The Marvel multiverse is full of possibilities, worlds where the impossible happened and the familiar heroes and villains traveled down completely different paths in life. The long-running anthology series What If? offers readers a peek into some of these worlds across the multiverse, notably including realities where the heroes gave up on their morals and became worse than their most hated enemies.
Especially in its later incarnations, What If? peered into the darkest corners of the Marvel multiverse and chronicled worlds where Marvel’s mightiest heroes went horribly astray. In some worlds, heroes even killed their villains, which sent them down dark downward spirals that ultimately ruined them.
The events of “Born Again” almost broke Daredevil. Upon discovering his true identity, the Kingpin used his wealth of resources to ruin every aspect of Matt Murdock’s life. Eventually, unhinged and with nothing to lose, Murdock went to confront Kingpin. But while the core universe version was beaten in a fight and began the path to reclaim his former honor, the version of Daredevil from What If? Vol. 2 #2 by Danny Fingeroth and Greg Capullo imagines a world where Matt instead arrived at Kingpin’s office with a gun.
Surprising the villain, Murdock shoots him in the head and kills him. Driven mad by grief, Murdock ends up on the street under the delusion that he’s facing justice for his crime. Meanwhile, Karen Page is hunted down and murdered, which prevents her from ever finding Matt. Punisher and Spider-Man both track Murdock down to bring him to help, but Daredevil avoids them and makes his escape. He eventually finds Wilson Fisk’s son, Richard, the Rose.
Murdock begs forgiveness and seems to accept his eventual death. But the arrival of Hobgoblin turns the entire situation into a massive brawl between all three. In the end, Daredevil is able to activate a pumpkin bomb that’s caught on Hobgoblin’s glider, which leads to the death of both men. In honor of Murdock’s heroism and decision to risk his life to protect his life over his own, Richard decides to take over as Daredevil and continue on in his stead.
After Norman Osborn took the reigns of national defense after the events of Secret Invasion, the New Avengers were forced into hiding. Enraged, Clint Barton decided to try to kill him. In the core Marvel Universe, Barton was captured by the Dark Avengers in the attempt. But in What If? Dark Reign by Jason Henderson and Sana Takeda, his mission was far more successful. In the attack, Barton seemingly put down Bullseye, Daken, and ultimately Norman Osborn with a Vibranium arrow to get around Osborn’s force field.
The country turns against the idea of superheroes again, and the Avengers try to bring their teammate to justice for his own safety. Fearing his fate if that happens, Mockingbird gives Hawkeye a false identity that he can take and use to escape the country and go into hiding. Bucky and Spider-Man’s attempts to catch Barton are interrupted by a domestic terrorist, who plants a bomb at the hotel Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are hiding. Demanding to see Barton, Clint travels with the rest of the team to the hotel. Clint tries to reason with the man, but he ends up fatally shot in the effort. Victoria Hand takes over for Norman’s open position at HAMMER, solidifying the harsher S.H.I.E.L.D. alternative in this corner of the multiverse.
After being restored to life by his family, Kraven the Hunter discovered that he could now only die at the hands of Spider-Man. “Grim Hunt” was set up as a long-trap to lure Spider-Man into a situation where he’d finally be mad enough to just kill Kraven. While this scheme failed in the core Marvel Universe, Kraven was able to force Spider-Man’s hand in the world from What If? Spider-Man by Mark Sable, Paul Azaceta, and Matt Southworth. Using Kraven’s own spear, this Spider-Man murdered the villain. Defeating Kraven’s family in quick order, Peter ends up fleeing and staying with Mary Jane.
Although they spend the night together, Mary Jane is horrified the next morning when she finds out what he did. Enraged, Peter decides to give up on his personal life and return to being Spider-Man. Peter becomes more disconnected from the world around him and even starts to lose his connection to the multiversal Web of Life – which costs him his Spider-Sense. Despite MJ’s hope that she can get Harry Osborn and May Parker to help reach through to Peter, Spider-Man instead breaks into the Raft and murders Norman Osborn.
When Mary Jane confronts Peter, he even gives up being Spider-Man and becomes the Hunter. Jessica Carpenter recruits Venom, Anti-Venoma nd Spider-Woman to try and bring Peter down, but he’s cowed Kraven’s family into his servants and lets them loose. By the time a wounded Carpenter can teleport Arana to the battle, everyone except Peter has been killed. Although Peter gets the drop on Arana, she’s able to turn Kraven’s gun back on him – leaving Peter alive but blinded. MJ refuses to take Peter back, who at least finds comfort in the fact that Arana has assumed the role of Spider-Woman to protect the city.
In the darkest corners of Marvel's multiverse, heroes like Spider-Man and Daredevil killed their villains and lost everything in the process.