The Small Lebowski:
X-Men/Alpha Flight #1-2
Issue(s): X-Men/Alpha Flight #1, X-Men/Alpha Flight #2
So, an X-Men/Alpha Flight crossover seems natural enough, but the plot of this two issue prestige series ($1.50 per 48 page issue!) is on the odd side. I'm reminded of the (probably untrue) legend that when Claremont finally relented and wrote a Wolverine solo series, he deliberately put the plot in an usual setting (Japan) to try and cool Wolverine's popularity, but i don't think there was really a clamor for an ongoing X-Men/Alpha series so this probably wasn't a similar situation. It is interesting that this series was released the same month that John Byrne was no longer writing Alpha Flight, but the work on these issues would obviously have to be done prior to that.
I have been arguing that Alpha Flight really is a mystical book, so i guess the plot really isn't all that unusual for them, although it is for the X-Men, and bringing in elements from Norse mythology was certainly an unusual choice, and possibly an attempt to ride the popularity of Walt Simonson's Thor.
Or i could just be over-analyzing things and Claremont just decided to pull together some various toys from the Marvel toybox, which is the sort of thing that i should appreciate.
The story is that Loki is trying to convince a group of uber-Gods called "We who sit above in shadow" (the Marvel Appendix has some theories about these guys; this is their first appearance)...
...that he's worthy of receiving a power-up. In order to do so he has to do a good deed and, more vaguely, prove that he's worthy of their favor. His plan involves creating a Firefountain that grants people super-powers. The first to receive his gift are Scott (Cyclops) and Madelyne Summers and a group of civilians that were passengers on Madelyne's airplane.
As the Summers' plane goes down, Cyclops lets out a surprised psychic cry that Rachel Summers picks up on. The plane was forced to the ground during some extreme weather that reminded Cyke of the time Shaman of Alpha Flight grounded the X-Men's plane. Since Cyclops was Rachel's father in her alternate timeline, she responds to the cry by seeking out and attacking Shaman. The rest of Alpha Flight, including, oddly, Northstar (or maybe he's just responding to the attack with super speed, but i'm not clear how he knew about it or why he would have cared at this point), are all at or around Shaman's medical facility at the time of Rachel's attack, so we get our obligatory Misunderstanding Fight between the two teams...
...before Xavier shows up to calm things down.
Rachel Summers deliberately causes Aurora to revert to her Jean-Marie persona during her attack, and when it's over Xavier helpfully switches her back again. That raises some interesting questions for me. The first is does Aurora have any more of a right to her body than Jean-Marie, and if not, does Xavier have any right to swap out Jean-Marie for Aurora just because it's more convenient for the group? And second, could Xavier actually do more and help Aurora merge her split personalities? If so, presumably he could do so for anyone suffering from multiple-personality disorder, and would that be a better use of his time than leading a super-hero team?
Early on, one of the civilians on Madeylne's plane makes a reference to Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven, the theme of which is someone trying to use reality-altering powers to change the world for the better, but instead making things worse. And that's the basic theme of these issues as well. More specifically, the question is "Is it ok for everyone to give up their imagination and creativity, and let a small portion of magic-based super-heroes die (Snowbird has been in bad shape since the establishment of the Firefountain, and Shaman is affected as well)...
...in order to eliminate all suffering in the world?". The heroes of the story eventually answer "No" (I'm assuming Puck's "Take off, eh?!" is a Bob and Doug McKenzie reference.)...
...which gets them into a fight with Loki. The combined heroes are not really a match for an Asgardian god (and an array of Norse giants and other monsters)...
...but in a Deus Ex Machina ending, Those Who Sit In Shadow come down and put a stop to things; Loki forcing people to accept his good deeds is out of bounds for the trial they set up.
In the meantime, we get to learn some interesting things about the cast. To start with, we learn that Madelyne Summers is pregnant.
This raises questions for Rachel Summers, especially when the child is revealed to be a boy. She had been debating telling Cyclops about her origins, but the fact that his child definitely won't be her in this timeline throws her for a loop, and in the end she decided not to tell him, but they manage to bond anyway.
Additionally, during the initial Misunderstanding Fight, Rogue comes into contact with Northstar, and she learns of his "secrets" which is never actually stated in these issues.
By now we're all aware that Northstar was meant to be gay, but it wasn't something that was explicitly mentioned at the time (and it would have been over my head during my initial reading of these issues). Oddly, despite that subtext, when Rogue is temporarily cured of her involuntary memory-absorption abilities, she tries to get Northstar to dance with her, which seems at odds with her understanding of him.
Rogue's cure comes about because the ability to heal people is the ability that Madelyne Summers receives from the Firefountain. She also uses her healing ability to cure Puck of his dwarfism (which seems odd even if we ignore the not-yet-published revelations that Bill Mantlo has in store for Puck, but i guess "it's magic!" covers it)...
...and Aurora, Sasquatch..
...and Wolverine of their personality problems. Wolverine says Madelyne "burned the berserker madness out of my system... I'm sane now. I'm human!".
Cyclops is also able to control his optic blasts.
During the fight with Loki, Rogue attempts to absorb his abilities. She says she has "always wondered what my limit was ... can ah absorb the power of a God?!" But she absorbed the power of Thor in her first appearance in Avengers #10.
Since the plot is philosophical in nature, the action scenes all feel a bit forced and in the end i'm not convinced that this was such a great choice. Paul Smith's art, which should have been a real treat, is a little... off as well.
Still, Claremont uses the particulars to do some decent character work.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Walter Langkowski is still Sasquatch, placing this before Alpha Flight #23. Early in issue #1, Illyana reads a letter sent by Storm from Africa, placing this after Storm leaves the X-Men. Even though Illyana says it's a "letter from Storm from Africa", it would really have to be a letter from her cruise ship on the way there, since Storm is still on the boat in Uncanny X-Men #193, and that takes place after Xavier's beating. The MCP places Loki here between Thor #359 and Thor #363 (and his appearances in New Mutants Special Edition and Uncanny X-Men annual #9 also take place in that gap).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
There's one thing that always confused me about this story. Maddie acts sneakily when she heals Logan of his berserker rages. At first I thought she was doing it under the influence of Loki but that doesn't make sense- Loki already had control over Logan through the guy who controlled animals. Then I thought she found out Logan was being controlled but there doesn't seem to be a point in the story when she could have figured that out. Maybe Logan wanted to be healed and she did it in private to respect his privacy? That might be why he wasn't angry.
Posted by: Michael | March 25, 2012 6:32 PM
When this book was announced, the super-powered civilians were called the Berserkers.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 27, 2013 6:43 PM
Those Who Sit Above: I wonder who Claremont intended them to be originally? Any ideas anyone?
Ungava Bay: We did never get an origin for that Viking settlement in the series either did we! I wonder if Claremont intended to tie it in with his later introduction of Roughhouse and Bloodsport!?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | January 28, 2013 12:30 AM
This presented the first totally unsolvable continuity glitch to me when I first read it all those years ago: Sasquatch is presented as alive and in his original body here, and Northstar and Talisman are both active members of Alpha Flight alongside one another yet ALPHA FLIGHT #24 very explicitly depicts Talisman meeting Northstar for the first time (and being startsruck) after Sasquatch had been killed. In fact it happens during an unsuccessful mission to restore his soul to his body. There's no way to sort it out, it's just a glaring error. Well, it was glaring to me when I was twelve, anyway.
Posted by: Jay Patrick | February 5, 2013 12:29 PM
John Byrne was the originally announced artist for this.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 25, 2013 5:29 PM
Waitaminute: when Puck gets super-sized, he has a thought bubble saying, "It's been so long"? How does this match up with the timeline for the Mantlo revelation?
Posted by: Walter Lawson | October 25, 2013 8:40 PM
It came out about three months before Alpha Flight 32- probably Mantlo had some input.
Posted by: Michael | October 25, 2013 8:53 PM
This isn't meant to be a ongoing series just a special, marvel has done them in the past. The new mutants had a trip to Asgard in a one shot special drawn by art adams i believe. The dance with northstar was a sort of making amends trying to reach out to him act by rogue as she is a outcast herself. Aurora doesn't have a right to the body but we've seen jean marie freak out in the past when seeing herself in costume or seeing the other members of Alpha flight.
Posted by: jason hargrove | February 25, 2016 8:42 AM
Byrne's version of events: http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=50462&PN=1&totPosts=33
Marvel was pushing for an ALPHA/X-MEN book by Chris and me, but I didn't want to work with Chris again that soon. They kept pushing. Finally, I came up with an way to possibly do it: somebody else would plot the book, I would pencil, Chris would script. I also asked that Kitty not be in it, since she was still a sore point for me.
All this, I emphasize, up front. "I will agree to do this if...."
Marvel promptly agreed to both conditions, and I sat back and waited for the plot to arrive. It did. Obviously written by Chris, with Kitty all over it. I called to express my dissatisfaction, and the editor said I was being unprofessional and hung up on me.
I sent the plot back, and they gave it to Smitty.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 16, 2016 1:05 AM
I know Byrne didn't like Claremont turning Kitty into his pet genius, but I am surprised that "she was still a sore point." That's news to me.
And maybe it's just hindsight, but it's also surprising that he'd want to drag anybody else into that mess. Other than Stan Lee, I can't think of anybody that could actually walk in on that situation to plot the book, and Stan's obviously not going to do it. Then again, why didn't Jim Shooter do it to cut out all the other problems? Hell, why didn't Byrne plot it himself?
I come at this from the opposite perspective, if Byrne doesn't want to work with Claremont, don't push him to work with Claremont. Unless they're the last two writers/writer-artists willing to work for Marvel, there's no reason to force a collaboration.
Boy it's a good thing none of us had the internet back then, isn't it?
Posted by: ChrisW | June 16, 2016 1:17 AM
Gosh, I love Byrne. He's one of the few who call Claremont out instead of blindly singing his praises.
Posted by: AF | June 16, 2016 4:53 AM
"I love Byrne" is one of those sentences you hear about other people reading on the internet, but you never think it's going to happen to you. :(
Posted by: ChrisW | June 17, 2016 11:33 PM
There's a note in the Epic reprints volume of these 2 issues that states they take place during (the 'months' gap in) Uncanny X-Men 192.
Posted by: Dave | March 30, 2017 10:54 AM
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