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Alpha Flight #33 (1986, April)

July 1, 2015

Happy Canada Day! I’ll review today’s comics tomorrow. But for today, conveniently enough, I’m reviewing a Canadian team for Canada Day. By Mantlo and Buscema, “A Friend In Need.”

A Friend In Need

The X-Men were already becoming a tool for shameless cash grab cameos.

Heather’s flying around, annoyed that no one will train her in using her new power suit. As she flies near Nova Scotia, she flies over Marrina, transformed into a monster. She’s being chased by an Atlantean ship, which has been chasing her for a while. It’s being commanded by Attuma, at that time the lord of Atlantis. As she flees, she feels a terrible abdominal pain.

Snowbird is also suffering severe abdominal pain. Doug’s called a doctor, who gives her a sedative. She passes out, and Doug ignores his ringing phone. Alpha was trying to call her, hoping Heather was there. Puck is wallowing in self-pity about refusing to help train her, and Aurora reminds him it’s because he loves her. Northstar continues to be a dick, but thinks brutal honesty is better than making her leader out of pity. Jeffries calls Puck a hypocrite for lecturing her on danger while keeping an evil sorcerer trapped inside himself. Box finally mentions that he can use the Mansion’s instruments to track the suit, leaving readers to wonder why they hadn’t already done that. Puck guesses at where Heather’s gone on his own, and slips away.

Heather approaches the X-Mansion, where the X-Men are on their way out to a night at the opera. The X-Men mistake her approach as an attack, and Magneto attacks her first. Wolverine flips out at Magneto, and Rogue grabs Heather. Wolverine demands she hand Heather over. The X-Men lleave to let him take care of her.

A Japanese ship is approaching its target, under the orders of Lady Deathstrike. This was in the early days, before she was turned into a cyborg. I’ll talk more about that in upcoming reviews, though.

Wolverine takes Heather on a drive through part of Xavier’s estate, and she feels stupid about not phoning the X-Men ahead of time. She asks Wolverine to train her. He calls her nuts, but agrees to help. He says he promised to help her any time, same as she helped him, and we get a flashback to their first meeting, with him attacking Heather and Mac on their honeymoon. Then Mac left Heather alone with Wolverine while he went to get help. A blizzard meant he wouldn’t be returning soon. She dozed off, and Wolverine woke up and sliced one of the ropes tying him to the bed. She woke up and started yelling at him, and he snapped his bonds, then popped his claws, which surprised them both. He howled, and she tried to comfort him.

Back in the present, Wolverine mentions not knowing who did it to him, or how he got loose. He then adds that he always had a thing for Heather, and that he left because he couldn’t have her, but that he swore to always protect her. Heather flips out about not needing protection, she wants to be trained so she can protect herself. Wolverine wonders if he should train her, but says it doesn’t make much difference anyway, because trouble’s approaching. Deathstrike and a bunch of samurai surround them, and Wolverine tells him he’s fighting with stolen power he has to return.

Yet another in a string of meh issues from Mantlo. This isn’t as bad as the previous issue. Nowhere near as bad – that issue was horrific. This one was just dull. So little actually happens, from either a story or character perspective. The biggest part, I suppose, is the flashback to that first night of Heather looking after Wolverine. That scene wasn’t too bad. It is the definitive take on that night. It does make Mac look like an irresponsible dick, though. Leaving his new wife alone with a strange wild man? That’s not a great thing to do.

We get Puck complaining about Heather not loving “a lousy dwarf.” That basically becomes his catchphrase during Mantlo’s run. Seriously, Byrne gave Puck a little bit of self-pity about it, but Mantlo just turns it up as far as it’ll go, so that every issue has him bemoaning the fact that Heather couldn’t love a lousy dwarf. Which comes across as a little condescending towards Heather, actually. It’s basically saying she’s too superficial to look past the difference in height. Now, the fact that Puck is secretly over 70 years old is a much better reason for him to not pursue her. Come on, dude, you’re old enough to be her grandfather, even if you don’t look it. Frankly, Heather not returning Puck’s feelings probably is because she sees him as almost a fatherly figure, given he sometimes comes across that way. On the plus side, this issue didn’t have any of the other characters’ self-pitying catchphrases, I suppose from lack of space. I’m sure Mantlo was devastated that he couldn’t have Box wonder if being trapped in the armour would be so bad, or Northstar and Aurora point out they can’t touch.

There’s a couple subplots set up here, with Marrina and Snowbird. The Marrina plot leads to a crossover with Avengers, the Snowbird subplot doesn’t lead to any crossovers. Both of them are too early to be commented on yet.

The art is fine. It doesn’t elevate the comic, even though the comic could really use something to elevate it, but it also doesn’t drag it down any further. It’s a little better than the writing, at least.

It’s a shame that, for Canada Day, I couldn’t have a better Canadian comic to review. Still fitting enough, though – Alpha Flight, with a guest appearance by Wolverine. Very Canadian.

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