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Alpha Flight #34 (1986, May)

July 13, 2015

I hate summer. Here, by Mantlo and Buscema, “Honour.” (Though they spell it the American way, even though this is about a Canadian team. Lame, Marvel. No way would Byrne have let that happen.)


That’s actually a pretty cool cover.

Puck calls Mansion Alpha to apologize for stealing their plane, but says he needs to find Heather before Wolverine can agree to train her. Northstar continues to be a prick, and Aurora chews him out over it. Then Jeffries reminds Bochs he should get out of the Box armour, with Bochs saying he isn’t sure why he’d want to trade the armour for a wheelchair. The alarm goes off to indicate intruders. It’s Doug, carrying a sick Snowbird, who demands to see Shaman. Shaman is talking to his grandfather’s ghost. He wants to know if he has any power of his own, so he doesn’t have the use the medicine pouch that almost took Talisman.

So, now we get to the main story, with Wolverine facing down Deathstrike. Heather has no idea what’s going on. Deathstrike says honour compels her to kill Wolverine for the adamantium on his bones. She gives her backstory: She killed her father, and her fiance killed himself. Then she investigated her father’s life, even though she actually already knew all about his life. She learned that he was a kamikaze pilot in WW2, something she, herself, told Daredevil. So, did her grief give her amnesia or something? Or was Mantlo just a hack writer? I’m guessing the latter. Anyway, Deathstrike decided to take up her father’s goal of restoring Japan with an army of super-soldiers. This motivation will be forgotten forever. As will the fact that her actual target was Bullseye.

While they talk, Heather remembers something from her time as Mac’s secretary. She came into his office while he was reading some reports, and one of them was on the process of bonding adamantium to bone. A year later, they found Wolverine. Though the whole timeline here makes no sense. She and Mac encountered Wolverine on their honeymoon, as shown by Mantlo himself to the previous goddam issue. So, what, they had their honeymoon a year after they got married? Once again, Mantlo, on Alpha Flight, was a damn hack.

Anyway, Heather now wonders if Mac had played some role in Wolverine getting the adamantium bonded to his skeleton. You can expect that to be something that she wonders about every issue. ow that she’s gotten power, she no longer has to wonder if she’s worthy of being a leader, so Mantlo gave her something else to endlessly angst about.

And now it’s fight time. Briefly. They kick some quick ass, then head into the trees, hoping Deathstrike and her men won’t follow. They follow. Heather chooses the codename Vindicator while kicking ass and angsting about what her dead husband may or may not have done to Wolverine. Deathstrike’s men are just keeping her distracted while Deathstrike herself fights Wolverine with an electromagnetic sword.

Puck shows up, and follows the electromagnetic signal, and bops Wolverine on the head by accident. Heather knocks Deathstrike away, then stands her ground while Deathstrike takes a swing at her. The sword breaks, and Heather says she doesn’t need protection.

And the issue ends with Marrina getting captured by Attuma.

Meh. As I keep saying, Bill Mantlo, on Alpha Flight, was a hack. This issue is lame, full of stupid errors that make no sense. I think what bothers me most, though, is knowing what’s coming. For the next couple years, Heather angsts constantly about whether Mac experimented on Wolverine. It does not take long at all to get tiring, because she does it even when it doesn’t have anything to do with anything. Mantlo had the bad habit of having characters repeat their motivations and problems all the time. I know why he does it – “Every issue is somebody’s first” – but he’s so clumsy about it. Other writers managed to do it without it being intrusive, but with Mantlo, it actually ended up taking me out of the story. He did it with other books, too, though seldom to quite as infuriating a degree. Still, I can’t say I ever considered him to be a great writer. I know he’s generally considered one of the greats, but I don’t see it.

The art here is fine. Sal Buscema was a reliably solid artist. But he’s not good enough to elevate the comic above mediocrity. No artist was, really. Mantlo’s writing would’ve dragged it down to mediocrity even with Sienkewicz or Byrne on art.

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