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Alpha Flight #30 (1986, January)

May 26, 2015

I had my job interview today. I think I did reasonably well. I’ll apparently find out tomorrow if I got the job or not. But for today, by Mantlo and Mignola, “Enter . . . Scramble!”

Enter . . . Scramble!

And Exit . . . Subtlety!

Alpha Flight is having equipment flown in to their new home. Heather and Gary talk about Alpha protecting Canada, and Puck muses that it’s easier to keep an eye on Alpha when the government signs the paychecks. Heather wonders if she’s leading the team in a way that would make Mac proud. She muses how messed-up her team is. A piece of equipment starts falling, and Alpha jumps in to save the technicians. Northstar and Aurora touch, cancelling out their powers, so Box has to save them. After that, Bochs phases out to get in his wheelchair again, and bemoans his lack of legs while Puck bemoans his shortness. These will both become recurring themes.

Gary takes Alpha on a tour of their new headquarters, filled with fancy technology hidden behind the original decor. There’s a floor plan included. Because that’s what the readers demand: More architecture! Outside, there’s a bit of commotion, as some of the soldiers helping with the move are trying to move the stuff that fell down. Jeffries and Bochs tell them to leave it. One guy says it was unauthorized equipment, which pisses Bochs off. Heather sides with him, and demands Alpha be given privacy in what they do, or they’ll leave. It’s actually pretty ridiculous. “Give us money, and then let us do whatever we want with absolutely no oversight at all.” That’s not how it works.

When the soldiers all leave, Jeffries reassembles the junk, and makes an off-hand mention of his brother, which surprises Heather, who never saw any mention of a brother in his files.

Up north, Shaman takes his leave of Snowbird and Doug, to follow the call of his ancestors. He feels like he’s failed both his wife and his daughter, and he rejects power. He drives off, and Snowbird follows to look after him.

That night, Heather is checking on Alpha. Northstar and Aurora are mourning Walter’s loss and their inability to touch each other. Heather wishes she had power to better support Alpha. Puck is sleeping, wracked with pain. She goes to check on Bochs and Jeffries, and gets pissed when she sees Mac’s Guardian suit. They’re rebuilding the suit, so anyone who wears it would have the power. Heather leaves, and thinks she needs to stop letting reminders of Mac set her off. She decides to do some research on Madison Jeffries. She finds a reference to his brother as a surgeon at Montreal General Hospital, and goes to check it out.

She finds out Jeffries is actually a patient there. He’s kept in a sealed room, in a heavy suit and straitjacket, fed intravenously, and denied human contact. Clearly a friendly guy, and nothing could possibly go wrong from Heather going in to talk to him. She reaches out to him, and he lunges forward, making his forehead touch her fingers. He thanks her for setting him free.

The rest of Alpha shows up an hour later. Jeffries is angry that Heather poked around his history, but any argument is cut short by a bunch of deformed people coming out of the hospital. Jeffries gives a quick run-down: His brother, Lionel, controls flesh. The two brothers joined the US Army during Vietnam, Madison as a mechanic and Lionel as a surgeon. An attack left most of the squad dead and splattered. Lionel tried to put them back together, but couldn’t, and snapped, so Madison had to stop him.

They find Heather twisted up, and Puck stays with her while the rest of Alpha searches for Scramble. Aurora and Box both remark on their suspicions that Puck loves Heather. Mantlo was obviously still finding his feet – in the future, it’s Puck who thinks about his love for Heather, constantly.

Northstar and Aurora go scouting, and Aurora’s attacked. Box is also attacked. We also get more repetitions of character drama we already saw mentioned earlier in the issue anyway, because Mantlo’s idea of subtlety was to just hammer the exact same crap all the damn time. Jeffries finds his brother in the morgue, trying to bring the dead to life. Fight! Which ends with Jeffries forcing his brother to touch himself, so he heals himself.

Later, everyone’s been put back to normal, with Heather still feeling uneasy with him. Happy endings all around. Including one of the bodies in the morgue, which gets up and wanders off.

Meh. Bleh. Bad. Bad bad bad. Mantlo is already proving himself a hack, at least on this title. Seriously, how many times does he feel the need to repeat drama points? I get that the style of the time was to raise important points so new readers could follow along. But he didn’t have to do it anywhere near as often as he did. Nor did he have to do it when it was painfully obvious – the panel of them talking about Puck loving Heather was totally pointless, as the preceding panel made it clear, as did a later panel of them together. Box thinking about how good he feels in the armour wasn’t necessary, since an early panel had him muse that being Box permanently might not be so bad. We got two or three references to Aurora’s split personality, and three referencing Northstar and Aurora not being able to touch. Even this might not be so frustrating if I didn’t already know that Mantlo never stops doing it. His entire run is full of the same things being repeated ad nauseum.

Bill Mantlo is regarded as a classic writer, one of the greats. His Alpha Flight run is regarded as really, really bad. It’s already off to a rough start, and it just gets worse with time.

Mignola’s art is OK. It’s very plain and conventional, and totally forgettable. It does nothing to enhance the story.

All in all, a deeply mediocre issue.

 

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2 Comments
  1. So in other words, stick mostly with John Byrne’s Alpha Flight, at least for this volume.

    • Yeah, pretty much. And then you can always skip ahead to Hudnall. And Lobdell. It got pretty ’90s, but it was less irritating than Mantlo, and it still had some good stuff.

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