Alpha Flight #87-90
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #87, Alpha Flight #88, Alpha Flight #89, Alpha Flight #90
When James Hudnall's run on the book started, i initially praised what seemed like a decision to go back to basics, jettison the baggage from the end of the Bill Mantlo run and restore the main Alpha Flight characters to something like their original status quos. Ultimately Hudnall didn't do enough in that regard or really capitalize on what he did do. Fabian Nicieza has a similar approach in mind with these issues, but as we'll see, he really sets things back to the beginning, at least for certain characters.
Wolverine comes to Canada by way of a port in British Colombia. Something that's been going on rather subtly in the X-Men book is the fact that Wolverine seems to be dying, and for this story Wolverine has come to Canada to say his goodbyes to Heather Hudson.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, a super-powered employee of Roxxon has been called in from the UK to deal with an out of control computer problem. Windshear has an absurd British (Cockney?) accent, which is said to become exacerbated when he's under stress.
He's unable to stop the machine, so Roxxon decides to reach out to the Canadian government for help.
Meanwhile, members of Alpha Flight and Gamma Flight are on the hunt for Wild Child. You can see Nemesis being set up as an antagonist for Vindicator.
During Hudnall's run, Wild Child was on Gamma Flight without much remark. We haven't seen a lot of Wild Child but from what we have seen, he seemed like an odd fit on that team. Nicieza's inaugural story is addressing that while also working with his appearance in Marvel Comics Presents #51-53, which came out slightly before these issues, and showed a completely different side of the character (and which had to be placed much earlier in publication time; it's said in this story to have taken place "A year ago"). That story isn't referenced in this arc until the end, so it may be more a case of Nicieza belatedly deciding to include it rather than planning that all along. But it does ultimately provide an explanation for the bizarre and inconsistent treatment of Wild Child. For now, Wild Child is shown to be really, well, wild.
Young Pathway is badly injured by him after she sends her sister Goblyn away.
Wild Child then escapes.
I suppose the new artist, Michael Bair is an improvement over John Calimee, but it's not by much.
Before moving forward with the plot, we flash back to a hearing by a Canadian parliamentary panel, where it's decided that Alpha Flight will be reinstated as an official team, and the members of Gamma Flight will be relegated to a training role under Alpha's supervision. It was at this point that Wild Child freaked out and ran away. Heather had sent Shaman, Talisman, Aurora, and Sasquatch to look for Puck, and Madison Jeffries and Diamond Lil went to Colorado on Roxxon's request, which is why the team searching for Wild Child consisted mostly of Gamma Flight and Alpha's younger charges.
So we have those three threads: Wild Child, Roxxon, and Puck. The stories do not intertwine and all the characters don't come back together until the end. I'll be covering each one separately just to avoid jumping back and forth.
A sub-theme of the Wild Child thread is that Heather is having doubts about her leadership abilities. This point will be hit repeatedly, although to be fair "repeatedly" really means "once per issue because every issue is someone's first, even part 3 of a 4 part story".
Wild Child winds up getting found and defeated by Wolverine.
And then he shows up and delivers Wild Child to Heather.
Heather is not pleased to find out that Wolverine has been keeping the fact that he's still alive a secret from her.
I know it's Wolverine and he's not the most verbose character, but i wonder why he doesn't at least try to explain. I mean, why not just say, "We thought the Marauders were going to go after our loved ones unless we pretended to be dead"? Oh, because that makes no sense?
Also, careful up there, Persuasion. You might pull something.
I've been calling this the Wild Child thread, but Nemesis' resentment of Heather is an equally big part of it.
Heather turns Wild Child over to the authorities and goes to have a drink with Logan. He tells her that he "may not be around... much longer" and that he loved her, and tries to say goodbye. But Heather has an idea that she thinks will help Wolverine. She says (and i believe this is new information) that Wild Child has a healing factor similar to Wolverine's. So maybe a blood transfusion will cure Wolverine's problem.
There's just the little matter of breaking into prison to free Wild Child to do it.
This is the sort of thing where, as a reader, we can't help but go "Noooooo! Bad idea!" We know that, whatever Wolverine's problem, it's not going to be fixed in Alpha Flight. So this whole plot is doomed to fail. And to see Heather resorting to breaking the law for something that won't even work is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. So i promise you that this doesn't get Heather in trouble and that Wolverine won't actually die (at least until 2014 or so).
When they get to Wild Child's cell, it turns out he's already been broken out by Gamma Flight. So now it's about hunting the whole team down.
It's at this point that the Marvel Comics Presents story is brought up.
So the explanation is that Wild Child's feral state is his natural state, but the manipulations of Llan the Sorcerer are what caused him to wind up on Gamma Flight. I'll take it.
Vindicator shows the ability to use her suit's teleportation power for very short distances, which is something new.
Wolverine and Vindicator are able to defeat Gamma Flight. Auric and Silver decide to go back to China. Witchfire agrees to stay on as a trainee of Alpha Flight's. And Nemesis teleports away with Wild Child.
Wolverine tells Heather that he didn't do this to get Wild Child's blood; he did it to help her get over her doubts.
And oh god this sets up a name change for her that is going to be an annoyance for my tagging system.
The group looking for Puck wind up in South Dakota, attacked by creatures that look similar to the monsters Scramble used to make.
The current incarnation of Aurora has her trying to be nonviolent in the use of her powers.
She's even kind of dressed like a super-nun.
I appreciate the intent here, but just let her fly around at super-speed and punch people, huh? There's been enough mystical stuff in this book.
Talisman reads the mind of one of the scrambled monsters to learn about its master, which turns out to be the Master. He's got a base for himself partially under the Black Hills and partially in another dimension.
One thing i think is really great about Nicieza's writing here is handling the relationship between Shaman and Talisman. Striking a nice balance between their past antagonism, not making it over the top but still acknowledging it.
A random tangent, probably only funny to me. At this time, Marvel comics had an ad in center of the book advertising a TurboGrafX game called Bonk's Adventures. It's a two page spread in comic form. So in that scene above, you've got Alpha Flight about to enter the dimension where the Master's lair is. And then i turn the page and i'm looking at this, and my first split-second thought is "whoah, that's a weird dimension".
Sorry. Anyway, the actual dimension is more mundane, but they do locate Puck.
Now i really love the way the reset button is pushed for Puck here. The idea is that, partly out of a general sense of vengeance and partly because he's experimenting with a way to create a new mate for Marrina's brood...
...the Master has injected Puck with a combination of Scramble's enzymes and an old blood sample of Puck's.
The blood sample was taken in Alpha Flight #5. So what's happening here, once we get past the temporary "scramble" effects, is resetting Puck to his status quo circa issue #5. Forget all that magic sword in his head / tall old man nonsense. At the time the blood sample was taken, he was an energetic dwarf, and that's what he's becoming again. We already got rid of "Raazer" so we can just go back to how Puck was in the beginning.
The Master is initially not around, so Sasquatch is able to use his skills as a bio-chemist to eliminate the Scramble parts of Puck. Then the Master and his "Remnant Men" show up to fight.
Here's another nice interaction between Shaman and Talisman.
But whatever Talisman is doing with his medicine bag there, while it does take care of the Remnant Men, injuries her badly. She's first thought to be dead, but then just in a coma.
Now for the Roxxon plot. Despite having powers uniquely suited to dealing with a machinery problem, he doesn't have much more luck than Windshear. He does learn that there's an angry man controlling the machinery, but the man is controlling things at computer speed, too fast for Jeffries to keep up. But Val Cooper knows someone who can help him with that.
To get to Forge, they have to go to Muir Island. And that means fighting the latest "All New X-Men".
That one picture of Amanda Sefton doesn't look like it's drawn by the same guy as everything else in these issues.
When the Misunderstanding Fight is settled, Forge agrees to go back with Alpha Flight to help Roxxon. And through some unclear combination of his and Madison Jeffries' powers (which is disappointing because an interaction between them should be interesting), they find that the man behind the out of control Roxxon equipment is James Hudson, aka Guardian.
We don't get an explanation for that right away (although Forge casually says, "In this business... Death has a habit of making a liar out of the truth"). They still have to fight their way past his defenses.
What is Diamond Lil wearing? Why isn't she just in costume?
The Roxxon contact, Samuel Higgins, then admits that Roxxon has known all along that their problems have been due to Hudson, who they've been holding for a while now. And as much as i really liked the reset for Puck, i really dislike the resurrection for Guardian (even after accepting that we're doing this at all, which i already hate). The idea is that the ridiculous fake resurrection story that the Delphine Courtney robot used when she was pretending to be Guardian is actually true.
Acknowledging that it was a "crazy, whacky, kooky story" doesn't get you off the hook for using it for real. And the sad thing is that i can get you here without using that origin at all. Roxxon was already involved in Guardian's death story. So why not just say that at the end of Alpha Flight #12, when Guardian seemingly died, he really teleported into the next room, where Roxxon quietly scooped him up, rebuilt him best they could, and kept him for whatever reason they're keeping him now (which turns out to be no real reason at all, actually). Instead, we go through the story of Guardian teleporting 10,000 years into the past and onto Ganymede, the moon of Jupiter. He was then put into suspended animation by the Quwrllns. One variation that will become important later is that when he wakes up, it's said that the Quwrllns have just mysteriously vanished instead of having bombed themselves back into the stone age as it was in Byrne's story. Then Guardian launches himself back to Earth, but he lands in the ocean to be coincidentally found by Roxxon and put in captivity.
Jeffries eventually makes it to Hudson and reaches his mind by showing him an image of Heather.
Well, she probably didn't look exactly like that when they first met. John Byrne never had to stoop to showing quite so much cleavage to make his women look attractive.
Note that Jeffries admits that he loves Heather too.
Even more so than in the original story, Mac was rebuilt as a combination of man and machine. I had flagged a bit of dialogue where Guardian was recapping his death scene as being a bit awkward, since he referred to the "original Box armor" when to him it should have been the only Box armor, but it turns out that's deliberate. It's shown that Mac now knows all sorts of stuff.
Thanks to this experience, Windshear has realized that Roxxon is corrupt, so he decides to go with Alpha Flight. Forge is sent back to Muir Island (it's important to note that he and Wolverine never meet in these issues, since Forge will soon be searching for the X-Men), and Jeffries and company bring Mac back to see Heather.
She doesn't comment on the fact that he's acting like a 10,000 year old robot.
Since she's Guardian now, he can be Vindicator.
"Days later" in what's said to be Latveria, we see Dr. Doom preparing for a visit to Canada.
Dr. Doom is currently not supposed to be in Latveria, and the fact that he's shown without his hood for a moment made me wonder if we were really looking at Kristoff. I don't think that was meant to be case. The situation will be addressed (corrected?) next issue.
The resurrection of Guardian is pretty much unforgivable to me. It's not just the revolving door of death problem, or the fact that Guardian's death was a powerful scene, or that the method for bringing him back here is cheesey, but factor all of that in too. Guardian was actually a pretty bland character, and his death opened things up for Heather to grow and become the leader of Alpha Flight. Bringing him back now guarantees that one of them will become a second fiddle, once we get past the rehash of some of the Vision's character arcs now that Mac is half computer. I get wanting to bring this book back to basics, but we didn't have to go that far back.
That said, if you can get past Guardian's resurrection, this arc shows that the creative team has some potential to get this series back on track. But i said that at the start of Hudnall's run too, didn't i?
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's said to have been over a week since the end of the last arc. Takes place before Forge and Banshee leave Muir Island in Uncanny X-Men #259-260, and therefore considerably earlier than publication date.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): show
Fnord, this is Diamond Lil's new costume.
Posted by: Michael | May 7, 2015 9:28 PM
This costume looks a lot like something Emma Frost would wear if she somehow perceived purple as white.
Maybe the original intention was to have her guest-starring? A telepath would make sense in Jimmy's rescue, and I suppose Roxxon and Emma would have little trouble working together.
In Diamond Lili it looks... out of character, at the very least.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | May 7, 2015 11:04 PM
Fnord, about Nemesis- someone just pointed out that the Nemesis in Alpha Flight 76-130 is Jane Thorne, not Amelia Weatherly:
Posted by: Michael | May 15, 2015 7:46 AM
Thanks Michael. I should have just went with Nemesis II since she is a legacy character, and that's what i've changed it to.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 15, 2015 9:12 AM
I agree that the picture of Heather with the porn cleavage doesn't work (and she was a teenager when she first met Mac, so eeeww...) but fnord, I think you let John Byrne off the hook too easily. He did design Talisman's outfit, after all. No, he never would have put Heather in that shirt, especially Heather at that age, but to say that John Byrne never had to use cleavage to make his women look attractive... well, that's just silly. If showing cheesecake and excessive skin is somehow stooping, then John Byrne is as guilty as anyone else during this time period.
Posted by: JP | May 24, 2015 1:15 AM
Ok, finally I can rant about is issue. Fabian may have read Alpha Flight #25, but clearly he did not read #12. Courtney's story can't possibly be true, due to the panels in #12 post-explosion of Mac on fire and weakly uttering the word "Heather....". There was no possible way that Mac instantaneously teleported to another planet/dimension/whatever. That was John Byrne's intentional clue that Courtney's story was false...just that the fans didn't seem to pick up on it at the time (I did as a kid, but didn't care because I was just happy to see Guardian back in #25).
Fabian had a bad habit of not reading past stories that he was building on completely...like how he didn't realize that Psylocke appeared post-Siege Perilious in her pre-Asian form, and necessitated the whole Revanche mess as a result.
Was there ever a followup to point out how Mac is actually still dead?
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | May 24, 2015 9:50 AM
" So why not just say that at the end of Alpha Flight #12, when Guardian seemingly died, he really teleported into the next room, where Roxxon quietly scooped him up, rebuilt him best they could, and kept him for whatever reason they're keeping him now"
Can't work, either - Look at the bottom panels of this page
That's a body that's on fire (and still managing to speak in the bottom-middle panel). There could not possibly be any teleportation taking place in the middle panel.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | June 2, 2015 11:50 PM
Vincent, that's a detail that the retcon in this arc ignores as well (as you pointed out in your previous comment), so i think my suggestion to circumvent the whole Ganymede/10,000 years portion would still have improved things. :-)
I also think we've seen retcons ignore bigger details than this. I agree with you that if you're going to do a retcon you should do your research and fit it in as neatly as possible or explain where things deviate. But i would have accepted an explanation that what we're really seeing is either an afterimage as he's teleporting away (and the teleportation didn't have to be instant; we know that the Ganymede jellyfish had to repair Mac's body) or just Heather being distraught and misremembering things.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 3, 2015 5:26 PM
A really clever plot might have treated this as a double-bluff; since we last saw Delphine in the form of a sort of cyborg Hudson, maybe this was a rebuilt Delphine instead...and Windshear's sudden epiphany about Roxxon is a cover story and he's a plant, too.
But no, it's just resetting the status quo for its own sake.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 8, 2015 9:32 PM
Legion appears on page 22, panel 1.
Posted by: --- | August 28, 2016 4:26 PM
...and more tellingly panel 4.
Posted by: --- | August 28, 2016 4:28 PM
(...of issue #88)
Posted by: --- | August 28, 2016 4:29 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | August 29, 2016 10:39 AM
What makes this revival even more pointless is that they'll kill him off about 20 more times!
And yeah John Byrne has certainly drawn women more "cleavage-y" than shown here.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | October 9, 2016 9:43 PM
Shouldn't General Jeremy Clarke be listed as a character appearing? Yes, he only appears in the flashback but the flashback immediately precedes the story.
Posted by: Michael | December 4, 2017 11:29 PM
Added General Clarke.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 5, 2017 3:55 PM
Comments are now closed.
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