Credits: Ben Raab & John Cassaday (writers), John Cassaday (artist), Heisler & Heisler (letters), Jason Wright (colors)
Summary: Vindicator visits Gary Cody, who informs him he’s trying to resume Department H’s funding of Alpha Flight. Meanwhile, Colossus and Kitty Pryde go on their first date. They’re abruptly attacked by armored men. The X-Men join the fight, but are teleported away. Watching on television, Vindicator recognizes the designs as his own. He discovers that Cody sold the designs to Hydra in order to fund Alpha Flight. Professor Xavier calls Vindicator for help, who in turn contacts Alpha Flight.
Continuity Notes: This story is set during Cyclops’ return to the team, following his sabbatical after Phoenix’s death, circa Uncanny X-Men #150. Xavier assumes Baron von Strucker from Hydra wants revenge for their encounter decades earlier, recounted in Uncanny X-Men #161. Alpha Flight’s battle with the Master from Alpha Flight #4 is also referenced in a footnote, which means Vindicator should be going by “Guardian” at this point.
Production Note: This is a two-issue miniseries, each issue is forty-eight pages with ads and a cover price of $2.99.
Review: A John Cassaday penciled X-Men story with strong nostalgic ties to the ‘80s…why does that sound familiar? Since Marvel rarely released X-Men comics entirely set in the past during this era, I have a feeling this was intended as something of a special project. Bringing in John Cassaday is another indication someone viewed this as unique, even if he wasn’t nearly as well-known during these days. The unusual two-issue format was, I suspect, also a nod towards the original X-Men/Alpha Flight limited series. Unfortunately, the market had been thoroughly flooded with X-product by this point, so I have a feeling much of the target audience missed out on it.
It’s obvious Ben Raab has a true affection for the Claremont-era X-Men, and while his callbacks in Excalibur were hit-or-miss, this issue really captures the feeling of that era. The bulk of the issue is spent on character moments as the action story develops in the background, allowing the reader to touch base with Cyclops and Wolverine as they deal with the loss of Phoenix, Nightcrawler and Storm discussing his insecurity over his place on the team, and Colossus and Kitty’s first date. The sense of family is evoked as Cyclops and Professor Xavier worry about letting Kitty go out at night, while Storm and Wolverine defend her right to be a kid.
I’ve never read a comic written by John Cassaday solo, but I wonder if he’s responsible for the credible dialogue and more coherent plotting. This is one of the few times I’ve seen Raab paired with an above average artist, so I’m sure that’s already helping his script. While this isn’t quite the Cassady famous for Astonishing X-Men (there’s less of an Adam Hughes influence, and presumably not as much photo referencing), it’s still an outstanding job. He draws an iconic rendition of the early ‘80s X-Men, and the action sequences are just as interesting as the conversation scenes. My one complaint would be the portrayal of Canadian bureaucrat, Gary Cody. I haven’t read all of John Byrne’s Alpha Flight run, but I do recall Cody as a decent guy who tried to do right by the team. Unless later stories revised his character, I have a hard time believing he would be dumb, naïve, or corrupt enough to sell armored battle suits to Hydra.