Alpha Flight # (1986, October)
Been a little while since I did one of these. Today, a two-fer. By Mantlo and Ross, “The Invasion of Atlantis!”
Alpha Flights gets back home, and finds Byrrah. Shockingly, they don’t go right to attacking him. Must be because Puck made the first approach. Anyway, Byrrah tells them about the whole thing with Atlantis and Namor and Marrina. Doug Thompson leaves to look for his son, but Snowbird stays with the team, figuring that maybe if she repents her actions, she’ll be welcome again in paradise. Vindicator is wary of assaulting Atlantis, since it would be seen as an act of war on Canada’s part. Gary Cody tells them they’re forbidden from going – turns out the mansion’s been bugged. Alpha gets all huffy about it. Vindicator’s so pissed off that she decides to rescue Marrina just to spite Parliament.
They head out to Atlantis, and put on some fancy little pressure suits designed by Bocchs and created by Jeffries. They get attacked by Atlantis. Jeffries gets knocked into water, and it turns out he can’t swim, and is afraid of water. His reaction doesn’t seem to be full-blown aquaphobia, but that might just be because Mantlo’s a hack. Puck also can’t swim. He decides to hitch a ride on Snowbird, who’s taken the form of a whale.
Then they come across the Avengers. Both teams are there purely to rescue Marrina, with Vindicator even mentioning that rescuing hostages is sanctioned under international law. You’d think that point would have been brought up when they were first debating about rescuing Marrina, but I’ll chalk that up to Mantlo being a hack. (Also, I’m not completely sure if it’s even true, in a situation like this, where a sovereign nation holds an individual as a prisoner. It would be complicated by the question of what counts as Atlantis’ borders – I’m pretty sure Marrina was pretty far away from Atlantis proper when she was captured, but Atlantis would probably declare the entire Atlantic ocean – at least – as their territory. Obviously, this would be disputed, but it does make this particular situation complicated. To use an analogy, it would be like Greece sending some troops to Cyprus and arresting someone they find there. Even if the person arrested isn’t Turkish, Turkey would still object to it, since Cyprus is a disputed area. But I’m getting way off-topic now, I think.)
So the two teams reach Atlantis and attack. They spot Marrina below. Namor dukes it out with Attuma while Northstar frees Marrina. But Marrina refuses to leave Namor behind, and both teams end up surrounded. Which leads to Avengers #272 which I’ll get to in a minute. But first . . .
This issue’s not too bad. It does still lapse into the “telling rather than showing” problem that Mantlo had, where characters would just state their problems, motivations and so on. It was a pretty common problem in comics back then in general, but Mantlo was always really heavy-handed with it. Character traits would be exaggerated, and the need to shoe-horn in exposition made dialogue really awkward. The art is likewise OK. Nothing special. There’s a few panels that are weird-looking, and a few that are actually pretty good, but most of it is simply serviceable.
On a side note, one of the letters in this issue had, among a bunch of other suggestions, a suggestion that they admit that Northstar is gay. Unfortunately, it would take a few more years for that to happen, but it’s kinda nice to see that, even in 1986, people wanted openly gay characters from Marvel.
Anyway! This issue leads into Avengers #272, by Roger Stern, Sal Buscema and Tom Palmer. This issue’s actually called “Assault On Atlantis,” and starts with the Avengers on their way to Atlantis. Then the attack, leading to them joining up with Alpha Flight, and up to the teams being surrounded. The strongest members of the teams keep fighting, while the others bring Marrina away, and Namor goes to fight Attuma. Box starts to feel woozy, and jets to the surface so he can phase out. Marrina goes back for Namor, and gets shot in the face.
Namor follows her, and she says she’s not worthy of him, because she’s an alien, and has a freaky-looking face. Being in contact with the other Plodex activated her mating instinct, so now she’s all monstrous and wracked with pain.
This issue’s OK. Better than the Alpha Flight issue, because Stern was the better writer. His Avengers run was great – especially his work with Monica. He took a black woman and built her up as the most powerful member of the team and, eventually, the leader. And then the editors went, “Eh, you know what? Screw it. Get rid of her.” So they depowered her, kicked her off the book, and she never recovered. Luckily, Al Ewing’s a huge fan of the character, and has been working hard to show how awesome she is.
But this issue. It’s good. Good comic. Good writing, good art. Good comic.