Alpha Flight #121
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #121
We actually didn't get confirmation during the Hero Killers storyline that Silver was killed - only Auric - but that definitely turns out to be the case, as the people who try to clear out the Sphinx's building learn.
"Two weeks later", Alpha Flight are attending their funeral (and we don't yet hear how the fact that they were zombies was dealt with). In our first hint of the rushed changes that happened with this issue, note the blanked out footnote (which would have just been pointing to the last arc; i don't know why it was removed).
Since Spider-Man was there when they died, he also attends as Peter Parker.
Peter's spider-sense is reacting to Wildheart (Wildchild), whose senses have detected that Silver and Auric's bodies have been removed.
Since they're in New York, they head over to the X-Men's place for help in searching for the bodies. Lookit Wolverine pretending he knows who Wyre is.
Wolverine talks to Val Cooper and learns that the scientist that found Silver and Auric is the only one that saw them "alive", and he claimed that they gave him "the power", and he wound up getting locked up in a mental institution. But the scientist was later broken out by "the Chess Set", a name that sets off alarm bells for Puck.
Before Puck says anything more, Wolverine detects Spider-Man, who is lurking around the X-Mansion because he wants to help. Guardian says that Spider-Man can stick around because he's "been an ally in the past" and since Wolverine (and i guess the rest of the X-Men) have "X-business to attend to".
Puck doesn't say anything more about what he may know, and instead he takes Spider-Man to New York City where they seem to randomly beat up people in bars (an explicit nod to Daredevil's MO). Eventually they seem to get the information they need, which is that there's a meeting of super-villains happening at an abandoned airstrip.
The meeting is run by this guy.
Pffffftttt!!! Excuse me while i wipe the soda from my monitor.
Well, that's a Brass Bishop alright.
Here are the attendees.
And Silver and Auric's corpses are what's for sale, along with the scientist that found them. They are guarded by the Chess Set, who seem less literal about being chess pieces than the Bishop. Killer Queen reminds me of Dansen Macabre, and not in a good way. Her and Dark Tower together also kind of remind me of when Ecstasy stole Cloak's powers, again not in a good way. What i am trying to say is PUT SOME CLOTHES ON, PEOPLE.
The idea is that Silver and Auric have got some residual Sphinx spunk on them that could be harnessed as powerful energy.
You may notice that something looks... off about that panel with Caliber. For one thing he just doesn't look like he was drawn in the same way as the other characters, and then there's the fact that his gun is in a pretty awkward spot. You can also see signs of a last minute script change in the word balloon.
That's because this appearance of Caliber is a badly modified cut and paste from his first appearance in Alpha Flight #23. You can see more about this from this issue's fill-in artist, E. Craig Brasfield, on the updated version of Dave's Long Box's review of this issue (h/t to Michael for the link). Caliber was originally supposed to be Black Tom, but due to some last minute objections by the X-office, he got swapped out for one of the few villains in Alpha Flight's own rogues gallery.
Alpha Flight and Spider-Man jump in to break up the auction.
You can see an even worse paste of Caliber (from Alpha Flight #25 this time) in the scan above, and note what appears to be the Green Goblin flying away (more on that below).
As bad as that paste of Caliber may be, the Chess Set look worse.
If you've been dying to learn about the Brass Bishop since 1984, my advice to you is just forget it. But i'll note that this guy has teleportation and sixth sense abilities.
During the fight, Silver, Auric, and the scientist merge in some way and are "reborn".
He/she/it says they're going to kill the Chess Set for seeking to deny their life, but Guardian convinces them that Silver and Auric's legacy should be life, not death. They fade away instead. Nemesis nonetheless tries to go ahead and kill the Brass Bishop, but Wildheart says that he's witnessed "something wonderful" and isn't going to let Nemesis sully it. Guardian was having trouble feeling sad at Silver and Auric's funeral (since, let's face it, no one cared about them) but after seeing their rebirth, she can now grieve.
It's amazing how much this fails to do anything with the idea that Puck had a previous encounter with the Brass Bishop. After Puck's brilliant idea to go beat people up in bars, the only reminder we get that Puck and the Bishop met before is when Vindicator tells Puck that she wants to hear everything about the Bishop before they go fight him - and we don't even get to see Puck's response! And Puck and the Brass Bishop don't even interact during the fight, or afterwards.
Perhaps because of this, or - more likely - because no one read this issue, there will be an entirely unrelated Brass Bishop in a future volume of Alpha Flight. So i guess Marvel is just taking a mulligan on this.
I get that this was a fill-in from an art perspective, but maybe that wasn't the best time to introduce the Brass Bishop and his team. This was a lingering mystery from the John Byrne era - a little care to come up with an interesting backstory and good character designs was merited.
It also wasn't the best time to have the X-Men and Spider-Man as guest stars, which theoretically meant people would be giving the book a try and finding this mess. It seems like this book was just cursed.
There is something nice about seeing Caliber again, even though i have that same feeling i get when i watch a Godzilla movie and a monster appears entirely via stock footage from older films.
Among the issue's other faults, this is yet another example of villains being used with no regard for continuity. Roy Thomas used Klaw in his West Coast Avengers run while carefully indicating where the character was coming from (Fantastic Four Unlimited #2) and going to (Fantastic Four #377), but E. Craig Brasfield stuck him here and in New Warriors #36, apparently on a whim, with no editorial oversight (per the linked post, it seems to have been his decision to show villains at the Vault in the New Warriors issue based on them having been captured here). Brasfield also notes that he included the Green Goblin in this story only to have him erased. But the Green Goblin died a month earlier in publication time, and that surely wasn't a secret in the Marvel offices (which i'm sure is why he was erased - but he does appear in silhouette in one panel; the MCP pretend that it's the Hobgoblin). The Living Laser appears here (in an outdated costume) after being shot into the Andromeda Galaxy in a February issue of Iron Man. When we next see the Controller in Iron Man, we'll wonder how the heck he could possibly be appearing here. Black Tom is in the process of being turned into a tree by Tolliver, which is why the editors covered him up with photocopies of Caliber. You can go on and on; see the comments for more examples.
At least in the Green Goblin and Black Tom cases, some last minute editorial effort was made. But why wasn't this coordinated in advance with the same degree of care that Roy Thomas would use? Or if that's simply impossible, maybe the villains here should instead have been agents of Hydra, AIM, the Secret Empire, etc.. It makes more sense for them to be bidding on new equipment than random villains like the Rhino or Plantman. And as i've said before, when you have this many villains together, no one looks good. The villains look incompetent for not being able to handle a smaller group of heroes, and a fight where Alpha Flight battles Doctor Octopus as part of a random crowd is much less interesting than if he were actually masterminding a scheme.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: Since i'm following E. Craig Brasfield's intentions to have the villains (just Klaw and Mandrill, actually) appear in the Vault in New Warriors #36 next, Klaw needs to appear here after Avengers West Coast #95 and before New Warriors #36. I'm going to assume that Wolverine's "X-business" is to avoid appearing in the rest of this issue as opposed to anything specific. I'm following the MCP in assuming that it's the Hobgoblin, not the Green Goblin, that we're seeing in silhouette. Regarding the majority of villains that really just can't be appearing here - Controller (supposed to be paralyzed), Blackout (dead since Nov 92), etc. - you'll just have to make your own stories (temporary resurrections, robot doubles, whatever you like). No care was put into choosing the characters that appeared here so we shouldn't go to great pains to account for them. But it still sucks.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAndrea Strucker, Andreas Strucker, Arcade, Auric, Beast, Beetle, Blackout (Demon), Caliber, Cobra, Constrictor, Controller, Cyclops, Doctor Octopus, Fixer, Grey Gargoyle, Jack O'Lantern (Steven Levins), Jason Macendale, Klaw, Living Laser, Mandrill, Mysterio, Nemesis II, Paste Pot Pete, Plantman, Professor X, Puck, Rhino, Ringmaster, Silver, Spider-Man, Stilt-Man, Taskmaster, Valerie Cooper, Vector, Vindicator (Heather Hudson), Wild Child, Wolverine
fnord, also worth noting is the appearance by the Mandrill in the crowd of super-villains. He was killed a year and a half earlier by the Grim Reaper in Avengers West Coast #66.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 5, 2016 4:36 PM
Killer Queen might be a reference to the Queen song of the same name.
And having Rhino bidding on equipment really has me scratching my head. What's he gonna do with it?
Posted by: Enchlore | October 5, 2016 7:58 PM
(sees Enchlore's comment) Funny, that Killer Queen doesn't look like a cat humanoid that blows stuff up.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 6, 2016 8:39 AM
Another problem- what's Blackout doing here? He was temporarily killed in Rise of the Midnight Sons and Lilith will restore him in a future Ghost Rider story.
Posted by: Michael | October 7, 2016 8:01 AM
I noticed Ghost Rider's Blackout is in this issue, wasnt he suppose to be dead after the conclusion of rise of the midnight sons, I guess it takes place after Road to Vengeance when he was revived as a full demon by Lilith but but Road to Vengeance lead directly to Siege of Darkness which ended in the threat of Lilith and the Lilin which Blackout goes solo again as a assassin for hire in 1994 Ghost Rider issues. oh man another confusion
Posted by: FRANCISCO ARBOLEDA | October 7, 2016 12:38 PM
This is another of those stories that makes a lot more sense if you imagine the heroes have stumbled upon a bunch of really dedicated supervillain cosplayers.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 7, 2016 1:35 PM
Yeah, apparently Jim Lee's 90s German Europop redesign of Fenris hadn't made it to Brasfield yet either (or anyone in editorial).
Posted by: Austin Gorton | October 10, 2016 10:11 AM
The last ten issues of Alpha Flight were absolutely the bottom of the barrel that DeFalco and co. were scraping up against. This issue especially feels like 90s Marvel flipping John Byrne--and by extension, the whole Shooter era--the bird
Posted by: George Lochinski | November 13, 2016 11:16 AM
I can't believe Alpha made it 121 issues before a guest appearance by the real Spider-Man ... that's remarkable restraint for the '80s or '90s. I'm sort of amazed Mantlo didn't try to poke at the "Aunt May inherited a Canadian nuclear plant" nonsense to make this happen 50 issues sooner.
Posted by: Jeff | April 21, 2017 4:26 PM
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