ALPHA FLIGHT #89, Marvel Comics, October 1990
I've been way too positive lately with my reviews, so it's time to do a little venting. Introducing "Made Me Quit Week" in which I showcase the last issue I ever bought of a series that I really liked until it started its downward spiral. These issues are the proverbial last drop that made me throw the rag across the room and cancel my subscription with all haste. And very often, I find that I waited too long.
Case in point, Alpha Flight. I had a lot of loyalty in regards to the only Canadian superhero team. All us Canadian kids probably did. And at first, that loyalty wasn't misplaced. It was being written and drawn by fellow Canuck John Byrne at the height of his powers and it featured all sorts of uniquely Canadian places and ideas. But Byrne only stayed on the book two years.
But I stuck with it. I stuck with Alpha Flight when the artwork became all grimy. I stuck with Alpha Flight when they started crapping in the characters' basic premises (Puck not a fun-loving dwarf acrobat after all, but a really tall guy that got cut down by a mystical sword, for example). I stuck with Alpha Flight when they started injecting more and more lame mutants into the team. I stuck with Alpha Flight when despite all this new blood, they never came up with a single character from the Maritime Provinces (jeers!!!). But sometimes, you can tell that even the editorial staff isn't "sticking with it", and the only reason it's being published is to either keep the rights to the title, or for some kind of obscure market share thing (which was Marvel's angle in the early 90s).
You gotta understand that the first issue of Alpha Flight I ever bought was #12 (I later collected the rest at no small cost) in which Guardian dies. He was the leader and founder of Alpha Flight and the guy wrapped in the Canadian flag. Well, I didn't really know him, but I thought his death was still pretty intense, and it had lasting effects on Alpha Flight and all its characters. This was one of those deaths, like that of the Barry Allen Flash or Uncle Ben that meant enough to stay permanent. But see that guy on the cover? "For real -- the return of the original Guardian". That's what I call crapping on my childhood.
This was all part of a story arc called "Building Blocks" in which the new writer (I'm gonna save him from himself and not name him) basically tried to resurrect the team he liked from back in the day. Guardian's back, Puck's back, they're all back. But in the worst frickin' way. I'm not even sure where to begin? Maybe just chronologically.
Our first set piece features the discovery of Puck, who's not dead, just horribly mutated. We're treated to a number of horrifying ass shots (Puck is naked throughout, and aww, Northstar's not even there to enjoy it -- he's not even gay yet, I think) and speaking of characters that have seen better days, Aurora - one of the sexiest characters ever to grace the Marvel Universe - is wearing the ugliest costume ever. Here's a sequence to show it off, but I warn you: The artwork is AWFUL. That's what I mean about Marvel giving up on the book (and yet publishing it for another 4-5 years). Everyone's ugly, and even the coloring is terminally defective. I just hope the scanner survives this.
It's not just Puck that's distorted here! The same page also features one of my pet peeves. See, Aurora's French Canadian (as am I), which basically means that she has this stupid French accent throughout and sometimes spouts whole phrases in French. "C'est incroiable!" she says. Goddammit, it's spelled "incroyable"! I hate it when the writer can't be bothered to check his 7th-grade French in a dictionary. For God's sake! I'm sure the X-Men mangle German and Russian all the time, but those countries'll have to fight their own battles (and we'll beat them again when the next war comes). Oh, and they mistakenly call her Jean-Marie throughout, while her actual name is Jeanne-Marie. Sorry, but Jean-Marie is a GUY'S NAME!!! (But judging by the art, I wasn't sure if she'd had a sex change...)
Anyway, Aurora's mindfuck is an excuse to get some flashback-type exposition into the book, and for a story arc that's supposed to launch a new era of Alpha, we get an awful lot of "who cares?" continuity, like "remember that vial of Puck's blood taken in AF #5?" This is supposed to explain how they'll fix Puck, but he'll genetically be a dwarf again. Like he would mind after looking this grotesque for half an issue. As long as he stops spelling everything he says, I'll be happy.
Eventually, a two-bit villain called the Master of the World shows up and reveals that he's been behind everything, ever, for the last 85 issues. Yeah ok. Thanks for living up to your name, dude. If you're so tough, how come you've never faced anyone but Alpha Flight?
Meanwhile, Vindicator (Guardian's wife and replacement) is hanging with Wolverine (who's always had the hots for her because, well, she's a redhead and he's into that) and they're questing for Gamma Flight, the Canadian heroes you HAVEN'T heard of (ok, well, even less than Alpha Flight). Despite Wolverine doing his best Kenny Easterday impersonation, this is a most boring thread.
"Now that I've caught a whiff of her..." He's sunk pretty low, sniffing at toilets this way. Then, they blow up that service station bathroom and well... that's it. Barely worth being on the cover, Wolvie. More interesting on a personal level is that they visit Sault St. Marie where my brother lives. Looks quite the vacation spot. Sorry I won't be visiting often, Dan.
Finally, a third segment of Alpha Flight have gone down a hole to find Guardian. This includes yet another hottie, Diamond Lil, in her best Black Queen apparel looking HORRIBLE. Yes, once again, we've been cheated of some masturbatory "boob war" material by the sub par art.
Alpha is here accompanied by Forge, the X-Men's super-inventor. Wolverine's ok, he's always been an honorary Alphan, but Forge? This smacks of editorial mandate. We NEED some X-Men or the book won't sell!!! But Forge? 1) Alpha already has a resident super-inventor (Box) and 2) he sucks as a guest-star! What's next? Cypher helps Sasquatch read Le Journal de Montréal?
So how can Guardian be alive after 6 years (our time) or even 2 years (the time they say in the comic) or 2 months (Spider-Man time)? Well, see, there was this issue back in the Byrne era where a fake Guardian "came back from the dead" with some outlandish story of having fallen in a wormhole at the time of death and rebuilt by aliens. It was all a hoax, of course. Nope, turns out it was all true. The real Guardian had the very same experience as a fake Guardian's bald-faced lie. WHAT?!? You want to bring back Guardian, I don't agree, but ok, it's your comic. But you can't even think up your OWN REASON why he'd still be alive? That's just cheap, Fabian Nicieza! (Ohh, there I went and named him anyway.)
This was Building Blocks Part 3 of 4, and I never even finished the arc. Can you blame me?