Alpha Flight #97-100
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #97, Alpha Flight #98, Alpha Flight #99, Alpha Flight #100
I actually have the first three parts of these with covers calling them Alpha Flight Special #1-3. I did somehow wind up with an actual issue #100. I guess that since this storyline includes a guest appearance by the Avengers and a fight with Galactus, Marvel thought it would be a good idea to try to get it out to a wider storyline, and published it in this format to get it to the newsstands, same as with Doctor Strange & Ghost Rider Special #1.
And it seems to have worked, at least in the sense that this story was the first time i checked in with Alpha Flight in quite a while after being blissfully unaware of what was going on. But i was pretty disgusted with everything i found: terrible art, a super-invulnerable Puck, and a Guardian (or Vindicator at the moment) who a) was alive b) was a robot, and c) really did meet the floating jellyfish aliens from the fake Guardian's fake resurrection story. And basically everything sucking. Having at this point read through all the issues in order, none of this is now news to me, but i still remember that initial sting. It doesn't help that the jellyfish aliens are actually a part of this story arc.
The arc begins with Alpha Flight adjusting to their new status quo and exploring their newly built headquarters. One thing that is interesting is that they are tied into a United Nations computer system that also connects with the Avengers, Excalibur, and the People's Protectorate. When the Avengers got their new charter from the UN, i wondered why the UN didn't have them open up any international branches, and you could argue that the reason is because the UN already has affiliations with other super-teams around the world.
Alpha Flight is having a lot of doubts about themselves, but there is a lot of talk about how they are committed to "personal sacrifice", "no matter what the cost". That is called foreshadowing.
Other members of Alpha are working on the problem of Diamond Lil's tumor and the fact that her diamond hard skin makes it impossible to do a biopsy.
The scene includes the quiet return of Dr. Knapp, formerly Manikin. He's only playing a support role, which is to say that he's a member of Gamma Flight, per the divisions established in Alpha Flight #95.
Shaman is just about to suggest contacting Wolverine to help cut out Lil's tumor when Persuasion shows up in the room to say that Laura Dean is waking up.
But when Laura, aka Pathway, does wake up, she winds up teleporting herself and everyone else in the room away. It's a little unclear from the art who is left behind, but that is Persuasion. Laura's parents, Witchfyre, and Aurora are the ones that disappear.
But the main plot in this issues begins with "Her", aka Kismet, aka J'Ridia Starduster (per this story), aka Adam Warlock's female counterpart. She is in space, fleeing from a group of aliens called the Consortium. This is actually picking up from a Marvel Comics Presents story written by Fabian Nicieza. One of the positive aspects of Nicieza is that he builds a continuity off of nearly everything he's written, and that includes a lot of seemingly throwaway Marvel Comics Presents stories.
Her is getting knocked around, so she heads to Earth, hoping to get help from Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four, "my only Terran acquaintance". But she mistakes the skyline of Toronto for that of New York, and winds up in Canada instead.
Queue an extremely messy looking battle between Alpha Flight and the Consortium ships demanding Her back.
We are told, but not really shown, that the battle is resulting in tremendous property damage and civilian causalities.
Northstar also breaks an arm...
...but equips himself with an alien glove that lets him continue fighting and even makes him more powerful.
The glove seems like it has disappeared the next time we see him (unless he managed to get it underneath his costume?).
Diamond Lil, meanwhile, is attacked by an alien with a gun that can pierce her skin.
So she abandons the battle to chase him, and when she catches him and learns that the gun is attached to his arm, she tears it off.
(I think that guy may be from Kurrgo's Planet X.)
Meanwhile, some people vaguely resembling the Avengers show up.
In a parallel plot, Nova, herald to Galactus, shows up at the jellyfish planet.
The jellyfish have a contingency for dealing with Galactus (we'll soon learn their culture seems to consist of nothing but Galactus contingencies). They teleport their planet to another dimension. But Galactus is able to "hone in" on wherever his herald is, so that fails to deter him.
The cover of issue #99 promises, among other things, "2 scantily-clad interstellar she-warriors". And Michael Bair does seem to be trying to vamp things up.
Ok, there's nothing particularly suggestive about the Her scan, but it does cause Quasar to become distracted by her legs.
We also have She-Hulk, whose breast seems to be in eminent danger of busting out of her costume.
There is literally nothing sexy about any of this, but it does seem to be what Bair was going for. I mean, i can't imagine any other justification for these weird poses.
While the messy fight against the hordes of aliens becomes increasingly hopeless...
...the jellyfish aliens enact their next Galactus contingency plan, and suddenly Vindicator is teleported away along with a mix of other Alphans and Avengers.
With Heather Hudson out of the way, Captain America can finally formulate an effective battle strategy against the aliens (ok, it's not framed that way). He has some of the stronger remaining super-heroes remain in the ground battle, but takes a group of stealth-appropriate heroes (Black Widow, Puck, Northstar) to infiltrate the mothership and disrupt their communication systems.
No it's not, Sasquatch.
They use a fighter plane to get to the mothership. Using the alien's universal translator causes the console to convert the text to Japanese.
Captain America says he doesn't like the implications of that.
On their way to the mothership, we learn that the Black Widow and Puck fought against each other during the Vietnam War.
While they are on the mothership, they find that it is powered by a miniature planet. And in our parallel plot, Galactus is hungry. How convenient!
I can't complain too much, though. Her's second appearance also included people carting planets around. It's clearly a thing that just happens around Her.
But i'm getting ahead of myself. Back on the jellyfish planet, the heroes debate whether they should even get involved in trying to stop Galactus. Ultimately they decide to do it, though.
I'm kind of surprised that Quasar takes the position that they should stop Galactus. Surely he is aware (through Eon and/or through studying the Avengers' files) that Galactus serves a purpose in the universe. I always think it's hypocritical when the heroes decide to stop Galactus (or, say, the Celestials), only when he is right in front of them. He does this sort of thing all the time, guys. What is it about this time that justifies stopping him?
It's also worth noting that based on where this story gets placed, Galactus is probably trying to power up to fight Thanos.
Anyway, it turns out that in the dimension that the jellyfish have moved their planet to, Galactus' cosmic powers don't work.
And even though the story says otherwise, i'm assuming that Nova's powers are reduced as well. Otherwise i don't see these heroes (with the possible exception of Hercules, and he doesn't fight her directly) giving her such a hard time. Either that or Her is sufficiently cosmic enough to handle a herald of Galactus, but then you have to wonder why a fleet of alien spaceships gave her such a hard time.
Galactus may be powered down, but he's still huge. So he can still get into a slugfest with the heroes.
During the fight, we see Vindicator's human side briefly come out.
And NOW it's time for the planet trade.
To get everyone out of the dimension, though, Heather and Mac have to sacrifice themselves. Only their electro-magnetic suits will do the trick.
In the end, though, Mac sacrifices just himself, sending Heather home.
So Vindicator dies again. I guess the fan reaction to his return was as outraged as you'd think.
My only reaction is "My god, what a mess.".
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: Her appears here (and in issue #101) before her appearance in Quasar #26, which is an Infinity Gauntlet tie-in. So the Avengers appear here (and in issue #101) before Infinity Gauntlet. Her's appearance here should also take place prior to Damage Control #4. Issue #101 occurs "days" after the end of this arc, with the Avengers having stuck around to help with the clean-up in Toronto.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Alpha Flight Special #1-3 (#4 is an original)
Inbound References (6): show
I feel like this is a stupid reason for Vindicator to sacrifice himself. He doesn't go down fighting Galactus or anything, he just sacrifices himself because everyone jumped into the alternate dimension without having any way back?
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 8, 2015 12:26 AM
Ouch. That "Avengers Assemble" panel is atrocious. Cap's legs are have bad proportions, Herc does a pose out of bodybuilding pageant and Black Widow... just fall headlong to the ground?
Posted by: Piotr W | October 8, 2015 2:08 PM
Oh, and I've never understood Nicieza's decision to bring Mac back just to kill him off again so quickly. What was the point?
And, of course, Mac was brought back later *again*...
Posted by: Piotr W | October 8, 2015 2:10 PM
Fnord, regarding Quasar, I think Fabian's idea was that as the Protector of the Universe, Quasar is as consecrated to life as Thanos is to Death- Wendell will always oppose the large-scale destruction of sentient life even if it serves a "greater good".
Posted by: Michael | October 12, 2015 5:55 PM
Nicieza seems to be genuinely incapable of writing Hercules as being able to offer anything besides punching people while telling them to "receive the gift". He says it TWICE in this entry (to the aliens and to Galactus), and then in the NEXT Alpha Flight issue (to Sasquatch) and then again in New Warriors #26 (to Rage).
Posted by: AF | April 9, 2016 6:43 AM
@Piotr W I think Nicieza, knowing he was leaving the title and knowing no one liked Mac being back, didn't want to leave the next writer stuck with him. So, this shunts him back in the toybox, until Furman ends his run.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | July 2, 2016 6:54 PM
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