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Marvel Fanfare #28 (1986, September)

September 5, 2015

OK, so here’s the third Alpha Flight story of September 1986. By Mantlo and Ken Steacy, “Murder By Number 1, 2, 3. . . .”

Murder By Numbers 1, 2, 3 . . .

Wrap-around cover! I forgot how good Steacy’s art is, too.

Northstar’s arrived in Toronto, just in time to see a burning house. He sees an old friend of his being wheeled away on a stretcher, dead. The next day, Alpha Flight assembles in the office of a retired RCMP commander. He’s formed a private anti-terror organization, and the RCMP called him about an old case of his. In this case, it’s a case about the Front de libération du Québec, and there’s evidence a member of Alpha Flight may be involved. Northstar says he’s sworn against violence against the state, and he adds that his old friends have turned away from it, too, but adds that he won’t betray them. McHeath says he’s trying to save them.

We get a quick rundown of the FLQ, and the October Crisis. McHeath wants Northstar to find his old friends from a specific sub-group, and convince them to turn in before they can be murdered. He’s not sure what to do, but he is determined to do it alone. He flies off, but he’s unaware that he can be tracked through a microchip James Hudson implanted in him for contacting in an emergency.

Later on, a guy in an armoured combat suit is flying around. His name’s Scourge. Alpha Flight has tracked Northstar to an abandoned theatre. There’s an explosion that kills the woman he’d found there. It’s Clementine, the woman who’d called Northstar to help with Pink Pearl way back when. Mantlo’s killed her off. Bleh.

Northstar yells at them for distracting him and letting Clementine die, then he rushes off to warn his next friends. They live in a scrap yard. I’ll actually give Mantlo a little credit for this scene, for one reason: The Quebec French profanity used. I’m not sure if he did research, or just asked a French-Canadian, but it’s pretty accurate. While Alpha Flight fights Northstar, the two FLQ members get blown up. Alpha wonders if they blew themselves up, and don’t believe Northstar’s protestations that they’d given up violence. He agrees to lead Alpha Flight to the last two FLQ members.

Scourge attacks, but gets ambushed by Alpha Flight. Scourge, predictably, is McHeath. Northstar busts up his hands busting up McHeath’s armour, and nearly kills him. Later, in the hospital, Northstar agrees to let Alpha Flight be his family.

This actually isn’t bad. Mantlo reins in a lot of his usual exposition-y style, though plenty still slips in. There’s some reasonably good character work, though also some weak character work. The story is pretty good, making use of a fairly notable time in Canadian history. If Mantlo had brought this level of talent to the main Alpha Flight series, it would’ve been bearable. Though the ending is way too sappy.

But the real draw is Ken Steacy’s art. Steacy is a Canadian himself, which is a nice bonus. And he does a solid job with the art. It’s maybe a bit flat, but not to the point of it being a problem. He does a good job drawing the characters and their expressions, and he also handles the action well. It’s kind of a shame Steacy didn’t do more work for Marvel. A couple stories for Fanfare, a couple stories for the Epic imprint, and that’s it.

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