Friday, 5 October 2012

ALF #2: "Shadows Of The Past"

(With friends like these...)


We rejoin Canada's Greatest Heroes! in Ontario, during their first training session since the government cut off their funding and Puck and Marrina were promoted to the main team, just in time to not get any financial benefits at all, though I'm not sure a fish-woman necessarily needs money.  Is that me being racist? Stupid piscinic political correctness...

The mood is pleasingly relaxed; no-one even really minds when Vindicator is almost killed (would it be mean to say that this is scarcely surprising?).  Things are so laid back that Shaman even finds time to discuss Hudson's codename, arguing "Vindicator" is a name enslaved to Hudson's own past (he took it after almost killing Moira MacTaggert in UXM #109), and that he should chose something both more uplifting and more general.

(He also claims Canada has nothing to vindicate itself for as a nation, which coming from a Native American is... not entirely convincing).

In short, it's all fun and games, until someone gets eviscerated. "Someone" in this case being Puck, when Marrina goes crazy, carving away half his torso before diving into the Alberta River and swimming away too fast for even the Beaubier twins to so much as see her. The team can still track her using her "flight signal medallion", but first they need to get the horribly injured Puck into surgery.  Michael - apparently the "hottest cutter" in the country when he isn't majicking supernatural horrors in the face - takes scalpel duty whilst the rest of the team head off after Marrina.

Not that Shaman is now entirely out of the picture; he can spare enough mojo to get the word out to Snowbird, who until now has been tied to her desk   Apparently being the daughter of a goddess and the shape-changing defender of the entire northwest hemisphere doesn't mean you can skimp on the paperwork.  Once Anne receives the call, of course, she's straight out the door, much to the chagrin of her Mountie boss. I sense a plot arc forming!  I mean, clearly this guy is a dick. He even has a toothbrush moustache!  Hitler! J. Jonah Jameson!  Richard Herring!  Evil oozing from every pore!

Meanwhile, on Alpha Flight's "Omni-Ship" (whatever that's supposed to mean), James is filling in the very government department that gave them the boot (unsurprisingly, their biggest concern is that Marrina gets all slash-happy out in Soviet waters).  The rest of the team would rather hear about how their friendly local psycho-fish ended up in Beta Flight in the first place, though.  Gather around, children: Uncle Jimmy has a story to tell...

Eighteen years earlier, the trawler Mary D is in dire straits of the coast of Newfoundland, and its crew of two stereotypical Scotsmen are more than a little concerned. One of them, Tom, is swept overboard in the squall, but fortunately for him, he finds a large egg-shaped glowing buoyancy aid underwater. Ordinarily I'd be screaming about how obviously this was bad news, but it ended up saving his life, so who am I to judge? Grateful for the save, Tom takes it home to show his wife and grandson.  It's not long before it becomes clear the object really is an egg, with something growing inside.  Perhaps foolishly, perhaps not, Tom's wife breaks the egg's shell in order to reveal a tiny humanoid figure, which the family names Marrina.

It always struck me as deeply unfair that the undersea denizens got to breathe air as well, but so it goes.  Marrina seems quite happy growing up on land, despite her unique physiology (Hudson explains this away by noting "in a closed, frequently inbred community like that tiny island, freaks... are not uncommon", which, fuck off, I'd suggest).  Everything was more or less normal, until the day she decided to swim really fast, which apparently is a major development for someone found inside an egg on the Atlantic seabed.  Still, I can't blame someone for being stupid in character - or at least not stupid out of character, a move which is admittedly somewhat easier for a character entirely undefined - and when Marrina's foster brother Dan calls the government to spill the beans about the green-skinned Olympian swimmer his parents keep making him hang out with, she ends up with Department H faster than you can say "racial profiling".

So what could have caused this sudden need to investigate internal organs?  Alpha Flight hasn't a clue, but we get to follow Marrina as she heads for an underground base carved out of ice a hundred miles away from her team-mates.  There she meets... The Master! It is he who controls her, filling her with "the consuming need to destroy!". Were I him, I might have come up with a slightly more interesting moniker, but I suppose he was too busy making sure his costume was sufficiently swish:

Ten quid says this is what Kevin Smith got married in.
Also this issue: back-up strip!  It looks like this will be a regular thing, going through the back stories of various team-members.  This isn't a bad idea at all, actually.  When they tried this with UXM back in the '60s it wasn't an unqualified success (even ignoring the poor quality of the stories themselves - The Conquistador; seriously?) because they tended to leave the main stories feeling a mite squished.  That was back during the days of maximum compression, though; I have at least some faith that the less crowed style of the early-to-mid '80s can handle the reduction in space rather better, especially since the one-shot story is less common now than once it was.

Anyway, onto the strip itself: "In the Beginning..." (optional musical accompaniment here). Ten years before a fish woman gutted a curmudgeonly dwarf, Jim Hudson learns the mechanical suit the Am-Can Petroleum Company funded him to build is going to be turned over for use by the US Army. I can't claim much sympathy for a guy who works for Big Oil then claims shock when they turn out to be turds, but there you go: Hudson is livid. Not even an invite over for lasagne by the resident sexy redhead can cheer him up, which is a danger sign if ever I saw one.

Hudson decides the only way to ensure his designs aren't used to carve up the Vietnam jungle is to "borrow" the suit, use it to break into the Am-Can vault and torch his blueprints, and then high-tail it with the cybernetic helmet the suit is controlled with.  Will the US Army come after him? Or just the Big Oil lawyers?  Tune in next time!


The main story takes place over a single day (with the flashback to Marrina's discovery occurring sometime in 1964).  We'll put it a month after the inaugral issue, so we can start catching up with the rest of the Marvel Universe.  Right now, we're placing this about a fortnight before Sprite's tussle with a N'Garai demon over Christmas (UXM #143).

The backup story we shall simply place exactly ten years earlier, in December 1972, about two and a half years before the war ended, and just over a month before the Paris Peace Accords signal the end of America's indefinite commitment.  The Weapon Alpha suit might well have been intended as the last roll of the dice by Nixon (who having just crushed Mondale by 49 states to 1 in the '72 elections was probably feeling his oats a bit, or at least would've been had he not been such a paranoid loon).


Wednesday 10th of December, 1982.



Contemporary Events

The Soyuz T-7 lands after undocking from Space Station Salyut 7. The crew had originally left Earth in the Soyuz T-5, and swapped with the T-7's crew when the latter reached the station in August.

Standout Line

"Enough of this bickering. We are not the Avengers, n'est pas?" - Aurora.


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