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Sep 13

Old Man Logan #46-47 – “Northern Flight”

Posted on Thursday, September 13, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Old Man Logan is, let’s be blunt, patchy.  The previous arc, with Bullseye, got by pretty well on its energy.  This two-parter, with Alpha Flight, just seems to be marking time as it waits for the series to end.

After a pleasingly understated (and beautifully coloured) opening page of a meteor crashing off the coast of Nova Scotia, we establish that some tentacled monster thing is taking over other animals and crawling its way onto the shore in the little town of Shag Habour.  Shag Harbour is a real place, by the way – you’re hardly going to make up a name like that.  It’s best known for a supposed UFO crash in 1967, which is presumably what Ed Brisson is referencing here – but since our meteor landed a month ago, it’s basically an easter egg.

Logan is in the area to meet up with Alpha Flight.  Again, artist Damian Couceiro does a solid job with these opening pages.  He’s in the minority camp of artists whose Logan actually looks old, and there’s plenty of scene-setting detail in his petrol station.  At the same time, his Alpha Flight vehicle and his other tech is inventive enough to avoid looking like a stock element.  I like this guy.

Quite what Alpha Flight are doing flying around Canada, in a line-up comprised of Guardian, Puck, Snowbird and Shaman, when they’ve been hooked up with Captain Marvel in outer space in a completing different line-up for years, is, um, unclear.  It gets handwaved aside in a panel (“it’s a little complicated”), but it does seem a bit odd to just treat them as if they’re still a regularly-established Canadian team.

To further the wider plot, Logan wants a second opinion from Shaman on his health.  Shaman confirms that, despite the fact it’s supposed to be completely indestructible, Logan’s adamantium is “breaking down” and it’s going to poison him.  And he’s too weak to survive having all the adamantium removed, so he’s going to die.  Shaman gives Logan a speech about the importance of finding his way back to his own home, so that “when the time comes, your spirit can find its way to where it belongs”.   Presumably we’re meant to take that as Shaman’s personal beliefs, because if we take it literally it has some awkward implications for Rachel and Bishop.

Anyway, Logan tags along as Alpha Flight investigate Shag Harbour, which is overrun with some sort of plant growth stuff from the monster.  Somewhat awkwardly, the one part of this story that doesn’t quite work, visually, is the central monster – there’s a nice sense of this stuff sprawling over an abandoned town, but the texture is more meaty than the vines described in the dialogue, and the bright purple colouring undercuts the sense of it as alive.  Still, the first part is not bad at all when it comes to building the tension and the atmosphere.

Part two, though, is mostly Logan and Alpha Flight fighting a giant tentacle/vine monster for the better part of an issue, and that’s not so great.  The big twist is meant to be Shaman briefly connecting with the monster and learning that it got picked up by aliens who attacked its home world, and it’s just trying to defend itself.  But it’s still a giant be-tentacled space monster with a capacity for pain but no real intelligence, so they just kill it anyway, with “rabid dog” levels of appropriate regret.

And as an A-plot, that’s really not much.  The first issue has plenty of promising build, but the second issue doesn’t follow through on that promise, settling into a fairly mundane monster of the week affair.  Now, there’s a little speech in the coda which tries to tie this back to the wider themes of the series.  “That thing found itself on a strange world and did what any of us would do to survive.  It fought…  Just projecting some of myself onto that damn thing, I guess.”  But that doesn’t really work, does it?

Logan is a man from a different world, but it’s not one especially different from ours (they quite probably share a common past).  And aside from a bit of disorientation in the very early issues, he hasn’t been a danger to those around him through a misguided sense of self-preservation.  If he wants to go home to his own timeline, it’s because of a desire for closure.  So apart from the bit about not being from around here, Logan’s situation is about as unlike the space plant monster’s as you could get, I’d say.

So the main plot turns out not so great, and its attempted link to the B-plot falls flat.  We’re left with a very skippable two-parter.  Which is a pity, since the first issue really did show some promise.

Bring on the comments

  1. Brian says:

    Speaking of “common past,” one of the problems that keeps taking me out of this series is how they seem to act as if OML’s past is the same as this present, when it was established when he ‘arrived’ that it had (sensibly, per the continuity of the original Millar story) already diverged from a common point and he was torn between seeing parallels to his future and finding comfort in events and changes that didn’t match what he knew. Coupled with the “our Wolverine but with gray hair,” it really does make for a series that acts as little more than a stunt double for the ‘real’ thing.

  2. Thom H. says:

    Between this story, Captain Marvel, Champions, and the Immortal Hulk, Alpha Flight is having quite a little renaissance lately. I love those characters, and I’m glad to see them popping up here and there.

    Unfortunately, I don’t get the sense that writers have a good idea of what to do with them. In this story, for instance, there seemed to be one too many team members on the mission. Shaman had to come up with a couple of different reasons why his powers wouldn’t work — maybe he wasn’t the best choice to include here?

    Or maybe AF only work as back-up characters, giving us all a little shot of nostalgia before we move on to something more substantial? John Byrne did say something similar back in the day.

    Also, I can’t pass up the opportunity to comment on adamantium’s “half-life.” It’s been radioactive this whole time?

  3. Taibak says:

    Oddly enough, Guardian, Puck, Northstar, and Aurora seem to work quite well supporting *other* characters so Byrne may well have been right.

  4. Jerry Ray says:

    I mean, I’ve always hated everything about Alpha Flight’s involvement with Captain Marvel. Just one more set of “man, that’s terrible” things to add to the list of criticisms of everything about Captain Marvel over the last few years.

    Naming the space station “Alpha Flight Space Station” is a) a terrible name, b) a lame acronym, and c) an out-of-nowhere, out-of-context use of a Canadian super hero program’s name for a U.S./SHIELD/international/who knows? “guard the planet” initiative.

    Sticking a dwarf and a giant monster/scientist/football player in space suits and having them pilot starfighters is incredibly dumb. (Aurora almost makes sense, if her speed powers also include super reflexes.)

    Basically, anything that ignores/undoes/retcons Alpha Flight’s involvement with Captain Marvel is just fine by me.

  5. Moo says:

    I’m Canadian and I’ve always found Alpha Flight to be embarrassing. A character based on a hockey puck for Christ’s sake. Thanks a lot, Byrne.

  6. ASV says:

    Out of nowhere is really the biggest problem with it. There’s no reason you couldn’t develop the story of how Alpha Flight got reorganized into Canada’s contribution to some international initiative to replace SWORD. Just saying, “Hey, Alpha Flight’s in space now” is dumb. But Marvel doesn’t do transitions between status quos (statuses quo?) anymore.

  7. Brian says:

    @Jerry Ray

    I suspect that the origin of the use of Alpha Flight with Captain Marvel still has to do with either a pun-take on dual meanings of the word Flight or the writers simply not realizing the multiple meanings of the word Flight. Either way, I agree that the characters do t work there.

    (The third option, having read the last volume, is that the writers wanted an excuse to include fawning shirtless scenes of Justin Trudeau as a counterpart to US leaders, so they stuck Canadian heroes in the book)

  8. RonnieGardocki says:

    It feels like Captain Marvel is just marking time until the movie comes out and the comics know what to take from it. Because on the list of ways to improve a property’s popularity, I can’t imagine “add Alpha Flight” is high up there.

  9. Voord 99 says:

    Reading Captain Marvel does give me some sense that there is an element of positive affection to the inclusion of those particular Alpha Flight characters — well, Sasquatch and Puck anyway.

    But even though I end up feeling that the writer kind of likes them, it still feels a little off to take characters so strongly defined as Canadian!!! and make them so overtly there to support a character who’s become so strongly defined as an American military* figure.

    *Which is a thing I don’t like, that we’ve all erased the Carol Danvers who was a feminist magazine editor and writer. (OK, the 70s version of a feminist written by men who were at most well-meaning, but open to being updated.) For that matter, even sticking with a Carol Danvers who’s defined entirely by a former military career, she’s become defined entirely as a former fighter pilot and lost any connection to military intelligence. I don’t mind that we’ve forgotten about the alcoholism, though.

  10. Si says:

    Mainly I’m just glad she’s not fighting crime in a damn G string any more. If her cool military uniform means we forget about who she was in her mud wrestling outfit, then so be it.

  11. Voord 99 says:

    Oh, I agree with that. But I don’t think the new costume is particularly “military.” (Well, it alludes to the classic Kree “military” outfits from the old Captain Marvel, but that doesn’t count.)

    In fact, one of the things that I think is so brilliant about Jamie McKelvie’s design is that it seems like a classic superhero costume that could have been around since the ‘60s and yet seems completely fresh at the same time.

  12. Chris says:

    I miss the old Jim Mooney Dave Cockrum Ms Marvel costumes and the rest of you are wrong.

    And sadly Jerry Ray, at least according to Byrne and the first 12 issues of his original ALPHA FLIGHT series Northstar and Aurora explicitly lack superhuman reflexes to go with their speed…

  13. Moo says:

    Completely off-topic sorry, but I have an important irony alert for those unaware:

    The actress who played Blink has vanished!

    https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/14/asia/fan-bingbing-china-celebrity-intl/index.html

  14. wwk5d says:

    I didn’t mind the Cockrum costume.

  15. Thom H. says:

    I heard about Fan Bingbing’s disappearance a while ago, and it’s incredibly upsetting.

    She’s obviously not the first citizen the Chinese government has abused, but hopefully Fan’s popularity will bring their practices more into the light than before.

    I feel for her and her family.

  16. Si says:

    To be fair, the black lightning bolt costume is oaky, in a 70s kind of aesthetic. What looked bad was when in the 90s and 00s it kept shrinking.

  17. Brian says:

    The Cockrum costume was an awesome design, even if I understand why it’s not still being used. I’d love to see a variation of it return for some related character (although I could see them add legs to it — much like Dazzler’s old costume, it’s the bare shoulder design that’s actually become fashionable again and ends up feeling classic in a Silver/Bronze Age style).

  18. Nu-D says:

    “ I’d love to see a variation of it return for some related character (although I could see them add legs to it)”

    You mean like the new Ms. Marvel? She’s done really well in Carol’s lightening bolt with covered legs (and arms).

  19. wwk5d says:

    “What looked bad was when in the 90s and 00s it kept shrinking.”

    I think it also depends on the artist. During the Busiek/Perez Avengers run, Perez was able to make her look good in the outfit without making her look too trashy. But Perez is usually good at that.

  20. Anya says:

    I think the Super Hero Squad Carol had the lightning bolt costume with pants.

  21. Chris says:

    “you know what this costume needs? Pants”

    I’m voting you people off my island…

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