Before there was Spider-Gwen, before there was Gwenpool, there was a girl called Gwen Stacy, and she died. I may have mentioned this once or twice.
But on Earth-7736, an Earth about twelve and a half times better than Marvel's Earth-616 (do the math!), Gwen Stacy did not die! It's covered in the monumental What If #24, and you can see all the circumstances here in one of my old posts. What If? #24 is my second favorite ish of that can't-kill-it title (after the Shakespearean twist on Doctor Doom in #22), and it's partly because it saves one of my favorite supporting characters un comics from a fate worse than death (being brought back as a clone repeatedly).
What's the other part? Well, first let's check in on J. Jonah Jameson of Earth-7736. He's a jerk. A life-ruining jerk.
Panels from What If? (1977 series) #24 (December 1980), script by Tony Isabella; breakdowns by Gil Kane; finishes by Frank Giacoia with Carl Gafford, Peter Poplaski, Ron Zalme, and Joe Albelo; colors by Joe Rosas, letters by Tom Orzechowski
Gee, I almost didn't recognize Gwen there without her trademark headband.
Needless to say, never do that to anybody's wedding, no matter how long a pause the minister gives you after "If anyone here should see any just cause why the couple here should not be married..." Don't do that. It's just jerky. I didn't do it at Keira Knightley's wedding, and neither should you. For the sake of Aunt May's tender heart if nothing else.
Also in this issue: the origin of Gwen Stacy's crippling tinnitus.
Remember when I said before it was a happy story? Well, I lied. (I do that sometimes.) This is right up there withthe ending to every episode ever of The Incredible Hulk TV series. Cue the tinkling piano!
No one dies in this continuity not even Norman Osborn but it's a more striking twist than usual for What If?, the series of which it has been said "every issue ends with Iron Man being killed." Regardless of my preference for happy endings, I love this story because it sets up a status quo unusual for most of the rest of the series: it's a springboard for even more stories. It not only demands a sequel, I'd love to see a couple year's continuity set in this universe, with Spidey on the run, Aunt May hovering on the edge of death and despair, and the unlikely trip of Gwen, Flash, and Robbie searching to clear Peter's name, while JJJ ponders his actions from his throne of fame. It is perhaps the richest of possibilities and maybe the purest and closest to Roy Thomas's original concept of What If?: to spur thought and imagination into how a single small change can alter familiar characters and actions. It's the promise and imagination of infinite Earths and the multiverse of stories within them.