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I'm actually glad that Marvel is making What If stories again because they give us different spins on the characters we love, but also it gives writers the chance to write the stories they want with the heroes they want without messing up continuity and making the hero seem out of character. And since I am mostly writing about the Alternate Versions of Spider-Man until the release of Into the Spider-Verse in December. In this post we will be looking at What If? (2018) #1. This is a self-contained story that does not relate to the Spider-Geddon event. It merely takes place on a different Earth and follows Flash Thompson's story alone. In order for you to understand the importance of Flash Thompson being Spider-Man, you need to know the character's history.
Flash Thompson of Earth-616's Origin
In his high school years, Flash Thompson was a football player, the most popular guy in school, and Peter Parker's high school bully. Funnily enough, he was a huge Spider-Man fan. Flash eventually went on to serve in Iraq where he lost both of his legs. The character was then recruited by the US Government to become their elite operative by bonding him with the Venom Symbiote with the code-name Agent Venom. Flash eventually went on to become his own hero with the Venom Symbiote. In fact, he even becomes a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Through their time together, Flash and the Venom Symbiote grow a bond where Flash teaches the Venom Symbiote how to be a hero. Shortly after his outer-space stint, Flash returns back to Earth and somehow loses the Venom Symbiote, and it bonds to Lee Price, a dishonorably discharged member of the US military. After this, Eddie Brock (the Venom Symbiote's second human host), Flash Thompson, and Spider-Man try to stop Lee Price. After the bond between Venom and Price is severed, Flash and Eddie fight over the Venom Symbiote. Spider-Man, however, views the symbiote as an evil being, and doesn't know that the symbiote has changed since he was bonded to it. Spider-Man tries to spill a vat of Anti-Venom serum onto Flash and Eddie, which would essentially cure any disease but also kill the Venom Symbiote. This fails, and the symbiote bonds to Eddie, and a pseudo-symbiote is created and bonds to Flash. This makes Flash the new Anti-Venom, or Agent Anti-Venom. Shortly after having the Anti-Venom Symbiote, Flash uses his suit's healing abilities to destroy the Carnage Symbiote that is bonded to Norman Osborn (who calls himself the Red Goblin). This abuses the suit's healing capabilities and hurts Flash. Flash dies in the hospital after the battle with Red Goblin, and he is given a military funeral.
What if Flash Thompson became Spider-Man instead of Peter Parker?
If Flash Thompson became Spider-Man none of the events mentioned before would have happened. Instead, Flash would follow a very different path. Throughout his publication history, Flash was not the best person to be around, but he learned to be better. Had Flash gotten bitten by the radioactive Spider instead of Peter Parker he would not learn about the truth about being a hero that Peter learned. That means Flash doesn't know of Uncle Ben's quote "With great power must also come great responsibility" in this reality until it is too late.
Flash is shown to be irresponsible and brutal with his powers. In fact, he continued to beat one of his villains after he surrenders. Peter Parker, never having been bitten by the radioactive Spider, is just a photographer for the Daily Bugle who takes pictures of Spider-Man while he is fighting crime. Because of the way that Flash functions as Spider-Man, the civilians of New York have more fear towards Spider-Man and less respect and adoration. Flash blames this on Peter Parker because he takes pictures for the Bugle. Flash immediately began using his powers for heroism, though people liked him at first, they eventually began to dislike him.
On this Earth, we find out that Peter's Aunt May is dying of a rare form of blood cancer, and the cure is a very rare isotope called iso-36. Unfortunately, the only shipment was hijacked, leaving May without a cure. Peter then takes it upon himself to see if he can get Spider-Man's help. He manages to find the trailer park that Flash lives in, and that's when Flash Thompson finds Peter.
Peter tries to get Flash Thompson to find the cure so he can save his aunt, but Flash refuses to listen to him because he thinks that Peter tried to intentionally turn the people of New York against him. So out of anger, Flash punches Peter, killing him. Feeling guilty, Flash tries to find the cure for Aunt May when he gets into a fight with Doctor Octopus, and almost dies. During this brush with death, Flash realizes that he has no reason worry about whether he is good enough to be Spider-Man, because he is not good enough. He killed an innocent person, he is not a hero and he accepts that. He then becomes motivated to survive so he can help May. May is cured but awakens to find out that Peter is dead, and Flash Thompson is shown being escorted from the hospital, likely because he confessed to killing Peter Parker. The story ends here.
Note: I do not own the panels, texts, and images shown in this post. All panels, texts, and images belong to their respective owners.