Fred Van Lente was announced as the next celebrity guest on Where Monsters Dwell, so I was reminded again just how terrible Alpha Flight 0.1 was, and how it exemplifies exactly what's wrong with comics in 2011.
To recap, Van Lente and Greg Pak brought back Alpha Flight so that they could rumble with the Purple Girl. Now, the Purple Girl has the same power set her father does - she says it, you do it. You turn purple, and then you are compelled to do it. Fine. As superpowers go, this has all kinds of story potential, because you have folks doing stuff they don't want to do, it adds drama, yadda yadda yadda.
In Alpha Flight 0.1, (I feel stupid just typing "0.1", why don't they feel stupid publishing it?) Kara the Purple Girl tells a crowd of hapless Canadians to "be as one", at which point they literally band together in a giant anthropomorphic grab-ass golem and then stomp around the city in defiance of all good taste, common sense, and higher reason.
Now, before we go any further, I'm not suggesting the comic book superhero powers have to make perfect scientific sense. I don't need to know how Cyclops' ruby blasts work in real life. It's fine if somebody wants to add some real science to it, and talk about charged ions or whatever nonsense. Don't care. I've got enough suspension of disbelief to go with destructive energy blast out of the guy's eyes. He can't, however, suddenly shift gears and shoot delicious ruby crunch berries out of his face.
Because there's an internal logic inside of the larger fantasy that needs to be obeyed in order to fulfill the audience contract and allow the reader to invest in the world. Destructive eye beams out of the guy's face? Established, and check! There's still a certain amount of wiggle room inside of that, by the way.. The beams can get stronger or weaker, or maybe plastic is immune to them for some reason, and maybe the guy has a mental block and can't shoot them on Tuesdays, because that's when he accidentally killed his nephew with a stray blast.. These are all fantastical things, but they tend to squeak through the disbelief barrier because the basic rules still apply, and they still attempt an internal logic. (the plastic bit is stretching it, though)
Well in Alpha Flight, Kara tells people to do something they can't possibly do. In the first place, "be as one" is a little too vague to be functional as a command. Given that command, I would expect the result would simply be a dog pile. Not that impressive. Granted, several Canadians would be asphyxiated, so it would be worth it. But still not that impressive.
I understand the fantastical element where Kara compels people to want to obey, it's been established and fits into the internal logic. But that doesn't mean the laws of physics and common sense no longer apply. That's turning the Cyclops eye beam into crunch berries. There's no way those people would have the physical strength to bond together like that, the "musculature" wouldn't move, and there would be no central nervous system to tell the "musculature" to move. The whole thing is high magic WAY outside of the internal rules, and galactically stupid to boot. Giant purple mush of Canadians...that's the best you can do?
And that's the real problem I have with the whole thing. If you're going to break the audience contract and do some crazy ass shit, why waste that on a Grab Ass Golem? It threatens a few people, it's gone after a couple panels, and in the interim it's sucking your book into Lame Town at warp speed.
There's no payoff there. Granted, it takes a certain amount of imagination to create the concept of a mob man, but it's very surface imagination. A person who could tell other people to do things, regardless of how impossibly outlandish is capable of doing ANYTHING. Frankly, that person has the universe at their beck and call, and wouldn't bother with Canada or its D-list heroes.
If I had the Purple Girl with that ridiculous power set, here's what I'd do with her.
Step 1: Pharmaceutical Sex Goddess
First thing Kara does is command someone to drink this two liter of Pepsi and then piss out the cure for AIDS. Bam! That's a nice little patent to have, don't you think? She says it, they have to do it.
Next up - she then feeds a fat guy a whole bunch of colby jack cheese and Triscuits and commands him to crap out the cure for herpes. Oh yeah, baby! There's another cash cow if ever I heard one. Then she has some redneck spit the cure for syphilis into his dip jar, and has some 14 year-old girl menstruate the cure for hepatitis as she becomes a woman.
Kara Killgrave is now a gajillionaire and the most popular woman on planet earth, because now sex has no disease repercussions. "Hey world, the sex is on me! You can bang whoever want, however you want, whenever you want, because you're one pill away from the cure." Well, I might have her distill one of those cures into a purely suppository form just for the amusement factor. But still.
Step 2: Buy The Presidency Of The United States
With approval rating through the roof as the Sex Goddess, Kara now has the Q-score and the money to completely own the next US Presidential election. She is now running the show in the most diabolical manner possible, disbands the Avengers, buys out Stark International and turns them into a sour mash whiskey bottler, and laughs a lot.
Step 3: Auction Off The Returned Jesus Christ
This part is extra awesome. She fucks Justin Hartley and commands him to impregnate her with the returned Jesus Christ. Hartley shoots a purple immaculate load inside her, and then things get really interesting.
She's really got religion by the balls now, because she can tell Jesus to do anything, including ruin the next heavenly dispensation if she wants. That's not the plan, though. Her plan is to open up her divine child for auction to the highest bidder. Pretty sure the Catholics would put up a couple hundred trillion for that. It's officially referred to as an "adoption", but basically she just sold her kid to a church.
Then, before she sends little Jesus off to the Pope's house, she commands him to send the entire human race to hell except for her on his 30th birthday.. Tiny Jesus smiles in purple.
But they won't do anything like that with the book, because that might actually be interesting. Comics aren't interested in being interesting any more, they're interested in bringing back the same old shit that didn't sell the last four times they tried it, because they were writing stories without balls back then, too.
Seriously, what do you have to lose at this point? OK, maybe don't do the thing with Jesus, you'll get too many letters. But if you've got a character with that kind of ridiculous ability, why not flex just a little bit of imaginative muscle and show us something we haven't quite seen yet? I'd love to read an Alpha Flight book where the team had to deal with the Purple Girl described above. That would be different, and fun, and you'd look forward to Alpha coming out and you'd make a special trip to your local comic shop on Wednesday instead of popping in once a month for your pull.
People would be talking about that book in the shops, and there would be message board riots. We could use a riot or two right about now. I'm talking about a story that gets under people's skins and wakes them out their stupor, not a poly bag or a new collar on the Justice League. Fuck all that. Can I get a comic with some balls, please? (Yes, Butcher Baker, you can put your hand down. I'm not talking to you.)