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X-Men and Alpha Flight #1 (1985, December)

April 23, 2015

Today’s issue is chronologically misplaced! By Chris Claremont and Paul Smith, “The Gift: Part 1.”

The Gift: Part 1

That’s really the only way to stay warm in the Arctic.

A cargo plane is flying through rough weather, carrying a Canadian-American survey team. We get introduced to them: Paul, an engineer and architect who likes sketching fantasy-style buildings; his wife, Jeanne, who’s French; Mr. Decard, a botanist; Carla, a cook; Dr. Wilson, a specialist in the relationship between predator species, who hates mutants; Moreau, who has no real personality yet; Sam, the plane’s loadmaster, in the cargo hold. The guy talks about an Ursula K. LeGuin novel, The Lathe of Heaven. In it, a guy has dreams that alter reality, and another guy tries to use those dreams to make the world better, but keeps making things worse. The loadmaster reads a lot, and has started doing some writing of his own. Scott goes back up to the cockpit to rejoin Maddie.

She says she’s never seen such crazy weather, and Scott says he has, when Alpha Flight lured the X-Men to Calgary. Scott and Maddie try to figure out what Alpha Flight might want with them, but an engine catches fire, and the plane goes down.

In Westchester, Doug is flirting with some girls by pretending to be a dangerous mutant. Some jackass threatens to kick his ass. Illyana tells the guy to put Doug down, and then scares him shitless with just a look. Then Illyana and Doug teleport back to the school, and the Danger Room. Kitty’s setting up a program for the X-Men, when Rachel’s struck down by a psi-flash. She accidentally changes the scenario to her own time, and Sentinels. Also, there’s a hound there – Rachel, in fact, though the real Rachel is still cowering on the floor. The X-Men attack the Sentinels (Fastball Special Tracker: #16). Rogue gets smacked down, and Colossus catches her, but her skin makes contact with his, and she absorbs his power. This is the second time she’s absorbed his power while he was in steel form. Xavier’s in his study, and Kitty sends a psychic SOS to let him know what’s going on. Xavier goes into Rachel’s mind to stop it. Then he projects what hit her – the plane going down. And Scott stumbling out, on fire.

Out in Calgary, Shaman’s doing an examination on Walter. Walter’s worried about his increasing berserker rages when he turns to Sasquatch. Shaman leaves the room, and Aurora immediately hits on Walter. Hey, he’s already mostly-naked, so that’ll save time. Shaman goes to his office to talk to Heather, but they’re immediately interrupted by a weak and injured Snowbird mentioning Ungava Bay. Then Shaman’s attacked by Rachel, who wants to know why he attacked her father. She telekinetically throws his pouch, and Heather’s arm gets caught inside it. Aurora flies in, and Rachel reverts her to her Jeanne-Marie persona.

Rogue flies down to stop Rachel, but gets grabbed by Northstar. She kisses him to absorb his speed and knock him out. She also learns his “secrets.” Sasquatch rips open the wall, and Rachel’s prepared to kick his ass, too, but Xavier telepathically steps in, pulling her onto the astral plane. He chews her out all to hell. With the fighting stopped, the situation is explained, and Snowbird says the plane was hit by the same thing that’s taken her down. They agree to join forces to find out what’s happening.

Elsewhere, Loki is receiving an audience from They Who Sit Above In Shadow, the gods of the gods. He wants something, but he has to prove himself worthy.

The two teams are on an old plane, a DeHavilland Otter. There’s a fair bit of tension. In particular, Aurora wants to kill Rachel, and isn’t bothering to hide her thoughts. Rachel feels bad. Heather and Wolverine chat a bit about Alpha. Northstar and Rogue are scouting around. Northstar tries to get rid of her by speaking French, but Rogue speaks it, too. They talk a bit about her absorbing his memories, and their relative hardships. Then Northstar notices the bit straw she’s been chewing on. She found a field nearby, even though there shouldn’t be one that far north, in the winter. The plane lands on the field, in front of a massive cathedral. They’re greeted by Scott, now in full control of his powers, and able to flash his baby blues all he wants. Rachel wants to talk to him, but is also terrified. Scott asks who she is, and Xavier lies for her, and says she’s a new student.

Scott leads them all inside. Everyone else on the plane has been transformed the same way Scott has. Maddie now has healing powers, which she uses to heal Puck of his dwarfism. She mentions it being a “terrible curse” for Puck. I wish Claremont had left out that line, because it’s responsible for one of the dumber retcons of Mantlo’s awful Alpha Flight run, with Puck’s dwarfism being the result of a demon he’s holding inside his body. Anyway, he ends up being a normal height, and immediately falls over, since he’s not used to being tall. Maddie also heals Sasquatch of his rages, and Aurora of her split personality. Shaman notices they didn’t bring Snowbird in with them, and also that he’s felt a little off since he got there. Snowbird’s not in the plane, so Wolverine heads out to find her, joined by Wilson and Nick Rodriguez, who was another member of Maddie’s crew, the navigator. The others are taken to Carla to be fed and clothed. Maddie heals Rogue so she can control her power, and Northstar volunteers to let her test her control with him.

Xavier questions Scott some more about where they got their powers. He also does a mindscan on Scott and Maddie, and learns Maddie is pregnant. A son. That freaks Rachel out, and she runs away, followed by Kitty and Talisman (and Lockheed). The others are taken to see the source of the powers – a magic fountain. Heather walks into the fountain. She comes out, with the power to lead. Xavier’s suspicious of it.

Shaman’s medicine bag suddenly goes nuts. A bunch of demons rush out and attack him. Northstar and Aurora take the bag away, but Shaman’s badly injured, and Maddie can’t heal him.

This is pretty good. It’s an interesting story. It sets up an intriguing mystery. Rachel gets lots of focus, which is always good, as it explores her fears about her place in the world, especially as it relates to her father. There’s some decent character stuff with most of the others, too. Rogue and Northstar get a nice scene. The survey team are a bit generic, but there’s only so much space. This issue features a lot of set-up, and while it does that well, it does end up feeling a bit weak at times.
Smith’s art is great. He was always an excellent artist, and he does some very good work here. The magic fountain is actually really cool. It looks bright and magical. The fantasy-style clothes are a bit meh. I’m not a fan of that kind of fashion. It always looks a bit goofy to me. Especially big horns or wings or whatever on helmets.

Chronologically, this story takes place prior to Alpha Flight #23 (when Snowbird realized she’d have to kill Sasquatch), and during the timeskip in Uncanny X-Men #192 (prior to Xavier getting beaten nearly to death by some human students).

Overall, this first part of the story isn’t really great. It’s good, but not great.

Song of the day: Our House by the Corner Laughers.



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