Alpha Flight #41-42
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #41, Alpha Flight #42
These issues were also the closest i came to understanding that Northstar was gay. I didn't really get it, not even close, but years later when it was finally explicitly stated, it was some comments in these issues that i remembered most clearly. In retrospect again, these issues very obviously play on Northstar's homosexuality.
These issues also introduce Kara Killgrave, daughter of the Purple Man. Her mother was forcibly "married" to him thanks to his powers of possession...
...and when he eventually decided that he loved her and set her free, she sent his ass packing. But she kept their baby daughter, who turned out normal until she turned thirteen.
Unlike her father, the Purple Girl's victims turn purple when she possesses them.
Northstar is participating in a ski exhibition when Kara accidentally sends that girl off a cliff, so he is forced to reveal his secret identity. The fact that a super-speedster had been competing in skiing events isn't taken well. And in the aftermath of that, Kara possesses him and tries to make him her "boyfriend".
A stray statement has Northstar flying her to a remote tropical island so that he can give her a more exotic flower, and she suggests playing "Adam and Eve"...
...but a nagging concern about the way Purple Man treated her mother, plus her own embarrassment, prevents her from taking things too far.
Northstar finds that water prevents her powers from controlling him, but he finds that she's just a confused teenager with abilities and emotions she doesn't understand...
...and he considers taking her back to Alpha Flight. However, thanks to his own experiences at the ski event, he muses that when James Hudson took him to Alpha Flight it caused him to accept his own "freak" status instead of "asserting my equal right to live in the human world". Before he can talk further, Purple Girl assumes that this means he's going to abandon her on the island, so she possesses him again and forces him to take her to Alpha.
When they arrive at Alpha Flight's headquarters, Purple Girl has Northstar jump in the pool to remove her control of him. Alpha Flight are such a mess of personal problems, they can barely focus on Kara. Focus, people!
When discussing their options for dealing with Purple Girl, the emotionless Shaman lists "kill her" among the possibilities, and Purple Girl reacts like she did with Northstar on the island (people need to stop thinking out loud), and possesses everyone and tries to escape.
Meanwhile, Madison Jeffries had been trying to fix Box's problem with the bends, and he'd transformed the Box armor into a decompression chamber. But unfortunately, they guessed at the proper pressure level...
...and Purple Girl comes along and possesses Jeffries and forces him to help her escape before they can fix it.
When the rest of Alpha recovers after Purple Girl is a suitable distance away (leaving them with headaches), Shaman determines that Bochs is better left as-is, and so they go chasing after Purple Girl.
They find her and Jeffries prisoners of a guy called the (not very important) Auctioneer, who was trying to sell Jeffries and his weapon-making capabilities to criminals.
Alpha Flight show up to rescue them.
Then Alpha Flight take Purple Girl back to their headquarters where she's able to possess Bochs and force him back into his Box armor. She's then inducted into a newly revived Beta Flight.
(It's worth mentioning that Madison Jeffries believes that he could have defeated the Auctioneer and revived Bochs on his own, but he keeps it to himself about both.)
Some of those comments about Northstar that stuck out in my mind. The first when Alpha Flight is formally inducting Madison Jeffries into the team. Aurora offers to design him a costume and when Northstar snidely says she'll design something form-fitting, she asks him, "Since when do you object to having attractively dressed men about, my brother?".
Another is when Northstar describes getting possessed by Purple Girl as feeling like he'd been raped, and Vindicator's comment is "And by a woman! No wonder you're so upset!".
Sure, if he'd been raped by a man, it would have been just a minor nuisance, right? Plus, Kara Killgrave isn't a "woman", she's a thirteen year old girl! That would be creepy regardless of your sexual orientation.
It's worth noting that Northstar showed some real compassion and understanding in issue #41...
...but his opinion about her in #42 is a lot less nuanced.
Another thing that i would never have picked up in realtime was that Bill Mantlo was planning to reveal that Northstar had AIDS. You can see him developing a cough after getting dunked in the pool by Purple Girl.
And during the battle with the Auctioneer, he develops a minor injury that Mantlo spends more time on that than you'd otherwise expect.
The AIDS plotline was fortunately nixed, but an explicit confirmation that Northstar is gay won't come until 1992.
Although unsubtle to an adult reader in many ways, this arc does a good job exploring the development of Kara's powers and briefly allows Northstar to show a human side. The story also makes use of the potential of the mutant concept as a metaphor both for adolescence and homosexuality, and it's surprisingly strong in those respects. Northstar is unfortunately catty about Kara for the rest of the storyline, although to be fair he's unable to resolve her crush on him properly by simply telling her that he's gay thanks to Marvel's policy on that at the time.
Kara Killgrave, as the Purple Girl, then Persuasion, and even Purple Woman, will be a longstanding Alpha Flight character.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: For placement purposes i ignore Aurora's new costume, which she wasn't wearing in the Marvel Fanfare issue or the annual, both of which i've placed prior to these, because it was supposed to be her "winter costume", so when she's wearing it i'm just assuming she's cold.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAurora, Box, Madison Jeffries, Northstar, Persuasion, Puck, Shaman, Snowbird, Talisman, Vindicator (Heather Hudson)
I think that Northstar's attitude toward Purple Girl in this story is justified, considering that she took control of him and nearly raped him. He's under no obligation to tell her he's gay under those circumstances and his resentment is understandable.
Posted by: Michael | January 26, 2014 4:29 PM
I agree, Michael, except that he seemed to come to terms with that earlier in the story, after he realized she was just a confused teen. After that, she only possessed him again when he (seemingly) threatened to abandon her on the island, and only to have him bring her to Alpha Flight. She didn't try to make him love her again. I think it would have been more powerful for him to continue to show some level of understanding of her, or to at least be more conflicted.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 26, 2014 4:41 PM
I thought introducing a daughter of an old Daredevil villain was symptomatic of Mantlo making AF more and more generic. Nothing in these issues need AF specifically - the story could have been done in any number of Marvel books.
The vibe has become distinctly different than the title had before. Obviously the Shaman/Snowbird pregnancy plot brought in some elements distinct to Canada, but the book just seems very lifeless. Byrne made sure the team was part of the Marvel Universe, but kept is segregated from it - not a hard thing to do given that 90% of it takes place in New York, but even other titles that happened away from it (Hulk and the New Defenders) still relied on a lot of common elements. Byrne's AF never did. Mantlo's AF will increasingly draw on water from that well to the detriment of the book.
Posted by: Chris | January 26, 2014 6:17 PM
The Official Handbook had a problem with this story since the Purple Man's origin in Daredevil 4 took place "some months" before his first encounter with Matt, which took place about a decade ago due to the sliding timeline. I always thought that was being overly literal.
Posted by: Michael | January 26, 2014 6:33 PM
When Northstar is stripping down for their swim, why does Kara say he is wearing "briefs" when he is clearly wearing boxer shorts? Either the artist ignored the script, or the scripter ignored the art. Its a minor detail, but its something that irks me. lol
Posted by: Dermie | January 26, 2014 6:33 PM
"Except that he seemed to come to terms with that earlier in the story, after he realized she was just a confused teen. I think it would have been more powerful for him to continue to show some level of understanding of her"
I'd agree it was just a quirk of writing with an abrupt shift in tone (which is odd, because you expect that thing from issues written by two different people, but Mantlo wrote both issues), but if I were looking for a justification for it, you could always assume Northstar (who has ALWAYS had issues with intimacy and sharing feelings) was basically leaving himself extremely vulnerable in the first issue when he was trying to comfort her, but sort of feels betrayed that she controlled him AGAIN even after he opened up, as if him opening up didn't really register on her.
There's also the possibility that, because Northstar doesn't do "sympathetic" well, he happily put his "armor" back on and went back to being the grumpy one once they were back with Alpha and the other team members could take on the comforting role more effectively.
You COULD read that as him being opposed to the idea of ever possibly loving her because she's a weird purple mind-controller or, alternatively, because she's a teenager (though let's be honest, it might be harder to read it that way because she's drawn looking somewhat older than she's supposed to be). But in retrospect, knowing what we know, it sort of hints at him not being interested in women at all.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 14, 2014 1:18 AM
I like Purple Woman. It's too bad she's a villain now, but I suppose it was inevitable, given her heritage and the type of power she has.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | August 9, 2016 12:19 PM
The now depowered Talisman very quietly disappears from the book here. She's at the meeting in #41 where Madison Jeffries is voted an official Alphan. In her thoughts,she questions her own presence in Alpha since she no longer has any powers, but there's no "Goodbye, I'm quitting Alpha Flight" scene and we don't see her again for about twenty issues.
Posted by: Rick | January 20, 2018 11:23 PM
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