on the cover, you might be confused and perhaps a bit disappointed. The issue doesn't concern itself with the heroes fighting each other, it focuses on the espionage aspect of the story.

While they do briefly touch on the source material, it's essentially a splash-page summary of the incident in Nick Fury-speak. The important points are mentioned but it does not come across as very effective way to set up an intricate 20 year old story.

For those of us that have read the original, this takes our favorite hero and turns him into something we never expected. Some aspects of "Black Ops" Spidey stays true to the character, some do not. Sending money to Aunt May, donating his extra money to worthy charities is in character. Leading missions to eliminate their enemies and shooting people in cold blood is not. Are we talking about Spider-Man or Punisher here? I will concede that his first two kills were accidental, and that his life has taken a different turn with his new profession, but his behavior from that point disturbs me.

Explaining that through Nebo's training Peter was able to expand his spider-sense makes no sense. He was built up to the level of a Jedi master in this story. They tried to explain it, but I don't buy it. Knowing what was going to happen before his opponent? Come on.

Overall Rating

3.5 webs Had they avoided the enhanced spider-sense and Peter abandoning his moral code, I would have rated it higher. In spite of these missteps it is still an interesting read. The interactions between Fury and Nebo work well, the pacing is excellent, and the artwork is quite impressive.