Alpha Flight #50
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Go back a post if you want to see me talking about why I think Marvel shouldn’t have cast a white Iron Fist. For today, a giant-sized special of crap! By Mantlo, Brigman, Portacio, Sharen and Chiang, “This Mortal Coil!”
The team has gone up to Ungava Bay, where the X-Men and Alpha Flight story took place. We see the flower from the end of the second part. They’re there hoping to find some way to cure Northstar and Aurora. And Puck loves Heather, but how could she ever love a useless dwarf? Mantlo, you hack. There’s some exposition about the X-Men/AF story, with Sasquatch mentioning he wasn’t there before. Even though he was. That story happened before his death. Maybe you should’ve read the issues again before you wrote this, Mantlo. Box turns into a drill so they can look for the source of the Firefountain under the ground. Loki watches them, and decides to have a little mischief by changing some signposts.
Back at Mansion Alpha, the 20-something Whit and 13-year-old Kara talk about how weird the place is with Alpha gone, and decide to cuddle.
Alpha Flight finds the Firefountain chamber, but there’s no magic left. However, they do find a door at the bottom of the chamber. It’s a big, golden door with some very pretty and inviting engravings. They figure they may as well check it out, and lift up the door. They head down into more darkness, and the door closes and its real, sinister engravings reappear. Loki gets bored with just watching, and figures he’ll start revealing “hidden truths.” He starts with a spell on Northstar.
He gets sicker, and Aurora comes over to comfort him, even going so far as to hug him, even though it cuts out her light.
I hate Mantlo’s writing so much. Alpha decides to keep pressing on, but inexplicably, Aurora tells them to leave her and Northstar behind. She says they’ll move faster that way. I don’t think speed’s that big a concern, and I’m pretty sure they can keep a reasonable pace even with Box as a floating bed for Northstar. Worst-case, Box is a bed that Sasquatch carries. But nope, the plot required Aurora and Northstar to be separated from the group. Also, Vindicator asks Box if he could have left a part of his armour behind as a lantern. Box says that when he’s phased into the armour, he can only affect himself as a unit. So . . . phase out. It’s not some complex and difficult procedure. Pop out, separate a little bit of the armour to turn into a lantern, pop back in. It would take 10 seconds to do it. But, again, plot says no, so logic can go to hell.
Anyway, the four left find a Firefountain, but it’s black. Loki gloats about having tricked them into Svartalfheim, land of the Dark Elves. And Dark Elves attack. And – obviously – Puck isn’t allowed to be useful, so he gets knocked off the bridge. Because Mantlo had no idea how to write someone without powers in a way where they could actually contribute to the team, because Mantlo was a goddamn hack! Anyway, he falls into the Firefountain, and Raazer is released.
Meanwhile, Loki visits Aurora and Northstar to reveal to them the truth of who they are. They have visions of . . . you know what, screw it. They’re elves. That’s the big reveal. Their dad banged an elf, and so, Northstar and Aurora are half-elf. Their father, named Jean-Claude Baptiste, and whose children have the last name Beaubier. Because Mantlo was the worst. And it turns out that living on an impure Earth is the cause of Northstar’s health problems and Aurora’s psychological problems. Mantlo originally planned to have Northstar get AIDS, because hey, he’s gay, so of course he would have AIDS. That story was shot down, so this is what we get instead. He’s not gay, he’s a fairy. That’s so much better!
Anyway, Aurora pumps all her light into Northstar, which cures him but leaves her helpless.
The rest of Alpha is fighting Raazer. Northstar finds them, and distracts Raazer long enough for everyone to escape, though without Aurora or Puck. Vindicator then seals the gate permanently. Up on the surface, Northstar leaves, flying to gates in the sky that welcome him to Alfheim. And then Loki is brought to Those-Who-Sit-Above-In-Shadow, and he justified his actions by saying no one was hurt. He wipes Aurora’s memory and sends her to a monastery to live her days in peace. He sends Puck – now old and tall – to Tibet. Then he leaves the realm of TWSAIS, and ends up in Svartalfheim.
And on Alpha’s plane, Heather notes that no one from the original Alpha Flight is still around. Apparently, Sasquatch doesn’t count. Because Mantlo clearly gave no shits about continuity.
This is so awful! How did Mantlo last several years on this title when it was so frigging terrible? Northstar and Aurora are elves? Really? Really? This is as stupid as Puck being short because he has a demon inside him. And now, all three of those characters are off the team. Most of the others left a long time ago. And here’s something that bugs me: Byrne’s Alpha Flight included a guy with dwarfism (a medical condition), a woman with Multiple Personality Disorder (a real medical condition, maybe, depending who you ask – it was at least considered real in the ’80s), a gay guy, two Native Americans (and a woman who was the daughter of a fictional Native American goddess, though she was always drawn as white, unfortunately) and a paraplegic (a real medical condition). That’s some pretty good diversity. Mantlo got rid of all of them. But first, he did his level best to fictionalize any real conditions. The guy with dwarfism? Not any more, get rid of that real medical condition. The woman with MPD? Nah, get rid of the medical condition. The paraplegic? Have him actually go crazy, largely as a result of him being unable to get over being paraplegic, and then kill him off. Holy shit, Mantlo, do you have some sort of problem with real-world diversity being reflected in comics? Because he sure as hell seemed to go out of his way to reduce the diversity as much as humanly possible. But hey! At least skeevy guys who date girls that are way too young for them got representation! That’s a plus, right?
The closest the book has to diversity, at this point, is Sasquatch being a kinda-sorta-maybe fantasy take on a transgender person. Of course, under Mantlo, about the extent of that being explored is, “Hey, how weird is it that I used to be a guy?” Oh, and occasionally, “Am I a guy or a girl?” He does add a black girl with autism, in a few issues. And some of the earlier characters return. Shaman and Talisman will rejoin the team during Mantlo’s run. So it gets better. But the frustration at the shit up to this point remains. Mantlo systematically eliminated all diversity from the team, in stories that were either incredibly stupid or potentially insensitive. I hate Mantlo’s Alpha Flight run so, so much.
Once again, this issue’s only saving grace is the fact that June Brigman is a wonderful artist. Every time I wanted to scream at the page, I could just look at the art, and it would soothe me. Brigman really was too good for this book. She doesn’t stick around after this. Next issue’s artist is . . . well, it’s someone interesting, we’ll leave it at that until I get there.