Issue(s): Northstar #1, Northstar #2, Northstar #3, Northstar #4
This series does sort-of reference Northstar's sexuality, and it's arguably the ultimate focus of the plot. But i guess in 1994 (and despite AF #106) it was still not possible to talk openly about homosexuality, so all of the commentary is very vague.
A lot of the plot of this series might just as well have been used with Wild Child. One of the main villains is Arcade, and the Weapon PRIME team (from X-Force) are also antagonists.
Weapon PRIME at least fit as Alpha Flight villains. They were put together by Canada's Department K, and Tygerstryke seems to wear a version of the Guardian suit. I've also always been intrigued by Yeti (formerly called Wendigo, but it's been unclear if he is related to other Marvel Wendigos). In this case, they've been sent by General Clarke to arrest Northstar. Northstar announced in Alpha Flight's final issue (Alpha Flight #130) that he intended to disobey General Clarke's order for Alpha Flight to disband, so this feels like a direct continuation of the Alpha Flight series, although that's not directly stated (it's also by the same creative team).
Northstar doesn't seem to have been doing much more than partying, though.
Northstar is followed around by paparazzi, but one reporter is more interested in getting a statement on a bombing in a bus station in Quebec City. It's unclear at first, but he's referring to Northstar's pre-Alpha French separatist days, not a new bombing. Northstar shouts angrily at the reporter but they don't have a substantive discussion. Northstar is later attacked by PRIME at his home, with the reporter still dogging him. PRIME wind up attacking and capturing the wrong guy - someone (unclear who for the moment) that was driving Northstar's car. Meanwhile, the reporter is killed by a mystery man. Heather Hudson calls Northstar the next morning to warn him that he is now suspected of murder.
As Northstar is reflecting on events, we learn that the guy that PRIME accidentally arrested is Raul, someone that Northstar considers close to him (and not the guy that Northstar was out clubbing with).
Northstar is then found by a guy named Max (nephew to Northstar's old lover Raymonde Belmonde), who was threatened by someone due to Northstar's past. The mysterious threatener also indicated that a woman named Mariel would be targeted.
In summary so far, we are halfway though issue #1 and i am overwhelmed with the introduction of minor supporting characters.
Also, even in the flashback to Raymonde Belmonde, references to Northstar's sexuality are somewhere between non-existent and even more circumspect than they were in Alpha Flight #7.
At least we get some poorly drawn action when PRIME catches up with Northstar.
The speedlines on yellow background remind me of AF #106 again, and i actually find myself wishing for that art over this.
Anyway, Northstar manages to evade Weapon PRIME and escape, and no pertinent info on the PRIME members is given up during the battle.
Northstar goes to Mariel's home in Paris and finds that it's been ransacked. Northstar is then attacked by a characteristically corny looking helicopter designed by Arcade, and a couple of robot mimes.
That helicopter is without a doubt the best thing in these issues, and it unfortunately barely gets any time on panel.
Northstar survives these attacks, but is later told by Arcade (actually another robot) that he has to play a goofy game if he wants Mariel back (the first clue is hidden at Jim Morrison's grave, and it gets less interesting from there).
As for who Mariel is, we get a flashback featuring her and another off-panel friend named Yves, but there doesn't seem to be anything interesting or significant.
Northstar rescues Mariel but Arcade subsequently lures him to Russia where he'll have to fight some terrifying circus people (ok, it's a Marvel comic so i'm being redundant).
In fact, issue #3 opens with Northstar already having been defeated by the circus folk. Northstar only survives because Arcade wants to grandstand.
Northstar is able to recover and defeat the circus. Arcade slips away during the fighting. Immediately after the fight, Weapon PRIME catch up with Northstar again. Northstar surrenders to them, but the circus people recover and attack PRIME.
Northstar convinces PRIME that the circus people are brainwashed.
Northstar, with his knowledge of the Guardian technology, has Tygerstryke scan for anomalous energy signatures, allowing him to destroy the mind-control device. In the aftermath, Northstar finds a clue leading him to New Orleans (a Tarot card pointing to an occult shop there), so he decides to rescind his offer to surrender. He escapes with some mysterious help (although not that mysterious; we earlier saw Heather Hudson deciding to help him, and Northstar calls his mysterious helper a "Guardian angel").
Northstar goes to the occult shop and gets knocked out. He wakes up seemingly at the bombed out bus station in Quebec, and he's attacked by some re-painted He-Man figures.
Northstar is again helped by Guardian (Heather) during this fight, and she reveals herself this time.
After the disposable villains are disposed of, Arcade contacts Northstar and tells him to go to a house in Vancouver next. Guardian offers to go with him, but Northstar reasons that if Guardian could track him, Tygerstryke could too. So he goes alone. Guardian instead stops Weapon PRIME from following Northstar any further, something they were inclined to do anyway after he helped them with the brainwashed circus people.
Northstar, meanwhile, is so exhausted from having lived through this miniseries (understandably; i am exhausted just from reading it) that he has to rent a car to get to Vancouver.
In Vancouver, we meet the guy that hired Arcade. Hey, everybody, it's Carl Kerridge.
It's ok. Northstar had the same reaction as you.
Kerridge hates gay people, but no one will actually say that.
Or maybe he hates mutants? Or just gay mutants ("genetic and emotional quirks"?)?
Imagine hating people this much while being this vague about who they are.
Kerridge wonders why the reproduction of the bombed bus station didn't rattle Northstar more, and the reason is that it's because that day is actually what inspired Northstar towards heroism.
(It might also be because we've already delved into this stuff repeatedly at this point, so even if Northstar once felt guilty about it, he'd be over it by now. Marvel Fanfare #28 said that Northstar only acted as a courier, which seems to be in contrast to what's said here, but both stories show that Northstar wasn't directly responsible for the violence.)
Despite being exhausted and unable to use his speed powers, and despite not remembering the fighting techniques that he was taught by Wolverine (had to get at least one Wolverine reference into this series), Northstar manages to beat up Kerridge. Arcade has left evidence that Kerridge, not Northstar, was behind the reporter's murder. So that wraps things up except for some final vague comments.
The irony of Northstar thinking to himself how he has pride in, and is not going to hide from, who he is truly is, without being allowed to say who he truly is!
If you didn't already know that Northstar was gay, i don't think it would be possible to pick up on it from this series, leaving Kerridge's motivation and Northstar's subsequent affirmation to be all very unclear. Even with that knowledge, it's all very unsatisfying. And it all comes with the poor storytelling you've come to expect from an Alpha Flight book.
This series was done by the creative team that had been working on Alpha Flight when it was canceled, and from the lettercols at the end of that series it seemed like the idea was to try to keep Alpha alive through various small projects like this one. I don't know if we never got any more Alpha minis because reaction to this one was so bad or just because of the general state of the market at this time, but the quality of this book can't have helped.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Alpha Flight #130.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showArcade, Double Trouble, General Jeremy Clarke, Killspree, Northstar, Tygerstryke, Vindicator (Heather Hudson), Yeti (Dept K)
I read this when it came out, and literally the only thing I could remember about it was that Weapon PRIME and Arcade appeared in it.
It's amazing how many characters Rob Liefeld created or co-created for Marvel in the early 1990s who years later were still one-dimensional cyphers. The members of Weapon PRIME definitely fall into that category. Like fnord, I was always curious what Yeti was supposed to be, and what his connection might be to the Wendigos, but of course no one ever bothered to explain it.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 4, 2017 10:42 PM
I like how Furman seems to be at least trying to give Northstar a bit of a love life, despite the restrictions that were so tight that they couldn't even use the word "gay" on-panel.
Raul certainly seems to be a very close 'friend', given that he was waiting for Jean-Paul in his bedroom in the middle of the night when he returned from his partying, and then they were shown sitting on the bed together. I suspect the Yves referred to in the flashback sequences was also meant to be a past boyfriend (Northstar refers to him as 'dear Yves', etc)...which is probably why he was barely allowed to be seen on-panel, while the female friend gets all the panel time. That way if any of the people who threw a hissy fit when Northstar came out went after Marvel for giving him a solo project, Marvel could turn around and go "Look--he's got a significant female friend", whom someone could easily mistake as an ex-girlfriend if they weren't already familiar with Northstar.
Posted by: Dermie | December 5, 2017 12:43 AM
I guess we should be glad that a story released in 1994 in which the main character goes to New Orleans didn't include a Gambit guest appearance...
@Ben - did Liefeld even create the Weapon: Prime characters? They debuted after he left X-FORCE (he never drew them), but was still getting plotting credit. I guess it depends on how involved his plots were, and whether they involved any notes on the Weapon: Prime characters. I could also see him having just given Nicieza a napkin with "X-Force fights Weapon: Prime for a few issues" scribbled on it as he headed out the door...
Posted by: Austin Gorton | December 11, 2017 9:52 AM
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