Thursday, 20 June 2013

ALF #16: "... And Forsaking All Others..."

("Anything could happen in the next half hour!")


It's time to dig out the running shoes in our sprint towards the finish line as the "what lurks beneath Lake Ontario" plotline finally reaches a conclusion.  For those who have forgotten, last issue saw the reappearance of the missing-presumed-exploded Master of the World (self-declared), who's apparently swapped his gigantic alien colonisation vessel for a snazzy submarine.  Apparently being buried beneath the Arctic Circle for four hundred centuries doesn't mean you can't watch Stingray.

Separated at egg secretion?
(Actually I'm being unfair here.  The Master can't possibly have cribbed this design from Gerry Anderson, since it's taken five millennia to construct.  One wonders how much of that time was sunk into the flared nostrils.)

 Not only does the Master have a snazzy new ride, he also has a plan, and an explanation as to why he isn't dead.  It turns out he deliberately orchestrated Alpha Flight's attack on the alien ship that captured him all those eons ago, mainly because it wouldn't let him leave even after it got tired of dissecting him.  Once free and safely away in the Fishmobile, he was able to prepare the next stage of his plan, which is... well, I'm not sure.  He admits to having wanted Marrina dead originally, since her intended role as a destroyer of species makes her too dangerous to have around.  So why has he kidnapped her and regressed her into the very mental state that requires?  Why has he brought her into the depths to meet the only other surviving member of her race?  How did we get from executing genocidal bio-constructs to arranging blind dates for them?  Not that rendezvous goes tremendously well, the two aliens seemingly attack each other the moment they're introduced.

Whatever the Master is up to, there's only Namor and Puck around to stop him, which is more than a little tricky considering they're being almost totally dehydrated/asphyxiated in order to keep them quiet.

Almost only counts in horseshoes and Hold Steady albums, though, and Puck has a plan.  From watching the Master take such interest in Marrina's courtship ritual/battle to the death, Puck figures the man is a sucker for a good mystery - which is a hell of a leap, but it's not like the guy has much in the way of options - and makes use of a handy trick he picked up in the Orient to stop his heart and breathing for a few moments.  The Master is indeed taken in by this trick, baffled as to how a man locked in an airtight container almost devoid of oxygen could stop breathing and die, and he removes Puck from his tube.  Immediately Puck recovers, attacking the Master, freeing Namor, and stealing their foe's helmet in short order (no pun intended).

Puck's intent is to use the helmet as a missile, cracking the pressure-glass that keeps out the lake so as to get Namor to water.  The manoeuvre is partially successful, in that - with a little help from Namor's fists - the glass does indeed break, but the submarine's control systems were in that headgear, which the Master had rather rashly superglued to his face.  Ooh, he's ever so cross, and his mood doesn't improve when Marrina's playmate shoves his tentacles into the sub and starts thrashing around. In short order the craft is pretty much hollowed out, and its time to abandon fish-ship.  Namor wants to stay to help his girlfriend, but Puck takes the entirely practical position that he'd rather not drown whilst he tries to talk Marrina out of killing all humans.  As the old saying goes, not dying horribly is the better part of valour.

Namor does as he's asked and gets Puck to safety, moments before the sub explodes, taking the alien killer with it.  Of the Master and of Marrina, Namor can find no sign, despite hours of searching.  Heartbroken, the King of Atlantis returns to his dominion.

Which is when Marrina cones out of hiding.  She's been back on the shore all along, waiting for Namor to leave, having concluded she cannot trust herself to be around him.

On the one hand, I really like the idea that Marrina has concluded she needs to figure her own way in the world rather than relying on Namor.  Certainly, given this book's tendency to repeatedly have women forced to entirely rely on men to save them - in one way or another - is both desperately cliche and very annoying.  On the other side of the scales, though, this is basically another story about a woman not being able to control themselves, and ton this occasion it's quite literally because they've met a member of the opposite sex that renders them utterly unable to think rationally.  It's presented here as part of whatever genetic engineering Marrina and her male counterpart were subjected to all those centuries ago, but at heart this is still a story about a girl who falls for a bad boy because she can't help herself.

Anyway.  All this high-octane carnage means there's less time than usual for Byrne to wander around his other simmering plots, but we do get to see him birth a whole new one! Former Gamma Flight member Madison Jeffries responds to a summons from another former Gamma alumni, paraplegic Roger Bochs, who wants the "transmutator" to help him.  First of all, he wants assistance in ensuring his Box robot cannot be hijacked from him as Jaxon did back in issue #12.  Secondly, he wants Jeffries's help in tracking down Jaxon along with Delphine Courtney.  We last saw the villains comatose and actually a robot, respectively, but according to Bochs, they escaped, and it's time to bring them to justice!

Oh, also, Wolverine visits Heather in hospital to try and cheer her up.  Props for Marvel not splashing his guest appearance all over the front cover, I guess.  Perhaps they figured Namor was enough.


The majority of story takes place in approximately real time, but the coda takes place just before dawn the day after the Master's return.


Friday 13th to Saturday 14th April, 1984.


X+6Y+43 to X+6Y+44.

Contemporary Events

US President Reagan promises more aid to El Salvador in attempts to lower the risks of the USSR gaining influence in Central America.

Standout Line

"A complex pattern of cause and effect has been unravelling itself beneath these dark waters, and now, at the very center of evil, one man has seized control."

The center of evil, my friends.  Not the centre of National Exhibition.  Not even the centre of Pompidou.  The center of evil.  The midpoint of malevolence.  The very radial intersection of rampant infamy!

Oh, my friends; the center of evil.  Oh.  Oh.

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