Alpha Flight #59 (1988, June)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). I have a date for Monday! Woot! I’m glad. I can’t think of anything that could possibly bring me down. Oh, what’s this? I have to review another issue of Mantlo’s Alpha Flight? Oh. Sigh. All right, let’s get through this together. By Mantlo, Lee, Milgrom, Sharen and Chiang, “Comes A Dragon!”
Puck is in Danwei Province, in Northeastern China. I wasn’t sure if it was a real province, so I checked, and I couldn’t find any references to it being a place. Instead, a danwei is a “work unit,” a place of employment. I don’t think I like that Mantlo made up a Chinese province. I think it’d be like having a story set in the Canadian province of Poutine or something. Just say it’s in Quebec, you know? No one will be upset that you used a real place for the story. Anyway, he’s there to check out a lamasery, a temple, that’s supposed to have a doorway between worlds. The temple is being approached by Chinese soldiers who want to kill the priests. Puck wants to help, but being a tall 74-year-old man makes him feel useless. Because this is Mantlo’s Alpha Flight, and Puck is not allowed to ever feel useful. He always has to remember that he’s the most useless character ever, totally incapable of ever contributing anything to a fight or to the plot, just a big stupid waste of space.
Anyway, the priests, naturally, have magic powers. Because why wouldn’t they have magic powers? They’re religious Asians, they all have mystic abilities. That’s just common knowledge. Puck gets past the force field, since he has no malice in his heart. The Commander of the Chinese forces orders one of the soldiers, Dei Guan, to demonstrate his special abilities, and Dei Guan turns into the Jade Dragon. Jade Dragon take out the force field, so the troops can advance. Dei Guan reflects on how his parents were slaughtered during Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and he was forced to toil in mines, until a voice told him about the dragons beneath the Earth and granted him power. This was right when the Cultural Revolution was ended and reformists took control of the government.
Then to Canada, where a lawyer is showing Tamarind Island to Sasquatch’s estranged wife. Turns out she’s actually legally his widow, since Walter’s body died, and no one knows he’s now residing in a new body.
Back to China, where the High Lama spews some fortune-cookie wisdom at Puck, while hovering in a lotus position. Because of course he’s hovering. He’s An Asian mystic, none of them walk. Then the Jade Dragon attacks. The Dragon ends up killing the Lama, then freaks out and attacks the Chinese soldiers outside. The Lama’s spirit tells Puck not to feel bad, as he’s moving onto another world, and offers Puck a chance to go through the Doorway Between Worlds, where he sees Alpha Flight fighting the Dream Queen. And that allows the Dream Queen to break through to the real world.
This was very, very meh. Mantlo never wrote Puck well. Dei Guan is an OK character, but not all that special. The issue seems to mostly be a bit of commentary on the Tibet situation, but the problem is that it’s neither unique commentary, nor is it thoughtful. Mantlo turns the not-Tibetans into a bunch of wizards with magic powers, because of frigging course they have magic powers. It’s such a colonialist approach, turning a group of people into a stereotype. And there’s the EEEEEVIL Communists trying to kill them, and the naive young soldier questioning things until he uses his own magic powers to fight back. And it’s all just so damn generic and stereotypical. Blegh. Mantlo should have stayed away from any attempts at writing other cultures, because he repeatedly demonstrated he sucked at it.
The art is fine. Lee does the best with what he’s given. But ultimately, he’s using the art to tell a really stupid story. He deserved better than this book.
This issue is stupid.