Alpha Flight #68 (1989, March)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). I have basically no hours at work this week. Ugh. So, by James Hudnall, John Calimee, Sam de la Rosa, Bob Sharen and Janice Chiang, “Wrath of the Dreamqueen (Part 2): All That We Are. . . .”
Elizabeth steals a truck from the dig sit and drives to a gas station so she can call Alpha Flight to warn them about the Dreamqueen. She’s a little late. The Dreamqueen taunts her, and I do like Liz’s response.
Dreamqueen does something to Sasquatch, to make him a pawn. Several hours later, Elizabeth gets to Ottawa, and to Heather’s house. Alpha Flight’s apparently been asleep the whole time. Dreamqueen’s waved down a car, and hits on the driver to get him to take her where she wants. Liz says she’s going to call in her father, since they’ll need the power of the Talisman. In Edmonton, Dreamqueen gets the guy who gave her a ride to walk into traffic. She’s kind of a bitch. Alpha flies to the Eye of the World, where they once saved Walter’s soul, but not before his body crumbled to dust. Walter shows some anger at being a man in a woman’s body. This is why I still refer to him as male.
Anyway, Shaman declines to help Alpha, but says he’ll go back to Ottawa with them. In Edmonton, Dreamqueen’s taken over the penthouse of one of the richest men in Canada, having made him jump to his death. She’s still kind of a bitch. Back on the Box-jet, Shaman says again that he can’t help as Talisman, so Liz asks him to give the Talisman back to her, and that she’s learned since the last time she held the role, and won’t be such a douche. She gives a Power & Responsibility speech.
Shaman takes off the Talisman, but before he can hand it to Liz, Sasquatch freaks out and grabs it, then smashes up the Box-jet so it crashes. He escapes, and puts on the Talisman himself. Also, can I point out what he’s wearing?
Hey, Walter, ’90s comics called, they wanted you to get dressed. This is stupid. I do like what he says in this panel, though:
See, I never really bought the “Wanda” thing. Walter spent his whole life as a man. He thought of himself as male. He was comfortable that way. Then, when his body changes, he shrugs and goes, “Oh, well, guess I’m a woman now.” No. It wouldn’t work like that. He’s not going to smoothly transition to thinking of himself as Wanda just because his body’s changed. I don’t care how chill you are, it’s not that easy. It makes way more sense that he would still think of himself as Walter. That he would be bitter about not being himself any more. So seeing him get fed up at being called Wanda is good to see. It rings true to me.
Anyway, Snowbird’s spirit shows gives Walter back his male body, which also breaks Dreamqueen’s spell on him. And thus ends the story of Wanda Langowski. By the standards of the time, it wasn’t a bad idea, and it wasn’t handled poorly. But that’s by the standards of the time. It was progressive for its time, and I do give Mantlo credit for that. But it was held back. It couldn’t go far enough to be truly interesting. And it was never really given enough space, either. So I am glad Hudnall ended it, even if he did use a Deus Ex Machina to do it. Though I do feel like Snowbird could have given Walter some pants.
It’s weird seeing anyone wearing less than Talisman. But I just love that she’s making her big return, and it should be dramatic, and there’s Walter standing behind her in his undies. Talisman tells the team they have to go to Edmonton, which is in chaos as a result of the Dreamqueen.
“This dude’s accidentally stealing diamonds. This dude accidentally killed his family.” Jeez, Hudnall. Also, thanks very much to the art team for making that second panel pretty grisly.
Fun fact! There’s a letter from a Dominick Cecere, asking advice on how to become a comic artist. Cecere would grow up to be a character animator on Spider-Man 3. And presumably other movies. That’s kinda neat, though!
So, this is . . . OK? I guess? It’s fine. I do like Dreamquen. She’s kinda delightfully evil here. Just cruel for no reason beyond it entertaining her. It’s kinda fun. Jokes aside, I do really like that panel of the guy shooting his family. It’s so twisted and evil, and that makes it fun. The stuff with Walter grabbing the Talisman wasn’t particularly good, but it did restore Walter to normal, so I’m fine with it having been in the issue. And it’s great to have Shaman and Talisman return. I never liked the way Mantlo wrote out all the diverse characters, so seeing the two First Nations characters return is great. I honestly think a Canadian team without First Nations members is a shitty Canadian team. Like, if you’re putting together a Canadian team, including First Nations people really should be a necessity. So I’m glad Hudnall brought them back with this issue.
But the writing and art alike are just kinda bland. It’s not attention-grabbing. The art isn’t particularly expressive, and even the colours are a bit flatter than they really should be. And the lack of expressiveness in the art drags down the writing. Moments that should be big and dramatic are rendered just plain boring. That panel where Walter declares that his name is Walter, and accuses Alpha of abandoning him? It’s strong stuff, but the panel composition is pathetically dull. Or Elizabeth once again becoming Talisman. It’s been a while, it should be a big, dramatic, exciting moment. But it’s not. Because Calimee completely drops the ball on it. Having the nearly-naked Walter in the panel turned it from dramatic to laughable. Calimee does do a better job whenever the Dreamqueen’s around, but she’s such an inherently dramatic character that it’d be hard to make her boring.
So, yeah, there’s stuff I like about this issue, but there’s also a lot dragging it down.