Alpha Flight #42 (1987, January)
Alpha Flight is of mixed opinions on Kara. She frees Northstar. We get a little bit of stuff with Aurora being a bitch about Bochs being stuck as a robot. Then they get back to debating Kara, with Northstar angry at her. He says he feels raped, and Vindicator says it must hurt especially since it was a woman. Heather, no. That’s a terrible thing to say. Northstar is absolutely, 100% right in how he feels. He was violated in a way that would be deeply disturbing in real life, so Heather seemingly trying to diminish his feelings is awful.
Anyway, Northstar starts a coughing fit. Foreshadowing! Shaman starts going through the options Alpha has for dealing with Kara, and when he mentions killing her as an option, she panics. She tells them all to freeze and runs off. Meanwhile, Jeffries and Box have wandered down to a lab, so Jeffries can turn the Box armour into a decompression chamber to deal with Bochs’ case of the Bends. Kara finds Jeffries and orders him to take her back to Toronto.
In Toronto, Jeffries turns the plane into a flying car, which gets some attention. She forces him to take her shopping. Then she goes home to her mom. Her mom doesn’t want Kara to turn out like her father, but Kara’s in a bitter mood. Back outside, she’s greeted by a guy calling himself the Auctioneer. He gets her into the back of his car, then gasses her. He takes her to an auction of people bidding on superweapons, and demonstrates his control of Kara, and through her, of Jeffries. Jeffries builds a superweapon. Again, this is a guy who was barely literate when introduced. And now he’s building sci-fi superweapons. How. Mantlo is a hack.
Alpha arrives in Toronto, and find the jet-turned-car. Back at the auction, Kara finally shakes off the drugs being used to control her. The Auctioneer throws a plastic bubble around her, then brings out her mom. But, with her pheromones covered, Jeffries is freed of her control. The explosion catches Alpha’s attention, and Northstar grabs Kara’s mom out of danger. During the ensuing fight, Puck gets a new personality trait: Feelings of inferiority! He thinks about how pathetic his agility is compared to Vindicator’s power. For the rest of Mantlo’s run, Puck will have two thoughts: “I love Heather but she’ll never love a dwarf!” and “I’m so useless!” Seriously, that is the entirety of Puck’s character going forward, because Mantlo was a hack.
Kara’s bubble gets a hole just as Kara orders the Auctioneer to drop dead, and while he passes out, he’s still alive. Then everyone goes back to the Mansion. She’s told to use her power to force the unconscious Bochs to phase back into his armour. She overcomes her claustrophobia just long enough to do it. And then she becomes the first member of a new Beta Flight.
This was OK. A slight step down from the previous issue, since it features a lot more of Alpha Flight, and Mantlo’s characterization of them is still awful. And never gets better. Kara’s still a reasonably interesting character. The claustrophobia is kind of a nice touch. Her fear and impulsiveness are done well. So she’s good. It’s everything else that’s lame. And honestly, the Auctioneer? What a stupid villain. It’s a silly little plot.
This issue does start a subplot about Northstar getting increasingly sick. Mantlo’s original plan was to reveal that Northstar had AIDS. Because giving Marvel’s first gay superhero AIDS would’ve been a brilliant idea. Nothing wrong with that at all. I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on Mantlo for that idea. It was a different time, after all. LGBT representation wasn’t a concern at all back then, so the idea of killing the only LGBT superhero wouldn’t have seemed that offensive. And Mantlo’s heart was in the right place, wanting to touch a little on the growing AIDS crisis and the tragedy of it all. So I understand where he was coming from. But looking back on it now, by modern standards, it was a bad idea, and an offensive one. Of course, after it got shot down, we got a different conclusion to the plot: Northstar’s a fairy. That one was even dumber, and might have been even more offensive.
The art is, as usual, OK. Some good panels, some weird panels, mostly just serviceable.