Brian C. Saunders:
Alpha Flight #14-17
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #14, Alpha Flight #15, Alpha Flight #16, Alpha Flight #17
In issue #13, we saw a random passerby get killed near St. Lawrence River. This arc follows up on that. There's been a series of killings along the water near Lake Ontario. Heather has been visiting with Puck near Toronto, and they are in a nearby restaurant when one of the attacks occurs. This time, it's a baby that is taken, pulled into the lake. Heather immediately jumps into the water in an attempt to rescue the baby, in what Puck attributes to an attempt to do something reckless to atone for the guilt she feels about her husband's death.
Heather fails to rescue the baby, and also gets her legs badly damaged by an unseen horror under the water.
Puck calls in Marrina to help investigate. Marrina had been with the Sub-Mariner in Atlantis.
After she leaves, a chamberlain informs Namor that Lord Dara is back from his negotiations at the United Nations. This therefore takes place before the Prince Namor mini-series. The chamberlain happens to have an awesome beard, if you can call it that.
Namor decides to set aside the diplomatic matters for now and follow Marrina. It's implied that Marrina is much, much faster than Namor, however. She arrives well before him, and has time to reason out with Puck the fact that the horror under the water may be the same species as her, but unlike her it hasn't been imprinted with a genetic code, so it's been plucking humans and dissecting them to figure stuff out. Marrina heads back into the water to see if she can find it, and when she returns she's become feral again.
The last time she was feral she literally disemboweled Puck, so i imagine he'd be pretty nervous during this fight.
However, his thoughts reveal that he's actually quite cocky:
This is no good. My training instincts are all to the offensive. I can parry and dodge for a while, but unless I find a way to take her out with the least amount of damage, I might slip. And if that happens, she'll be dead.
Puck uses bullfighting techniques that he learned during his "year in Spain with papa Hemingway". The narration says:
They had laughed, the other candidates, seekers after the 'suit of lights'. Laughed at this little man, this tiny foreigner, who thought he could face the half-ton horror that was the bull. But the teacher had not laughed. He knew the great esteem in which the famous American writer held the small Canadian. And he saw the fire that burned so bright in the eyes of this candidate.
It's cool that Puck is trained in bullfighting, but the idea that he was a contemporary of Earnest Hemingway in Spain is also interesting. Hemingway visited Spain over periods from the 1920s to about 1960, so there's no need for this to suggest that Puck was in anyway supernaturally long lived (sliding timescale issues aside).
Finally, Namor arrives...
...and of course he sees Puck fighting with Marrina and gets the wrong idea.
Once Puck is dispatched, Namor finds himself in the same situation: trying to disable Marrina without hurting her.
That's when the Master of the World shows up and knocks him out.
The Master brings both Puck and Namor to his awesome fish submarine...
...and puts them in prison tubes and explains what he's been up to.
He reveals that he deliberately manipulated Alpha Flight and Namor (and the Invisible Girl) into destroying his ship in their previous encounter so that he could be free of it (readers knew that, but the heroes didn't). And he re-iterates Marrina's origin and reveals that he's now got both her and the other Plodex captured (by the way, the word "Plodex" is never used in this arc; i'm going by the name given to Marrina's race by the Collector in Marvel Team-Up annual #7). The other Plodex still has the genetic imprinting from the baby it snatched previously, which is pretty disturbing.
Despite a lot of villain-exposition, I'm not sure exactly what the Master's plan is. He can't have been controlling the Plodex so far, since it's been trying to find a genetic code for itself. So now that he's captured both Marrina and the other one, what's the plan? "He who controls the Plodex controls the world"? He doesn't say.
But Puck fakes his death using a trick he learned in the Orient (it's nice to see the Master's thoughts in these panels, showing him to be a somewhat honorable character)...
...and when the Master takes him out of his tube, he frees Namor as well. Puck tears off the Master's helmet to break open the aquarium to get Namor some water...
...but that turns out to have some unintended consequences. It seems the helmet was permanently bonded to the Master's head, and it was also his means of controlling both the submarine and the aliens.
In the resulting chaos...
...Namor is forced to bring Puck back to the surface so he doesn't drown. Marrina gets away but the Master and the other Plodex are assumed dead from the submarine's explosion.
Later, after Namor leaves, Marrina reveals to Puck that she's actually back to normal. She's disturbed by revelations of what she really is, and doesn't want to be with Namor or Alpha Flight anymore.
Meanwhile, Heather is still in the hospital, and Wolverine shows up.
He's heard about Guardian's death. He and Heather spend time in the hospital reminiscing. This includes a reprint of a sizeable portion of Uncanny X-Men #109, which was Guardian's first appearance. After the reprint, Puck shows up. Wolverine and Puck know each other by reputation. Woverine says "That was you, that time in Maracaibo, wasn't it?" Puck responds, "You guessed? I'm flattered you could recognize my signature in the midst of all that mess."
Then Puck says it's time to choose a new leader for Alpha Flight. Wolverine thinks Puck is suggesting that he do it, and he begs off, but Puck actually was referring to Heather. Wolverine concurs, and Heather considers it and agrees.
In a subplot, Shaman's daughter Elizabeth Twoyoungmen, on an archeological dig, unearths a skull ("and a white man's skull at that!") that unleashes a vengeful ghost...
...that causes her to seek out her father after having not spoken to him for 15 years.
Also, Snowbird reveals her true identity to her fellow mountie, Doug Thompson ("A man of simple tastes and simpler means, he is unaccustomed to the questions which have lately perplexed him.").
Despite the revelation, Doug tells her that he's in love with her (that panel is such a tribute to 1950s romance books).
In another subplot, Roger Bochs contacts a man named Madison Jeffries. He wants Jeffries to help him avenge the death of Guardian. Jeffries is a "transmutator". He says:
Me an' mechanical stuff, we got us an understanding', kinda. I can make any machine, anythin' metal and glass and plastic, duplicate my own parts. Don't ask me how. Even Guardeen hadn't got that figgered.
Bochs wants Jeffries to help him rebuild his Box robot so that no one else can use it the way Jerry Jaxon used it to kill Guardian.
And then, they'll hunt down Jaxon and the robot Delphine Courtney, who he says are both still alive, and "destroy them".
It's cool to see this level of development with two characters that we've seen almost nothing of to date. Bochs was introduced in Alpha Flight #11 and he was definitely not a bad guy like the rest of Omega Flight, but he's also not a member of Alpha Flight and hasn't been a member of the cast until now.
Jeffries we've never actually seen before, except as part of a single-panel flashback in Alpha Flight #1 that showed him alongside the rest of Gamma Flight and gave no hints about his powers or personality. Jeffries' powers are interesting. Not only is he able to mold machine components (including glass and plastic) into shapes of his own parts, but he actually "reshape[s] the individual elements" and "completely change[s] their form and function". He also quite clearly is able to cause the pieces to hover in mid-air, indicating some form of telekinesis or Magneto-like ability.
So far his powers seem limited to causing the objects to duplicate his own human form.
One more subplot: Aurora has a schizophrenic attack.
Later, she has Walter Langkowski perform a procedure on her that alters her genetic structure.
Her goal is to sever her bond to Northstar. Langkowski agrees to do it because he can also use the opportunity to make sure that she won't be detectable as a mutant since he sees that anti-mutant sentiment is on the rise. After the procedure Aurora changes into a new costume, but we only see a hint of it now and we won't see how her powers were changed until later as well.
Wow. Obviously a lot going on here. The decision to split the team up again after Guardian's death means that we get lots of subplots along with the main Marrina story. It makes for much longer entries for me here, but it also give the series a lot of depth since it's not "all seven or so heroes fight a villain" but lots of time devoted to individual characters.
I think Heather's coping with her husband's death is handled well. Issue #13 showed her grief in detail, and now she's clearly still affected but Byrne isn't creating a lot of melodrama with it. Since Wolverine's past was still a mystery at this point, the small details in his and Heather's reminiscence is interesting. Puck's character continues to be developed nicely as well, and now we've learned some intriguing details about his past, too. It's all very well written; Byrne's characters are very human. And the art is very nice as well.
When i read issue #17, i had never read Uncanny #109 and i wasn't even aware that about half the book was reprint material. I don't know how regular readers would have reacted. The original story was printed more than 6 years earlier so maybe it was considered long enough, and those early Byrne X-Men issues were priced high enough, that the current readership hadn't read the original story.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place before the Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner mini-series. Takes place after the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series (and therefore also Uncanny X-Men #188), where Wolverine learns about the death of Guardian. In issue #14, Namor is informed that Lord Dara is returning from negotiations with the UN, but Namor doesn't have time to meet with him because he's chasing after Marrina. Dara doesn't actually appear on panel but i've listed him as a character appearing.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (24): show
In Avengers 272, Marrina explains that the Master's intentions in bringing Marrina and the other Plodex together were for the two of them to destroy each other, thus ridding the Earth of their kind.
Posted by: Michael | August 13, 2011 3:56 PM
I neglected to mention - and it's more relevant in light of your comment - that there's a scene in issue #16 where the Master releases the other Plodex into the chamber holding Marrina. And while the Master assumes they are fighting, Puck suspects they're doing something else entirely. And Marrina's comments later that this Plodex was her biological mate seem to confirm that. Poor, naive Master. That's what happens when you spend millions of years bound to an alien spaceship; you forget all about the birds and the bees.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 13, 2011 6:11 PM
Byrne stated in early 1984 that the Gilded Lily story was supposed to happen in #14-15, and that Shaman was supposed to team up with Marrina in the Marrina's Mate story(and the Master was supposed to appear in a later, different story).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 17, 2013 4:03 PM
Fun stuff here. Everything is handled very well. More than enough action to keep the ordinary reader involved, but there's a lot of depth to the characters and interactions here. All this for 240 cents! Nowadays, this would be three years worth of stories for over $100.
Posted by: Chris | August 27, 2013 10:45 PM
Some fanzines at the time did refer to Jeffries as Transmuter.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 7, 2014 3:55 PM
So in 17 issues, Alphe Flight has been together for, what, 3 issues? 4? When I first heard the Defenders described as a non-team, I actually imagined something more like this.
Posted by: Berend | March 2, 2014 8:20 AM
I feel compelled to point out that Aurora doesn't really have a "schizophrenic attack". As Byrne points out in issue 15, schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder are different things. He then, however, goes on to say schizophrenia is "a general term used to cover all forms of metal illness. The correct term is classic paranoid.", neither of which is accurate.
Posted by: Andrew | January 6, 2015 5:58 AM
It's clear that I really missed out on some amazing stuff in Alpha Flight back in the day.
Interesting timing for Puck to "fake death". I think this must have been after they showed Snake Eyes doing the same thing in the GI Joe comic, where they explicitly showed him learning it as part of his ninja skills.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 22, 2015 7:47 AM
For a comparatively small country population-wise, Canada produced a lot of super-beings. Compare Canada's 25 or so million to a country like say India with a billion and few, if any, heroes to speak of. Something mustve been in the water in Canada.
Posted by: kveto from prague | July 8, 2017 5:49 AM
Eh, it's just the "Ameri-centric" nature of the audience. Note how many manga have tons of Japanese heroes and hardly any from other nations other than as stereotypes and whatnot. Canada's north of the US and speaks English mostly (with a few Quebecois for balance like Northstar and Aurora) so...besides, with Wolverine and John Byrne around, having a number of Canadian heroes is probably given. (even with how ridiculous some get later on post-Byrne)
Posted by: Ataru320 | July 9, 2017 2:21 PM
The bit about the baby's having been absorbed by the monster recalls the The Thing (1982).
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 27, 2018 6:13 AM
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