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Alpha Flight #53 (1987, December)

April 12, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Mantlo, Lee, Portacio, Sharen and Chiang, “A Blast From the Past!”

A Blast From the Past!

Wolverine, uuugh!

Wolverine arrives at the ruins of Mansion Alpha. He finds a traumatized Box, and after splashing him back to his senses, gets the story. The team had been doing a training exercise, via Jeffries’ transmutation. (As an aside, Mantlo seems to be under the impression that Cerebro runs the X-Men’s Danger Room.) There is a couple bits of dialogue I find hilarious, just for the subtext. Jeffries tells Heather he wishes he was “doing it with” her, not “to” her. I’ll bet you do. She adds that she’ll give him a private workout later. Will she, now? During the training, we learn that Purple Girl can take control of Manikin’s other selves. Which I guess is interesting. Anyway, then the Mansion’s attacked by some loser named Bedlam the Brain Blast. Before Box can stop him from taking the others, Bedlam hits him with a brain blast, and Jeffries had to bury his mind to protect himself.

He’s taken Alpha to the Arctic, and a complex that he’s just erected. He has them attached to some living wall, across from another bunch of people. We get a splash page of the lives of each of the 8 characters there. And I think Imma just post the whole page:

Alpha Flight #53

That’s some excellent storytelling from Jim Lee.

Bedlam then reveals to Heather what happened: Mac created him, and he rather predictably revolted, so Mac and Wolverine had to fight him. Mac managed to subdue Bedlam, until Gary Cody woke him up. Heather is upset at Gary for not trusting them, and decides Alpha will sever all ties with Canada. I assume she means the Canadian government. Not that they’re going to leave the country.

Bedlam decides to have Alpha fight the other group he kidnapped, and who he’s naming the Derangers. Which is a stupid name, but what do you expect from a guy named Bedlam the Brain Blast. A quick run-down of the Derangers: There’s Freakout, a metal star who fried his mind with drugs and is now a berserker who doesn’t feel pain. Janus, a split-personality who can create a duplicate of himself. Breakdown, a housewife who blows up. And Goblyn, the only one who actually matters. The others will never show up again after this issue. They were all brought into Lionel Jeffries’ New Life Clinic, until they escaped with Scramble’s death.

Box and Wolverine are flying in in a littel plane, and they talk a bit about Bedlam, and Heather and Box being a couple. Bedlam blasts them out of the sky, and the two bury their minds, Box becoming more machine-like and Wolverine going berserker. Back inside, Sasquatch is tearing Freakout up, and figures the only way to stop himself is to revert to his human (female) body. And we do see some signs of Lee’s future cheesecake style:

Alpha Flight #53

Why is “she” posed like that?

It’s pretty tame compared to what Lee will be doing in the ’90s. But just the same, I don’t know, it feels a bit out-of-place. Bedlam refuses to finish him off. Kara is running away from Goblyn, and uses her power to get Janus off Manikin, so Manikin’s selves can stop Goblyn. Then Heather and Kara work together to stop Breakdown.

Freakout attacks Bedlam, and Bedlam kills him. Then he blows Breakdown apart, and forces Janus to kill himself. Wolverine and Box smash in, and Heather is worried about Wolverine learning Mac created him, the way he did Bedlam. Bedlam reveals that Heather is mistaken. Heather is frustrated at the fact that she spent months hating Mac for no good reason. She sets her suit on automatic, so it attacks Bedlam without him actually being able to stop her. She ends up blasting his head right off.

Alpha Flight #53

Goblyn runs, and Wolverine suggests Alpha make Bedlam’s base their own.

This issue was OK. Gets too exposition-heavy at times, though the splash page showing each character’s life was a fantastic way of getting some exposition across. Great use of Lee’s talents. The writing also leans towards the melodramatic, as usual, and often gets downright cheesy. The training room sequence, in particular, was bad. Actually, the writing during the big battle was pretty weak, too. Bedlam was a shitty villain; he will not be missed. Neither will the Derangers. Like, I want to say, “Oh, it’s a shame they all died and never show up again,” but nope, it’s really not. They didn’t have much potential. None of them even got any lines. Breakdown had a fairly interesting backstory – a housewife who had a breakdown – but that was it. So, yeah, no big loss with these losers dying. The most worthwhile thing about Bedlam was Heather blowing his head off. That was pretty awesome.

The art is better than the writing. This is still very, very early in Lee’s career. This is some of his first published work. He hasn’t yet grown into a distinctive style, so it’s a pretty conventional art style. But there are indications of what he’d become. It is some fantastic line work. Lee would, of course, become one of the biggest artists of the ’90s, and his style would get a lot of criticism for how exaggerated it was, and especially how cheesecake-y it could be. But here, there is nothing to complain about. The proportions are good, expressions are easy to read, action is exciting and easy to follow, and aside from the one panel, female characters aren’t presented in an exploitative manner. To be honest, he was already too good for this title.

So, overall, this issue is better than average for Mantlo’s run, but much of that is likely owed to Lee’s artwork.

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