During the recent Skrull invasion (commonly referred to as "Secret Invasion"), Norman Osborn rose to power when he killed the Skrull
Queen on national TV, replacing Nick Fury as the the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. - later rechristened H.A.M.M.E.R. - to protect America from
all threats. This includes people on Osborn's personal hit list.
This does not bode well for man of the unregistered heroes who - coincidentally - are on Osborn's hit list. Eventually Clint Barton (previously Hawkeye, now Ronin) decides that something must be done. Barton breaks into Avenger's Tower - now occupied by Osborn and his team of Avengers - planning to assassinate Osborn.
Given that this is a what-if scenario about this event, you can probably guess that nothing went according to plan and Osborn survived the attack. In this reality, we are allowed to see what would have happened if Barton had succeeded and killed Osborn.
Barton decides to go through with his plan to assassinate Norman Osborn. Feeling that it should be something that the real Hawkeye
should do, he puts on his original costume and leaves for Avengers' Tower.
His plan is brutally efficient as he takes down Bullseye and Daken before making his way to Osborn. Despite Osborn's use of a
personal force field, Hawkeye manages to fire a vibranium arrow through his target's forehead, killing him instantly. Barton escapes
leaving Victoria Hand to assume command of H.A.M.M.E.R.
This quickly becomes the top news story. His teammates in the New Avengers are shocked to learn that Barton's committed this act.
The person that is most disturbed by this is the recently-returned Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird), Barton's estranged ex-wife. Captain
America (Barnes), Spider-Man, and Mockingbird decide that if anyone should find Barton first, it should be one of them.
The public reaches a fever pitch over Osborn's assassination. Many are demanding the complete elimination of all costumed vigilantes At the officies of The Daily Tricorn (a political blog), one blogger identified as "Ted" wants to use this event to push his personal
agenda and encourage people to report anyone that may "look like a costume". His editor refuses and tells him to go home and rethink
his position. He then reminds his staff to focus on the search for Clint Barton. Unknown to his editor, Ted has the last known address
of Clint Barton, access to explosives, and a grim resolve.
Barton is now hiding in Central Park trying to plan his escape and remain hidden. This doesn't last too long as he is soon found by
a very angry Mockingbird. She doesn't report his location to her New Avenger teammates. Despite his poor choice, she gives him a new
identity and fake passport to help him leave the country. As he leaves, he encounters Bucky Barnes (Captain America) and Peter Parker
(Spider-Man). He tries to lose them in a nearby bar but they easily find him again. Before they can begin their "discussion" about his
actions, a news report catches Barton's attention. Ted has arrived at the Sunday Inn, a hotel in Queens, as he states, it is the
current residence of one Clint Barton. He promises to detonate the building unless Barton appears. However - as Spider-Man
inadvertently points out - his information is incorrect; it's the residence of Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and their child Danielle.
Barnes takes Barton to the Sunday Inn to comply with Ted's demands. When Barton confronts him, Ted becomes confused, claiming this somehow
isn't right. Barton correctly surmises that his plan was to blow both of them up and be a hero posthumously. As Barton reaches for Ted's detonator, Ted
fires his gun at Barton at close range. Barton is dead before his hits the ground. Ted is then taken away by the authorities.
Victoria Hand is later interviewed about the situation and reminds the audience that while these events are tragic, this should serve as a reminder why the activities of H.A.M.M.E.R. are so important.
The infiltration of Avengers' Tower and assassination of Osborn was handled quite well. The setup for the blogger-turned-suicide bomber Ted was done well. The all of the elements were in place to have a great alternative story, but the final showdown between Ted and Barton was flat.
The general tone that I got from the final pages was simply hurry-up-and-finish (much like Oscar acceptance speeches). This is a sad trend that has developed in this series. Good ideas are not fleshed out enough to actually matter in the end. When the story ends, there is no emotion, just general confusion.
I am getting to the point where I ask myself "What If? they actually put out a good What If? story".
2.5 webs. This was a good story idea that could have been much better without having to make room for a Deadpool backup. I'm not commenting on the quality of the Deadpool backup at this point (I have to read it first). The backup story should have been a feature story in a separate issue instead of taking away much-needed pages from the main story.
The artwork by Takeda was excellent. I just wish we could have been given a better story to showcase this talent.