It’s taken five volumes, but the quality level of What If? Classic has finally crawled up to average. Not everything here is solid gold, but there are enough stories that still entertain, plus the bonus of Frank Miller on top form, artistically at least. His feature is co-plotted with Mike W. Barr, and explores Matt Murdock becoming an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the accident that destroys his sight, rather than a superhero. It’s fun and magnificently drawn, without being peak Miller on Daredevil.

Some reprinted issues now offer two stories instead of one extended piece, so Miller’s Daredevil variant was accompanied by Ghost Rider being separated from Johnny Blaze. If you’ve ever wanted to see the Pope stretched in chains, Michael Fleisher and Tom Sutton provide that here! Rich Margopoulos has a good basic plot for events following Wolverine killing the Hulk, but the dialogue is woeful, and Roger Stern’s reworking of the earliest Fantastic Four story has moments of pathos, but little direction. Steven Grant having the Avengers being suckered into capturing every superhero and villain starts well, but drags on too long, and Alan Kupperberg’s art (sample left) is ordinary.

Having noted there are now shorter stories, it’s the three longest that provide the highlights. The collection opens with Mary Jo Duffy’s explanation of events had Phoenix not been killed back in the day. It’s suitably shocking and tidily drawn by Jerry Bingham, a lost talent. On the basis of his Spider-Man clone story, the same applies to Bill Flanagan, who picks up with the clone surviving his first encounter with Spider-Man, but with the clever twist of the clone’s memories restricted to Spider-Man’s earliest adventures. Rich Buckler and Jim Mooney draw Mark Gruenwald’s story concerning Korvac, in the late 1970s a would-be world alterer who all-but defeated the Avengers in a nine part epic. Here Korvac does defeat the Avengers and sets his sights on the universe’s most powerful beings. His being able to revive the dead means the Avengers still feature, and Greg LaRoque provides suitably expansive art from Gruenwald’s layouts.

Gruenwald is also the writer of ongoing shorts detailing the history of the Eternals. He picks up long in the past, but by the later chapters the Inhumans also feature. It’s an interesting tying together of events from other stories along with a few pieces of connecting material.

More recently these stories have been repackaged alongside some from Vol. 6 in the third What If?: The Complete Classic Collection.