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Alpha Flight #21 (1985, April)

January 25, 2015

I was late enough getting home last night that I didn’t feel like doing a post. Today, I don’t work until 7:30, so I’ve got time for one. Yay! So we’ll finish April 1985, with a story by Byrne, “Love Wrought New Alchemy . . .”

Love Wrought New Alchemy

Doing it for centuries? And getting his ass kicked for years.

Aurora’s freaking out a bit about Walter being turned into a gold statue, and demands to know who Gilded Lily is. That means it’s flashback time! Her story begins in 1875. She was motoring through the Alps with her husband, and went off a cliff. He died, she lived, but badly injured. She stumbled on a castle, and collapsed. She woke up later, fully healed, and met Diablo. Yay Diablo! I like him. He’s cool. He treated her well. He eventually brings her to his lab, where he reveals he’s a thousand years old, and slips into his costume. He tells her he loves her, and wants her to spend eternity with him. They spent a year working together in his lab, until the day the nearby village rose up against him, and trapped him behind a heavy steel door that couldn’t be moved. She was grabbed by the butler, but she killed him, and manages to escape.

She returned to England to try to find for herself the secret of Diablo’s immortality. After ten years, she still hadn’t found it, but she did find the secret to transmutation. And she realized she had found a way of getting her revenge. She returned to Transylvania, and found out who’d been involved in the betrayal of Diablo. She married the first of them, and on their wedding night, she turned him to gold. She spent the next few years going after all the others, and doing the same thing to them.

Now, Lily tells Aurora she’s never had a chance to create a female statue, and they need to find the proper pose and display for her. Aurora calls to Walter for help. He wakes up, and recaps the previous issue. He can’t move, but he can still transform to Sasquatch, which gets him free. Meanwhile, Snowbird is flying around, and gets struck down by a sudden bout of illness. She thinks only the gods could have done it to her, and wonders why.

Back at the house, Sasquatch busts down a door and finds Aurora, held above a vat. Lily flicks a couple drops of liquid at the floor, and the stone attacks him, but he smashes it. Then he tears off her robe, and . . . kinda ew. She has an extremely thin gold body, mounted on wheels, with her heart in a glass case. Sasquatch guesses she’s a robot, and pulls her mask off. She wasn’t a robot. Her skin looks like it’s in an advanced stage of decomposition. Then she immediately dissolves to dust. Then the house collapses. Sasquatch and Aurora are covered by a mountain of dust, which he sneezes off.

Later, there’s no sign of the lab, the statues, or anything. Sasquatch wonders how Lily caught Aurora, given her flight and light. She changes the subject, and he wonders what’s happening to her.

I like this issue. Gilded Lily actually is a really cool villain. One nice touch is that, all through her backstory, we never see her face. It’s an interesting touch. Her face is always obscured somehow. I love her design in the present. The mask is really creepy, especially combined with the white robes.It gives her a strikingly eerie appearance. Her backstory is neat. It’s very interesting stuff. It gives a greater sense of humanity to Diablo then is usual. I think what really makes the backstory work, though, is the art. Byrne’s pencils, of course, are stellar, as always. But the colours by Andy Yanchus really add a lot to it.

There’s surprisingly little of Alpha Flight here. Even Sasquatch and Aurora don’t do that much, because the story is so dominated by Gilded Lily’s history. Which makes it fortunate that the history is so compelling. Unfortunately, though, while Lily does appear again, it is only once more. It’s a shame. All that time spent to establish her does wind up feeling wasted, because she never gets the chance to be a recurring villain. Someone should bring her back. She doesn’t have to be strictly an Alpha Flight villain. She could show up anywhere, really. Oh well.

The Snowbird subplot touched on here is going to build to something huge. Sasquatch’s thoughts about Aurora possibly developing a third personality? Not so much. One thing that amused me: The letters page has a few people raise the idea of Heather getting powers. The editor repeatedly says that she won’t, and that her leadership isn’t going to involve going into battle. That was certainly Byrne’s intention . . . but Byrne doesn’t have much longer on the title, and Bill Mantlo, to be blunt, was nowhere near as good a writer as John Byrne.

Song of the day: She La by 54-40.

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