Thursday, 9 January 2014

ALF #22: "Rub-Out"

("If only I could be as cool as you.")


There are two obvious conclusions to draw from this issue.  The first is that Northstar is an arsehole.  The second is that John Byrne is an arsehole.

Neither of these, strictly speaking, can properly be called a revelation. It's the depth of nastiness here that is remarkable. Northstar we can at least forgive for failing to phone Sasquatch when Aurora (now once more calling herself Jeanne-Marie) arrives after three days of solid flying.  Not because it isn't a supreme dick move, but because he's fictional. Alas, to our eternal chagrin, the same cannot be said of Byrne.

This month's adventure takes place at a circus.  Alarm bells are already ringing, because the X-books don't do to well with circus stories. Mesmero didn't do UXM any favours, and the Wolverine & The X-Men story in which our heroes tried to deal with Frankenstein's monster inside an insane carnival was simply too bonkers to be processed by mortal minds. More than that, though, it's something of a problematic fit; bringing a group of people derided as freaks to a circus and extracting entertainment from them.  Perhaps there's a slightly problematic form of voyuerism that taints the entirety of superhero comics, when I come to think about it, but it's most obvious when you put the carnival barkers in the foreground.

Of course, there are very few situations Byrne cannot take and make much, much worse.  Here, the plot is not so much circuses are fun and so are costumed misfits, it's that circuses are dangerous because the freaks who live there are murderous scum.  When Jean Paul answers his friend Clementine's cry for help, he heads to her circus with Jeanne-Marie in tow, to discover "Clemmy" has lost control of her business to the villainous Pink Pearl.

As the cover above makes clear, Pink Pearl is not your average lady.  She is rather... expansive.  The script takes as many opportunities to point this out as possible.  Pearl's real name is "Pearl Gross". She can't be killed with knifes because she's just too well-padded. She defeats her enemies by smothering them in her not inconsiderable belly. When she does this to Jeanne-Marie, she awakens as Aurora with no memory of what just transpires, and immediately labels Pearl "obscene."  In other words, it's not just that this woman with her unorthodox body shape is an evil, violent bully, her mere existence is somehow a problem independent of her nature.

This is, simply put, disgusting, and no-one with the wherewithal to have reached this blog needs me to explain why. Nor is Pearl the only example of this abominable attitude; merely the most prominent. The "it's 1985" excuse ain't gonna cut it either, not when Tod Browning had blown the lid off this particular line of bullshit back in 1932.

In the wake of all this unpleasantness, the actual plot seems beside the point, but for the record, Pearl has taken over Clementine's circus so that she can bomb an upcoming summit between the US President and the Canadian Prime Minister. She's confident that if the if the bomb gets traced back to the circus, the authorities will assume Clementine is to blame, owing to her youthful activities with the Quebec Sepratiste movement. Essentially this simply serves as a vehicle by which the plot can reveal Jean-Paul was also a member of the movement, though apparently as part of a less violent cell than Clementine's, who used to blow up post-boxes (whether this was intended to injure those nearby is not stated).  Usually so transparent a move to reach a revelation would bother me, especially since Jean-Paul doesn't admit to his involvement, Aurora infers it from the astonishingly scant evidence that Jean-Paul is fiercely pro-Quebec and knows a woman revealed to be an ex-terrorist. Given how utterly wretched this issue's story has been in every other way, though, it's blatant nature as an excuse for Northstar's sister to out him as a former terrorist ranks among the very least of its problems.

Issue rating: a thousand "ughs".

Meanwhile, in subplot corner, Heather is convinced she sees her dead husband Mac on the rainy streets of Vancouver, and Madison Jeffries helps Robert Bochs put together the final touches on the new improved Box model, AKA Middle-Age Colossus.

With beta testing finally complete, it's time to embark on a mission of retribution.  Mac's death shall at last be avenged!


Aurora/Jeanne-Marie states it took almost three days for her to reach Northstar.  Since it's apparently evening when she arrives, we'll assume we're only two calendar days further on from when she met Gilded Lily. This story then continues into the following day.

Once again Byrne wishes us to believe it is winter. Once again, this is utterly compatible with his own story. We could, I suppose, insert several months into the story between Aurora's arrival and the circus plot, but that leaves Sasquatch (and Snowbird) hanging for too long. There's also a reference here to the Canadian government changeover in September 1984, when the Progressive Conservative Party (now there's an oxymoron for you) took power in a landslide. As always here, actual historical events don't factor into our analysis, but it's an interesting background detail.

Northstar mentions it's been months since he last saw his sister.  The adventure he refers to is Contest of Champions, which is considered the first ever superhero crossover event, but which I decided lay outseid the remit of this blog, containing as it does nothing that effects our merry mutants even in the short term.  Nevertheless, this reference suggests that CoC lies between ALF #8 and this issue, which in turn means months must have passed since ALF #8. Our timeline has this gap as being nine months, so that's all entirely cool.

(Of course by Bryne's own reckoning it should be well over a year, but there you go.)


Saturday 21st to Sunday 22nd of April, 1984.


X+6Y+51 to X+6Y+52.

Contemporary Events

Thriller ends an astonishing 37-week run at the top of the US album charts when the Footloose soundtrack knocks it from the pedestal.

Standout Line

"And just what is Jean-Paul doing here? With a woman!" - Aurora

For all the (deserved) kicking Byrne is getting elsewhere on this blog, I continue to give him credit for making Northstar's sexual orientation almost impossible to miss.

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