Comic Browser:


What If #5: Review

Oct 1977
Don Glut, George Tuska

Story Name:

What if…Captain America and Bucky Had Both Survived World War II?

Review & Comments

4 stars

What If #5 Review by (February 15, 2010)
Co-plotted by Don Glut and Roy Thomas.

Review: Most of the issues in this alternate history series follow a simple formula: a basic premise based on a different path taken is laid before us and we see the effect on other familiar stories down through the years. Very little attention is given to characterization: the story is wholly plot-driven, usually leading up to some major catastrophe. The chief interest is in seeing how the writers can come up with a creative variation on Marvel history, though, as the series progressed, they seemed at times to be taking a jab at readers who have complained about how a particular story turned out (hence the bigger disaster that results from altering What Has Been Written). This particular issue had more of an impact when killing off characters was not so common (or resurrecting them either); now it’s a joke. It’s hard for me to be as impressed as I was when I first read this in 1977.

Added details: In this timeline, Nick Fury was killed in the Korean War, Captain America declined to join the Avengers, and Buck Barnes and Sharon Carter are lovers. The encounter with the Hulk is from CAP #110.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

What If #5 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro
The Watcher takes us back to the closing days of World War 2, as Captain America and Bucky pursue Baron Zemo’s robot plane; the bomb explodes, killing Bucky and sending Cap into suspended animation to be revived years later by the Avengers. But the cosmic being gives us a glimpse of another reality, in which Cap successfully defuses the bomb and he and Bucky are able to crash land the plane and be rescued by a British ship. Meanwhile, Baron Zemo escapes and reports to his master, the Red Skull—and learns the price of failure is to be put into a coma for 20-30 years. As the War winds down, Cap and Bucky see action with Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. A decade later, the older Cap and "Buck" are fighting Commies rather than Nazis as the 50s give way to the 60s. President Lyndon Johnson calls Cap to his office and outlines his plan to create a spy agency called SHIELD to combat the terrorist group Hydra—and he wants Steve Rogers to run it. Steve politely declines but recommends his now-retired partner Buck Barnes for the job. Some years later, when Cap and Buck are walking down the street, the Hulk suddenly appears, threatening Rick Jones. Buck grabs Cap’s shield and rescues the boy from his monstrous companion. This convinces Steve that he is getting too old for the Captain America role and that Buck would be the perfect successor. So Buck and Rick become the new hero team, while Steve takes the job as head of SHIELD. The day comes when Steve leads SHIELD in a final assault against Hydra’s base on a volcanic island. Captain America and Rick join them and the large group invades the enemy stronghold. A battle breaks out and a booby-trapped weapon leads to the capture of Steve, Cap, Rick, and Sharon. Steve recognizes the Supreme Hydra as the now-mad Baron Zemo. Steve uses the remains of the super-soldier serum in his body to burst his bonds and free his allies, as Zemo’s minions enter the room. In the violent melee that follows Zemo is inundated with magma and the heroes escape—but Steve learns that Cap was critically wounded; he dies before they can get him to a hospital. At Buck’s funeral, a bitter Sharon blames Steve for his death and walks out. As Steve engages in some soul-searching, Rick volunteers to become the new Captain America. Steve’s reply, "We’ll talk about it, Rick…just…not now."

Preview Pages
Click sample interior pages to enlarge them:

George Tuska
Russ Jones
George Roussos
Rick Hoberg (Cover Penciler)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Bruce Banner)


> What If: Book info and issue index

Share This Page