Rick Mason, the Agent
Issue(s): Rick Mason, the Agent
This oddity has more relevance to the Marvel universe than you think. Well, that's assuming that you, like me, didn't think it had any. In fact it does indeed have a tiny, tiny bit of relevance.
This is also a good test of James Hudnall's writing abilities when he's not handicapped by John Calimee or negative feelings towards Alpha Flight in general (this series does build on some Alpha Flight stuff, though). John Ridgeway has a very different style than Calimee. It's a style that i think would be better in black & white considering the amount of shading he uses, which leaves things sometimes looking sketchy. But it's a grittier, more realistic style that serves the story fairly well.
In the above scan we have Rick Mason, our titular Agent, and his former kung fu teacher and now contact in Hong Kong, Teng Yun-Suan. Teng is also a master of feng shui, and this was years before feng shui became a trendy thing in the US. Feng shui is described as being "the equivalent of a priest, a fortune teller, a doctor, and a psychiatrist all rolled into one". I wouldn't let any of those people tell me where i can put my furniture.
Teng gives Rick three predictions. The first is that he'll kill someone tonight. The second is that he'll find love but fail to keep it. And the third we don't learn right away, but it's that he'll fight a former friend.
As an Agent, Rick's job is to investigate super-folks and provide information on them, usually to western governments. In this case he's discovered a plot by a super-powered group to take over Hong Kong as it's being transferred from Britain to China.
The super-powers involved are of some interest to us, since they are from Alpha Flight. Three of them - Dog, Monkey, Horse - were mentioned as renegades by China Force in Alpha Flight #69. And two, Silver and Gold, have appeared as members of Canada's new Gamma Force, although Gold has taken the name Auric. I don't know about She Devil; i think this is the only reference to her.
Rick's job isn't to get involved, so he passes this info on to MI-6 and, in line with Teng's predictions, strikes up a relationship with agent Julie Summers.
But when he goes back to his hotel, he's attacked by Horse. Our Agent doesn't have super-powers, unless it's the ability to unerring target one's genitals...
...or to survive a multi-story fall into an indoor pool.
So that's prediction #1 fulfilled.
Since Rick had already delivered his information to MI-6, Horse's attack on him was pointless, but we'll see by the end that that's not a plot hole.
Back in his hotel room, Rick finds a message from his old buddy, "Patch", so he's forced to leave Julie behind and go to Manhattan. There we find out that patch is not Wolverine, but Nick Fury.
Fury wants Rick to look into the situation in Costa Brava, the country that we saw in Alpha Flight #77. Costa Brava was originally run by a dictatorship, and then taken over by Communists, and in the Alpha Flight story we saw that the US government was illegally funding Contras to overthrow the Communists. In this story, the Communists have been overthrown by a super-powered group.
The situation is similar enough to what Rick just encountered in Hong Kong that he's interested in the case, although the super-folks are different than the ones we saw there. The US government actually supports the super-coup, since it's anti-communist, and that's why Nick is contacting Rick unofficially.
In the park where Rick is talking to Nick is a low level employee of the Kingpin's organization. His job is to pretend to be a crazy person while actually making sure that no rival drug dealers move into the area. But he's also on the lookout for anyone talking about Costa Brava, so he informs the Kingpin about Rick and Nick's conversation.
The Kingpin is a backer of the super-coup, so he contacts them and tells them that none other than Rick Mason, The Agent is coming for them.
Meanwhile we get to the most interesting bit. It turns out that Rick Mason's father is the Tinkerer.
We won't actually see Rick using any gimmicks from his father in this story. But i think it's a cool connection.
From there it's pretty rote. Rick goes to Costa Brava, foments a democratic revolution (all in a day's work for The Agent)...
...and defeats the super-villains mostly one by one (and they're never seen again as far as i know so no point in going into them in detail).
The twist is that Rick's former teacher Teng is actually behind the revolutions. His motivation is that he's tired of seeing big countries pushing little countries around (having grown up in British Hong Kong) and so he's trying to work things from the opposite direction. He targets Communist countries because no one cares about them: the US is happy to see them overthrown and they're a financial drain on the Soviet Union so they don't care either. It's an interesting motivation.
The battle with Teng is a long and arduous feng shui battle with no clear winner until Teng accidentally places a mirror so that it faces a bed. Rick then defeats his master by sticking his hand all the way into his gut.
I should note that at one point Rick is captured and tortured, and he jokes about having a "power"...
...and when they're done torturing him he recovers instantly.
If Rick had turned out to really be a robot built by the Tinkerer, i wouldn't be surprised. But i don't believe anything like that is the case. He does return, though, first in the Cage series written by Marc McLaurin, who is assistant editor here.
This wasn't super-great, but it was better than i expected and thanks to the various Marvel universe connections it held my attention more than i thought it would.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place while Nick Fury is still rebuilding SHIELD, so after Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #1-6 makes sense (or technically after the first page of issue #7 when they are officially reinstated by the UN). This story also takes place after a revolution in Costa Brava, meaning it should probably take place after Alpha Flight #77 when the US government was still illegally funding the Contras there. This therefore must take place after Alpha Flight #76 which introduces Silver and "Gold" (Auric) as members of Gamma Flight, so that photo must have been taken prior to their joining of Gamma Flight or they are working as double-agents (which may be the case given this story). In Alpha Flight #78 (which takes place during Acts of Vengeance) we'll see the Tinkerer having just dropped off his son at the airport for Costa Brava, making it basically concurrent with this issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showKingpin, Nick Fury, Rick Mason (Agent), Tinkerer
Civil War will eventually reveal that the Tinkerer has grandchildren at least. Dunno how much relevance that'd have for Rick, but it seems worth noting.
Posted by: Max_Spider | November 12, 2014 6:31 PM
Fnord, in Alpha Flight 79, the Tinkerer mentions his son leaving for Costa Brava, so this takes place concurrently with Alpha Flight 79.
Posted by: Michael | November 12, 2014 7:59 PM
Didn't the Tinkerer reference his grandchildren in Spider-Man: Dead Man's Hand, too, before Civil War? I'm not sure.
Posted by: Enchlore♠ | November 12, 2014 9:13 PM
Thanks, Michael. I've pushed this forward and i'll adjust it further when i get to that issue.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 12, 2014 9:28 PM
John Ridgway's career at this point was indeed mostly doing b&w art for Marvel UK's Dr. Who Monthly and other British mags.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 14, 2014 11:02 PM
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