Alpha Flight #32
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #32
But that's all besides the point. The atrocity in this issue is the revelation about Puck. Since taking over the series, Mantlo has been regularly spotlighting Puck's "pain", which has its roots in a scene from Alpha Flight #12 where Puck is meditating to focus past the pain that he's experiencing due to his achondroplasty/dwarfism. But last issue Mantlo had the pain increase when Puck broke his vow to not kill and used Nemesis' magic sword to dismember Deadly Ernest. And this issue his annoyance or concern over Heather's decision to use the Guardian suit is exacerbated by the pain.
In fact it's his feelings about Heather in general that are causing him grief, and soon after Heather storms out to ask Wolverine to teach her how to fight since Puck refuses, Puck collapses and releases something from his head so that he "could offer myself to Heather as I was! Not half a man anymore!".
And what was in his head? Some kind of demon genie thing.
And what's left behind is a seven foot old man.
What? No no no no no no no!
Look, Puck is the regular guy of the group. He's the guy that worked his butt off to join Alpha Flight despite not having powers, and finally makes it to the team meeting at the end of issue #1 and demands that the team keep the Alpha Flight name because that's the team he worked so hard to join. He talks like a "barroom brawler but [reads] Shakespeare". He's grounded; the heart and soul of a group of dysfunctional mutants and weird mystical types. He's not a mystic type himself, and he's certainly not a long lived man with a demon in his head. We've never seen any hints that there's anything to Puck besides being a well traveled acrobatic dwarf.
Even in this issue, Puck refers to himself as a dwarf a couple times ("I'm justa lousy little dwarf who lacks the right [to tell Heather that he cares for her]" and "don't dwarves deserve happiness , too?"). But as we learn, Puck isn't actually a dwarf. So why would he refer to himself that way? Taking away the fact that Puck was a natural dwarf is also undoing some of the nice work Byrne did. Aside from possibly the name, Byrne didn't play Puck's size for laughs. So you had an actual dwarf character that wasn't treated like he was part of a freak show; a rare thing even today.
In addition to the pain misunderstanding, Mantlo may be trying to come up with an explanation for Puck having known Ernest Hemingway, as mentioned in Alpha Flight #15. But that wasn't necessary - Hemingway stopped going to Spain in 1960, making it only 25 years ago by publication time. So there was no fix needed for that.
But forget it. I've spent too many words on this already. It's stupid! It's evidently stupid. No one who knows about this thinks it was a good idea. I don't know what Mantlo was thinking, but more crucially, how did this get past editor Carl Potts? How did no one look at this and think "This is a dumb idea!"?
It doesn't even make sense on its own terms. Does Eugene Judd really think he has more of a chance with Heather as a 71 year old than as a 40-ish year old dwarf?
I've somehow resisted the urge to toss this comic after nearly 30 years, and Puck's demon "Razer" (also spelled "Razor" in this issue, and later Black Raazer) will appear again, so i guess i'm going to have to go through with it and describe his origin.
Eugene Judd first encountered Razer in 1939, when he was hired to steal the Black Blade of Baghdad. He was a soldier of fortune at the time, and intended to double-cross his employers and keep the blade for himself. But it turns out that the blade was actually the prison of a renegade sorcerer that had been trapped by Persian mystics in what was previously a shining white scimitar. Fighting the demon, young Judd found that he was able to absorb him into his head, containing the demon the way the sword used to. But the former "giant" (Six foot six, by Madison Jeffries' estimation) Judd found himself reduced to dwarf size, and wracked with pain.
While Puck explains all this to Madison Jeffries, Northstar, Aurora, and Box try to fight off Razer. Aurora has the best luck since she is able to produce light, but much is made of the fact that she and her brother can no longer touch each other to produce the blinding light that they formerly could. Both Northstar and Box (whose electronic equipment can't even sense Razer) get struck by the Black Blade, and they each lose six inches.
Box and Jeffries consider rigging up an electronic light device, but Puck says the solution has to be mystical, and with Shaman, Talisman, and Snowbird all on LOA, Puck has to bring things back to where they started, and he takes Razer back into his head.
Gah! That's the other thing. If Mantlo really wanted to do this, he should have had the conviction to really own it and leave Puck as a 70 year old man, 6"6' tall man. Not play this weird peek-a-boo, i ruined you! game with us.
Ok. Deep breath. What else is going on this issue? Heather gets some sunglasses to go with her costume.
Northstar is still an ass.
Box has gone back to a blue color scheme. Somewhat surprisingly, because he was blue when he was used to kill Guardian and then he switched to red when he joined Alpha. You wouldn't think he'd want the association with the other version. Blue (or purple) seems to suit colorist Bob Sharen's color palette better, though.
Artwise, Jon Bogdan fills-in (the next two issues are by Sal Buscema and then David Ross becomes the regular artist) and the book still retains a similar feel to the previous Mike Magnolia issues, probably thanks to the fact that Gerry Talaoc is on inks and Bob Sharen is also still here. I liked this little sequence, both in terms of the action and the facial expressions and body language (i'm also hyper-aware of the "you little fool" line, thanks to some recent comments).
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Heather is on her way to the X-Men at the end of this issue, so the next Alpha Flight story should take place not too long after, and since that arc takes place between Uncanny X-Men #201-202, this one should too.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAurora, Black Raazer, Box, Madison Jeffries, Northstar, Puck, Vindicator (Heather Hudson)
Another entry on a Wizard "famous worsts" list.
Tall Puck resembles a bald Keenan Wynn.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 24, 2013 7:04 PM
This story was originally announced with the title "Not Even Dwarves Start Small".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 15, 2014 4:14 PM
But, hey, you gotta love how in the midst of a battle, Aurora, from several feet away, can tell that her brother has shrunk six inches, even though he is lying down.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 6, 2015 8:51 AM
I was a bit surprised Eric Beck didn't point this out but...yeah, this was a misfire of epic proportions. Its the whole element of "everyone has to be special no matter what they are in a comic". Oh, Puck can't just be a dwarf, he's some tall guy with a demon in his head! Shouldn't Mantlo and Byrne have had more of a round-table before putting this down into comic lore? (and that's before the whole Northstar mess...)
Posted by: Ataru320 | June 7, 2015 1:37 PM
"Not Even Dwarves Start Small"? I never would have pegged Mantlo as a Werner Herzog fan!
Posted by: Brian Coffey | September 20, 2017 10:27 PM
@will- sorry, it's mentioned again in issue 50 and Puck becomes big from issue 50 until Alpha Flight 87-90. And it's also mentioned in Marvel Comics Presents 99. I don't think it's been mentioned in a while, though.
Posted by: Michael | September 22, 2017 7:16 PM
And then there's Wolverine #35 which not only brings it back up but screws with the chronology involved to boot.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | September 23, 2017 12:10 AM
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