Alpha Flight #101 (October, 1991)
“Death and How to Live it”
Writer – Fabian Nicieza
Pencils – Tom Morgan
Inks – Chris Ivy
Letters – Janice Chiang
Colors – Bob Sharen
Editor – Bobbie Chase
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.50
While the “Gold Product Experts” at Google/Blogger continue to blame their users (while likely not being bloggers themselves) for the inability of this platform to properly upload images… we, stop… breathe… and revisit another synopsis that likely nobody has seen before.
We’ve looked at classic Alpha Flight here at the blog before… now, get ready for what happens when the Alphas meet the 1990’s!
Issue opens with Hercules delivering a wallop of a punch into Sasquatch’s mush… which sends him flyin’! Some of the other Avengers present (She-Hulk, Quasar), question the logic of using such aggression, to which it would seem Herc’s just havin’ a good time. Sasquatch does not seem to share that opinion, and so he lunges at the Olympian… until Quasar interjects to separate them so that cooler heads might prevail… and they do!
We shift scenes to Greenwich Village, where Northstar, Northstar’s Mullet, Sersi, and Vision are paying a visit to Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum in hopes that he might be able to assist in tracking down Jean-Paul’s sister, Aurora (plus some other missing Alphans for good measure). Wong greets them at the door, and allows them entry.
Doctor Strange appears… and, from the looks of it, just had a very unexpected accident in his pants. I mean, dude looks absolutely freaked out here! Northstar explains their situation… Aurora and some others vanished during a battle a few issues back, and he’d really like to know where they might’ve gone.
With a horribly pained look on his face, Stephen Strange contorts his body a bit in order to pontificate and begin his search of the Cosmos. Before we know it, we’re at the Interdimensional Crossroads of Time! This sort of reminds me of the place the Sovereign Seven used to hang out.
Doc Strange begins floating… and allows the Eye of Agamotto to “pierce the dimensional veil” to locate the missing Baubier.
We shift scene to a cemetery in Ottawa, where Gene and Heather are visiting the comically over-sized grave-marker of James Hudson. Puck almost looks like he’s standing on the edge of a football field in comparison. They lament the fact that Mac’s recent “return” didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped.
After Heather shares her feelings… in how this time, her losing Mac feels a lot different than the first time… the pair of Alphans are met by Kerry Patrick and Jeremy Clarke from Department H. They express their condolences, and assure Heather that the Canadian government has Alpha Flight’s back from this point on.
Speaking of Alpha Flight and Department H, we next pop over to Toronto to check in on some of the rest of the crew. There, Madison Jeffries prepares Diamond Lil for a procedure involving a weird alien laser that might just be able to penetrate her diamond-hard skin in order to see if she has cancer. Lil’s a bit freaked out, but trusts enough in Box that she’ll undergo the deal. Turns out, it works!
We rejoin Sasquatch and the Avengers (also, Windshear and “Her”)… where I guess whatever job they had to do is done? Can’t tell much from the art, so we’ll just have to take Quasar’s word for it. As the heroes prepare to split, “Her” decides to take a tour of the planet. Quasar offers her a chaperone any time she needs one. Whatta dork.
Back at the Crossroads, Strange is… from the looks of it… laboring over a stool. He reports that despite the Eye’s best efforts, he cannot find Jeanne-Marie and the other Alphans. All he is able to do is open some sort of “doorways”… which he, Northstar and Company can peer through… if they dare!
Vision wonders aloud if, by opening these “doorways”, aren’t they running the risk of unwanted guests escaping from them? Well, before he can even finish the thought, that very thing happens!
A battle rages… for about two-pages, ending with Vision trapping the baddies in a bubble while Strange continues his psychic search for the missing Alphans. Vision suggests Strange take a break… or perhaps even call it a day, but Stephen is steadfast in his resolve. They’ve come too far to give up now. Northstar agrees with Vision… and manages to get Strange to end the search… for now.
Northstar and the Crew are returned to the Sanctum Sanctorum, where plenty of “thanks anyways” are exchanged. He then heads back to the Great White North for Mac’s memorial ceremony. Heather says a few words… drawing particular attention to the fact that Mac just wasn’t all that great a superhero… but, dammit, he was her’s… before leaving a single rose on his grave-marker.
We wrap up back at Department H where the results of Diamond Lil’s biopsy are in! She… does not have Cancer. The team celebrates!
Kind of a mixed bag, innit? On just about every front.
Before we hop into the actual book, this was an issue we covered on From Claremont to Claremont… because, Alpha Flight is sorta/kinda an X-Men book. Or, at the very least, X-Adjacent. Before committing to the bit, I did ask around on the social medias to see what folks thought about Alpha Flight, and their association to the X-Books… and overwhelmingly, folks said – Yes, Alpha Flight is an X-Book. Only a couple of people didn’t think so.
I, personally, feel like Alpha Flight is definitely X-Adjacent enough to include. Here’s the thing that kind of set it (and a few of the books we covered in the first episode of FCTC) apart… whereas during “current year”/”current decade”, when a line or family of books gets a “new direction” or some sort of “jumpstart” point, all of the books in the family/line get a big kick-off.
For the X-Books in particular, I’m thinking about things like Regenesis, or the still-ongoing Dawn of X – each of the titles involved get themselves a brand-new logo/branding… and the stories all go in new thematically similar direction. Back in 1991, however, when the X-Books had arguably their biggest “shakeup”, only the “core four” (Uncanny X-Men, X-Men (vol.2), X-Factor, X-Force) really felt those reverberations… at least that first month.
Just something that struck me as a bit weird when I was revisiting these books. Alpha Flight would sort of shift into their “new direction” with the next issue… which, if I’m being honest, is a heckuva lot better than this one.
So, let’s look at this one. First, the good! The Diamond Lil bits were pretty great. I thought Fabian did a wonderful job with her and Madison. It was the only part of this issue that really managed to hold my attention. Their happy ending was especially nice.
Everything else? Well, it’s hard to really say it was “bad”, per say… because so much of it was predicated on clearing the deck for the next writer (Scott Lobdell). That clearing the deck even included the Diamond Lil subplot I liked so much… so, I guess I’m speaking out both sides here.
The Avengers showing up (back when this was a novelty… believe it or not, there was a time in Marvel Comics when the Avengers didn’t show up every third page of every single book) was… ehh. This isn’t my favorite Avengers team. This probably wasn’t anybody’s favorite… though, in the age of the “lol, random” internet, I’m sure it now has its fans for being so, well… random.
The fallout from Mac’s return and redeath was okay. Here’s where I get a bit conflicted as a “reviewer”. I was a bit lost in the reread… and had to actually do a little bit of research about what had gone down in the issues preceding this. That annoyed me… even though it probably shouldn’t have. I feel like I projected onto this issue that is should be a “jumping on point” in accordance with the rest of the X-Men line… so, I’m kinda blaming it for not being what I expected it to be… which really isn’t fair. Could it have been easier to follow for someone coming in “fresh”? Sure. Did it have to be? Nah, not necessarily.
The Doctor Strange portion of this issue was also a bit baffling to me coming in (relatively) “fresh”. Again, not the fault of the issue… but, really didn’t do much to inspire any interest or investment in the subplot. Also, these are the scenes where the art really suffers. This art isn’t great to begin with, however, when Doc Strange is on panel… oof. He makes plenty of “potty faces”. It’s really disturbing. Also, Northstar’s mullet appears to be sentient… which ain’t a good look. It’s hard to believe anyone ever thought it was.
Overall… yeah, it’s kind of a mixed bag… but a decent enough “clearing the deck” for Scott Lobdell’s impending arrival and slight shift in direction. Mind you, this is several months before Lobdell (and this issue’s very own Fabian Nicieza) became the driving force behind the X-Men family of books.
Is it worth a look? Ehh, unless you’re doing a “full read though” of this volume, it’s probably not…