Alpha Flight #49 (1987, August)
The issue starts with Whitman splitting into four beings: His normal self, a protoplasmic blob, a caveman and a future man. Different evolutionary entities. He names them Proto, Apeman and Highbrow. Highbrow does a recap, and says Whitman can command the three of them to do his bidding. Apeman gets Jeffries back to the Box armour so he can phase back inside. Whitman also names himself Manikin, I guess based on what Jeffries says here:
I guess I’ve seen weaker justifications for a codename, but it’s hard to think of any right now. Stupid codename aside, they all rush off to fight Scramble. Alpha Flight is still on their feet, still fighting. Puck and Northstar get caught (and Vindicator makes sure to note how easily Puck was caught, because Mantlo wanted to make sure readers knew that Puck was totally useless – after all, if you can’t even throw a car, then you’re a useless superhero, and it’s not like its the writer’s responsibility to find ways to make a character’s skills contribute to a story). Vindicator tries to get Kara to use her own manipulative power on Scramble, but after a full page of her being unsure if she should try, she gets grabbed.
Box and Manikin show up and join the fight. Whit himself frees Kara, and then starts giving her mouth-to-mouth. Box makes a joke about “claiming his reward.” Bear in mind, he’s cheering on a 20-something surgeon macking on a 13-year-old girl. (Whit’s a surgeon. No way he’s under 18. No way he’s under 20, either. He’s in his 20s. Mantlo, you perverted hack. Though it may be that Mantlo just forgot that Kara was 13. In which case, Mantlo, you enormous hack, she’s your character, you introduced her less than 10 goddamn issues ago, at least try to be consistent with your own goddamn characters.)
Anyway, Jeffries changes the Box armour, saying that he can match Scramble change for change. Because Mantlo turned Jeffries into an inventive genius, something that wasn’t the case under Byrne, where he needed to work with Bochs to form anything more than simple designs. Now, he’s an inventive genius on the same level as Bochs. Because Mantlo was a goddamn hack. I cannot stress that enough when I’m going through this run of Alpha Flight.
The fight weakens Scramble enough that Bochs starts to re-assert himself, admitting that they’re both batshit insane and need help. Scramble lobotomizes him, which pisses Box off into blasting him. Scramble survives, and Kara finally manages to get close enough to put Scramble under control. She wants him to fix whoever he’s hurt. Jeffries pops out of the Box armour, and Heather praises him for fighting despite his pain. Puck thinks he fights pain every moment and Heather doesn’t notice. Holy hell, Mantlo, will you shut up with this shit? Puck’s in love with Heather! We goddamn get it! Move the hell on from it, will you, you enormous goddamn hack!
Alpha debates what to do with Scramble. Jeffries says he can’t be cured, and can’t be held. So he blows Scramble apart, instead. With that done, Northstar admits that he’s dying, and passes out. And Aurora’s in a dark room filled with shattered containers, singing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” over and over.
Mantlo’s Alpha Flight is so frigging awful. It’s hack writing. Every good idea is buried under a mountain of dumb ideas and terrible dialogue. It’s a frustrating read, because there’s just so much crap. At least the art is nice. Brigman’s got a good, pleasant art style that is utterly wasted on this book. The inks and colours are good, too, of course. But Brigman, in particular, is just too good for this title. She belongs on a title with solid writing, not a title with some of the worst writing Marvel had at the time.
And next issue, unbelievably, gets even worse.