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Alpha Flight #12 (1984, July)

September 16, 2014

I’ll post my pull list tomorrow, either before work or after it. But for today, by John Byrne, “. . . And One Shall Surely Die.”

. . . And One Shall Surely Die

What a terrible title.

Heather demands to know where her husband is, and Courtney suggests she watch some TV to pass the time. Jaxon’s on the TV. It’s a pre-recorded message. He accuses her of betraying him. We get a quick recap of the events from Guardian’s origin, and then Jaxon talks about what happened after. He was fired from Am-Can, his wife (who was also the boss’ daughter) left with the kids, and he couldn’t find another job. He tried to hang himself, but his landlady came in to evict him before he was dead, but he did render himself unable to walk. After Guardian first appeared on the scene, Jaxon began following his career. Then he went to Roxxon, and the chairman agreed to help him.

Jaxon’s finished, and Heather says she refuses to be used as bait, but Courtney doesn’t let her. They argue a bit, and start to fight, but after Heather scratches Courtney’s face, Courtney’s revealed as a robot.

Back in Canada, Shaman and Snowbird are waiting for more of Alpha Flight. Shaman says he senses death on the wind. In Vancouver, Walter’s waiting for Aurora, who flies back from St. Tropez. He tells her to get into costume, which happens while he’s talking. They fly off to meet Shaman. In Toronto, Puck gets the message, and Northstar arrives to pick him up, and snaps when Puck mentions Aurora. In the Atlantic, Marrina doesn’t get the signal because she’s playing with Namor. When Alpha meets back up, Northstar tries to talk to Aurora, but she brushes him off. Sasquatch grabs him, but Puck kicks Sasquatch, which pisses him off into almost killing Puck. Shaman stops Sasquatch with some vines, Northstar lets loose some punches, and Snowbird chases Northstar off. Aurora brings Sasquatch back under control, not knowing what happened. Shaman teleports them all to Guardian, in battle with Omega Flight.

Fight time! Flashback surrounds Guardian with duplicates. Wild Child slices Aurora. Snowbird tries to transform, but can’t, and Diamond Lil uses the opportunity to start trying to garrotte her with a strand of hair. Snowbird says she mustn’t bleed, and Shaman uses some magic to scare Lil off. Shaman realizes that because Snowbird’s essence is bound to Canada, she’s withering away in the US. Smart Alec grabs Shaman’s bag, and takes a look inside. That’s him out of the fight. Box is beating up Sasquatch, who’s afraid to use his full strength. Wild Child is threatening a scared Aurora, until Northstar grabs him and slams him at high-speed into a wall.

Meanwhile, Courtney leaves Heather, but leaves the door open.

Back at the fight, Puck takes out Flashback. Box launches at Guardian and carries him through  door into a long shaft, and starts pounding on him. Then it’s revealed that Jaxon is controlling the Box armour himself. Guardian grabs his power pack and jabs it into the Box armour, short-circuiting it, and killing Jaxon. Guardian figures he’s got about 10 seconds before his own suit explodes, and starts disconnecting it. Once he does, Heather opens the door, and Mac shields her from his power pack’s explosion and dies.

It’s a hell of an issue. A great way to end the first year of the book. Alpha Flight’s reunited after far too long apart, the action is exciting, there’s several sub-plots set up and advanced, and the finale’s a big twist. Of course, Guardian’s death is eventually reversed, and he’s still alive and well right now, showing up in the current arc of Amazing X-Men. Still, even knowing that, it’s a tragic ending to the issue. Heather’s reaction is captured excellently. The characterization throughout the issue is strong. So is the art – Byrne really was one of the best artists of the time.

But wait! This wasn’t Alpha Flight’s only appearance that month. They also showed up in Rom #56, by Bill Mantlo and Mark Bright. Rom and Starshine are in Northern Ontario, the area of Beaverkill Valley, and the town of Beaver Falls. It’s Canada, so obviously it’s going to have a name like Beaver Falls. All our towns are named like that. Beaver Falls, Moose Creek, Bear Mountain – just an animal and a geographical feature. Anyway,some Dire Wraiths are believed to be hiding in the area. Marrina’s swimming around in the water around Beaver Lake, and finds a bunch of small eggs. She pops out of the water to give the eggs to Shaman and Walter. She thinks they’re salmon eggs, but they’re not near any known spawning ground, which seems to concern her. Snowbird is also flying around the town, and she and Shaman both sense something more dangerous than the pollution, so everyone gets ready for a fight. The Wraiths send out a bunch of weird fish-monster things. Shaman senses alien magic at work, and Rom and Starshine show up to help fight and explain about the Wraiths. Shaman sprinkles some powder on the water, and Marrina stirs the lake the get it to act more quickly, so the monsters are turned back to fish. Which all die because of the pollution in the water. The issue gets pretty heavy-handed in its environmentalist message. The heavy-handedness actually kinda drags the message, and the issue, down. I’m all for environmentalist messages, I think it’s important to say that stuff. But holy hell, Mantlo just hammers it to the point of making a reader go, “Yes, I get it, pollution is bad, you can stop saying that in every other panel.” t gets worse when you reach the end and realize that this is a continued story – there’s another issue of it. Another issue of the equivalent of a guy standing on the corner screaming. Sometimes, it helps to trust that the readers aren’t idiots who need to be smacked in the face in order to get what you’re saying. But that’s the kind of writer Mantlo was. His work was always tiring to read.

And I should also talk about Secret Wars #3, though I don’t really want to. Magneto’s in a base of his own, with the Wasp. Magneto wants to talk to her, and also flirt with her. At the superhero base, Spider-Man comes across the X-Men saying they don’t belong there, and preparing to leave to join up with Magneto. Spider-Man busts in saying he’s going to rat on them, then proceeds to beat the crap out of the whole team. He runs off, but then Xavier mind-wipes him. Then they find a vehicle and leave. Magneto rejects an alliance with Doom, then goes back to talk with Wasp some more, and they start making out. Other stuff happens, too, but that’s the X-Men side of things. They get beat up by Spider-Man while Magneto makes out with the Wasp. Beh.

Song of the day: Stompa by Serena Ryder.

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