Archive for January, 2011

Northstar and Jeffries in Heroic Age: X-Men #1

January 31, 2011

Heroic Age: X-Men #1
Feb 2011

The third and final installment of the Heroic Age handbook trilogy is completely dedicated to X-Men, their allies, enemies and other X-stuff. Like previous issues (Heroes and Villians) in this series, entries are three to a page and written from the point of view of Captain America, who has recently taken over as the big boss of all super-heroes. The X-Men had such a marginal involvement with the overall Heroic Age meta-arc, keeping to themselves while busy with Necrosha, Second Coming, etc., that an entire book about them with “Heroic Age” on the cover does seem odd, especially when so many X-Men were covered in the Heroic Age: Heroes issue.

Remember that both Aurora and Northstar had entries in that book while Jeffries was omitted. At the time, I found this quite odd until OHOTMU writer Michael Hoskin dropped by to leave a comment on the post indicating that Jeffries would be included in this issue.

The entries consist of a fairly large illustration, most of which are taken from recent cover art, followed by Cap’s assessment of the character, and closed with a quote by the character. There are no power grids nor rankings.

The 64-page book is nicely organized into several sections, with Northstar’s entry in the main “X-Men” portion. The entry is brand new, with a different illustration and different text from the other entry in the Heroes issue. I was expecting a word-for-word reprint, so this was a real surprise. The illustration in this entry is taken from Dustin Weaver’s cover art from Nation X #2, and, like the entry from the Heroes issue, Cap openly identifies Northstar’s sexual orientation as gay. The quote used is “Kiss my Quebecois butt” which I believe ought to be Québécois, a throw-away line from Uncanny X-Men #508 uttered jokingly to Kyle during the Team Northstar Extreme Snowsports event.

Jeffries’ entry is in the section, “Mutant Community” which also includes fellow X-Club members Drs. Rao and Nemesis. The illustration is taken from interior art from Uncanny X-Men #529 (art by Whilce Portacio), with some an unfortunately unflattering words. Cap calls Jeffries, “mentally damaged” with a “(somewhat) tenuous grasp on sanity”, a grossly inaccurate description. A small number of writers, in a few scenes, made him out to be distracted, and all of a sudden he’s mentally damaged? Like when he destroyed a Sentinel in one blast with a lightning cannon made from a Model T? Like when he raised Utopia with machines made from his mind? Like when he constructed a liminal dimension barrier to protect Utopia from Emplate? Like when he singlehandedly defeated a gigantic vampire creature by crushing him to death from within? Like when he re-calibrated Cerebra to detect vampires? These are incredible feats of brilliance, courage, creativity and all around awesomeness performed by a heroic character who is mentally healthy and has a damn good grip on reality, and this assessment is just completely wrong. What a shame. At least the quote for his entry is cleanly appropriate,

I can create. That’s my gift. I can make anything I can imagine. Out of metal. Glass. You name it.

This is taken from a longer monologue in Nation X #3 where he guiltily comes to terms with Diamond Lil’s death.

Some other curious Alpha Flight related points come up in other entries:

  • In the main, full page entry for X-Men, Cap mentions,

    At the present, the X-Men are organized into a number of loosely-identified squads, with Dazzler and Northstar overseeing most of the group’s activities in San Francisco….

    This is likely not a reference to the de facto team formed during the Quarantine story arc, which consists of Angel, Storm, Northstar, Dazzler and Pixie, with Angel as the team leader. More likely it’s an observation from a few scenes with Dazzler and Northstar doing typical superhero stuff in recent issues, likely Uncanny X-Men #’s 522 and #528.

  • In Teon Savko’s entry (who? – he’s the feral Russian beastlike mutant from the Five Lights), Cap mentions Wild Child. He mentions the possibility of helping the kid out, and specifically recalls,

    I know Valerie Cooper had some luck deprogramming Wild Child.

    This likely refers to the events in flashback (Kyle’s origin as told by Val Cooper) in X-Factor #142 when she connected with him as a troubled youth before he got all Wild-Childy. This is a nicely detailed reference to an obscure origin story from a long time ago, and I’m glad it was suggested this way in Teon’s entry, as the similarity between Teon and Wild Child ought not go unmentioned.

  • In Laurie Tromette’s entry (who? – she’s the naked Canadian blue girl from the Five Lights), Captain America makes an absolutely charming reference to the events of Uncanny X-Men #’s 109 and #120-1, the very debut of Alpha Flight, who were originally written as X-Men adversaries. He says,

    CSIS has sent polite inquiries to me regarding her status; no doubt they’re still smarting over the depleted ranks of Alpha Flight. I’ll send a reminder to Scott to see that the X-Men stay on friendly terms with the Canadian government – there’s no need to repeat their unfortunate altercations after Wolverine joined the team.

    He is of course referring to Weapon Alpha’s failed attempt to capture Logan and the full Alpha Flight team’s battle with the X-Men to do the same in Calgary. Remember that Captain America was one of the world’s most famous super heroes (in both the nascent Marvel Universe and in popular culture) for some thirty plus years before Alpha Flight even came into existence, so for him to appear worried about events from 1978 (and over four hundred issues of Uncanny ago) isn’t all that strange – in fact, it’s a timeless in-character thing for him to say and I congratulate the authors for the sublime mapping of Captain America’s persona.

  • Jeffries is not quite so clever as he thinks

    January 29, 2011

    X-Men #6
    Feb 2011

    The vampiric storyline Curse of the Mutants comes to its conclusion in this issue. Dracula, having been resurrected in issue #3, delivers the final blow to Xarus and, after a tense stand-off with Cyclops, ends the vampire threat. Mister Jeffries appears in a single panel cameo as a regular member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in issue #505.

    The stand-off centers around Dracula’s position immediately after defeating Xarus: he’s got a vampire army on Utopia’s doorstep, held back only by the slightest hint of a sense of honor generated after Cyclops defends him by taking out Blade during an attack with an optic blast. Cyclops gives Dracula something to think about: during the time that he had the vampire lord’s body and severed head in his possession, he claims to have implanted some sort of device, as depicted by a spikey gadget.

    Jeffries appears in a single panel showing the severed head, which is of course floating in a bubbling glass jar, the headless body, the spikey gadget (also floating in a bubbling glass jar) and the rest of the X-Club, as narrated by Cyclops:

    Your dismembered body was in my care for seventeen hours. That’s a long time. Especially for people as clever as Nemesis and Rao, who, you’ll remember, Trojan horsed Wolverine in on your son…”

    Victor Gischler meant to use “decapitated”, which means “head cut off”, not “dismembered”, which means “limbs cut off”, a clear error since one can see the body in that image and in other issues. It’s questionable whether or not Mister Jeffries ought to have been included in the list of clever X-Club members, as he’s been depicted in a wide range: as a brilliant scientist in some issues and a distracted bumbling redneck in others, and everywhere in between. In previous issues of this run, he’s been manning highly complex display terminals and talking fairly smart-ish but apparently, he’s not in the same league as Drs. Rao and Nemesis. The image is blue-toned to indicate a flashback to events taking place behind-the-scenes in issue #3, but it’s not known if these events ever actually took place or if Cyclops is bluffing.

    Note: there is a variant cover by Paco Medina, taken from one of the teaser “We are the X-Men” promo images released in April 2010.

    X-Men #6 – Paco Medina variant

    Northstar in Uncanny X-Men #531

    January 27, 2011

    Uncanny X-Men #531
    Feb 2011

    The “Quarantine” story arc continues in this issue as part two unfolds. The X-Men on Utopia are suffering from the HX-N1 virus, a mutant-only illness that causes power loss and, apparently, a lot of sweating. The quarantine strictly covers the X-Men’s island headquarters of Utopia, leaving only a small handful of mutants unaffected, including Northstar, who appears in two panels as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in issue #505.

    Northstar is one of the mutants organized by Angel into a de facto team also consisting of Storm, Pixie and Northstar’s new BFF, Dazzler. The team intersects with two ongoing plot threads that had been isolated up until this point:

    First, they show up at a scene of destruction in San Francisco caused by an impostor team of X-Men. Angel calls into base, reporting that they got there as fast as they could, to which Northstar responds, “Ahem.” It’s his only line in the entire comic and is just so perfectly arrogant while also introducing him as a superspeedster in the caption above. It’s a quick little bit of characterization by writers Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen. Wait, who? Yes, Fraction is phasing out of Uncanny as Gillen phases in, a somewhat welcome change to the creative team.

    Second, the de facto team is sent by Cyclops to intercept The Collective Man, an old, old Alpha Flight baddie that Sasquatch fought one-on-one (and lost!) in the Contest of Champions series from 1982. After ignoring Pixie’s request to stand down, the de facto team swarms in, as depicted in a Storm-centric splash page, with Northstar flying alongside. Greg Land traces him in a pose he typically uses for flying characters, seen from an aspect that obscures the character’s legs, and without the circumscribed “X” on his costume.

    Note: Dazzler’s butt does not appear in this issue.

    Sasquatch and Northstar trade rumors: fact or fiction?

    January 24, 2011

    When Disney bought Marvel in the summer of 2009, a slew of superhero/cartoon mashup images flooded the Internet. Popular images at the time were “Spidey with Mickey Mouse ears” or “Mickey Mouse in a Spidey costume”, those sorts of things. Well, after everyone had their fun, it turned out this was nothing but hype and hysteria. Or was it?

    Since then, a few official mashups between Marvel characters and Disney properties have surfaced – but as truth is stranger than fiction, we didn’t get Donald Duck wearing an Iron Man suit as predicted. Instead we got Tron variant covers to promote Tron: Legacy, (one of which is an Alpha Flight appearance) and the ESPN NBA preview for 2010-2011. For those of you keeping score (get it? Haha I love FUNday posts!), ESPN is four-fifths owned by ABC, which is an indirect subsidiary of Disney.

    ESPN The Magazine
    Nov 1, 2010

    Published biweekly since March 1998, ESPN The Magazine is one of the top magazine publications out there, ranked 35th with a current (latest data from 2009) circulation of approximately 2 million subscribers, making this one of the most widespread appearances of Alpha Flight, ever. The magazine in its current format is 10×12 inches (the same size as Life magazines) and carries no issue number, just a cover date. Extrapolating from its inception date, this issue would be approximately the 331st regularly published issue, being briefly available on the newsstands from October 22 to November 5th, 2010.

    The NBA Preview [for the 2010-2011 season] in this issue consisted of a short article, followed by a series of thirty variant cover images based on both current events in the NBA and Marvel characters. ESPN went out of their way to make all of the artwork freely available to anyone who wanted to use it – and why not? Disney was just moving money from one bottomless pocket to another to create these images, anyway. The project is explained by the introductory text to the article:

    When the Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN, bought Marvel Entertainment last year, our reaction was quick: “Sweet!” Not because we thought we’d be invited to the opening of “Iron Man 2.” (Didn’t happen.) We just realized that now we could e-mail the guys who draw Spider-Man, The Hulk and Captain America and put a whole new spin on the idea of synergy — which is exactly what we did. Result? A pairing of Marvel’s ability to create iconic images with our season preview of the NBA, the league that trumps all others in producing larger-than-life superstars. Together, we developed concepts for all 30 NBA teams, which Marvel’s artists then turned into “variant covers.” Combined with the rest of our 2010-11 outlook, it’s a spectacle we think you won’t want to miss.

    And if that’s not enough of an explanation, ESPN, in their maniacal style of media frenzy, also produced a “making of” video for those who still couldn’t wrap their minds around it or preferred to watch a clip on the Internet to explain why a printed sports magazine was doing something with comic books.

    Some of the variant covers were based directly on classic Marvel covers and other Marvel images and really hit the mark, and others, well, were more difficult to conceptualize.  Falling into the latter category, the Toronto Raptors, who ESPN predicted would finish second to last in the Eastern Division (and at the time of this blog post are in a tie for second to last place in their division, coincidentally), naturally picked up the font of the Alpha Flight logo from v3, along with Alpha Flight jocks Sasquatch and Northstar, courtesy of Marvel cover artist John Christopher Tyler.

    The accompanying unflattering caption explains what you’re looking at:

    WHO ARE THESE GUYS?

    Alpha Flight is a team of obscure superheroes from Canada. The same could be said of the Raptors– minus the superheroes part. Marvel figured the eight-foot Sasquatch and speedy Northstar (shown sporting a No. 96 jersey) could give Toronto a boost on D: The Raptors allowed a league-worst 119 points per 100 possessions with starters Andrea Bargnani (7) and Jose Calderon (8) on the floor. High-flying DeMar DeRozan (10) might be the team’s next star– which mans he’ll fly the coop as soon as he can.

    For those of you who didn’t memorize his OHOTMU entry, Sasquatch is ten feet tall, not eight as mentioned in the caption. In the cartoony background, a few of the more widely known Marvel characters gesticulate their unfamiliarity with the Alpha Flight heroes, which is also a glaring error, as of course all of them have met, notably Wolverine. Notice also that the members of the Raptors pictured are wearing Alpha Flight costumes – Andrea Bargnani in Guardian’s costume and DeMar DeRozan in Shaman’s.

    At first, you’re all, “obscure superheroes? OMG” and then you’re all, “what’s with the unfinished feet in that image? WTF” but then when you realize that Jose Calderon, at 6 foot 3 inches, is wearing Puck’s costume, you’re all “LOL”, which is what FUNday is all about!

    Alpha Flight cameo in Chaos War #4

    January 21, 2011

    Chaos War #4
    Feb 2011

    The Chaos War story consists of a five issue mini-series of the same title, along with eleven additional one shots, short series and a three issue cross-over with Incredible Hulks. Unlike other Marvel crossover events, it didn’t “take over” a number of ongoing series. It’s more of a continuation of the Hercules story that left off when Fred van Lente’s Incredible Hercules series ended with issue #141. A four-issue bridge series, Prince of Power, served as an ongoing monthly for the Hercules storyline until Chaos War started in late 2010. By the time this issue was published, the Chaos War storyline had already been very familiar to Alpha Flight fans, as the amazing Chaos War: Alpha Flight #1 one-shot issue, one of the eleven special issues mentioned above, preceded it. Alpha Flight appears in one panel in a cameo to unspecified events following that issue.

    After an intro page and a useful but awkward checklist page that could have been merged with the two endpaper pages of ads, a montage page shows four panels representing four of the Chaos War special issues that had been published around that time. The panel shown is not taken directly from the Alpha Flight one-shot, nor does it show any events from that issue, but depicts some aerial or cosmic battle between four Alphans and some Chaos Warriors, one of which seems to be taking a nasty swipe at Guardian. Sasquatch can be seen to his left, engaged in combat with a winged baddie, and Shaman can be seen just beneath, apparently adrift. Northstar can be seen just to the right of the caption. How Sasquatch is able to fly around in this seemingly ethereal space environment isn’t clear.

    The full text of Athena’s narration reads:

    The world’s greatest heroes battle to save existence itself… … and fail, falling thunderously… …before the might of your slaves.

    This sounds bad! Well, at least Alpha Flight is included in the elite group Athena refers to as “The world’s greatest heroes”, so much thanks to writer Fred van Lente for this little shout out, even though it looks like Guardian’s not having such a fun time.

    Scramble gets an Official Handbook entry! Finger not included.

    January 20, 2011

    Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update #5
    Feb 2011 (see note)

    Note: no month nor year of publication is indicated, with the exception of a copyright date of 2010. The issue was released on 12/15/10. Other issues released on that date carry a publication date of Feb 2011.

    The final issue of this five-issue series completes the update to the massive fourteen-issue A-Z Hardcover series from 2008-2010, filling in gaps and adding entries that didn’t make it in the first time. The issues run alphabetically within themselves but not across the series, so the writers may intersperse entries as they like without disrupting the order of entries. Scramble has a 1pg entry, and Box (Bochs) can be seen partially in the entry as well.

    Though Scramble was never a member of Alpha Flight, his close association with the team and relation to Madison Jeffries makes him eligible for the Alpha Flight Collector blog. In any case, Box (Bochs) appears in this issue, so the issue would have been included anyway.

    The 1pg entry is a particularly interesting event in that it’s one of just a few new entries in this series. Scramble had never before had an entry of any kind in any other OHOTMU book of any kind, so this is a real treat. The entry itself is a full account of Lionel Jeffries’ appearances throughout Mantlo’s run and contains some interesting new information – the names of the three Derangers not already identified have been given! Since Bill Mantlo is unavailable to consult in this situation, the names were made up by the entry’s author, who posts on alphaflight.net under the name Loki. Here is an excerpt of a much longer thread over there:

    AFC: How did you get this info? I thought they were a Mantlo creation… and he’s unavailable for this kind of thing.

    Loki: They are Mantlo creations, and yes, he is unavailable. We always prefer to go back to the original creators, but, in cases where that’s not an option, editorial can approve new information.

    AFC: So you just made them up and editorial approved it? I don’t see where you go the names from or what compelled you to generate names in this situation.

    Loki: Where creators are contactable, we try to always go to them to see if they’d like to fill in any missing details, or if they are okay with us doing so, or if they’d prefer to leave the details unrevealed for now. When that’s not an option, then the decision whether to provide names gets influenced by various factors, one of the biggest being whether there’s anyone else using the same codename – when two or more share a codename, having a real name for clarification purposes is helpful. There’s at least two other Breakdowns, and no less than five other Januses. And since that prompted the decision to name those two Derangers, we decided to identify Freakout too – while no one else shares that exact codename as of yet, it’s not such an unusual name that it’s unlikely to happen in the future.

    Where we got the names? That varies depending on who names them. In this case, I did, and I like to have a reason for the names I assign, rather than just randomly picking something that might not fit. I don’t normally explain those reasons, but since you asked: Janus is a disturbed artist, and his name is derived from an artist with mental issues (AFC: Willem Vincent is given) ; housewife Breakdown’s first name comes from a well-known fictional housewife and her surname from that housewife’s fictional husband (AFC: Esme Fernando); Heavy Metal rocker Freakout’s three part name is inspired by real world heavy metal rocker(s) (AFC: Arthur Amadeus Van Krijg). I’ll leave figuring out the exact inspirations to those who want to try.

    This is a fascinating look into some behind-the-scenes action with the OHOTMU writers and much thanks to Loki for divulging this info!

    The main illustration is a brand new image of Scramble drawn by Gus Vazquez, who has been busy cranking out new illustrations for the OHOTMU series books for a while now. The upper inset shows Omega, Scramble’s final form in an image taken from Alpha Flight #49, and the lower inset is a modified image of Lionel Jeffries. Note that in the original image, the opening splash page from Alpha Flight #46, Lionel is pondering how to transform Wanda back into Walter and has his thinking finger firmly planted on his mouth. The finger is completely removed from the new illustration! Note also that the figure behind Lionel is Box (Bochs), but only a portion of his chest and right shoulder can be seen.

    Original image from Alpha Flight #46 used for the inset above

    Though Alpha Flight Collector is thrilled to have the new entry (and a full page one at that!), and is fascinated by the new info about the Derangers, this is not what was expected. This issue closes out the modern run of OHOTMU issues that have been cranking out steadily since 2006 and a few Alpha Flight members and related characters STILL haven’t had an entry, nor an updated one for the modern format! Most notably:

    • Feedback, who never had an entry in any OHOTMU.
    • Stitch and Groundhog, the final two members of First Flight who strangely did not get entries despite the fact that St. Elmo did.
    • Ghost Girl, another notable omission, since all of her v2 teammates Flex, Radius, Murmur and Manbot all got entries.
    • Auric never had an entry, though his sister Silver did in the ’89 Update.
    • Mar, Ouija and Flinch, minor characters who also never got entries in any issue.

    Other non-powered characters such as Gary Cody, relatives of Alpha Flight members, and other associates could make this list even longer.

    For those of you keeping track of these sorts of things, the following characters have had entries in previous OHOTMU but not a modern-style entry, with their last entry indicated:

    • Box (Bochs) OHOTMU Deluxe Edition #2
    • Flashback OHOTMU Deluxe Edition #9
    • Pathway (as Laura Dean) OHOTMU ’89 Update #2
    • Goblyn OHOTMU ’89 Update #3
    • Manikin OHOTMU ’89 Update #4
    • Persuasion OHOTMU ’89 Update #5
    • Silver OHOTMU ’89 Update #7

    So the official count is that Alpha Flight fans are owed eight new entries and seven updated entries. Unfortunately, no new handbooks that would include these are expected in the near term, so the omission of any of these fifteen entries from this issue was rather disappointing. To be fair, it should be mentioned that all fifteen of these missing characters did appear in the montage illustrations for the large Alpha Flight team entry in the first issue of the OHOTMU A-Z Hardcover series.

    Puck leads an army of murdering badasses in Wolverine #4

    January 19, 2011

    Wolverine #4
    Feb 2011

    The “Wolverine goes to Hell” storyline, the first arc of the fourth Wolverine series, continues with part four in this issue, with Wolverine already in Hell since issue #1 and a ton of hellish stuff going on since, both down in Hell and up in the “real world” as his evil demonic twin rampages on Utopia. A few brief appearances by Puck in issues #2 and #3 set up another appearance in this issue.

    After last issue’s disappointing “words of encouragement” cameo, the action picks up quite a bit. As Wolverine is engaged in brutal one-on-one (or should I say sword-on-claws) combat with the Devil, Puck and the “old-timer” that we saw him talking to in issue #2 lay out their plans, which includes escape for Puck and Wolverine. During this exchange, Puck reveals that he has a clue that this old-timer isn’t who he claims to be, calling out his suspicions boldly, and I’m glad writer Jason Aaron didn’t play Puck for the fool, choosing instead to give him the wary smarts of a world traveler that we’d expect.

    After Logan wins the aforementioned combat, the Devil’s gigantic soul sword is up for grabs. Some minor demon picks it up and declares himself the Lord of Hell. This deserves a rock upside the head, of course, thrown by Puck, as he leads an army of murdering badasses against the swarming demons.

    Now, this is the kind of thing the reader was expecting after that determined look on his face in issue #2! It’s a great little sequence that seems just right for Puck and I really can’t think of anyone else from Logan’s past who could have pulled this off any better.

    In a scene from the “real world” after Demon Wolverine attacks the X-Men on Utopia, there is one panel that could be a possible appearance from Mister Jeffries. As Cecilia Reyes tends to Iceman and Dr. Kavita Rao tends to Angel, a figure dressed in what appears to be the same type of clothes worn by Jeffries stands behind Angel. Unfortunately, the figure is cut off by the top edge of the panel, so it’s not clear who it is. Since so few mutants dress in civilian clothes and it’s clearly not Dr. Nemesis, it’s suspected that it could be him.

    Note: this issue has a variant cover by Marko Djurdjevic, taken from a much larger Wolverine poster and a Tron variant by Brandon Peterson. For those of you keeping track of these sorts of things, Marvel’s parent company, Disney, released Tron: Legacy on December 17, 2010, and this variant was published in the same week on the 15th.

    Wolverine #4 – Djurdjevic variant
    Wolverine #4 – Tron variant

    Alphans appear in X-Men: Curse of the Mutants Spotlight

    January 6, 2011

    X-Men: Curse of the Mutants Spotlight
    Jan 2011

    Note: This issue is unnumbered. The Marvel Spotlight series, a promotional series featuring artists and events since 2005, has not been numbered, but unofficial numbering by fans was possible as issues were released. Since this issue does not even retain the title “Marvel Spotlight”, it is difficult to place it in any numbered sequence in that series.

    This oddly titled issue seems at first to be focused (like, oh I don’t know, a spotlight maybe?) on the vampiric Curse of the Mutants story line, with the event logo on the cover and reprinted elements from Paco Medina’s promotional poster for the event. However, once you open it, you’ll find it’s actually a spotlight on three simultaneous events from late 2010/early 2011: Curse of the Mutants, Shadowland and Chaos War. Alpha Flight appears in reprinted art from the Chaos War: Alpha Flight #1 cover.

    Despite the fact that Mister Jeffries and Northstar, both members of the X-Men during the Curse of the Mutants story line, appeared in several of the event’s issues, they do not appear in the Curse of the Mutants portion of the book at all.

    In the Chaos War portion of the book, a half-page interview with Jim McCann, writer of the Chaos War: Alpha Flight #1 one-shot, offers a saccharine but warmly loving account of the one-shot, which was released in the same week as this issue. Also included is a reproduction of the art from Salva Espin’s much criticized cover (note Northstar and Aurora’s reversed costumes, Northstar’s rounded ears, Shaman’s odd warpaint and Snowbird’s impossibly long cape). The interview by staff writer Dugan Trodglen can be seen in its entirety at Flightpath07’s blog: Canada’s Own – The Flight, along with a great review of the one-shot!

    Northstar and Dazzler Butt trifecta in play in Uncanny X-Men #530

    January 5, 2011

    Uncanny X-Men #530
    Jan 2011

    As the “Five Lights” story arc spun its way off into the Generation Hope series, a single page introduction from issue #529 has exploded into a new story line – “Quarantine”, which is a pick-up of a forgotten plot line from issue #521 when the mutant-sickening HX-N1 virus was released. Yes, another mutant virus – it’s only been about 10 years since the Legacy virus so the X-Men were due. Northstar appears as a regular member of the X-Men, having joined up in issue #508.

    As the mutant population on Utopia gets sicker and sicker from the virus, a few random X-Men who happen to be removed from the island at the time are assembled by Angel to form a de facto group, including Northstar. Readers might be reminded of the “Eve of Destruction” arc (2001) where Northstar was also recruited into an ad hoc team of X-Men, but this time it’s more of a random coincidence than a purposeful recruitment – he just happens to be out having brunch at Mama’s in San Francisco with his BFF, Dazzler.

    If the image of Northstar seems familiar, recall Greg Land’s tracing of Northstar from issue #508 and you’ll see an eerie similarity – he obviously traced the same image for this issue.

    After taking a call from Cyclops on his cell phone, Northstar changes from his civilian clothes into his costume (was it under his clothes?) and later joins up with Angel, Pixie and Dazzler, who also has changed, along with Storm, who makes an unnecessarily dramatic entrance. These five mutants comprise all of the X-Men outside of Utopia, er…, except for Emma, Kitty Pryde and Fantomex who are STILL kidnapping Sebastian Shaw, but they can be considered AWOL for all intents and purposes. In the scene where the de facto team joins up, a hunched over no-neck Northstar can be seen from behind:

    It’s hard to find him in that panel, but if you look hard, you can see him just to the left of Dazzler’s butt. Something about this is hauntingly familiar.

    Alpha Flight baddies in Heroic Age: Villains #1

    January 4, 2011

    Heroic Age: Villians #1
    Jan 2011

    The sequel to Heroic Age: Heroes #1 is naturally about the bad guys that make the heroes so heroic, so says Steve Rogers in the full page introduction to this files-type handbook. The format of the book is similar to the first book, with three entries per page presented as notecards, with a brief description of the baddies as written from the perspective of Steve Rogers’ personal opinion, followed by a suggested method of how to deal with them. Lacking from these entries is any type of power grid, replaced instead with a chart classifying the villains into their various plots and schemes. Witchfire has a 1/3 page entry and Zombie Guardian appears in the entry for the Zombie-verse.

    Far less trippy than the first book in the series, there is a particular emphasis on what to do with many of the villains. Here’s where the book is really at its most interesting because you get the full spectrum of tolerance all the way from suggesting rehabilitative psychiatric treatment, therapy and medication to outright life-long permanent incarceration under maximum security. It’s a nice touch that the writers didn’t just assume Cap would have a “one size fits all” remedy and instead thoughtfully approached each villian’s motivation and general state of mind. Of course the best suggestion is for the Orb, a villian with an actual giant eyeball for a head, an inscrutable biological configuration. After mentioning that “an irritated or injured eye can drive people crazy” in the text entry, Cap suggests:

    TREATMENT: Recommended long-term incarceration in a mental hospital and give him a special protection for his eyeball like a globe filled with artificial tear fluid.

    Witchfire’s entry has an inset taken from the Finch variant cover for X-Infernus #3, but with much of the swirly background removed and replaced with null space. Unfortunately, the background wasn’t cleanly removed from the foreground of the wispy tendrils of flame emanating from her awesome flamey-eyes, resulting in a splotchy appearance around the indistinct borders of the flame. Here is the same inset as taken from the original cover, which ought to have been used instead. Described as being “a deadly threat to all on Earth”, her suggested treatment is “Recommended containment at ARMOR facility”, but how she could be held there is not clear.

    The Zombie-verse entry has an inset taken from Ultimate Fantastic Four #23, with a tiny image of Zombie Guardian. Also seen in the inset are two very tiny flying figures that could be Zombie Northstar and Zombie Aurora. Even in the original comic, the figures are so extremely tiny that it’s impossible to be sure and the reproduction here is even smaller.

    In the entry for the Purple Man, Cap uses the limited space to make a quick mention of another Alpha Flight member, “the Canadian Hero Persuasion”, who is of course the Purple Man’s daughter. She isn’t shown but it was nice to have her mentioned in this well-researched entry.