What If? Spider-Man Never Became Captain Universe

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By Jon Durmin

Buenos Dias Body Politic! a few months ago I humored you with hypotheses on how the X-Men franchise might have looked a bit different if the “Outback Era” X-Men team hadn’t gone through the Siege Perilous into different lives between issues 250 and 251 of Uncanny X-Men. As a few of the more astute among you pointed out to me, however, this wasn’t just the era during which the X-Franchise blossomed into its own. While the X-Men were falling apart and growing on divergent paths the rest of the Marvel Universe (and a few X-Men too) were busy coping with the fallout of Inferno and the antagonistic assault of the Acts of Vengeance.


Not familiar with Acts of Vengeance? No worries! We’ll catch you up before Quicksilver can blink! It all started when that talkative trickster Loki convinced a pack of villainous masterminds, the so-called “Prime Movers” to set aside their differences, pool their resources and change dance partners to throw those hero-types off their game and defeat all those annoying, scheme-foiling do-gooders once and for all. Readers who are familiar with the back-story of the Old Man Logan character may be familiar with the idea of a world where this diabolical scheme paid off (and if you’re not what are you waiting for?).

What kind of a principal writer would I be here at M6P if I didn’t ponder the poignant practicality of pursuance produced by my previous pitch? Granted the X-Men, X-Factor, Excalibur, and the New Mutants did not play a tremendous role, nor were they tremendously impacted by the Acts of Vengeance story (Psylocke being the notable exception). However, some of the other characters that featured prominently on the alternative X-teams in ‘What-If . . . the Outback X-Men never entered the Siege Perilous?’played an EXTREMELY important role in AoV (can we call it AoV going forward? I think that’ll save us time and eye-strain, right): Spider-Man and Magneto.

During AoV Peter Parker was possessed by the Uni-Power that turns mere mortals into the cosmically powered Captain Universe. Basically, Spidey spent most of the AoV event as a web-faced match for the Silver Surfer. As events shook out, it wasn’t the Avengers who spent much of the storyline on the ropes, but rather this souped-up Spidey who was instrumental in defeating many of the most dangerous among the Prime Movers’ agents. In a scenario where Spider-Man isn’t in New York, but laying low in Asia with Wolverine his new mentor things are suddenly more in the Prime Movers favor. Things are looking bad for the Marvel U.

actsBalancing the scales somewhat, but perhaps not enough, is that in this reimagining of Marvel history Magneto would not be among the Prime Movers. In the AoV story we saw published, he was one of the most dangerous among them, though it was ultimately revealed (in the captivating Captain America #367-368) that his involvement in this group was a ploy to get close enough to the Red Skull that he could exact vengeance on the Nazi supervillain for his genocidal actions during World War II. However, a Magneto already embroiled in building his own team of X-Men and combating Zaladane’s conquest of the Savage Land would have more immediate concerns, and thus the offer of a position of power with the Prime Movers would be rejected even if offered.

With this sorted out, let us ask then, how the Acts of Vengeance would look in a world where the paths of the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Magneto changed dramatically . . . What-If . . ?

Prime Movers

  • Loki (disguised organizer of this nefarious group, a puppetmaster of puppetmasters . . . no, the Puppet Master is not one of the Prime Movers)
  • Red Skull (Vile super Nazi with ambitions of global conquest)
  • Dr. Doom (Techno-Magical Polymath Nietzschean superman with ambitions of global conquest)
  • Kingpin (Criminal mastermind and financial juggernaut with ambitions of global conquest)
  • Mandarin (Alien ring empowered technocrat with ambitions of global conquest)
  • Wizard (Genius inventor and illusionist with ambitions of global conquest)
  • The Leader (Gamma affected genius and psionic with ambitions of global conquest)


In the original AoV Loki had tried to recruit the Leader as a pawn in his schemes, but the high-headed greenster turned him down, believing himself worthy of a loftier appeal. Without Magneto available to round out the Prime Movers, the Leader gets his wish and adds his genius in coordination and planning to directing the many villainous agents of the Prime Movers to be more dangerous than ever.

Avengers – Earth’s Meekest Heroes

  • Wasp (Tested like never before, she’s again proving her grit as a hero and leader)
  • Ant-Man II (Struggling single-father Scott Lang is stepping up to prove his heroism as normalcy collapses around him and daughter Cassie)
  • Paladin (Talented mercenary who eschews lethal force and carries a bit of a torch for the Wasp)
  • Falcon (High flying former partner of Captain America and the hero of Harlem, returning to the Avengers in this darkest hour)
  • Black Widow (Natalia Romanova, returning to lend her skills as a super-spy to this squad)
  • Machine Man (robotic reservist, stirred to action when the Prime Movers upend his efforts to live as a normal man)
  • Quasar (Narrowly escaping the intense attack that leveled Avengers Island, will the ever-humble Wendell Vaughn be able to unite with the other Avengers in time to lend his considerable power to their efforts?)


What’s happened to Earth’s Mightiest? Without a cosmically powered Spidey to distract the likes of Graviton, Trapster, the Brothers Grimm, TESS-One, Rhino, Shocker, Hydro Man, Titania, Kingpin, Dragon Man, Molten Man, and the Chameleon from the Prime Mover’s onslaught on the team, the Avengers have been hit far harder than they were in the real AoV. The result is a more devastating assault on the Avengers than even during the siege of their Mansion by Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil. Out of this disarray a new rag-tag team of heroes, each of them by measures, diminutive, humble, or just plain unpowered, pulls together to form a desperate Avengers roster.

Defenders of New York

  • Moon Knight (Field Leader, Former Mercenary, Fist of Khonshu, and all-round wild man hungry to see justice done after attacks by the forces of the Prime Movers cost him his friends)
  • Luke Cage (Framed for the murder of his best-friend Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, Luke Cage comes out of hiding to try to save New York)
  • Black Cat (Former Spider-Sweetheart, and sometime cat burglar, Felicia Hardy aims to ruin the luck of the Prime Movers)
  • Puma (Sometime ally of Spider-Man & Black Cat, Thomas Fireheart is prepared to use his considerable resources and superhuman Puma-like powers to challenge the Prime Mover’s villainy)
  • Prowler (Another Spider-friend, Hobie Brown is a technical genius and sky-scraper scaling crime fighter)
  • Dragon’s Wing (Colleen Wing, old friend of Luke Cage, sword slinging sleuth of the Daughters of the Dragon with a new secret identity)
  • Dragon Knight (Misty Knight, cold friend of Luke Cage, cybernetically-armed sleuth of the Daughters of the Dragon with a new secret identity)
  • Venom the Hunter (With Spider-Man never having returned following the events of Kraven’s Last Hunt (see this article’s predecessor) it is not Peter Parker that Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote seek vengeance against in the black Spidey-suit, but Sergei Kravinoff. In this confrontation the no-holds barred Kraven manages to subdue Brock when the symbiote identifies a more kindred spirit in the former member of the Sinister Six. The process of bonding to the symbiote restores Kraven’s eroding sanity and as Venom, the pair launch on a path to redemption, vowing to take Spider-Man’s place and exceed him by hunting those who would prey on the innocent. As a member of this team Kravinoff secures his place as New York’s new, preeminent Spider-themed hero)


Guided together by the disembodied astral form of Doctor Strange this team battles against impossible odds in a New York that is becoming the personal domain of the Kingpin.

Thor and the New Warriors

  • Thor (Mightiest of the Avengers, the God of Thunder has been suffering from unexplained episodes of weakness at this time)
  • Night Thrasher (Wealthy philanthropist by day, crime fighting vigilante driven by the murder of his parents as a child by night . . . this sounds familiar . . .)
  • Nova (re-adjusting to the sudden return of his powers with the help of Night Thrasher)
  • Firestar (A former student of the White Queen & Hellion, this nuclear powered ex-New Mutants nemesis is about to turn over a new leaf)
  • Marvel Boy (Telekinetic teen with dreams of becoming an Avenger)
  • Speedball (Bouncing youngster who delights in playing the hero)
  • Namorita (Adolescent clone of Namor, the Sub-Mariner’s cousin Namora)


Did you know that the New Warriors first came together during AoV in the pages of Thor? As with the original AoV, this new team and Thor will have to combine all their unified might into fending off the unstoppable fury of the Juggernaut! After that, perhaps they can rally to pick up where the devastated Avengers (?) left off!

The NEW Fantastic Four

  • Doc Pym (Scientific genius to rival Reed Richards, this reluctant hero is returning to lead when he’s needed most)
  • Human Torch (Jim Hammond, revived Golden Age hero and Adam of AI in the Marvel U)
  • Wonder Man (Ionically-powered, soaring strongman, actor, entrepreneur, and reformed villain)
  • Vision (synthetic superman and artificial ‘grandson’ of Hank Pym, recently stripped of his Simon Williams patterned personality)

fantastic four

As in the original AoV the Fantastic Four secure the Baxter Building and sojourn to Washington D.C. to testify against the Superhero Registration Act (yep, over 15 years before Civil War). However, with U.S. Agent standing as the head of Freedom Force it’s this legitimate and official superteam of the Federal Government that is manipulated by Dr. Doom into tackling the Fantastic Four, branding them as outlaws, and arresting our classic heroes on false pretenses. Meanwhile, out in California the still standing members of the West Coast Avengers form a new familial foursome, foraging east to face the foul fiends poised to finish our many New York based heroes. Thus, the First Family of the Marvel U will temporarily give way to this Futuristic Family of . . .

Alpha Flight

  • Vindicator (patriotic widowed successor to her heroic husband Guardian)
  • Talisman (growing in her mystical knowledge and power, but is she ready for the magical confrontation that awaits her?)
  • Box (Madison Jeffries is increasingly one with the titanic Canadian armor, and finding love with Diamond Lil)
  • Diamond Lil (Diamond Hard skin empowered defector from Omega Flight)
  • Sasquatch (Hulk-strong science whiz, and the heart and soul of the Alphans)


As in the original AoV, fighting a few American villains (the Owl, Nekra, and Scorpion) who ventured North to flee the Superhero Registration Act being considered state-side, and at odds with their Ottawa-sanctioned replacements in Omega Flight, the Alphans are about to face the threat of Llan the Sorcerer.

Damage Control

  • The Director (actually the Mad Thinker who rejected Loki’s overtures to be one of the Prime Movers in the original AoV, and secretly coordinates this team to secure his prediction that the PMs and their agents will fail)
  • Monica Rambeau (recently severely injured, Monica’s powers as Captain Marvel have been jump-started, but aren’t yet reliable enough to let her directly fight the villainous horde)
  • Wong (Longtime aide to the missing Doctor Strange, a talented mystic and martial artist in his own right)
  • Col. John Jameson (Formerly Man-Wolf and Captain Jupiter, the astronaut and son of newsman J. Jonah Jameson is the sole survivor of the Avengers Support Crew)
  • Wyatt Wingfoot (Heroic-Hearted ally of the Fantastic Four)
  • Ben Urich (Journalist ally of Daredevil, brilliant investigator, and information broker)
  • Flash Thompson (Washed out war hero, and number one Spider-Man fan, getting a second chance to live up to his idol’s example)
  • Liz Osborn (Inheritor by marriage of the Osborn fortune, secretly using her wealth to feed and help the civilian population of New York)
  • Foggy Nelson (The surviving partner of Nelson and Murdock lends his talents as an attorney to rally boost the morale of those resisting the Kingpin as the voice of the underground)
  • Jennifer Walters (Sapped of her She-Hulk powers by a Gamma Radiation decontamination device of the Leader’s design, Jennifer works with Foggy as part of the voice of the underground)
  • Walter & Diane Newell (though not touched by the Uni-Power, Stingray and his wife manage a watery refugee route to help innocent families escape the predations of New York’s new tyrants)


The superhero clean-up company Damage Control experienced a brief revival during the published AoV event we know. However, in a world where New York has become a full on war zone between the forces of the Prime Movers (especially Kingpin and Red Skull) and the resistance of the Avengers and Defenders, Damage Control provides a different kind of resistance as an underground organization of ordinary men and women with a heroic spirit. Each of them empowered by a small fragment of the Uni-Power that might have gone to Spider-Man, these mortal heroes have banded together to stem the loss of life and suffering of civilians in the New York war zone. Who is Damage Control?

And as for the rest . . ?

What of our unaccounted for heroes? Fear not true believers! They’ll be accounted for in short-order. Let’s take a gander at the fights and fates of our other Marvel heroes in this more perilous Acts of Vengeance . . .

  • The Punisher (Attempting a one-man war against the Prime Movers exploded in Frank Castle’s face. Literally. Killing the Corruptor at point-blank range irreparably damaged Frank’s mind leaving him completely unrestrained, and turning his battle against hero and villain alike. He is rapidly becoming a terror to not only the agents of the Prime Movers, but those like the Defenders who represent hope for the innocent in the now lawless New York landscape)
  • The Hulk (In his Mr. Fixit mode, the Hulk was easy prey for the manipulations of the Controller who set him against . . .)
  • Captain America (Caught between the assaults of the Hellfire Club, the Controller, and the Hulk this world’s Captain America is the captive of the Red Skull, who delights in tormenting him with the dismantling of the U.S.)


  • Sub-Mariner (Having refused the overtures and manipulations of the Prime Movers to terrorize the surface yet again, Namor and Atlantis find themselves on the defensive against an all-out assault by aquatic Sentinels constructed by the Hellfire Club’s Sebastian Shaw from one side, and an Apocalypse who has decided it is time to test the Avenging Son’s worthiness to survive on the other. Even with the help of his fellow monarch T’Challa of Wakanda, the Sovereign of the Seven seas may never have faced such a challenge as this.)


  • Cloak & Dagger (Tyrone and Tandy are fighting the good fight as best they can with their desperate efforts taking some pressure off the other heroes of New York)
  • Power Pack (Evacuated by the Newells following their traumatic confrontation with Typhoid Mary, the Power family is trying to figure out how to help their pal Franklin Richards and his family, the Fantastic Four)


  • The Inhumans (cloistered on the Blue Area of the Moon in Atillan the Inhumans are unaware of the frightful events on Earth)


  • Iron Man (Tony Stark has been slain in a Leader coordinated attack by Dr. Doom, Chemistro and the Wrecking Crew that left him an easily dismantled “Tin-Man”. His cracked helmet has joined Captain America’s shield as the dual standard of the Prime Mover’s attack. Meanwhile, three brave figures enter the wreckage of Stark Industries in search of armor that will let them join the heroes’ fight)
  • Doctor Strange (weakened after the Inferno, Stephen Strange’s body is destroyed in confrontation with the Enchantress and Executioner. His astral form lives on, guiding Wong and the Damage Control team’s strategy)
  • Daredevil (broken and killed by the overwhelming attack of the Doctor Doom operated Ultron-9 and TESS-One robots, Matt Murdock’s heroic last stand is an inspiration to his friends Foggy Nelson and Ben Urich)
  • Hawkeye and Mockingbird (Unable to stand against the supervillain breakout from the Vault prison without Iron Man’s extra firepower, this couple made their heroic final stand side-by-side as the first casualties of the Prime Mover’s initial attack)


  • X-Factor (Off planet and involved with the Judgment War as in the original AoV. With new members Forge and Banshee in tow things go better for these heroes, but Cyclops discovers he has a rival for Marvel Girl’s affections in Forge)


  • Excalibur (Off-Dimension as part of the Cross-Time Caper and quite unaware of the Acts of Vengeance)


  • The New Mutants (Away in Asgard as in the original AoV, they will find a new leader in Cable when they return to Earth)


  • Wolverine and the X-Men (Wolverine, Jubilee, Spider-Man, and Sunfire escape the Hand in Japan only to run afoul of the Mandarin and the Sinister Syndicate when they arrive in California. Luckily they’re on Strong Guy’s turf, and Guido can’t wait to get his hands dirty)


  • The Uncanny X-Men (In place of Wolverine, Havok’s Outback team, traveling through Latin America on their way back to Australia with new recruit Magma, ally themselves with Sister Salvation, La Bandera and Roughhouse to liberate Tierra Verde from Geist, his mercenary ally Tiger Shark, and Spore, the living disease!)