Sunday, 30 March 2014

ALF #25: "...And Graves Give Up Their Dead../Up From Lazarus' Box"

(Return of the Mac)


...And Graves Give Up Their Dead..

We open this issue on an impromptu "hearing", as Alpha Flight digests the fact that Northstar used to run with terrorists seeking to gain independence for Quebec by exploding strategic mailboxes.

Northstar, of course, is typically arsey about the whole affair, refusing to recognise the right of anyone in Alpha to judge him.  Which in some sense might actually be fair enough. Heather is keen to stress that they are simply mulling over as a group what to do with this information, but since 'Star doesn't actually want to be in Alpha Flight (which makes it hard to understand what he's doing here, actually), they're really deciding whether to turn him in to the authorities or not.  They should just be up front about that. Does having once fought for independence through the use of violence against inanimate objects mean you should be dobbed in years later?  And does that calculus change if you also happen to be an unbearable dick at all times?

Underneath this is lies an interesting question, actually, though one which I must be cautious about. I freely admit I have only the very most basic understanding of the Quebec Sovereignty Movement, and the FLQ - who, simplistically seeking, were a coalition of hard-line nationalists and proponents of one of the heavier brands of socialism - so I don't want to accidentally offend through ignorance.

That said, whether or not I think Jean-Paul should be clapped in irons for his past choices is entirely beside the point - I quite obviously don't get a say in how Quebec should manage its affairs, and whether the Quebecois or Canadian governments generated conditions problematic enough to justify blowing things up.  The question is whether fellow Canadians get to judge him.

Which leads me on to a topic that's been buzzing around my head for a few months now, ever since first Jack Graham and then Phil Sandifer came out in favour of the idea that the oppressor - even the unwitting oppressor - hasn't any right to engage on the subject of what the oppressed can and cannot do in their fight against them. In most respects, this is a hard idea to argue against - well, it is as a straight white western middle-class man - but there are two major issues here.   The first is the issue of intersection; I'm uncomfortable with the idea of white men proposing a system of thought that essentially says white women and black men, say, have no right to mention the effect their respective battles might have upon each other.  The second, which is the one relevant to this issue of ALF, is this: who gets to define what constitutes oppressed in any case?

Because it quite simply cannot be the decision by someone to announce themselves oppressed.  If that were the case, we'd have to include vast swathes of the US Republican Party and Nigel Farage.  Despite being one of those elite liberals sitting in my ivory tower with no idea about the real world, I have absolutely no problem expressing exactly how much those guys can go fuck themselves.  My purpose here is obviously not to equate right wing shouty white guys with the genuinely oppressed.  It's just to point out the limits of a maximalist approach to people on either side of a dividing line  without any ability to determine whether that line should be drawn. Put another way, why should a white guy's decision as to who is legitimately oppressed carry any more weight than their suggestions as to how the oppressed should behave.

None of this, I feel confident in predicting, would have come up at the trial of Northstar.  As Graham has pointed out, the entire basis of the X-books would seem to be straight white guys writing stories about how the oppressed shouldn't get too far out of line.  Any dissection that Byrne got around to on the subject would almost certainly be enraging beyond words.

Still, it would have been an interesting form of enraging.  Sadly, we'll never get to find out, because proceedings are interrupted when Talisman discovers Caliber has broken out of jail - and is busy trading blows with James Hudson...

Up From Lazarus' Box

So Guardian is back.  Walter Langkowski makes a quip about this being the sort of thing that only happens in comic books, but looking back over the X-books in particular it's interesting how free they are of hero recycling. Once you filter out the kind of immediate resurrection Claremont specialises in (see Grey, Jean or New Mutants, all of the), there's really only Xavier in the '60s to point toward.

So give Byrne credit, he does a fairly good job of lampooning the practice before it even solidified into a cliche. Well, I think he's lampooning it. It can be hard to tell with Byrne which of the excesses are ironic and which are meant to be taken literally. I mean, I assume the idea that Hudson escaped death by using the explosion that apparently killed him as a gate into the space-time continuum allowing him to escape to C 8000 BC Ganymede and befriend the floating jellyfish/Cthulhu beings that live there so they could rebuild him as a cyborg and put him in suspended animation until he could hop into the rocket home - *deep breath* - is supposed to be obviously over the top. Certainly the fact that the story proves to be utter bollocks in a few issues suggests that.

Even so, though, the idea of intelligent jellied invertebrates carrying on in the orbit of Jupiter actually sounds a good deal more interesting than Heather's tearful admission that her life does not exist beyond her husband. Which is the main problem here, actually.  Before the reveal about what's really going on with Mac, his story seems more interesting than the one Byrne is focused on.  After it, you've just got six pages of lies and another round of Caliber getting beaten up.

Still, for all that I've already lamented the fact that another car-crash issue of Alpha Flight would give me something to talk at length about, I suppose any issue that's no more than mildly uninteresting should count as a win at this point.


This story takes place over a single day. There's no indication of how soon it takes place after Alpha's return from the alternate dimension where Snowbird finally achieved her goal.  From Walter's dialogue about the difficulty in adjusting to a metal body, it can't be all that long - there's also the matter of how long Aurora was willing to sit on her info about her brother, but then she's already been doing that for a little while, so who knows. 

Given how far behind this series is to its cousins, I want to move things forwards quickly; I think a fortnight from the destruction of Walter's body isn't utterly unreasonable, so that's what I'll go for.


Thursday 24th May 1984.



Contemporary Events

It's a busy day for a certain subset of geek interests, as Sarah Hagan is born (she will go on to play potential Slayer Amanda in the final season of Buffy) and Vince McMahon, Sr., founder of the wrestling federation that would eventually become first the WWF and then the WWE, passes away aged 69.

Standout Line

"Ah-ha! The dread "harmless boulder lying around minding its own business!" Have at you!!"

Walter Langkowski decides not to let his new status as a ghost in the machine bother him.  Right up until Aurora tells him she's not sure she can love him any more, that is. How fortunate that Bochs has overheard and explained how Aurora clearly can't love someone who isn't doing her on a regular basis.

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