Characters Appearing: Aurora, Box, Deadly Ernest, Doug Thompson, Madison Jeffries, Nemesis, Northstar, Puck, Scramble, Shaman, Snowbird, Vindicator (Heather Hudson)
Alpha Flight #31
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #31
I don't think Deadly Ernest was meant to be a recurring character, but Alpha Flight didn't really have a Rogues Gallery and it makes sense for Mantlo to use an existing villain after taking over this series. And his method for reviving Ernest, making use of Scramble last issue, was very clever. Mantlo is also going for a gruesome horror theme on his early issues here, and Ernest is well suited for that.
Northstar continues to needle Heather about her lack of qualifications for leadership of Alpha...
...but the entire team, including Box through his armor, is brought down by Deadly Ernest.
Only Puck avoids his touch. Nemesis has also resurfaced, and she is able to keep Alpha in a near-death status, but that means she can't pursue Ernest. So she gives her magic sword to Puck.
Mantlo has been playing up Puck's "pain" problem in the past couple of issues...
...and that is exacerbated here when Puck finds himself wielding a magic sword with the intention of killing.
We'll see where all this is going next issue. For now we have the sight of Puck ("the dwarf for the job"; *sigh*)...
...dismembering Ernest, who continues to fight back until he's hit by a subway train.
In Nemesis and Deadly Ernest's first appearance, we were left with a mystery of who Nemesis actually was. We find out here that she is actually Ernest's daughter, who has been pursuing him since he accidentally killed her mother after first getting his "powers" in 1919. With Ernest finally killed, she too passes way, disintegrating.
At the beginning of this issue, Lionel Jeffries (Scramble) declines an invitation to join Alpha Flight, deciding instead to use his flesh-manipulating powers as a surgeon, which he'll be allowed to do on probation, pending a psychological evaluation.
This is the last issue Mike Mignola issue, making the big Hulk/Alpha Flight creative team switch fairly short-lived at three issues, although both Mantlo and inker Gerry Talaoc, as well as the editors, will remain on the book. (And actually John Byrne's run on Hulk is only three issues longer than this.)
The header on the letter page this issue has a spoiler regarding an upcoming change for Heather.
That's right: Heather Hudson has draped herself in a Canadian flag and has been stealing mail from the United States. (They later drop the "US" text on the bag.)
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Last issue we saw Deadly Ernest lurching out of the morgue. This issue begins with him in an ally, having stalked the streets for some time looking for someone of an appropriate size to kill for clothing.
Then we cut to Nemesis sensing Ernest killing the man. And then "An hour later" we cut to Alpha Flight saying goodbye to Madison Jeffries' brother Lionel. So enough time has passed for this issue to be placed in its own entry but it takes place fairly soon after the end of last issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
While "I'm the dwarf for the job!" Is arguably not a great line, "dwarf" was an accepted neutral term for those with Puck's condition back then. It is still accepted as a clinical term now. It's considered much less offensive or demeaning than "midget", which you use casually in other reviews. I'm not trying to be accusatory; I know you strive to be senesitive to minority groups in your reviews, but given a choice between "dwarf" and "midget" back in the eighties, most people with variations on this condition would have been more comfortable with "dwarf".
Posted by: Jay Patrick | October 15, 2013 9:04 PM
It's the line, not the term, that i was reacting to. I think Puck would think to himself, "I'm the man for the job.".
You're right about my use of the word midget on occasion. Part of it is that i used to think there was a technical difference between a dwarf and a midget (but i've since learned otherwise) and part of it a lack of sensitivity that i should probably go back and correct.
In any event Mantlo had already decided by this story that Puck was not (naturally) a dwarf, as we'll learn next issue, which is entitled "Short Story".
Posted by: fnord12 | October 15, 2013 9:10 PM
Maybe i'm a deadhead nerd but "Box" is an abbreviation that tapers use for the Dead song "Box of Rain" also the primary lyric writer for the Dead was Robert HUNTER..not sure if that was intentional
Posted by: john | September 11, 2014 9:12 PM
While Mantlo reveals Nemesis to be Deadly Ernest's daughter here, I'm wondering if that was what Byrne had in mind!?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 6, 2016 4:52 PM
We never did get that tale of what happened to Ernest once he ended up dead. That is, did he finally end up in Death's Realm, and how would Mistress Death treat him there given he originally spurned and rejected her?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 11, 2016 5:37 AM
I think Mantlo is confused, as World War I ended in 1918, so Ernest St. Ives couldn't have been drafted and sent to fight in 1919. Issue #8 makes it clear that his origin story occurred during WWI, so maybe it's a typo and should really read 1914.
Posted by: Tony Lewis | August 23, 2016 10:39 PM
Puck's reference to the Black Blade could have been a reference to the song "Black Blade" by Blue Oyster Cult from their Cultasaurus Erectus album, which in turn was inspired by Michael Moorcock's classic fantasy character Elric, the albino warrior who wielded an ebony sword called Stormbringer (THAT name, in turn, was used for a song and album by Deep Purple when David Coverdale was singing lead). Anyway, enough of the six degrees of separation. I just want to know if Mignola REALLY thought it necessary to give the readers a glimpse of Deadly Ernest's plumber's butt/carpenter's crack?
Posted by: Brian Coffey | November 3, 2017 10:27 PM
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