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Alpha Flight #41 (1986, December)

October 25, 2015

I finally get to finish off 1986. By Mantlo and Ross, “It’s Not Easy Being Purple.”

It's Not Easy Being Purple

OK, that’s a pretty awesome visual.

The story starts in a Toronto suburb, as a 13-year-old girl slips back into her apartment at 3 am. She runs a bath, and her mom comes in to find the girl has purple skin. The girl, Kara, is a little freaked out, and her mom says it’s time she learned about her father. Also, Kara has photos of Northstar taped to her mirror. Is that a thing girls do? Tape photos of cute guys to their mirrors? You see that all the time in fiction, but I’ve never been a teenage girl, so I have no idea if it’s a real thing.

At Alpha HQ, they’re finishing up a meeting. Northstar says some of them have lives outside Alpha, and Puck wonders if he has a life without Heather. Because Mantlo would not let Puck have any personality at all beyond pining after Heather. Because Mantlo sucked. Anyway, Heather nominates Jeffries for membership in Alpha Flight. Aurora offers to design his costume, and when Northstar makes a snide comment, she makes a subtle jab at his homosexuality. Northstar then says he’s resuming his skiing career, in exhibition meets, since his power would make it impossible to compete fairly. He also points out that he doesn’t really understand why he shouldn’t use his natural gifts the same way every other athlete does. A fair point.

A week later, Kara has given herself a bit of a punk makeover, and is in Banff to watch Northstar ski. As he skis, he has a flashback to his early life. He was a champion skier by 13, but then his power activated, and took all the challenge out. He got bitter and quit, then went to college and joined the FLQ. He curses his power and says he envies humans. Ugh. Uuuuuugh. Why do mutants always have to hate their powers? It was especially common back then. The only mutants who delighted in their powers were the bad ones, while any good mutant wished they were just like everyone else. And now Mantlo brings that to a mutant who had never shown any shame or regret over his power.

Anyway. Kara runs into the bathroom. A woman knocks on the door, and Kara tells her to jump off a cliff. The woman’s skin turns purple and walks away. Then we learn Kara’s origin: Her father was the Purple Man, Zebediah Killgrave. He took a liking to Kara’s mom and forced her to marry him. He ended up falling in love with her, and released his hold in the hopes she’d love him, but hey! Turns out women don’t like being raped! I guess I should congratulate Mantlo on getting that, considering some comic stories did manage to forget that. (I’m looking at you, Avengers #200!) Back outside, the woman jumps off a cliff, and Northstar saves her. Kara realizes she made the woman do it.

In the meantime, one of the skiers Northstar competed against is pissed off that Northstar’s a mutant. I guess he’d kept his identity a secret until now. He declares he’ll never ski again, and walks off. Kara follows him, and tries to talk to him. He tries to brush her off, so she uses her power on him, and takes him back to her hotel room. She asks him for exotic flowers, and he flies her to some island somewhere. She decides they should go swimming. She sees a crocodile and cries for him, but diving into the water has released him of her control. He does rescue her, then demands some answers. Once he hears her story, he tells her she’s not a freak. I know I, for one, would be fine with dating a girl with purple skin. Unless she’s choking. Then I’d try to help her. Anyway, she tells him to take her to Alpha Flight.

Purple Girl! I actually do kinda like her, I’ll admit. I’m not entirely sure why. She just seems like a sweet kid. It helps that Ross doesn’t draw her as the typical comic book sexpot. She looks like a girl just entering her teens. There are a few panels here and there where she looks older, but it’s not a big deal. Mantlo writes her as a sweet girl. Unfortunately, he writes Northstar as a self-loathing mutant, and that’s not OK. He writes Northstar pretty well out of character here. The confidence and rebelliousness are missing. There is one bit I almost like, though, where Northstar says that instead of joining Alpha Flight, he should have fought to live in the human world. It’s not made clear, though, if he meant living openly as a mutant. Because, yeah, Northstar should have been using his celebrity to push for mutant rights. Though Alpha Flight isn’t really about the mutant plight, I suppose. It’s mostly about a bunch of unstable heroes defending the most evil country in the Marvel Universe. As a final note on the writing: Holy shit, Mantlo, having Puck’s sole contribution to the issue be him pining for Heather was ridiculous. If Puck isn’t going to play a role in an issue, that’s OK. You don’t need to still find a way to shoehorn in the fact that he’s in love with Heather.

The art is OK. Ross is a very uneven artist, I find. Most of the time, his art looks fine. But there are panels that are just plain weird. But all in all, it’s fine. Perfectly adequate art.

This isn’t a bad issue. It’s one of the better issues of Mantlo’s Alpha Flight. It may not be a good sign, though, that the book is better when Mantlo doesn’t use any of the characters. If the only way for him to make the book readable is to write about a totally different character, that’s probably an indication that it’s a shit book.

And on that note, I’m done with 1986!

And I mentioned it last week (I think), but I may as well mention it again: If you’re into tabletop RPGs, Masks: A New Generation still has a few hours left. It had an initial goal of $4000. It’s now passed $100 000. You’ve still got a few more hours if you want to make a pledge and get a copy of the game. $10 for a PDF, $30 for a softcover.

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