A second dose of late 1970s What If? speculation suffers from the same problem as the first. Marvel’s top of the line creators didn’t have time to commit to an extra 32 page story, so the work was allocated to less imaginative talents.

What’s interesting about these stories as a selection is that almost all the themes explored as alternatives have later occurred at some stage in the Marvel universe. Brian Michael Bendis and later Mark Waid created tension from the world knowing Matt Murdock was Daredevil, and therefore aware the crimefighter is blind. Several other people have since turned up with the same powers as Spider-Man, Howard Chaykin’s team of 1950s Avengers have been added to the official continuity, and Jason Aaron produced a fine run of stories with Jane Foster as Thor. In this version she still simpers over Don Blake, who eventually replaces her as Thor, but never mind because Odin’s fallen in love with her, so she becomes Queen of Asgard. Not everything is that daft, but Don Glut’s plots barely stretch the imagination.

The later success of the ideas adds weight to the concept that there’s no such thing as a poor idea, just poor treatments, and there’s a further problem. As the decades pass it’s less and less likely that the bulk of potential readers will remember the twists of continuity on which the stories turn. For those who do remember, Glut and Sal Buscema’s idea of Rick Jones becoming the Hulk at pivotal moments will surely only resonate with readers who remember he was once bonded with the Kree Captain Marvel, and briefly partnered Captain America. It’s Glut’s best story here, partly for being drawn to Marvel’s usual standards by Sal Buscema, but Glut also follows a less predictable path. At least this time round some of the stories have happier endings.

Two contributions stand out for having far wackier starting concepts. Scott Shaw has a human bite a spider to create the Man-Spider. His cartooning is good, and it’s a deft parody of Spider-Man’s origin, welcome for not being dragged out beyond the joke’s lifespan. It can’t be claimed that Jack Kirby’s idea of the 1960s Marvel staff becoming the Fantastic Four is anywhere near his finest work artistically or creatively, but it’s a highlight here for having some originality. Kirby keeps the satirical elements toned down, treats the story as an adventure, and draws it in his early 1960s style. It’s fun, but not too much.

This collection was later combined with Vol. 1 as the first volume of What If?: The Complete Classic Collection, and with What If? starting a run as an animated series led to the release of the What If?: The Original Marvel Series in which these stories are also found. Vol. 3 is next. Will there be any improvement?