When I was a teenager, there was one comic book I wasn’t allowed to read. I assumed it must be because it was the darkest, most disturbing, perverted comic book in existence. It was about Canadians, and it was called Alpha Flight. I recently got my hands on a single copy of this perverted orgy of sin, and it was the most polite orgy of sin I’ve ever experienced.
Alpha Flight is both as Canadian and as disturbing as I expected. It’s as Canadian as Wolverine and as confusing and violent as Wolverine using a machine gun even though there are weapons built directly into his body, and he can’t die.
So, it turns out I was not allowed to read Alpha Flight because it is the one comic book my mom likes, and she did not want me touching her precious Alpha Flights. I checked, and she is aware that other superhero teams exist but cares for them not at all. “You can shove your X-Men right up your ass. Alpha Flight is the only team for me!” is a direct quote from my Mom, probably at some point.
My Dad has a large comic book collection he’s now passing down to me with some really cool, rare comics in there. My Mom still will not let me touch the Alpha Flights. She doesn’t trust my sticky 33-year-old hands. I mercilessly teased her about this until she relinquished one Alpha Flight, her least favorite, and she didn’t want it back after I infected it with my cooties. This is what I learned from my single Alpha Flight. The story opens with extremely French Canadian twins Jean-Paul and Jeanne-Marie apologizing to each other a lot.
Wait, no, I need to go back. It actually starts with Jeanne-Marie showing up at her brother’s place in the middle of the night in a bikini under a beefy title reading “Stan Lee presents: RUB-OUT!” It’s what’s known in Stan Lee’s imagination as a “Canadian Jackpot.”
Jeanne-Marie’s half-nudity and confusion can be explained by her dissociative identity disorder, and her haircut can be explained by 1983. But like with all mutants, there is a lot of backstory we can’t get into. As quick as possible, Jean-Paul doesn’t get along as well with Jeanne-Marie’s superhero Persona, Aurora, so instead of calling her Alpha Flight teammates and letting them know she’s okay (naked and disoriented on a couch with her brother), he decides to keep her for a bit and let them wonder if maybe she died. You know, like a fun sister prank.
For a guy whose look says “I make toys for Santa but also fuck my sister,” Jean-Paul seems weirdly concerned about Jeanne-Marie’s haircut. Maybe? He wonders why she would “pick a hairstyle her superhero persona could make no use of,” which is kind of what I’m talking about with mutants. That’s madness. Far too much to unpack or make sense of, and we won’t try. Then suddenly, Jean-Paul is like, “you know what would be a great place to take this woman in the thick of a mental breakdown? Someplace calm and relaxing with no loud sounds or sinister connotations. Ah, I know! She needs to go to THE CIRCUS.”
It’s only been twelve hours. Jean-Paul barely let her take a nap and shower, and then he took her to a circus where he knew there was danger. He took her to a danger circus instead of to her home, or a doctor. Don’t worry; it’s not that big of a deal, though. They do a little investigating and quickly discover that the danger circus just turns out to be also full of terrorists.
These are not mutant terrorists, so it should be fine. You would think that two superheroes would be able to take down a bunch of regular terrorists easily, but it turns out Northstar’s one weakness is being indoors. People give Aquaman shit about being useless on land, but this comic makes kind of a good point about speedsters. In a circus trailer, it’s pretty difficult to use run-fast powers, but I would hope he would be able to defeat Bones, a tube sock man whose superpower seems to be malnutrition?
The terrorist cell is headed by Pink Pearl, who is not, in fact, as nice a lady as the cover suggests. She’s from a weird time in Marvel comics history where they thought being fat was a superpower. She’s not a mutant or an inhuman or an alien, she’s just a big lady, and according to this comic book, she can withstand being stabbed in the heart because “all her fat cushioned her from a killing blow.” Yikes, Marvel. She also defeats Jeanne-Marie by simply stuffing Jeanne-Marie’s head into her tits and holding her there until she passes out. This is also how I’ve requested to be put to death should all of the terrible things I’ve done ever come to light. Do you hear me, Future? I choose to die by titties!
It’s worth mentioning how she also makes it kind of motherly? Sexual? It’s hard to understand what motivates her, but she delivers the titty choke with the confidence of a woman who has bosom-killed at least a few people before this.
I don’t know why Marvel decided not to give Pink Pearl any superpowers. At least The Blob, the original super-powered fat person, had skin that couldn’t be penetrated by bullets and a whole deal where he could affect gravity somehow? Basically, nothing moved him and they figured out the rules backwards from that. Yet, when he lost his powers, only the fat in his body disappeared, which means that was the source of his abilities, right? Do we have a clip?
Yikes. Anyway, I’m sure the pitch for Pink Pearl was Lady The Blob, and then they forgot to give her blob powers. Whoever at Marvel was supposed to develop a superpower for Pink Pearl took the day off, and nobody noticed or cared. Luckily, that doesn’t matter! Even without powers, Pink Pearl defeats two A-List members of Alpha Flight very quickly, via indoors and titty.
She reveals that she’s taken over the circus from Jean-Paul’s friend Clementine by injuring the performers and slowly replacing them with members of her terrorist cell in order to use the circus as a cover to get close to an ordinary old farmhouse which is actually a cover for a very very very special old farmhouse. It’s what Stan Lee’s imagination calls “A Canadian Plot.”
They could have made this something cool like a secret lab or a portal to the dimension where Alpha Flight is cool. No, it’s still very much a farmhouse, but it’s a farmhouse that has been chosen as the location for a meeting between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Canada. Pearl’s elaborate plan keeps the circus close to the farmhouse so they can blow up the entire circus with a bomb large enough to affect a three mile radius and take out the farmhouse as well. She hopes the explosion will be blamed on Clementine, because she is a former militant Quebec separatist. It’s both very focused and outrageously sloppy– the kind of plan you’d come up with if your superpower was eating six thousand chili dogs.
And she would have gotten away with it too if she hadn’t made the mistake of moving Jean-Paul to a second, larger location for no reason at all where his powers are now relevant. His sister switches back into her Aurora persona and suddenly takes control of the situation, reminding Jean-Paul that he can now use his speed powers and remembering she, herself, can fly. It’s worth saying again how these are two X-Men-trained supersoldiers with amazing abilities dealing with two people any doctor would call “soon unable to walk if they don’t drastically change their diet.”
Even though everyone who has superpowers now remembers that’s the case and they can use them, they still don’t defeat Pink Pearl themselves. She captures Aurora out of the air, and her sidekick Bones is about to stab her when Clementine jostles him slightly, sending the knife toward Pearl. In the end, it was not following circus safety protocols put in place for a reason that caused Pearl’s demise. Remember, kids, always throw knives at the right people.
I have to respect the writing on this comic. Clementine yells “NO!” Bones replies “NO!” Pink Pearl yells “NO!” Shakespeare wept. And I think it’s worth taking another look at the font choice for Pearl’s last word.
When you’re so chubby your words form sausages, that’s art. Of course, I ruined the ending for you at the beginning. This is the issue of Alpha Flight that tells you it’s okay to stab fat people directly in the heart. “All her fat seems to have cushioned her from a killing blow.”
Pearl survives the encounter and goes on to fight Captain America as a member of a group called the Femizons. Eventually, she retires from the terrorist life in the most glamorous way possible by running a male strip club. So, yeah, overall, I think I love her? But also, maybe not the best idea to tell children that fat people are indestructible monsters like werewolves or vampires?
The story ends with Aurora revealing that she has figured out Clementine and Jean-Paul knew each other because he was also a member of her militant Quebec separatist group in the past. Aurora is appalled by this and only this, not the fact that he dragged her to the terror circus while she was in the middle of a mental health crisis. Maybe my mom was right to keep this comic away from me.