Alpha Flight #51 (1987, October)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, an exciting new artist: Jim Lee! So, by Mantlo, Lee, Portacio, Sharen and Chiang, “Friends In High Places!”
The Canadian military is launching an all-out assault on Alpha Flight’s home base on Tamarind Island. During the battle, Sasquatch thinks about all the bodies he’s had, and how he needs to find out who he is, in his new, female body. (To clarify for anyone who hasn’t read my previous AF reviews: Even though Sasquatch was in a female body at this time, and went by the name of Wanda, I continue to use male pronouns. He was never entirely comfortable as Wanda, and never really seemed to identify as female. So I think the male pronouns are more appropriate. Actually, the letters page continues to use “Walter” and male pronouns, too, at least in this issue.) Regardless, lots of fighting goes on, and Alpha ends up victorious. This is really just a way of showing what the current incarnation of Alpha Flight is capable of.
It was, of course, all just war games, testing Alpha Flight. Their liaison, Gary Cody, goes into the Mansion with them, for more explanation of who Alpha is right now. (Also, when Whit takes Kara’s coat off, Sasquatch tells her to watch his hands. Good advice, given she’s 13 and he’s somewhere in his 20s. He’s written and drawn as being young – he looks to be about the same age as Kara – but Mantlo already established that Whit’s a surgeon. No way a teenager is a surgeon. And he also established, in her first appearance, that Kara is 13. So. A 20-something is dating a 13-year-old. Nope, not gonna stop hammering on that until both characters are out of the book.) Heather and Gary argue a bit about the Mansion having previously been bugged, and about how much influence Ottawa should have over Alpha. For my part, I take Cody’s side. Superheroes should be regulated. If you’re going to go out and fight bad guys, there needs to be some sort of oversight. Getting self-righteous about not being able to do what you want, when you want is ridiculous.
Regardless, Cody reflects on the origins of Alpha Flight. He’s concerned about the team, and downloads all the team’s files from their computers.
I can’t really praise this issue, but neither can I condemn it as much as I usually do with this series. It’s not a good issue. It’s really just a look at Alpha Flight’s new status quo, showing them in action, giving glimpses of their personalities, bringing back the conflict with Ottawa. Essentially, it’s an exposition issue. Which is why I can’t praise it. But I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with an issue like this, after months of major shake-ups. And Mantlo’s a lot less hit-you-over-the-head about it. There’s still moments of characters declaring their abilities and their motivations. Kara and Whit, in particular, are really poorly-written in this issue (even aside from the cradle-robbing romance). But there’s more subtle stuff, as well. Gary Cody is done especially well. He’s torn between respect for Alpha and loyalty to Ottawa.
The most notable thing about this issue is that it’s the first Marvel work of Jim Lee! This issue isn’t a great example of his work, though. I mean, it’s OK. Lee was a very talented artist, even this early in his career. In fact, I believe this comic was his first published comic work. And he’s good. But it’s not spectacular, here. To his credit, he develops pretty quickly, but that’s a topic for future issues. For now, the art is pretty middling, much like the writing. This is a very skippable issue of Alpha Flight.