Alpha Flight #102-103
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #102, Alpha Flight #103
The story is probably most notable for the introduction of Weapon Omega. I remember reading in Wizard magazine about how issue #102 was likely a "hot pick" that we should go out and horde due to the introduction of Weapon Omega. This was at a time when the Weapon X storyline in Marvel Comics Presents had recently been published, and anything related to that (see also the introduction of Kane, the new Weapon X, in X-Force) was hot by association. I didn't buy these issues at the time, and when i picked them up for this project they didn't cost any more than the surrounding issues, so in the long run Weapon Omega was just a blip, although it did probably contribute to the increased profile of the character's real identity (and since you can figure it out by looking at the Characters Appearing, it's not spoiling it to reveal that it's Wild Child, even though we don't learn that in these issues).
Diablo has taken over the fictional country of Tierra del Maiz (and yet no one is seen eating corn). Alpha Flight, in stealth costumes, are sent in to depose him. It's an odd role for Alpha Flight, especially since it's a plot point that the other governments of the world are not at all concerned about the takeover.
The team split up for their mission, and Guardian notices that she has some mysterious help, and her first guess is Wolverine. She immediately discounts that possibility, but clearly that impression is meant to stick with us.
Guardian winds up getting captured by Diablo.
Weapon Omega shows up to help out...
...but he gets captured too.
Meanwhile, Northstar encounters a super-villain that is working for Diablo: Whirlwind.
That could potentially be an interesting fight, but Tom Morgan depicts it more as a battle between two guys that punch really fast than an epic speedster battle.
Sasquatch, meanwhile, runs into USAgent. Not only are the other world powers ok with Diablo's takeover, but the US has sent him to make sure he's not overthrown.
And the reason why is that Diablo is claiming to have found vibranium in his newly conquered land, but in reality he's using his alchemy to create it. So, after the Vibranium Vendetta, this is the second time we have someone trying to create artificial vibranium. I noted in Panther's Prey that the Black Panther was a little quick to dismiss the idea that someone else had access to vibranium, and this is another reason why that's true. Clearly the world powers are looking for a way to circumvent Wakanda.
Here's my favorite image in the book. To keep Guardian prisoner, Diablo has shrunk her body but kept her head normal sized.
Weapon Omega is able to slip out of his chains and free Heather. There is a lot of talk in this issue about how alchemy is transitory, which in this story means that Diablo's transformations are quickly reversed when they are exposed to other elements.
And of course the "transitory" nature of Diablo's powers has implications for the vibranium he's creating. Whirlwind and USAgent are defeated, and Alpha regroups and faces Diablo's Elematrix (cool panel from Morgan; it's like Diablo is vamping for the readers).
Alpha Flight then reveals to the representatives of the US and other nations that Diablo's vibranium would have made them permanently dependent on him to constantly re-create it, and they agree to leave the country without "noticing" Alpha's illegal invasion of it.
Omega then reveals to Alpha, but not to us, who he is.
Some additional developments in these issues:
First, Madison Jeffries and Diamond Lil agree to get married.
Second, Puck makes Windshear take an interview about the damage that Alpha caused while defending Canada from an alien invasion in the previous arc, noting that Windshear has experience from his time in Roxxon's corporate structure and should be able to handle PR. Which would have been a cool additional angle for the character; a way for him to maybe grow into a leadership position. For now, though, he kind of flubs his first interview, disavowing Alpha's actions.
And third, in a detainment/treatment facility in Department H, we see Headlok messing with Aurora's head.
Tom Morgan's art, when it first started appearing regularly at the end of Power Pack, was pretty terrible. But he's been getting better, retaining his basic style of drawing mostly deformed looking characters, but refining it. It works really well when the characters are supposed to be deformed or when it makes sense for a panel to really be stylized or comedic, and it's less good when we're talking about a straight fight (Whirlwind vs. Northstar or USAgent vs. Sasquatch). Generally speaking, in these issues it helps spice up what is otherwise a pretty bland story, but everything still feels way off model compared to the early Byrne stuff (which, to be fair, has been true for a long long time at this point).
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Needs to take place before Diablo's appearance in the back-up story in Spider-Man #19-20, which references this story.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAurora, Diablo, Diamond Lil, Headlok, Madison Jeffries, Northstar, Puck, Sasquatch, USAgent, Vindicator (Heather Hudson), Whirlwind, Wild Child, Windshear
Interesting seeing this encounter between USAgent and Sasquatch, seeing how they both form Omega Flight as part of the 50 states initiative.
Diablo's Elematrix seems likely to be based on the elementals from Fantastic Four #232. Makes me wonder the circumstances behind its creation.
Posted by: Max_Spider | November 9, 2015 1:07 PM
How did Alpha Flight even last this long? Who was buying this dreck?
Posted by: Red Comet | November 9, 2015 1:28 PM
Man, Alpha Flight was sooo good when Byrne was writing it but it just fell apart after he left. It's so bad it's brutal.
Posted by: JSfan | November 9, 2015 2:47 PM
Now, this was a good use of USAgent. The second so far, since his Spectacular Spider-Man appearance a few years ago.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 9, 2015 5:35 PM
The more I read the summaries for AF issues, the more I think that it's hard to be an AF fan. I mean, aside from Byrne's run, the rest of the series is mediocre at best. After Mantlo's run, the book is simply bad or worse. There's nothing to like there, IMHO... It's really amazing that the fans haven't given up on these characters.
Posted by: Piotr W | November 9, 2015 7:18 PM
Lobdell adding Wild Child to the team is odd since he opposed Nicieza's attempts to reform Sabretooth and opposed the editors adding Marrow to the X-Men. Wild Child is as much a murderer as Sabretooth or Marrow.
Posted by: Michael | November 9, 2015 8:34 PM
I find it amazing that no writer after Byrne ever seemed to understand what it was about Alpha that made its fans love the title. It's just been pedestrian, generic superhero stories ever since. Alpha was great because it was different, but still so familiar. Outside a few attempts by Mantlo, there is nothing that ties this to Canada or the unique mythos Byrne developed.
Posted by: Chris | November 9, 2015 9:05 PM
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