Alpha Flight #48-49
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #48, Alpha Flight #49
After various accusations are thrown around and the inevitable infighting occurs, Madison Jeffries gets the bright idea to go to his brother Lionel, aka Scramble, to cure Bochs. After all, he used his powers to cure his own madness.
The idea that Scramble can cure any disease, including mental illness, is problematical in a universe that is meant to mirror the real world. The man ought to be on a non-stop world tour of cancer wards and mental institutions. In Alpha Flight alone, in addition to Bochs, we have Northstar, whose "cold" is getting worse, and Puck, who wants his dwarfism "cured" (although he worries that such a cure would release the demon in his head). And that's not to mention Aurora's mental illness. So we shouldn't be surprised when Scramble turns out to be a twisted villain after all.
To be fair, Scramble doesn't think he can cure Bochs' madness as easily as he did his own (something about having his brother's brain available as a "template" when he cured himself), but he does agree to give it try. Heather is uncomfortable with the idea of going to Scramble, but she's smitten with Madison Jeffries and is willing to do whatever he wants.
Wanda Langkowski, meanwhile, continues to enjoy exploiting the fact that he's a woman now.
It next comes out that Scramble cured Bochs' legs (a treatment that didn't stick) using the legs of cadavers. And not just cadavers that happened to be available; Scramble has actually been killing people to work with the "superior" genetics of the Alphans (even the non-powered Bochs, because of his intellect). When Jeffries protests, Scramble bonds his hands together...
...and when his assistant Dr. Knapp also protests, Knapp is similarly attacked. We learn that Knapp is also "superior".
The rest of Alpha is up in the waiting room, but Northstar leaves the group, hoping to get Scramble to cure his unnamed sickness. Aurora tries to follow, but instead finds Scramble's other "patients".
Northstar, meanwhile, finds a merged Scramble and Bochs.
Northstar returns to the waiting room, and Vindicator issues a "kill if you must" order.
As bad as Mantlo's Alpha Flight has been so far, it's been saved to a degree thanks to art by the likes of Mike Mignola and Luke Ross. All of the art above, from issue #48, is by Terry Shoemaker, who has been decent on a number of other recent fill-ins, but it's not working here at all. All of the horror we should expect from a villain that can mold flesh to his liking is lost and we just get some unclear lumpy stuff. Without a doubt this is an uninteresting story, but it at least has the potential for creepy art, as we saw in Scramble's first appearance, but Shoemaker isn't able to take advantage of it.
Things get somewhat better with issue #49, which has June Brigman returning after two issues off.
We also learn what it is about Dr. Knapp that makes him superior. He's superiorly weird, is what he is.
He takes the name Manikin, and gets the mutilated Jeffries back into the Box armor. The rest of Alpha is still fighting Scramble-Bochs, who calls himself Omega.
You can see that in addition to falling in love with Jeffries, Heather is now really down on Puck's abilities.
The rest of Alpha isn't doing much better, and oh god i just got the Alpha and Omega reference. Please kill me. Don't we already have Omega Flight? Couldn't this guy have been Scramblochs or something?
Um, i meant to say, "and Knapp and Jeffries-Box show up".
During the fight, Jeffries transforms the Box armor into something more streamlined and adaptable.
Then the Bochs part of Omega starts to rebel, so Scramble lobotomizes him.
This angers Jeffries enough to let him let loose against his brother, and once he's weakened, Purple Girl (after being rescued by Manikin) possesses Scramble and forces him to cure everyone he's transmuted. Then Jeffries kills Scramble (and the braindead Bochs).
Since Scramble was Northstar's only hope for a cure for his illness, he immediately seizes up and the team has to take him to the hospital.
Aaand now it's Aurora's turn to be crazy.
I don't really want to talk about this issue. Scramble should have lost his powers when he was cured at the end of his first appearance; he's been entirely uninteresting as a hero or villain since then. The death of Bochs, a unique character in Byrne's run, is just the sad culmination of his spiral of depression and madness under Mantlo. Jeffries becoming the lead super-hero of this team and a romantic interest for Heather is almost equally ruining what made him unique. Puck's constant self pity, Aurora's madness, Northstar's sickness... all poorly handled and cumulatively overwhelming. Manikin would make a good one-shot villain in Steve Gerber's Defenders. This book is just off the rails.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: Next issue begins after enough time has passed for Alpha Flight to locate Aurora and travel to the location of the X-Men/Alpha Flight miniseries.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAurora, Box, Breakdown, Freakout, Goblyn, Janus (Deranger), Madison Jeffries, Manikin, Northstar, Pathway, Persuasion, Puck, Sasquatch, Scramble, Vindicator (Heather Hudson)
One of the best things about Byrne's Alpha Flight was that many of the heroes were not "normal". There was a dwarf (Puck), a homosexual (Northstar), a paraplegic (Box) and a mentally ill woman (Aurora). It sent a positive message that even people that weren't thought of as normal by society could still be heroes. Mantlo had most of the above become less heroic and eventually wrote them out, while turning the handsome white guy (Madison Jeffries) into the lead hero. That has Unfortunate Implications.
Posted by: Michael | April 16, 2014 7:45 PM
It's even worse than that. Under Byrne, Alpha Flight was about heroes that had some dysfunctions. Under Mantlo it was about dysfunctional people that happened to be heroes.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | April 16, 2014 10:00 PM
It's funny, as I always thought of Alpha Flight as the supernatural team. I focused more on Snowbird, Shaman, and Sasquatch...who each tapped in to an aspect of pre European Canada. Plus, their first major villains were the Great Beasts.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 17, 2014 1:16 AM
The scans of Omega and his works look pretty horrific to me, kinda inspired by John Carpenter's "The Thing" and the '80s adaptation of Lovecraft's "From Beyond." I'm kind of a fan of Shoemaker's art; I'm surprised he never really became the regular penciled for any series, although he seemed for a while to be X-Factor's official fill-in artist.
Turning Jeffries/Box into a transformer is actually kind of a neat idea. Madison and Lionel are an apparent exception to the rule that mutant siblings' powers shouldn't affect one another.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 17, 2014 1:42 AM
Whitman Knapp is also the name of the federal judge who presided over the Knapp Commission in New York City, the one that discovered massive corruption in the NYPD. I'm not sure why Mantlo chose the name for Manikin.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 6, 2015 8:16 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|