Friday, 29 March 2013

ALF #11: "Set-Up"

(Wherein Guardian smashes into the World Trade Center, and you feel really weird about it.)


With Byrne having decided to wrap up his Alpha Flight origin strip this issue, the main strip only runs for twelve pages this time.  This actually works to its advantage, since it's basically a fairly standard set-up issue (see what I did there?) which concludes with a "shit 'bout ta go down" ending.  Often such structures can drag a bit whilst we trudge on towards the last page, but this truncated approach keeps things barrelling along.

Which is just as well, since what's actually taking place really isn't all that interesting.  The basic idea is that a mysterious woman, Miss Courtney, is visiting the former members of Gamma Flight, the back-up back-up team to the Alphas, who had only just been recruited to the program when the whole shebang was mothballed by the Canadian government.  She's organising a meeting of said mothballed heroes, hoping to persuade them to take out their frustration at getting the boot on James Hudson.  A man, of course, fired at the exact time they were.  This is like getting the under 18 squad of a football team together and persuading them to beat up the main squad's captain because the club has gone under.

In other words, it makes bollock-all sense.  Presumably this is why we learn that Miss Courtney has some kind of "influencer" device, which makes Gamma Flight - comprising of Box (not the one current readers will be used to), Diamond Lil, Flashback, Smart Alec and Wildchild [1] - more prone to cupidity and petty jealousy than would otherwise be the case.  This kind of thing always pisses me off, partially because you couldn't move for mind-control plots in the '70s and '80s, but mainly because it's just a way of admitting your plot doesn't track on its own terms, and needs an excuse for characters to act illogically and/or contrary to their natures.  How hard could it have been to come up with a more sensible reason for the Gammas to come after their former superior?  Maybe that could have replaced three pages of Heather Hudson thinking to herself about the arrangements necessary for moving house and selling her car.

Anyway.  Gamma Flight meet in the World Trade Center, and our scramble-brained former heroes meet their new boss: Jerome Jaxon, associate president of the Roxxon oil corporation.  Man, Roxxon really knows how to pick 'em.  Last time I'm aware of them cropping up, back in '79 Iron Man, they'd spent massive amounts of time and effort disguising an island mining operation as a military build-up so as not to alert the suspicions of the one guy who lived on the island, so he couldn't alert the authorities with his total lack of phone or interest.  This time round, it's all about destroying Alpha Flight.  Twenty quid says this is related to Jaxon being in a wheelchair. He certainly wasn't eleven years ago when he tried to sell Hudson's suit design to the US Army.

As part one of Jaxon's villainous plan, he has Heather Hudson kidnapped when she gets off the plane in New York City, and informs Guardian that he'd better report to the WTC forthwith if he doesn't want to become a widower.  Well aware of Jaxon's unpleasantness, Hudson heads to the rendezvous with all haste, only to meet his former understudies there.  No longer will they stand in his shadow, so much as ensure it gets torn to bits to reflect the status of its owner.  Gamma Flight is dead.  In its place: Omega Flight!

Onto the back-up strip (which at ten pages is hardly worth that title, even if the last page is basically an ad for ALF #12 - in which one team member is apparently going to get dead as hell.  My money is on Marrina, since I have no idea what she's doing in the picture in the first place).  Entitled "Unleash the Beast!" and, as one might expect from that title, it focuses upon Walter Langkowski's first transformation into Sasquatch.  I hadn't realised until reading this issue that Langkowski actually became the orange-furred hero due to self-experimentation; that just makes his position as bargain-basement Beast-wannabe all the more obvious, which seems like an odd choice.

The first half of the strip offers excerpts from Walter's logs as he fills in back-story; his time at college learning alongside Bruce Banner, his desire to change the world for the better without getting a face full of gamma bomb, and earning enough money from being a pro-footballer (hey, didn't Hank McCoy excel at football, too?) and getting enough resources from the newly created Alpha Flight to put together a secret research program, all of which eventually led to:


One can forgive the resulting rampage Langkowski indulges in, particularly since he's far north enough for there not to be much of anything he can really damage (some poor sap at the oil rig he smashes is going to have a hard time filling out the insurance forms, though).  Having been sent to investigate Walter's recent radio silence, Snowbird finds the scientist naked in the snow, and gets him to a hospital and Dr Twoyoungmen before he dies of exposure.  There he meets James Hudson, who has a new employment opportunity in mind, and the rest is history...

[1] All of which Byrne created, and more than one of whom became staples of the X-books later on, so we should give him credit for that at least.  For all my problems with his writing in the '80s, I have to concede that Byrne was pretty good at coming up with concepts other writers wanted to work with.  By the early 21st century, of course, this was very much not the case.  Anyone still remember Deluge? 


It's the 29th of February , apparently, which puts this story more than two months further on than Sasquatch's Arctic adventure, and gets us to the sixth anniversary of Jean Grey joining the X-Men (it also means Dazzler is the only X-book that still seems to be taking place in 1983).  This two month jump perhaps causes some problems, as Heather Hudson comments on how quickly she and her husband have left Ottawa to start their new life in New York.  Having moved three times in as many years, though, I can safely say that a two month turnaround definitely feels ridiculously short when you actually try it, and that's without the added hassle of emigrating.

The issue itself takes place over three days.

Langkowski notes in the backup strip that he became Sasquatch three years after the Hulk was publicly identified as Bruce Banner.  This was actually 18 years earlier in real time, or about four and a half years ago according to our timeline, which places the birth of Sasquatch about eighteen months before this issue takes place, only a month or two before his first appearance in UXM #120.  This works out supremely well, actually, since this strip ends with James Hudson recruiting Langkowski for the mission that begins in that very issue.


Wednesday 29th February to Friday 2nd March, 1984.


X+5Y+365 to X+6Y+1.

Contemporary Events

SpaceSquid Sr. turns thirty two.  Or eight, depending on how you look at it.

Standout Line

"...Said that the monster that tore through their drill-site was orange. How can that have been you?"
"I'm not quite sure, Jimmy.  The gamma radiation should have turned me green." - Guardian and Sasquatch.

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