Alpha Flight #29
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #29
Why is the art such a sloppy sketchy mess?
Why isn't Puck wearing pants?
Where are Heather's eyes?!?
And why is everyone so depressed and wordy?
Today, i appreciate Mike Mignola's art. I understand that his semi-abstract style is deliberate, i like it for what it is, and i think he does really well with the action scenes.
I'd still prefer Heather to have eyes.
He definitely had a different idea about Puck's costume and the colorist just missed "correcting" it in one panel (and in Hulk #313, which i also had. i didn't understand creators but i understood the importance of a cross-over).
Anyway, i'm on board with Mignola nowadays (i still prefer Byrne!) but i was dead-on about Mantlo. Ugh. You'd think Alpha Flight was fighting D'Spayre, not the Hulk.
I know that the assumption here is that Walter Langkowski is dead. But they don't know that for sure, and even so: get it together, people!
Then there's Roger Bochs, who just has a nervous breakdown. The concern he has about the relationship between his physical body and his robot suit is actually interesting; i just have never seen Bochs act so weirdly, and Puck's maudlin thought bubbles make it worse.
And the talking. Jesus H. Christ. Lookit Snowbird:
I'd almost think that Mantlo was so excited to be writing a book with characters that can do more than growl again that he couldn't contain himself, but it's not like he wasn't also writing ROM at the time.
Snowbird turning into Sasquatch for this fight is cool...
...but is it going to the well again too soon? Mantlo does make sure to remind us that using the form of a Great Beast is especially dangerous (in Snowbird's earlier appearances, using any form for too long put her at risk of losing her mind to that of the animal shape), but it raises the question of why ever turn into a polar bear if you can be a Sasquatch?
Anyway, a major shift in creative direction, and also a change in status quo as Gary Cody shows up to grant Alpha Flight official government support. So, can we end on an equally melodramtic positive note?
In an expository recap panel, Shaman refers to Delphine Courtney as Dark Guardian.
Fortunately, Mantlo never decided to bring the character back and refer to her as that officially.
Looking at the grief-wracked Shaman (who, unlike the rest of Alpha, never does get it together for this fight), Jeffries says "Too bad I can't put people back together the way I did Box. Usedta know somebody who could, but he's in worse shape than you right now!" That's a set-up for next issue.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place directly after Hulk #313. The Hulk leaps across the US/Canada border at the end of this issue (which prevents Snowbird's pursuit), and will next appear back in Hulk #314 (and Hulk annual #14).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAurora, Box, Gary Cody, Hulk, Madison Jeffries, Northstar, Puck, Shaman, Snowbird, Vindicator (Heather Hudson)
I'm surprised Mantlo lasted so long on Alpha Flight. Sales must have dramatically declined. Mantlo, as a writer, to me was always someone who could be counted to produce a decent, enjoyable story, but was never one of the greats. He really misfired on Alpha Flight though. To be fair, even after Mantlo left the title, no future writer seemed to understand what made the book and characters enjoyable. I think for many fans, the only real Alpha Flight was #1-28.
Posted by: Chris | July 22, 2012 12:44 PM
It took a long time for sales figures to decline. The statement of ownership listed Alpha Flight's sales for 1986 as 239,584 and as late as Alpha Flight 45, the book was selling in the top 25. But yes, by the time he was done, the book was reduced to being a direct-sales only title because of poor sales.
Posted by: Michael | July 22, 2012 1:09 PM
"Since the death of my husband, GUARDIAN..." That's some classic Mantlo clunk there. The exposition dance performed in combat boots. In a thought balloon, no less!
He scripted CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS too, didn't he? I remember that panel of Alpha Flight obligingly identifying each other and themselves -- the entire team, down the line -- in dialogue, presumably for the benefit of people who hadn't read X-MEN. "Speak for yourself, NORTHSTAR! SNOWBIRD likes it in the wild!" (That's not an exact quote, but it was all of that quality.)
Posted by: Todd | July 22, 2012 3:28 PM
Mantlo also announced an upcoming Alpha Flight graphic novel by him and Mignola, but it never happened(the story may have been incorporated into the regular title).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 15, 2013 6:23 PM
I've always quite liked Mignola's art. You can't place him with the most influential (Kirby, Eisner) or the very finest (Adams, Sienkiewicz) artists, but he's one of those unique stylists like, say, Gil Kane or Dave Gibbons whose work can really grow on you if you look past just strict "realism" and give it a chance on its own terms.
I actually thought this issue was a promising start for Mantlo/Mignola -- and Byrne was getting tired of the series and things felt to me like they'd been in decline since #13 -- but Mignola, of course, quickly moved on, although he did a few more covers after that.
This issue doesn't represent him at his best yet -- to me, he really got it together a few years later for "Triumph & Torment" (w. Badger) and the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser adaptation for Dark Horse.
Posted by: Instantiation | August 1, 2015 12:32 PM
My current opinion is that Mantlo had a raw deal ahead of him. Alpha Flight is an odd little book in so many ways. It is some of Byrne's best work, but also one of those that he least liked. It is one of Mantlo's weakest work, but also some of his most daring and original.
In retrospect, it is obvious that not all of the blame can fairly go to Mantlo. After all, four other regular writers followed him in this book, all of them at least arguably competent in other books... and not one of them had much better success with Alpha Flight than Mantlo himself.
Part of the problem is probably that its very concept alienates it from many of the lynchpins that Marvel used to rely on by that time - or shall I just call them crossovers? Of course, crossovers are a mixed blessing at best, but they are still well liked by Marvel to this day.
I don't think Byrne made a lot of effort to leave the book in a shape that could be carried on by others, either (although Mantlo did a particularly poor job with the characterization). Take for instance Snowbird, who told us outright in #6 that her time on Earth was limited and presented herself as an unrepentant mind controller in #24. Or Talisman, who has unreasonably high power levels and is defined by her relationship with her father. Many of the weaknesses of Byrne's writing that would fully blossom in Namor begin to show their heads here. It was innovative, but fragile and at times put itself into a difficult corner.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 2, 2016 10:55 PM
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