Alpha Flight #38 (1986, September)
I’ve actually got three Alpha Flight stories to get through, but I’ll do separate posts for each one. Today, by Mantlo and Ross, “Pestilence!”
The issue starts with Namor attacking Atlantis in an effort to free Marrina. He’s forced to retreat.
And then back to Alpha Flight. While Pestilence strangles Talisman, Shaman recaps the previous issue. He considers putting on the Talisman himself, even though it would mean sacrificing his own humanity. Of course, no mention is made of the fact that the Talisman was supposed to be a specific person. Because Mantlo was a damn hack. Vindicator frees herself of the fly swarm and goes after Pestilence, who takes on Mac’s form. It doesn’t stop her from decking him. Talisman’s freed, and back to having emotions again.
Puck pulls Pestilence through the ice, and then help free the rest of Alpha Flight. Elizabeth is about to put the tiara on again to fix what she did, but Shaman snatches it away. He says that he’s worthy, since he passed his spirit test. Hack. Pestilence shows up again, and Snowbird shifts to Sasquatch form to attack him. We get some exposition about it, because Mantlo’s a hack, and then Pestilence takes her over. He can control the forces of death and decay, including the Great Beasts. Yes, he can control beings that essentially amount to gods. Including bringing them out of the realm they were supposed to be stuck in. Mantlo, you goddamn hack.
Shaman puts on the Talisman, and takes command of the Great Beasts, because Mantlo sucks. He banishes them. He has Snowbird attack Pestilence, until Pestilence escapes into the earth.
One of the letters points out that the X-Men/Alpha Flight special had Anodyne heal Puck of his dwarfism, while AF#32 “revealed” that he didn’t have dwarfism, but instead contained an evil spirit. The response tries to suggest that Claremont and Mantlo tried to sneak in clues in X-Men/Alpha Flight. This is bullshit. Complete and utter horseshit. There were no “clues.” Claremont was going by Byrne’s background of Puck suffering dwarfism, and that was the cause of the pain. Don’t try to drag Claremont into the shitty, shitty writing that Mantlo was responsible for.
Mantlo sucked. His Alpha Flight was awful, and got worse every issue. This was the worst issue since the shitty, stupid “Razr” one. Several scenes where characters speak in exposition. Pestilence being able to control what are essentially gods, and then Shaman-as-Talisman being able to do the same. The Great Beasts – the monsters that were the Big Bads of Byrne’s Alpha Flight run – get turned into a minor plot point here. They get brought in from their realm that was supposed to be destroyed. Several of the Great Beasts were actually shown being destroyed, and the others would’ve died in their realm’s destruction. And then Mantlo just tosses them in with no explanation or fanfare as the tools of a really stupid and shitty villain. Because Bill Mantlo was a goddamn hack.
Ross’ art is fine. Vastly superior to the writing. It’s solid, if conventional, art. It doesn’t really grab your attention for good or bad.