Alpha Flight #122-123 (Back-up)
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #122, Alpha Flight #123 (Back-up story only)
That said, i don't think the idea was to have these back-ups just so the Registration plot didn't get neglected. The back-ups continue (on and off) through issue #127 and coincide with regular artist Pat Broderick leaving the book. So i suspect that back-ups were really meant to help Broderick with deadline issues and then to stay on target while dealing with a new artist coming on board.
And to be clear, i don't want to make it sound like this book would have been golden if it weren't for Infinity Crusade. While Furman wrote good stories before and after this, he, like so many other writers, just didn't seem to click with Alpha Flight. This back-up is a good example of that. Aside from my normal dislike of back-ups - especially back-ups that take place out of sequence from the main story (in this case, before) while featuring the same characters that appear in the main story - the problem is that it once again delves into a character's mysterious past instead of just giving us good stories featuring the characters. We recently had an arc about Wild Child's mysterious past, which in turn was wrapped up in conspiratorial plots about Guardian (and even Sasquatch, to a degree). And of course we've had strange revelations about Puck in the past, back-and-forth origins for Aurora and Northstar, contradictory info on Box, etc.. In my opinion, everything we really needed to know about these characters was established in John Byrne's run, and at this point we should be just showing those established characters having adventures, not mining every stray comment for hidden histories. It's true that Byrne implied that Puck was an adventurer with a storied history before he joined Alpha Flight, but every attempt by writers to flesh that out - Mantlo's Black Raazer, Furman's Brass Bishop, even Larry Hama's time travel story in Wolverine - turn out to be disappointing compared to the vague ideas i had in my head, where he was just an acrobatic dwarf that had some fun pulpy adventures. This story establishes that he used to be part of a super-powered mercenary quartet, introducing characters into Puck's backstory that we've never seen before and will never see again.
The plot is simple. Puck (backed up by Northstar and Wild Child) is forced to enforce the Superhero Registration Act and arrest his former friends. He does it but he doesn't like it. That's it, the end.
As is my usual complaint about back-up stories, there's just not enough going on to merit the space. So we have a truncated main story (which, since they're Infinity Crusade crossovers, is i guess no big loss), and a virtually plotless two-issue back-up.
But on top of that we're introduced to three characters that are presented as a big part of Puck's past...
...but who feel like complete throwaways and indeed are (quite rightly) thrown away after this.
The first is Cleft (note the line about Heather getting Puck out of jail, which i think is new info).
And the other two are Depth Charge and Flagstone.
Together they were The Outcasts.
We learn very little about Puck's time with these losers, except that they used to be a rowdy bunch. What little time is used to introduce them is more focused on explaining their powers...
...and the immediate internal conflict for Puck of going against his former friends.
The idea that Puck got a "power" from monks is also not sitting well with me. I don't mind the idea that he trained with monks at some point in his life, and i'm happy to read "power" in a non-superpowered sense, but i still don't like the way it's phrased because it just runs against my interpretation of Puck. It's a good illustration of why it's really just too late to be delving into the histories of Alpha Flight at this point. My conception of the characters is solidified, and i'm not going to not treat some revelation about Puck delivered so casually in a back-up story of issue #123 with anything but suspicion.
You could get virtually the same mileage out of this story (which, granted, isn't much) if it was just Puck feeling conflicted about enforcing the Registration Act with some regular super-characters that he had no connection with. Especially considering how little and how poorly developed the new history is. In fact, i think that would be a slightly better story. I'd still be suspicious of new super-powered characters suddenly appearing just in time for a story about registration, but at least there wouldn't be the added annoyance of jarring and pointless new revelations about Puck.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: A footnote confirms that this takes place prior to Infinity Crusade.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showNorthstar, Puck, Vindicator (Heather Hudson), Wild Child
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