Characters Appearing: Auric, Aurora, Diamond Lil, Dr. Strange, Goblyn, Llan the Sorcerer, Madison Jeffries, Nemesis II, Northstar, Pathway, Persuasion, Sasquatch, Shaman, Silver, Talisman, Vindicator (Heather Hudson), Wild Child, Witchfire, Wong
Alpha Flight #83-86
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #83, Alpha Flight #84, Alpha Flight #85, Alpha Flight #86
The plot, although it seems more suited for a comic like Thor, isn't the real problem here. It's the execution, both because of the clunky dialogue and the fact that the conclusion feels really anti-climatic after an entire year of build-up. Llan the sorcerer is defeated thanks to the most generic of weakness and a guest appearance of Dr. Strange.
John Calimee is actually only on the middle two parts of this story. The first issue is drawn and inked by James Sherman, and will have you wishing for Calimee after just a few panels. Diamond Lil's lips in the two panels below look like Sal Buscema and Fred Hembeck were having a contest to see who could draw the worst mouth.
The opening scene, continuing more or less directly from last issue, shows that the General Winslow that had been holding some members of Alpha Flight since Acts of Vengeance is really a demonic servant of the Sorcerer.
The rest of the issue is Talisman getting sent back in time on a Vision Quest to learn the history of the first Talisman and her history with the Sorcerer. The flashback shows Talisman hooking up with a stone age version of Alpha Flight...
...who fought various things, including Deviants from Lemuria.
But the important bit of information is that the Sorcerer was defeated thanks to his own ego. The original Talisman was able to defeat the Sorcerer by taking advantage of the fact that he likes to monologue.
Honestly, that's every super-villain's weakness and you shouldn't have to travel thousands of years back in time to learn it. But that weakness will indeed be exploited in the final present day battle.
The Sorcerer actually pursued Talisman through time during her Vision Quest, but he was unable to stop her, and now she tells him that she's coming for him.
It's possible that issue #83 wasn't just a case of giving the latest plot to James Sherman instead of John Calimee; the issue seems to be inserted into the plot and could have been removed without affecting it, and one footnote in issue #84 refers to issue #82 as "last issue" (although the script elsewhere does refer to the actual events of last issue with a correct footnote).
Anyway, Talisman then decides to fly out after Llan alone. The Alphans that were in prison are forced to kill the demons that attacked them, and the bodies revert to human form when they are killed, so the Alphans are wanted for murder and Gamma Flight is sent after them.
Ok, Calimee's art isn't really better than Sherman's.
Anyway, Alpha/Gamma Fight for issue #84.
The fight ends when Talisman gets to the Eye of the World and sees that Llan has opened a portal there. She sends a vision of that scene to everyone at Alpha's house, and that includes Gamma Flight, so they agree to stop fighting and join forces.
Hey is that Goom (or his son Googam) amongst the demons that the Sorcerer releases?
Talisman determines that there's no chance of fighting all of the demons that are released and that the only hope is to open up the "Gateway of Day" to release "the armies of the Shining Realms" to counteract them.
In the meantime, Alpha and Gamma Flight are joined by the Canadian Army in fighting the demons.
I'm trying to do this review quickly, so i'm skipping over some awkward moments like Northstar throwing a little fit because it's just assumed he's going to come along with the rest of Alpha Flight even though he quit the team some time ago, and a scene where Shaman finds himself wistfully thinking "if only Puck were here" while fighting hordes of demonic forces. Because an acrobatic dwarf would really make all the difference in that kind of a battle.
Oh fine. Here:
Aurora insisted on coming along even though she lost her powers, but during the fight she and Northstar get together to try to generate their light power, and it works.
And in fact their "living light" is extra effective against the demons.
Eventually the light fails, though.
Spot on characterization for Wild Child.
With the tide turning against them again, Talisman sends Northstar and Aurora to get Dr. Strange.
The final issue of this arc is by Mark Bagley, and it is definitely an improvement. The story is still a big mess. I mean, to be fair to all these artists, there are a ton of characters that have to be drawn.
But Bagley handles it better.
I don't love his look for Sasquatch, but he's a character that few artists seem to do well.
During the fight, Madison Jeffries tells Heather Hudson that he was "confused" about his feelings towards Diamond Lil, but he still loves Heather.
Mixed into all of this somehow is an environmental message. Totally unrelated to anything else going on here.
The speedster twins arrive at Dr. Strange's place...
...and instead of him just flying back to the battlefield, he takes them into the Ditkoverse.
The plan is to open the portal of light from the inside. Northstar and Aurora are sent zipping through dimensions to round up some random good guys.
And Dr. Strange works on opening the door while, as foreshadowed, Talisman keeps Llan ranting.
And that's it. Fabian Nicieza's run is next, and that's got to be better, right? Any change in direction has to be an improvement over this!
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 89,640. Single issue closest to filing date = 84,500.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Begins not long after the end of issue #82, but with enough time for Shaman to have put Talisman into a trance. Dr. Strange says that he had been distracted by "problems of my own" since his last appearance in Alpha Flight (issue #78), so i've placed this after Doctor Strange #14-18 (although it doesn't necessarily refer to that arc).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Hudnall explains here that his Sorcerer story was cut short:
Posted by: Michael | May 9, 2015 6:46 PM
Another interesting thing in that interview is that Hudnall says that the general horror-esque direction of his run was suggested by the editorial. Also, he claims that this run would've been muuuuuch better, if the editors didn't keep forcing him to make changes. True story, or just Hudnall being a bit full of himself? U Decide! :)
One thing he is polite about is Calimee's art. Seriously, it was disastrous. The book barely look professional with him on the art...
Posted by: Piotr W | June 3, 2015 6:36 PM
Agreed! Hudnall had real issues but it's Calimee who made this run p much unreadable in a way that Mantlo's never was...
Posted by: George Lochinski | July 2, 2016 11:17 AM
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