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Alpha Flight #57 (1988, April)

May 31, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). From the heights of Excalibur, back down to the mediocrity of Alpha Flight. Bit of a let-down. Today, by Mantlo, Lee, DeZuniga, Sharen and Chiang, “Life.”


Because what’s more Canadian than fighting a planet.

The Box-ship comes out of warp and lands on a planet with a heavy gas cloud around it. Once they land, Jeffries and Heather make out while the 20-something Manikin whines about his 13-year-old girlfriend still being missing. I really, really can’t emphasize enough how inappropriate their relationship is. Colossus was 18 when Kitty was 13, and most people agree it was pretty gross. Manikin is somewhere in his 20s, Kara is 13, maybe 14, assuming she had an off-panel birthday.

Anyway, he whines about Kara being missing and yells at Goblyn, and they’re about to get in a fight when heather blasts Goblyn in the back, forcing Box to get involved and break the fight out. He even calls Heather out for only targeting Goblyn with the blast, and for having never trusted Goblyn. Which is a good point. Nice to see Heather get called out for it.

Meanwhile, in Liveworld, Laura tells Kara that there are bad, scary things in Liveworld. Then Goblyn switches with them, and a woman shows up and starts stroking her head while talking about wanting a new world to conquer. But Kara and Laura are back in the normal world, with Laura returning to being autistic. Jeffries adapts the ship to bore up raw materials from the planet to convert into mass for the ship, but then the planet comes alive.

Inside the ship, Heather starts to talk about how she actually kinda understands the government’s fear and distrust of superhumans. There you go, Heather. Very rational of you. Box prepares to take off, but can’t, and Sasquatch points to the crystals growing outside as the cause. He says that, as a biophysicist, he studies life, and he thinks the crystals are alive. So Alpha goes outside to beat the crystals up so they can leave. Because they’re superheroes, heroically punching crystals.

The crystals bleed, which throws Alpha off, and Kara tries to control the crystals. While in a spacesuit. How does this work, exactly? Her power is based on pheromones. That means . . . you know what? Forget it. We’ll go with it. Jeffries created a spacesuit that allows Kara’s pheromones out without letting out any of her air supply. Sure, whatever. And then her mind merges with the crystals. I find this development of her power so weird. It’s not a logical extension of her power. She releases pheromones that make people susceptible to her suggestions. How does that extend to actual telepathy and merging her mind with others?

Regardless, Kara almost faints, which scares Laura enough for Goblyn to pop out and rescue her. And Heather still doesn’t trust her. It’s ridiculous. She comments that Goblyn may still be the death of the rest of Alpha Flight. Hey, stop treating her like a threat and maybe she’ll treat you the same! Goblyn sidles up to the crystals and purrs, and they withdraw. Heather continues to insist she’s an unthinking animal. Despite evidence to the contrary. Kara calls Heather out, and Heather finally agrees to give Goblyn a chance. Happy ending.

Except that Laura is still in Liveworld, being watched by an evil woman who does have an admittedly pretty cool design.

Alpha Flight #57

I just think this is kind of a cool look.

More mediocrity! One of my biggest problems with Mantlo’s run is that the plots don’t really feel like they fit the book. Alpha Flight is a Canadian superhero team. So why are they fighting a planet of crystals? This would’ve made for a reasonably interesting issue of Fantastic Four. But for Alpha Flight, what’s the point? The run doesn’t feel truly unique. It doesn’t justify its existence. What sets it apart from Fantastic Four, or the Avengers? The book doesn’t really have a truly Canadian feel, probably because it’s written by an American who likely has no real understanding of Canada, or Canadian culture.

Beyond that, though, the stories just aren’t all that interesting. And the writing isn’t all that interesting. There’s often a sense of characters acting a certain way because the plot demands they act that way.

The art is good. Lee’s style at this time is still a bit too standard. He’s not pushing boundaries the way he later would. On the plus side, he’s also not sexualizing women the way he later would. The female characters are drawn in perfectly reasonable ways. He’s a competent artist at this point, but he’s not that exciting here. Maybe it’s the plot dragging him down? He doesn’t exactly have a lot to work with here.

On the whole, this issue is just really bland and forgettable.

  1. I can understand a Canadian superhero team helping out in Iceland, Greenland or Alaska, but a crystal planet? Yeah, that does feel like a waste.

    • Plus, the first reaction of the CANADIANS is to start smashing things? And there is nowhere near enough apologizing in this book for it to be Canadian!

      • Yeah, there was a joke referencing the Hail Hydra twist in Captain America with Captain Canuck saying “I’m not sorry.”

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