Friday, 23 November 2012

ALF #6: "Snowblind"

(It's like, how much more white could it be?)


This issue is, of course, absolutely infamous in comic circles; a book in which some six pages are entirely free of art in an attempt to replicate a blizzard and/or save time and money.  Much of what one thinks about this issue (or at least it's main strip) will be based on how one reacts to this particular conceit.

For my part, I think it's hilarious.  Then again, I didn't pay for this issue (at least not specifically; I guess I could've been spending my time reading something else on Marvel's online database that actually had pictures).  Byrne doesn't take the obvious route of having what goes on in the snow obviously lunatic or impressive, which might make the joke funnier, but who knows?  Maybe he was just attempting to avoid cliche.  Alternatively, he just couldn't be bothered drawing a picture of a bear turning into an owl.  But that's hard to believe.  Look how fun they are!

Since I've been banging on about it for most of my ALF posts, I should note for the record that this issue does much better on the gender politics angle than previous instalments.  Snowbird gets a solo adventure, so there's no-one around to complain about her being creepy, and at no point does she screw anything up and need a man to step in and fix it.  That this is in any way remarkable is kind of depressing, but progress is progress.

So what exactly is Snowbird up to today?  Well, first of all, she's getting thrown in the cells, because her new boss doesn't like the fact that her old boss used to let her skip off work without giving an explanation in writing. Which is what the hell?  This guy isn't happy with previous arrangements in this police station, so he throws an officer into the cells?  I refuse to believe that can possibly be how Canada runs its affairs, even if Byrne was careful to draw a Hitler moustache on his bureaucratic antagonist so you know he's, like, really bad.

What's interesting here is that of course Snowbird isn't inconvenienced in the slightest by her incarceration; indeed she flies straight through the wall the instant she learns something is up.  Her only problem is whether it's worth having to abandon her civilian identity in order to do it.  That kind of dilemma is fairly common in superhero comics, of course, but with a spirit form like Snowbird, it's more an annoyance than an existential crisis.  Setting up a new identity wouldn't be too much of a problem, it's just a pain to have gotten so far up the Mountie ranks and then to have to chuck it all away and start over.  She may just decide to turn into a bear and eat her new boss, actually.  It's exceptionally hard to argue the guy doesn't have it coming.

In any case, there are bigger things to concern herself with right now.  In traditional fashion, some careless riggers have ignored the warnings proffered by the laws of physics a local tribesman, and as a result have utterly screwed the Gulf of Mexico awoken a hideous malevolent spirit.  This is the second time this has happened in six issues, which isn't a good sign. Byrne has Snowbird specifically note this, implying that there's something larger afoot, which prevents this from seeming like a total retread, and at least you've got the "snowblind" gimmick to mix things up.  Again, though, if you didn't like that idea, you may just see this as an unimaginative plot that's not even fully pencilled.   Kolomaq's design is quite nice, though.

Even so, we're talking about an issue with one original concept, which pissed off a lot of people, and improvements in story-telling that merely rise to the level of basic competency the book should have been displaying all along.  Oh, and there's a B-plot in which Guardian gets a surprising letter from an oil company, but we'll have to wait to see if anything interesting results from it.

On to the back-up strip: "The Old Ways".  It's been ten years since Michael Twoyoungmen lost his wife and his grandfather on the same day, and his young daughter flew into a rage over his failure to save her mother's life (which means this story takes place after the X-Men have been formed). Two days later, a mysterious package arrives from his departed grandfather, and Michael takes off into the wilderness.

Since this is a back-up strip, these developments are all hurriedly rushed through, but the implication is that Michael didn't wait around to see how long it would take for his daughter to forgive him.  He just gave up on her and headed to the wilds to meditate as a hermit.  So, you know, fuck him for that.  When your young girl freaks out about the death of her mother, and decides to blame you, you fucking well suck it up.  You don't skip out of civilisation so you can engage in a decade-long sulk.  In all that time he was heeding "the call of the white man's science" (and, much as last time, we must once again tell Byrne to stuff that up his arse), he didn't have time to read a book on childhood bereavement?  When the package he waited ten years to open proves to be a human skull, and the resultant revelation causes his grandfather's ghost to swirl into shape before him, neither of those developments is half as surprising as the fact that Gramp's spirit doesn't start off by calling him a cock.

Instead he brings the Yoda on him, training up to be a shaman, pushing him to the peak of physical and spiritual exertion until one day, his skills are such that he can reach into a bag and pull out pine needles that weren't there before.  How useful.  Ten years of shirking his responsibilities and he can spontaneously generate the raw materials for a car air-freshener.  That was definitely worth skipping out on his daughter for.


Byrne is sticking to the idea that it's still summer in Canada.  We've discussed already how this directly contradicts the events in UXM that he chose to base this spin-off on, as well as making James' declaration this issue that he's been in the dumps for several months since ALF #1 difficult to square away as well.  That said, if we move this issue forward to the following summer, it helps get this title closer to the other X-books being published at the start of 1984, so we'll go ahead and do that.  This perhaps goes against Snowbird's concern that Kolomaq has risen only "very few months" after Tundra, but when we're talking about millenia old monsters popping up, I guess two in under a year seems like a very swift turnover.

This issue itself covers only a few hours.


Tuesday 21st of June, 1983.



Contemporary Events

The UN General Assembly holds a meeting of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Presumably Richard Branson is too busy producing sheep pop songs to request the entirety of the interstellar void be ceded to him.

Standout Line

"The sound is like a legion of brontosaurs moaning in mutual agony."

Such poetry.

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