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ALPHA FLIGHT #106: I AM GAY!!!! REVIEW
You've never known him to be THIS ugly.
It's common knowledge that I am an avid reader of comic books. Since writing reviews of current comics would be similar to writing articles for women on this website, I've decided that instead of long dissertations as to why Kyle Rayner's an inferior Green Lantern compared to John Stewart, to write reviews of really, really bad comic books. Everyone loves reading about someone tearing apart art of questionable quality. And what better questionable art but comic books?
The first of this semi-regular installment is an issue of Marvel's Alpha Flight. For those who don't know, Alpha Flight is Canada's premier superhero team. See, apparently the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, heck, even the Thunderbolts and New Warriors dislike Canada. They'll help out everyone else, even alien races, but not Canada. Have you ever seen Captain America or Vision help Canada out when the American army burnt down the city of York? I think not. Shit, not even Tigra or Ant-Man II help out Canada when they're being attacked by the Ranger or some other lameass third tier Daredevil villain.
That said, Alpha Flight was not without its charm. The team had a tiny mustached guy named Puck [no, not the dickweed from the Real World season with Judd Winick on it] and an unwilling transsexual as Sasquatch. Don't ask about the latter, it's just too creepy and confusing. But the most controversial character of the odd and obtuse was Northstar. You see, he was gay. It seemed obvious. He was French-Canadian, after all. Marvel never played up the fact that he was gay until 15 years after he was introduced. They were thinking about giving him AIDS, but nixed it at the last moment and decided it'd be revealed that he was half-fairy. Yeah. The best way to deflect the possible criticism of a gay character getting AIDS is to make him a literal fairy. Marvel, the company that once stated 'there are no homosexuals in the Marvel Universe', has a few obvious tolerance problems.
He did come out eventually, in one of the most asinine comics I've ever read. Writer Scott Lobdell seems to enjoy doing things in the most obvious way. It's logical from an uncreative hack's point of view. If Northstar were to come out, wouldn't he yell it at a villain in an overblown, pointless fight scene? It makes sense. What could've been one of the best comics of the dire 1990's turned out to be exactly why everyone hated the 90's: overbearing, obvious motive, obligatory fight scenes, and disproportionate, overmuscular, ugly art.
Once Marvel realized that they could get a lot of press by outing a previously established superhero, they quickly told Lobdell, "Lobdell! Make one of your characters gay! It'll gain us press, and no one will get pissed off 'cause no one cares about a member of Alpha Flight becoming gay!" And so, Alpha Flight #106 was born. 'Written by' Scott Lobdell is an overstatement. The basic storyline is that former 40's era superhero turned retiree [how he can be a hero in the 40's and still be alive 50 years later in health is a mystery that Lobdell never manages to solve] Major Mapleleaf -- I'm sorry. I have to pause for a moment to laugh at the dubious name. Honestly, do you see Doctor Doom named 'Gypsy Gadfly' and Magneto 'Star of David'? More proof that Canada is backwards. So, the Major of Leaves is angry that his gay son died of AIDS. During this tough time in the Major's life, he happens to see an HIV-addled baby embraced by the media, even adopted by Alpha Flighter Northstar. So, angry that his son died of AIDS and this baby didn't, he cuts a swath through downtown Canada until he finds that damn baby, so he can kill her. Makes total sense. Northstar won't have this, though. So they fight while yelling important sounding dialogue.
Get out of here while I kill a defenseless baby!
As they fight across the country, Northstar and Badly Named Man have a ham-fisted, preachy battle of words regarding AIDS and how a double standard is prevalent: gays are hated, yet babies born with HIV are media darlings. This might be an intriguing conversation had this been on a debate show and not on a rack next to X-Force and Iron Man in the local comic book store. It's obvious that a very special sitcom episode inadvertantly became combined with a comic book in some sort of freak accident, causing this monstrosity to live.
After one particular complaint Major Mapleleaf lobs ["Because he [his son] was gay, he didn't rate!"], Northstar makes his big speech. This doesn't interrupt the any of the poorly rendered action, OF COURSE.
"Do not presume to lecture me on the hardships homosexuals must bear."
After the big speech and Northstar's drubbing of the Major, they rush back to the hospital only to see the baby die in Northstar's arms. Mapleleaf reassures Jean-Paul, saying that his son Michael will watch over Northstar's 'daughter' in heaven. So the mentally unbalanced psycho of the last 10 pages is no more, just in time for a hug and a sitcom-y hack-out ending.
As stated before, Lobdell's writing is really, really BAD in this issue. The dialogue alone is atrocious. Who can take lines like these seriously?
The fact that every single character speaks in this forced, moralizing tone help show Scott Lobdell's abilities in making a landmark comic propaganda bullshit. It's a disservice to the comics reader and also to homosexuals, whose first gay superhero outed himself while bludgeoning a man who dresses like an oversized mountie.
Okay, everybody, together now: Aww....
From the art samples provided above, it's evident that art is unspeakably poor. Guest penciller Mark Pacella can't draw things like babies or faces correctly, which is a bad thing when you're in the business of drawing a comic about babies with faces and HIV.
It's not so much that Mr. Hyde lacks a face...it's that his face isn't really visible. Or human, for that matter.
Alpha Flight #106 fails on two levels - it fails in dealing with serious topics such as HIV and closeted homosexuality in a non-ludicrous way, as well as failing as a superhero story. The fights confuse even the most discerning reader and the art doesn't look like it's done by someone who's seen humans before. Marvel could've utilized the media attention to their favor if they didn't publish such a Public Service Announcement comic with ugly, ugly art.
After this comic's release, Northstar never really did anything of note and the Alpha Flight series itself lasted only 24 more issues. Northstar then joined the Uncanny X-Men with little to no fanfare, for it happened to be written by Chuck 'The Demon' Austen. Summarily, Northstar was then shuffled over to New X-Men [not Morrison's; the New Mutants replacement book] after an aborted infatuation with Iceman. Then Wolverine killed him meaninglessly. Seems like Marvel didn't know what to do with Northstar after outing him, doesn't it? And so the review closes with this warning: don't buy this unless you want a good laugh.
However, who can end a review about a comic book dealing with homosexuality without first showing at least one bigoted, homophobic letter?!
Yes, gays can't be Burns' heroes. He wants the world to be more open-minded, but a gay man saving HIM from a fire? That's a no fly zone, buddy!! I agree with rats experimenting on humans and dogs keeping us on chains, though. That'd be amusing, at least for a little while.
I...I don't even know the purpose of THIS pin up. Perhaps to show that gays can drink beer too?