Alpha Flight #1-28 (August 1983 – November 1985)
Written by John Byrne
Dialogue by Chris Claremont (#17)
Pencilled by John Byrne
Inked by John Byrne (#1-14, 17, 19-20, 27-28), Bob Wiacek (#15-16, 18, 21-26), Terry Austin (#17)
Background inks by Keith Williams (#19-20)
Inking Assist by Keith Williams (#23, 27-28)
Colour by Andy Yanchus (#1-28)
Spoilers (from thirty-four to thirty-six years ago)
As a Canadian kid, Alpha Flight meant a lot to me. It was the only place where I saw my country being portrayed in comics (I’m sorry, but aside from one issue I picked up somewhere and hated, Captain Canuck was not a thing in my life), but there was a lot going on with this book beyond that. I started reading it somewhat sporadically with issue fourteen (the one that has Heather in a bra on the cover), and by the time Talisman was introduced a few months later, I was hooked. I remember my parents giving me a stack of back issues for Christmas in 1984, filling in the gaps in my run (shout out The Silver Snail’s Yonge and Eglinton store for keeping back issues at cover or five cents above cover back in the day).
This series felt different from a lot of other comics I was reading then. The inarguable hero of the book when I started getting it was Heather Hudson, a powerless recent widow (I told you there’d be spoilers). She was complicated. So was Puck, the acrobatic midget who had feelings for her. So was Aurora, the mutant suffering from multiple personality disorder who kept taking her clothes off. Other characters, like Snowbird and Northstar weren’t as complicated (at least not yet, in the latter case), but they were cool. Shaman, and later his daughter Talisman, were my gateway into starting to understand the important role that indigenous communities still played in my country. And then there was the historical tie to Wolverine, a favourite character of mine at the time, and the governmental structure that included two farm teams, Beta Flight and Gamma Flight.
It was through this book that I developed a love for the work of John Byrne that would continue into the 1990s. I’ve often said he was the first comics artist whose work I could immediately identify, even if he had just drawn a pile of rubble. I continue to see this book as groundbreaking and experimental. I remember being surprised that the first year of a team book would give each character a solo issue. I remember being annoyed when half of issue thirteen was completely silent, or when much of issue six was white pages (it was a blizzard). I also remember this as being the first comic where I started to develop prepubescent feelings for characters like Aurora and Elizabeth Twoyoungmen, as well as develop some less noble interest in their skimpy costumes.
I’ve been reluctant to dive into this series for these columns for two reasons. One, I’ve been worried that the comics might not be as spectacular as I remember them at the beginning, and that looking at them from an adult perspective might tarnish my memory of them some. I’m also fully aware of just how bad this book became after James Hudnall’s run (which itself is kind of problematic), in terms of story, art (Tom Morgan! Mark Pacella!), and design (those red costumes). I have been wanting to reread Steven T. Seagle’s relaunch though, and decided it was time to dig in and look at the whole thing.
Let’s look at who turned up in the title:
- Guardian/Vindicator (James MacDonald Hudson; #1-4, 6, 8, 10-12, 17)
- Shaman (Michael Twoyoungmen; #1-2, 5-8, 11-15, 18-20, 24-28)
- Aurora (Jeanne-Marie Beaubier; #1-4, 7-10, 12-15, 17, 20-28)
- Northstar (Jean-Paul Beaubier; #1-4, 7-8, 10, 12-13, 18, 22, 24-28)
- Puck (Eugene Milton Judd; #1-2, 5, 12-20, 23-28)
- Marrina (#1-4, 12, 14-16)
- Sasquatch (Walter Langkowski; #1-4, 9-13, 17, 20-23)
- Snowbird (Anne McKenzie/Narya; #1-4, 6-8, 11-15, 18-21, 23-24, 27-28)
- Heather Hudson (official leader; #17-20, 22, 24-28)
- Talisman (Elizabeth Twoyoungmen; #19-20, 22-28)
- Box (Walter Langkowski; #24-28)
- Box (Roger Bochs; #25, 27-28)
- Tundra (Great Beast; #1, 24)
- The Master of the World (#2-4, 15-16)
- Jerry Jaxon (#2, 11-12)
- Kolomaq (Great Beast; #6)
- Deadly Ernest (#7-8)
- Smart Alec (Omega Flight; #7, 11-12)
- Delphine Courtney (#7, 11-12, 22, 25-28)
- The Super-Skrull (Kl’rt; #9-10)
- Diamond Lil (Omega Flight; #11-12, 26-28)
- Flashback (Omega Flight; #11-12, 26-28)
- Wild Child (Omega Flight; #11-12, 26-28)
- Ranaq, the Great Devourer (Great Beast; #18-19)
- Gilded Lily (#20-21)
- Diablo (#21)
- Pink Pearl (#22)
- Bones (#22)
- Caliber (#23, 25)
- Tanaraq (Great Beast; #23)
- Somon the Artificer (Great Beast; #24)
- Kariooq the Corrupter (Great Beast; #24)
- Tolomaq (Great Beast; #24)
- Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada; #1, 3)
- The Sub-Mariner (Namor; #3-4, 12, 14-16)
- Invisible Girl (Sue Richards; #3-4)
- The Ancient One (#6)
- Dr. Strange (#6)
- Nemesis (#8)
- Wolverine (Logan; #9, 13, 16-17)
- Captain America (Steve Rogers; #10)
- Banshee (Sean Cassidy; #17)
- Moira MacTaggert (#17)
- Storm (Ororo Munroe; #17)
- Colossus (Piotr Rasputin; #17)
- The Beyonder (#28)
- The Hulk (#28)
- Gary Cody (unofficial liaison to Canadian Government; #1-2, 10, 13, 17)
- Heather McNeil Hudson (#1-3, 5, 8, 11-14, 16)
- Dan Smallwood (Marrina’s friend; #1-2, 4)
- Douglas Thompson (Snowbird’s friend; #2, 6, 15, 18, 23-24, 27)
- Elizabeth Twoyoungmen (Shaman’s daughter; #5, 14-15, 18)
- Nelvanna (#7, 23)
- Hodiak (#7, 23)
- Shaper (#7, 23)
- Box (Roger Bochs; #11-12, 16, 22, 24)
- Madison Jeffries (#16, 22, 28)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- The first issue opens just two weeks after the last time Alpha Flight was seen in Uncanny X-Men (which is done to explain away some continuity issues). Vindicator stands alone in the emptied-out space that used to belong to Department H, the governmental office that ran Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Flight. They’ve now been disbanded by the government, and Vindicator is worried about what will happen to him without the thing that has been the focus of his life. He also worries about the rest of Alpha Flight, who will probably be fine, and especially Beta and Gamma Flights, who are less trained. He leaves the Capital Buildings worrying about his income, and having to rely on his wife’s income. In the Northwest Territories, as man traces out a gigantic human-like outline, and then puts an ancient headband on. Outside Alberta, Michael Twoyoungmen receives a mystic call from the skull of his long-dead grandfather. Jeanne-Marie Beaubier is visited at the school where she teaches by her brother, Jean-Paul, a famous skier. They talk in her room, and Jean-Paul tries to get his sister to admit that her Aurora persona is something to be embraced, not locked away. The strain of the conversation causes her to pass out. We learn that Jean-Paul does not like being part of Alpha Flight, but believes it’s necessary for his sister to survive. Mac returns home to his wife, Heather. Their conversation is interrupted by a call from Gary Cody, their unofficial liaison to the government, telling him to turn on the news. He sees some strange lights in the Northwest, and heads out to investigate. Heather wants him to call on the rest of the team, but he refuses and flies off. She enters his hidden office, and pulls up a stack of gold-rimmed cards, including two she’s not seen before, and shoves them into a computer, sending a signal to implants in the team’s heads, followed by a set of coordinates. At a bar in Toronto, Puck stops some guys from picking on a waitress, and then receiving the signal, goes cartwheeling down the street. Marrina is looking at the ocean in Newfoundland when her friend Dan Smallwood brings her her signal device; she dives into the water. Walter Langkowski is hiking in British Columbia when he receives the signal and transforms into Sasquatch. Snowbird is flying through the air as an Arctic owl when she sees the disturbance in the distance. She watches as the husk of the man with the headband takes control of the human-like outline, and the great monster Tundra rises. Marrina swims through the Arctic at great speeds, and lifts a waterspout sending her inland. Aurora and Northstar race through the air, and Northstar begins to question his sister’s sanity. Puck tries to get on an airbase to get transport, but is sent away. Tundra attacks Snowbird, but she is saved by the arrival of Vindicator. Shaman arrives next. When Vindicator blasts the giant beast, the land around it suffers. Snowbird gets him to stop attacking before he damages the whole country. As Tundra grows, Sasquatch jumps out of a helicopter and starts ripping chunks off its body. Tundra sends him flying past the incoming twins, who start to fly around the monster, kicking up winds that help to erode it. Shaman calls down rains that also help, but they worry they don’t have enough water. That’s when Marrina’s waterspout arrives, and Shaman is able to use it to break the creature apart. Later, the heroes convene in the Hudsons’ living room, where they decide to stay together as a team. Heather suggests a different name for the team, and just then Puck arrives. When Mac tells him they are trying to come up with a new name, he gets angry, insisting that he wants to be in Alpha Flight. Walter agrees, but when he calls him a mascot, the two start to fight.
- The team is running a training session in Northern Ontario. Vindicator gets taken down by Aurora and Northstar, tossed by Sasquatch, and saved by Shaman. Marrina soaks Sasquatch, which Puck finds funny (it feels like Byrne is going for a Thing/Human Torch dynamic here). Shaman talks to Mac, suggesting that the name Vindicator, while perhaps fitting for Mac’s sense of guilt over almost killing a woman, does not suit his role as Canada’s Captain America; Mac suggests the name Guardian. Puck notices that Marrina isn’t feeling well, and when he goes to check on her, she rakes his stomach with her claws, and dives into the water, swimming away faster than the twins can catch her. They pile into their version of a quinjet (no idea where that came from, if they are no longer receiving government support) and head to the closest town. There, Shaman, in his role as doctor, works on Puck. The rest of the team heads out to look for Marrina. In the Northwest Territories, Snowbird is at work, thinking about how much her new Chief Inspector, Hamilton, hates her. She receives a call from Shaman and turns into Snowbird and flies away. The Chief Inspector is angry to find her missing, and wants her brought up on charges. While the rest of the team follows Marrina’s signal in their jet, Mac tells them her story. Eighteen years before, a Newfoundland fisherman named Tom Smallwood fell overboard during a storm, and discovered a glowing egg on the bottom of the ocean. Its buoyancy saved him, and he took it home to his wife and grandson, Dan. The wife hatched it open, revealing a small human-like figure (although yellow-skinned with large eyes). They named her Marrina and she grew up among them, until when she was sixteen, her ability to swim really quickly was discovered, at which point she joined Gamma Flight, and moved her way up the Department H ranks. Marrina, following some kind of calling, discovers a facility deep under the Arctic ice. Walking through it, she finds a seated figure calling himself The Master.
- Issue two has a five-page backup showing the origins of Alpha Flight. Ten years ago, Mac is working for Am-Can, a petroleum company, developing an exo-suit. He is upset to learn that his boss, Jerry Jaxon, wants to turn the suit over to the American military. Mac storms out, and runs into Heather McNeil, Jaxon’s secretary, who has quit over the choices her boss has made. Mac returns home and decides that he can’t let the military have his suit. He goes to the lab late at night and steals it. He uses it to get into the facility’s vault to destroy the plans for the suit. He leaves the suit outside, but takes the helmet, which controls it and which he designed before coming to work there.
- Snowbird flies through the Arctic, and finds the Alpha Flight crashed and abandoned. She uses her post-cognitive powers to see what recently happened; the jet was shot down by a laser, and the team, having survived the crash, set out in the direction it was fired from. Snowbird turns into a polar bear and follows them, finding a massive structure buried in the snow. Its doors have been opened, and she enters. We see that Guardian and Sasquatch are trying to reach Northstar and Aurora, who were separated from them by a regenerating wall. The twins find themselves in a long dark hallway. They fly forward, but large rods come out of the wall and knock out Northstar. Aurora finds herself surrounded by smaller rods which triggers her fear of enclosed spaces. Sasquatch comes smashing through them, but Aurora has retreated into her Jeanne-Marie persona, which is news to Walter. Guardian explains that only Northstar can help her now. He, meanwhile, hears a scream and realizing that it’s Marrina, heads off in search of her. We see that Marrina is strapped to a machine that is probing her and causing her pain. The Master of the World sits over her, and explains that forty thousand years ago, he was cast out of his tribe for being too greedy. He heard a call in his mind that led him north, until he found a large crashed alien ship. He was captured by the vessel, and over many years, had his body broken apart and studied, until he managed to take control of the ship. He explains to Marrina that she came from the vessel, and that there is another like her. He needs to kill the other so he can become Master of the World. His speech is cut short by the sudden arrival of Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Invisible Girl.
- In the Origins back-up, James MacDonald Hudson is sitting in his apartment brooding over his stolen helmet when Heather McNeil turns up with groceries. She figures out that he stole the helmet, and when he suggests that her knowing about this could get her in trouble, she declares her love for him and suggests that she can’t testify against him if they are married. We learn that Heather is seventeen, which is a little disturbing, but she also has a solution. Mac and Heather go to Ottawa where they meet with someone in the government who helps them out. They hire Mac (retroactively) to work on developing his helmet there, and he meets with Prime Minister Trudeau, who forms Department H around Mac’s work. This puts him in contact with Logan, who he sees as he greatest success and greatest failure (that’s kind of vague). After learning about the existence of the Fantastic Four, Mac works at developing his Guardian suit.
- In 1983, John Bryne was writing, pencilling, and inking both Alpha Flight and the Fantastic Four! These days, you can’t find an artist who can pencil a book for six issues in six months! Anyway, issue four opens with Invisible Girl and Namor flying over the Arctic, Namor having brought Sue up there to help him after discovering an area where the water felt evil. They discover the Master’s vessel under the ice, but are blasted out of the sky. Snowbird, still in a bear form, sees the explosion, turns to her human form, and starts flying through the ship looking for her teammates. Guardian explains to Sasquatch that Aurora, who is sitting in front of him, sometimes retreats into the persona of Jeanne-Marie. As she recovers, Mac calls her Aurora, which causes her to run off down an alien corridor. Sasquatch offers to go get her, revealing that they’d shared relations. Sasquatch turns back into Walter, while Mac goes looking for Marrina. He approaches Jeanne-Marie, who is upset that he’s wearing only trunks. He starts to calm her down, but his references to their history causes her to slap him. Northstar is still flying around, looking for anyone on the team. Guardian finds him, and explains that his suit can somewhat communicate with the vessel. He’s also learned that if he can’t stop the ship, it might mean the end of all life on Earth. Namor and Sue are fine, and decide to look for an entrance to the ship from under the water. They find their way in, and invisible, walk around for forty minutes until they find the Master still talking at Marrina. He explains that the ship was a colony ship from an alien race that had used up all the resources in its entire galaxy. It was designed to land on a world, sample its dominant species, and then send out eggs coded with that species’s DNA. This ship crashed and released its eggs early, before they could be programmed. When Gladys Smallwood touched Marrina’s egg, which had spent centuries underwater, she was imprinted as a human, albeit an amphibious one. The Master explains that she should still be able to complete her function, and reproduce and take over, which is why the Master wants to kill her. Namor and Sue show themselves, and the Master commands the vessel to fight them. He retreats, and the ship starts to rip Marrina apart. Snowbird appears and saves her. As the Master moves through the ship, he is caught by some explosions, caused somehow by Guardian and Northstar. They find Sasquatch and Jeanne-Marie, and everyone is reunited. Guardian warns them that the ship is falling apart, and then it explodes. Sue has saved them all in a force bubble. Namor and Marrina search for the Master, and claim that the ship has dissolved. Snowbird leaves to return to her job, and Marrina announces that she will be going with Namor to figure out who she really is. Namor agrees to take Sue to New York first. Northstar leaves with his sister, while Guardian and Sasquatch fly to Newfoundland to let Dan Smallwood know that Marrina has left. Dan is sad.
- Puck is still recovering in the hospital, under Shaman’s care, in Fort Albany. Michael decides he’s well enough to return to his own practice, and Judd is mostly happy to receive the attentions of the nurses. One night though, his pain is worse than he’s able to focus past, but when he calls for a nurse, none comes. He goes to investigate and it looks like catches one about to shoot up. She returns him to bed, but the next day, Judd decides to investigate a little. He discovers that all of the hospital’s medication has been diluted. He speaks to the chief administrator, who agrees to let him investigate before calling in the police. Judd puts on his Puck costume, and catches some guys loading a van with stolen medicine. He rides the van to a remote boathouse, where he is discovered, and while fighting the three drug dealers, opens his wounds and passes out while trying to call the police. Later, he wakes up in the hospital, with the administrator and a detective looking over him. The cop thanks him and leaves. The administrator goes to give Judd an injection, and Judd figures out that the administrator is behind the whole drug operation, and is trying to kill him with an insulin overdose. He stops him.
- The backup story focuses on Shaman, who fifteen years before the modern day, rejects the opportunity to learn his peoples’ magics from his aging grandfather. He returns to his suburban Calgary home, where his young daughter Elizabeth is being babysat by young Heather McNeil. Michael speaks to a colleague on the phone, and heads to a medical building to learn that his wife has a fatal disease. Weirdly, the cop never tells Katheryn, but Michael, one of the best doctors in the country, wants to save her. He throws himself into researching her condition, and ends up promising Elizabeth that he will save her life. Later, Katheryn dies, and Elizabeth blows up at Michael, calling him a liar. Heather’s father offers to take in Elizabeth for a while, among his seven children, and also lets Michael know that his grandfather died on the same day (although it makes no sense that he would have “read” this somewhere).
- Anne McKenzie, Snowbird’s human identity, is being chewed out by her Chief Inspector at her NWT RCMP post for her unexplained absences. He doesn’t care that her arrangement with her previous boss allowed for this, and he orders an investigation, and her confined to a cell while it happens. Her friend Doug takes her to her cell, where she considers calling Gary Cody. At the same time, to the north, some oilmen drill in a place that a local indigenous person says is a bad place. They end up freeing Kolomaq, one of the Great Beasts that has been imprisoned there for a thousand years. Anne senses this, and busts out of her prison, flying north as Snowbird. Guardian is enjoying flying around and is growing into his hero role. When he returns home, he finds a surprising letter from Roxxon, the oil company, waiting for him. Snowbird finds Kolomaq, and reveals that she is related to his oldest enemies, Hodiak and Nelvanna. He attacks her with torrents of snow, and for six-ish pages, we are given pages of pure white, while the narration describes their battle. This annoyed me as a kid, but now I think of how much time this must have saved Byrne. Eventually, Snowbird buries Kolomaq in rock, imprisoning him again. She tells the oil workers to cover the space in concrete, and flying off, wonders if there is a reason why the Great Beasts are returning, and what this might mean for her kinsmen, suggesting that if they return, her time on Earth is done.
- The backup continues Shaman’s origin. He has spent ten years living alone in the woods near Banff. He decides it is finally time to open a bundle left him by his grandfather, after his decade of living alone. His grandfather’s spirit appears to him, although Michael is still not ready to believe in the mystical aspects of his culture. He sees that his grandfather’s skull is in the bundle, and the spirit is eager to teach him. He tells him to pull some pine needles from a medicine bag in the bundle, but Michael finds nothing in there. His grandfather tells him to never look in the bag. Michael undergoes a training regimen somewhat reminiscent of Jedi training on Dagobah. After some time, Michael reaches into the bag again, and finds the pine needles he envisioned. At that time, in New York, Dr. Strange talks to the Ancient One about how they believe that Michael will become a great shaman.
- Jean-Paul has taken Jeanne-Marie to a psychologist in Montreal, but the shrink, after meeting with her, tells Jean-Paul he sees nothing wrong with her. As Jean-Paul can’t reveal that they are Northstar and Aurora, he can’t tell him the whole story. The psychologist is kind of judgemental of Jean-Paul. He takes his sister to see an old “friend” of his, Raymonde Belmonde, but as they walk there, a purse-snatcher grabs Jeanne-Marie’s purse. She uses her speed to catch up to him, and to punch him a hundred times in one second, turning into her Aurora persona in the process. Aurora insists on having the man arrested, but within a half hour, he’s already had his bond posted. A cop explains to the twins that the man works for Ernest St.Ives, called Deadly Ernest, a mob boss running the area. As they leave the police station, they are met by Raymonde, who takes them to his cafe. There is a lot of innuendo suggesting that Jean-Paul and Raymonde shared a past that only makes sense in the context of Jean-Paul coming out years later. We learn that Deadly Ernest is trying to put Raymonde out of business. His daughter Danielle shows up (which is a surprise to Jean-Paul), and introductions are made. Deadly Ernest pulls up outside the cafe, and two thugs come in and take Raymonde and Aurora out to him. Raymonde refuses to sell his business to him, and Ernest puts his hand on Raymonde’s face, which kills him. The thugs put Aurora in the car, thinking she is Danielle, and they drive off. Northstar, standing over his dead “friend”, vows to kill St.Ives. An “unconnected interlude” shows us a very smart man working at a mall in Winnipeg playing multiple chess games. On his lunch break, a woman identifies him as Smart Alec, formerly of Gamma Flight, and then introduces herself as Delphine Courtney, and tells him her employer would like to see him.
- At an archeological dig fifteen years ago in the Arctic, a grad student named Richard Easton finds an ancient metal headband (which we’ve seen can be used to summon Tundra, the Great Beast). Unable to sleep at night, he puts it on and finds himself somewhere else, in front of three Inuit gods – Nelvanna, Hodiak, and Shaper. Nelvanna wants him to impregnate her, and Shaper changes her into a more appealing form for this. Later, he is returned to Earth, where he finds the dig buried. It’s been years since he was gone, and Easton is convinced that the men he talks to are agents of the Beasts, and runs away. A year later, Shaman comes by the scene, and speaks with a very pregnant Nelvanna through a portal. He helps her deliver her baby, and mystically links it to a human shape. The little girl, who is obviously Snowbird, is already a year old by the time she is delivered.
- Northstar flies to rescue his sister. He found Deadly Ernest’s address after an autopsy shows that Raymonde just “turned off” when Ernest killed him. He breaks into the largely empty house, and finds his way to an occupied room where he is greeted by a surprise. At the same time, a cloaked figure calling herself Nemesis swears revenge on Deadly Ernest and jumps or flies into the night. Northstar has found Aurora hanging out with Ernest; he gets knocked out by one a goon, and Aurora claims he’s her cousin. He’s put in a bedroom to recover, and wakes up to Nemesis’s sword at his throat. They agree to work together, and she frees him. Over dinner, Ernest explains to Aurora that he got his powers during the First World War, when he fought off Death herself. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Nemesis and Northstar. Nemesis makes reference to bringing peace to the soul of her father, which makes Northstar believe she is Danielle. Aurora decides there is no need to deceive Ernest anymore, and joins her brother. Ernest grabs Nemesis with his death touch hand, but his powers don’t work on her. She slices off his hand, and then cuts him into bits. Northstar, who before swore to kill Ernest, is upset and pulls off Nemesis’s mask. He is surprised that she is not Danielle, but is instead someone else with a great deal of pain in her face. She knocks Jean-Paul out, and then turns to Aurora, who suggests she leaves. A little later, we see the twins flying, as Aurora explains why it made no sense for them to wait for the police. They return to Raymonde’s cafe, where reveals that Danielle had plotted with Ernest all along. They see to her arrest. Later, as the twins fly together, Aurora asks why Jean-Paul thought that Nemesis was Danielle when it was clear that she was posing as Danielle. Northstar says that he simply thought that Aurora had slept with St. Ives, since she’s slept with Sasquatch. She gets really angry, and flies off saying she doesn’t want to see him again.
- A few years back, Heather takes James with her to find Michael in Banff. He is surprised to see her all grown up, and to meet her husband. He introduces them to Narya, who appears to be about twenty. Later, Heather and James are in bed together (I guess in their car), and Heather has a lot of questions about Narya, and how Michael had claimed to have delivered her and then raised her, since at Narya’s age, that would have meant it happened when he still lived next door to Heather. She decides to go snooping, and spies a naked Narya walking through the woods. Heather follows, and watches her transform into a snowy owl. The next day, Michael explains everything about his and Narya’s lives and abilities, and James offers them a place in Department H as Snowbird and Shaman.
- Walter Langkowski has been called to a remote research station to consult on some strange readings being picked up by a large radar dish scanning space. Walter has modifications made to the equipment, butts heads a bit with the guy in charge, and then appears to materialize The Thing in his dish. In order to get the unconscious Thing inside, Walter decides to turn into Sasquatch, revealing his identity to the scientists. The station’s doctor can tell the Thing is still alive, but sends everyone out of the room so he can try to examine him further. He manages to get a blood sample, and as he examines it, the Thing kills him. Everyone is alerted by noises in the infirmary, and so Walter (human now) busts down the door. They find the doctor fried, the Thing gone, and a huge hole in the wall, which looks like it was busted in from the outside. Walter figures out that the open window suggests someone reached out and punched the wall in, and he goes off following the single set of tracks, assuming someone is carrying the Thing. As he walks, he figures out what’s really happening, and turns back to the station, but just then, the station explodes. He finds one survivor, who dies, and then starts yelling for the monster who did this to reveal himself. Walter is confronted by the Super Skrull.
- In another origin story, thirteen year old Jeanne-Marie Beaubier is ready to jump off the roof of the convent school where she has been living, but falling, discovers she can fly. The next day, she tells the headmistress, who gives her a beating and makes her spend the day praying. That night, looking at herself in the mirror, Jeanne-Marie sees her Aurora personality, who takes over for three days. When Jeanne-Marie returns, she is in trouble again. As years pass, and Jeanne-Marie keeps tight control of herself, she eventually applies to teach at the school, and is given a small room (with the lock removed from the door) to live in. She is happy, but then she sees Aurora in the mirror again, and ends up going partying. Walking out of a bar, she is assaulted by two men. She takes one down instinctually, but the other is about to attack her when he is interrupted by the arrival of Logan, who introduces himself as Wolverine and having recognized her speed, offers to introduce her to Jimmy Hudson.
- James Hudson is looking at an apartment in Brooklyn, now that he’s taken the job he was offered at Roxxon. As he leaves the brownstone, he passes Steve Rogers on the stoop, who thinks he recognizes him. James changes into his Guardian outfit in an alley and flies around, not noticing that he’s being tracked by a drone. Walter continues to run from the Super Skrull. Because he’s broken his arm, he is afraid to turn into Sasquatch, not sure how the break with manage the change. To escape an attack, Walt jumps down the mountain face, and ends up buried in deep snow. The Skrull hovers overhead, and is suddenly attacked by Sasquatch. The Skrull recognizes that Sasquatch is more feral than normal, and worries he might not survive this encounter. He decides to use his full power against him, but just as he is about to, the Skrull is wracked with pain. Sasquatch moves in for the kill, but the Skrull uses his rarely used hypnotic powers to stop the behemoth. Next, he explains (I don’t know why) just how the Skrull got lost as an energy signal in the Van Allen Belts (it involves Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and Galactus). As he talks, Walt regains control over himself, and deduces that the Skrull is suffering from some form of super-leukemia. Thinking that Sasquatch is under his control, the Skrull has him scour the wreckage of the science station, and together they create a projector to beam the Skrull back to his homeworld (which he doesn’t know has been destroyed). When the Skrull suffers another bout of pain, Sasquatch tosses him into the projector and turns it on, sending him back to space (where he’ll stay until Byrne brings him back in Namor in a few years). Sasquatch starts the long walk home, while thinking about the brainless monster he just saw inside him. When he finally returns to his home in Vancouver, he is surprised to find Aurora there waiting for him. She tells him she wants nothing to do with Northstar, and so has come to be with him.
- Northstar’s origin back-up follows up on Aurora’s. Guardian shows her proof that she has a brother who was raised separately from her, under the name Jean-Paul Martin. Guardian surprises her with the news that he is already on his way to Parliament Hill. Jean-Paul arrives, and refuses to speak in English to Cody. When he meets James, James tells him that he’s figured out that Jean-Paul has been using his mutant abilities to become a ski champion. He also makes reference to the fact that Jean-Paul doesn’t use his fame to pick up the women who throw themselves at him (more foreshadowing). He offers Jean-Paul a place in Department H, but Jean-Paul doesn’t have any interest in that. It’s at this point that Aurora enters and introduces herself as his twin, which surprises him a great deal. He agrees to spend time with her.
- Delphine Courtney has visited Roger Bochs, a man in a wheelchair in Moose Jaw, to make him the same offer she made Smart Alec. It looks like Bochs is going to work with her, but as soon as she’s left, he’s on the phone trying to warn James Hudson of what’s going on. He can’t get ahold of Gary Cody, so he decides that he and his big robot suit, Box, will have to take matters into their own hands. Heather Hudson has finished packing up the Hudsons’ place in Ottawa, and flies to New York to meet James and begin their new life. In New York, all the former members of Beta and Gamma Flight have gathered – Box, Diamond Lil, Flashback, Smart Alec, and Wild Child. They don’t get along with each other, but when Courtney arrives, they fall into line, largely because of an ‘influencer’ device she is using. They are joined by Jerome Jaxon, Hudson’s former boss, who has brought them together so they can destroy Alpha Flight. James was held up from going to meet Heather at the airport because of a work meeting, and now flies to meet her. Heather’s already gone, picked up by a tall woman, but a man at the Air Canada desk has a business card the woman dropped – it’s Jaxon’s Roxxon card. James figures out that he’s been played, and rushes towards Roxxon’s office. As he flies past the World Trade Center, he receives a transmission from Jaxon stating that he has Heather, and that he wants Guardian to come and give himself up. James heads where he’s told, and is sent down a private elevator that puts him in front of his former underlings, now joined as Omega Flight. We learn that he’s put out the call to the rest of Alpha Flight for help.
- In the final origin backup story, we see Walter Langkowski preparing to complete a gamma experiment on himself. We learn that he went to school with Bruce Banner, and after he became the Hulk, became interested in gamma experiments. He is working with Department H, who gave him a research space in the Arctic. When he flips the switch, instead of turning green, as he expected, he becomes the figure we know as Sasquatch. He busts out of his lab. Later, Snowbird is sent to investigate after Walt doesn’t check in, and after following his prints for some distance, and through some wreckage, she finds Walt naked and cold in the snow. She worries that his experiment weakened the barriers holding back the Great Beasts. Later, he’s recovered some, and is talking to James about how the experiment went awry. Shaman and Snowbird offer to help him, and James admits he’ll need Walt’s help if he has to go back to America to try to retrieve Wolverine again. Walt picks the name Sasquatch for his other form.
- Issue twelve is a double-sized one, and the first that has pretty much the whole team together in eight issues. Heather has been taken to an office in the World Trade Center by Delphine Courtney, and she’s getting impatient. Courtney has her watch a prerecorded TV broadcast wherein Jerry Jaxon tells her how after James made off with the suit he built, Jaxon lost his job, wife, kids, and after a suicide attempt, the ability to walk. When he learned of Guardian’s existence, he recognized Hudson’s work, and started obsessing over him. He got in touch with Roxxon, convincing them of Hudson’s suit’s potential for oil and gas exploration, and got the funding to set Hudson up, bring together the people who made up Omega Flight, and prepare his revenge. Learning all this, Heather tries to leave, but gets into a fight with Courtney. She ends up ripping away the skin on Courtney’s face, revealing something. In Ontario, Shaman and Snowbird wait for the rest of Alpha Flight to respond to James’s call. In BC, Walter waits for Aurora, and then they fly off, with Walter in a special suit to protect him from friction while Aurora carries him. In Toronto, Judd is meditating when he gets the call; he is surprised to see Northstar arrive to pick him up, and realizes something’s going on with him and Aurora. Marrina and Namor are frolicking together, and she’s not wearing her necklace, so she doesn’t get the call. The rest of the team assembles, and immediately Jean-Paul tries to apologize to Aurora. She gets Walter to step in, and when Jean-Paul shoves him, he turns into Sasquatch and starts to lose control. Puck stops him from hurting Northstar, which makes him the target of Sasquatch’s rage. Shaman binds him with vines, and Snowbird has to try to calm Northstar down. Very quickly, the team relaxes again (with Sasquatch showing no memory of his temper tantrum). Shaman teleports them all into the middle of Guardian’s fight with Omega Flight. They all start to melee, with Wild Child hurting Aurora, and Diamond Lil stopping Snowbird. When Shaman manages to distract Lil, he realizes that Snowbird is very weak – a consequence of his having binding her to Canada when she was born. Smart Alec grabs Shaman’s medicine pouch, and goes mad when he looks inside it. Box is able to give Sasquatch a run for his money, because Walter is afraid of losing control again. Northstar slams Wild Child into a wall. Delphine Courtney turns out to be a robot, although Jaxon doesn’t know that. She leaves Heather alone, obviously leading her into a trap. The fight continues, but Box ends up pushing Guardian through a hole in a wall to another part of the World Trade Center, where they start to fight. James is surprised to see Roger Bochs working against him, but then it’s revealed that it’s Jaxon in charge of the Box robot. James, whose suit is getting shredded in the fight, manages to use his suit’s power pack to short out the robot. The feedback kills or knocks out Jaxon, and we see that Roger Bochs is with him, tied up. James realizes that his suit is going to explode if he doesn’t disconnect his power pack. He figures he has ten seconds to do this, and is almost done when Heather walks into the room he’s in, distracting him. The power pack, which is in his hands, explodes, and Heather watches him burn to death in front of her.
- The first half (eleven pages) of issue thirteen are completely silent. We see Alpha Flight, in civilian clothes, gathered around Heather at James’s funeral. Byrne really outdoes himself, showing the grief in the characters’ faces, as they leave Heather one by one or in pairs. After she is alone by the grave, we see that Logan is watching from behind a tree. James’s grave is split open, and his burning body comes out, approaching Heather. Logan leaps to her rescue, but is burned up. James’s corpse catches up to Heather at the cemetery gates, and as it tries to kiss her, she wakes up screaming. It turns out that she’s staying at a motel in Ottawa with Michael and Judd. Michael calms her back to sleep, and then he and Judd have a long talk about how she’s not done well in the last month, after the fight in New York. Michael won’t use his magic to ease her mind, as it’s dangerous. They also talk about the fact that Michael shrunk Smart Alec’s comatose body, while his mind wanders the universe inside Michael’s medicine pouch. The next day, Heather, Michael, and Judd visit Gary Cody, who is temporarily using the Prime Minister’s office. He doesn’t know that Mac is dead, so they fill him in over three long recap pages. Cody has bad news – since Department H was shut down, and was top secret, there is no proof that Hudson ever worked for the government, and that means that the government can do nothing for them. Heather thanks him for being honest with her, and they leave to have lunch in a fast food restaurant and talk about their plans. Heather has no real options – her parents didn’t agree with her marrying Mac, and they no longer talk. She’s also homeless and out of a job, but is determined to make things work for herself. In Toronto, which is weirdly mentioned as being on the St. Lawrence River (Byrne would know that’s not true), a guy running from something along some docks gets grabbed, and dragged underwater.
- Issue fourteen was my first issue of Alpha Flight, bought off a spinner rack in a convenience store somewhere. It was right at the time when I was committing myself to comics, and experimenting with a variety of different Marvel titles. That my nine-year old self recognized Ontario Place, and saw the characters as human beings more than superheroes, was pretty formative for me. Snowbird, who has been recovering from the weakness she experienced in New York, is flying around in the Yukon. After she lands, and rests against a rock, she and Shaman discuss her relative youth. After they’ve both departed, we see that the rock she leaned against becomes corrupted and stained. Heather and Judd are hanging out at Ontario Place (in Toronto), eating and talking about how Heather always needs to have detailed plans for things, but is instead at a loss about what to do with her life. They hear a loud scream from outside the restaurant and rush out to find a woman standing alongside the edge of Lake Ontario, crying for her baby, which was stolen stroller and all from her by something in the water. Heather dives in and finds the empty stroller. As she is about to surface for air, some tendrils grab her legs. It is only because Judd is able to pull her out that she survives, but her legs are cut to shreds. In Vancouver, Aurora comes out of a shower at Walter Langkowski’s place, and is terrified to see and then be attacked by Jeanne-Marie’s reflection in the mirror. She ends up cowering in a corner, naked and terrified. In Toronto, Judd checks on Heather, who has been admitted into the hospital to treat her leg wounds. She explains what she saw to Judd. Later, he meets with a police inspector to explain what happened. Judd learns that sixteen people have been snatched and found mostly dissolved in recent months. Judd suspects that this case is related to Alpha Flight. In Atlantis, Namor has given Marrina a new outfit, and talks to her about making her his consort. Just then, her Alpha Flight signal goes off, and she leaves. Namor decides to follow. Judd is waiting when Marrina arrives in Toronto. She immediately feels badly for what happened when she attacked him, and he brushes aside her concerns, making her feel better. They talk about her alien origin, and agree that it sounds like another of Marrina’s kind has hatched in Lake Ontario, and is following its genetic directive. In Calgary, Elizabeth Twoyoungmen is involved in an archeological dig of Fort Calgary. She discovers a skull, and when she touches it, sees a spirit calling for revenge. She fears that she is going to have to contact her father, Shaman, who she hasn’t spoken to in fifteen years, to put this spirit to rest.
- Doug Thompson, the RCMP officer who tried to help Anne McKenzie, is surprised to find her at his door, having not seen her since she escaped her cell in issue six. Anne explains to Doug that she is really Snowbird, and that she has a mission on Earth that precludes her from keeping her Anne identity. She says goodbye, but Doug declares his love for her. Puck and Marrina talk on the shore of Lake Ontario. Marrina heads into the waters alone to look for the thing that has killed so many people. We get a few pages of her swimming and using sensory skills that are incredibly powerful. She senses a smell coming from a fissure, and swims into a dark tunnel that leads under the lake. She gets stuck for a bit, but makes her way into a large cave that she figures is under the surface. Something surprises her there. Aurora is still upset at having seen Jeanne-Marie in the mirror, and decides that she needs to lock her away. She grabs some scissors and prepares to cut her hair. Puck continues to wait for Marrina. When she shows up on the shore, he can tell that she’s gone mad again. They fight, and as they do so, we learn that Puck used to bullfight with Ernest Hemingway in Spain. He keeps trying to keep the maddened hero from hurting him, and tries hard not to hurt her. Namor surfaces, looking for Marrina. When he sees Puck fighting her, he flies to her defence and punches him. Only then does he realize that Marrina is not well. Elizabeth Twoyoungmen arrives at her father’s medical practice, and storms into his examining room. He is happy to see her for the first time in fifteen years, but she refuses to hug him. Instead, she says she’s there to speak to him as Shaman. A figure in a trenchcoat and hat watches Marrina fight Namor, and it becomes clear that he’s responsible for Marrina losing control. He knocks Puck out with a nerve pinch. Marrina uses a venom in her hand to blind Namor, and then the trenchcoat guy strikes a nerve cluster in his neck, knocking him out too. He reveals himself as the Master of the World.
- The Master controls a large submarine in the shape of a fish. In it, he has Puck and Namor in tubes that keep them weakened, through lack of oxygen and dehydration, respectfully. He explains his story again, including how he survived the explosion of the alien vessel and how he had this ship waiting for him. He also shows them how Marrina’s wild side has emerged and changed her (she is in a tank in his ship), and also shows them the other member of her race that he’s found. From the heroes’ reaction, it must be bad. Roger Bochs is at home in Moosejaw, where he is visited by Madison Jeffries, a former member of Gamma Flight. He’s called him there to explain what happened to Guardian, how his Box armor was responsible for his death, and his plan to track down Jaxon and Courtney, who he thinks escaped. He wants Jeffries, who can turn metal, glass, and plastic into duplicates of his own body parts, to help him rebuild the Box armor so only Roger can control it. Heather is still in the hospital. She’s supposed to be resting, but she wants to walk around and mourn her husband. She is visited by Logan, who has come to comfort her and help her through this. The Master opens the barrier between Marrina and the other creature’s cells, and from the fury in their shared tank, it looks like they are trying to kill each other (although Puck suspects something else is happening). Puck can’t get out of the tank, so he plays dead, suspending his heartbeat. The Master opens his tube, and Puck jumps out of his grasp, freeing Namor. Puck grabs the Master’s helmet off his head and throws it at Marrina’s tank, cracking the glass. Namor punches through the glass, freeing Marrina. The Master, whose head is a bit of a mess, explains that without his helmet, he can’t control the sub or the creature. It attacks, wrecking the sub, which begins to sink. A hole opens in the side of the sub. Namor throws Marrina free, then grabs Puck and makes for the surface. Once they are in the air, they see a huge air bubble surface, suggesting that the sub exploded. Namor spends six hours searching, and can only find wreckage and the remains of the other alien. Puck assures him that Marrina is fine, and Namor decides to return to Atlantis. Puck then reveals that he knows that Marrina is hiding nearby. They talk, and she admits to her fear of her biological programming, and that she is a monster. She decides she wants to leave Alpha Flight and all people; she wades out into the water.
- Issue seventeen incorporates pages from X-Men #109, the first appearance of Weapon Alpha. Heather and Logan are talking about what led to the events of that issue, while Heather is still in the hospital. She starts by sharing the first time that James Hudson put on his battle suit, and talked to her about becoming a hero. Heather expressed her wish that Logan or Michael become leader of the new team, and then Cody came and got Mac. Major Chasen, one of Hudson’s bosses, was upset because Logan had cut his tie and left the base. Heather and Logan talk about how Logan used to live with the Hudsons, and how they saw him as sort of their child, which is just weird. We learn that Mac was hurt by Logan’s departure, and was tasked by the Prime Minister’s Office with retrieving him, because the Canadian government saw him as their property. Logan, meanwhile, was hanging out with the X-Men. When Banshee, Moira MacTaggert, Storm, and Colossus decided to go on a trip to a local forest, he announced he wanted to tag along to do some “hunting”, which in his case meant simply following an animal and trying to get close to it. Mac had crossed into American territory and was hunting Logan. Just as Wolverine was about to catch up to a deer, “Weapon Alpha” attacked him. Their fight feels a little awkward and stiff, considering what we’ve learned about their relationship. Their fight also ended up involving the other X-Men, and when Mac fired an energy beam at Storm, which Colossus blocked, Moira ended up getting grazed in the temple, and fell into a lake. This enraged Banshee, who after he saved her, came after Mac. When Weapon Alpha took to the sky, he was surprised to be pursued by Banshee and Storm, and decided to abort his mission, his guilt over hurting Moira leading him to think about vindication (this being the rather weak reason his name became Vindicator). Heather and Logan continue to talk, and we see that she blames herself for his death, thinking that had she not distracted him, he’d still be alive. Logan gives her a nice speech about dreams, and they are joined by Puck. This is the first that Logan and Judd have met (which I believe was later retconned), although they knew of each other professionally. Puck ends up suggesting that Heather become the leader of Alpha Flight, feeling she is best qualified. She accepts. Elsewhere, Walter has the once-again naked Aurora in a tube at his lab, where she is about to undergo a procedure. The procedure is painful, but Aurora seems okay. We learn through Walter’s thoughts that he did something to change her DNA so she wouldn’t technically be a mutant anymore, although that meant changing her powers in unforeseen ways. Disturbingly, he feels that the fact that he cares for her gives him the right to make these changes to her. She debuts a new costume, but we only see her hip and arm.
- Issue eighteen features a new, sleeker logo that I’ve always loved for this book. Puck is surprised to see Heather holding the outer layer of Guardian’s costume up to herself in a mirror, and they talk about how she is coming to grip with Mac’s death. She wants to bring the team together now that she’s the leader, and she starts by calling Jean-Paul. He blows her off, not wanting to be on the team if he can’t be with his sister, and hangs up on her. Next she tries calling Michael, but learns from his secretary that a young woman (Elizabeth) came looking for someone called Shaman, and that he hasn’t been back since. We see that Shaman and Elizabeth are back at the ruins of Fort Calgary, as Michael inspects the skull Elizabeth found. He can tell it held mystic energies, but they’re gone now. He also notices how attuned to magic Elizabeth is. Whatever has happened, Michael figures it’s a matter of time before that energy is seen again. Elsewhere in Calgary, a very old man named Lucas Stang argues with his great granddaughter, who only recently found him. He agrees to keep living for her sake. She goes to the kitchen and finds that the eggs she was scrambling are bubbling out of the pan. The police alert Shaman to what’s happening at the Stang house, and he and Elizabeth teleport there. Snowbird meets Douglas to tell him that she can’t return his love. He kisses her, which shocks her, and she reveals her true form to him. Shaman and Elizabeth enter the Stang house, where the eggs have become a bit of a monster. Shaman is able to disperse the ectoplasm, and things seem fine until he learns that there is someone else in the house. They rush to Stang’s room, to find that it has largely disappeared. Stang talks about how he’s been waiting for this to happen for one hundred years, which is why he kept his family at arm’s length. He blasts Shaman, and Elizabeth gets attacked by Emily, the granddaughter. She is able to reshape the mystic energy and send it back, which surprises Shaman. He recognizes that Emily’s been possessed by Ranaq, the Great Devourer. As the two women fight, he tosses some baubles from his bag, and manages to stop everything. The house is trashed, but Emily is fine, and Lucas is still alive, but very weak. Shaman explains to his daughter that they need to figure out the story of the skull, and to do that, need to go back in time.
- Shaman and Elizabeth have been joined by Heather and Puck, and they are all at Fort Calgary watching as Shaman does some magic stuff. He determines that the team should go back in time one hundred years to figure out what happened. Snowbird arrives, and is immediately surprised to see Elizabeth. She falls to her knees before her, which makes Michael realize that she is the person that has been prophesied for hundreds of generations. He has her reach into his bag (and when she looks, she doesn’t go mad, more proof of her abilities) and pull out a headband that, when she puts it on, transforms her clothes and makes her feel powerful. Michael opens a portal to the past, and everyone but Heather goes through, finding themselves in the Calgary of 1884. Shaman uses a spell to disguise their presence, and Elizabeth uses her new powers to sense her way towards what they are looking for. Young Luke Stang and a man named Zebediah Chase hold a young Native woman hostage while her grandfather hovers in front of them. They want him to summon Ranaq. Snowbird gets excited at this, and Michael is barely able to get her to wait. The old man summons Ranaq, who cannot attack the men because of magical wards they stole off the woman. Zeb asks for riches, and, since Ranaq cannot hurt them, he must provide. The thing is, they cannot touch the wealth or beautiful woman he conjured with their protections in place. Zeb takes his off, and is attacked by the woman, providing Ranaq with the opportunity to take over his body. At this, Snowbird shows herself, and the Great Beast sends her flying. Elizabeth enters the fray, figuring her new powers can stop Ranaq again. At first, nothing happens, but when he tries to blast her, she absorbs his energy and fires it back at him. Puck stops Stang from fleeing, and the old man makes it clear that he is the only person that can stop Ranaq, using the necklaces they stole from the Native girl. He uses one of the necklace pieces as a bullet, and, after confirming that Zeb is truly dead, shoots Ranaq in the head with it, which strangely has a negative effect on Snowbird (who, really, this kind of thing just keeps happening to). Later, after Stang has buried Zeb’s body where Elizabeth will find it in one hundred years, Elizabeth feels bad that Stang is going to spend the next century in fear of Ranaq returning. Snowbird refers to her as the Talisman, and Elizabeth asks about that.
- Sasquatch is in the Rocky Mountains, and spends five hours clearing land and digging through a mountain to construct a waterfall on the planned site of a new sanitarium. Really, he’s experimenting on himself. As he talks to the workmen on the site, Aurora shows up sporting her new yellow costume. She flirts with the other workmen, and when Walter tries to rein her in a little, she flies off. As he makes his way back to the city, he worries about his recent fits of rage. In Calgary, Talisman objects to the way that Snowbird and Shaman speak of her abilities as messianic role. When she tries to take the coronet off her head, she discovers that it’s permanently placed there. Heather and Judd are also there, and they talk about Heather’s changed relationship with her parents (they are in their house, but her parents, who raised Elizabeth, are out of town), and what a normal life really is in their world. Heather leaves to call Walter to tell him that the team is coming to see him. Michael asks to speak to Judd about his growing closeness to Heather, and Judd assumes he’s warning him off of taking advantage of her. Instead, Michael wants Judd to be prepared to give Heather whatever she might look for from him. IT’s all a bit weird, really. Walter and Aurora are in a speedboat off the Strait of Juan de Fuca, looking for a property that has been in Walter’s family for over a hundred years. His great aunt had a remote house out there, and Walter thought it might make a good base for the team. They are surprised to find the house, which was built by his eccentric aunt who had been married eight times, in good upkeep. Walter worries about Aurora’s mental health, and falls into a secret passage in the wall. Aurora, looking for him, becomes engulfed in darkness, and has to fight her Jeanne-Marie persona for dominance. She finds a lit room, and in it, finds eight very lifelike golden statues of men, presumably the aunt’s husbands. One statue opens its eyes, scaring her. She finds a woman in gold and white standing there; the woman introduces herself as Gilded Lily, and shows Aurora Walter, covered in gold and still as a statue himself.
- Aurora is not happy to see that Walter is trapped in a gold statue, and asks Gilded Lily about it. She then gives her lengthy life story, told in yellow-tinged flashback. A hundred years prior, Lily was travelling through Transylvania when a crash killed her husband. She made her way to a castle, where she was helped by Esteban Diablo. He showed her kindness, and he showed her his alchemy lab, and explained that he was over one thousand years old. He revealed himself to be Diablo, and they fell in love, and he taught her his skills. At some point, the villagers betrayed Diablo, and sealed him in his lab (setting up his appearance in Fantastic Four). Lily was attacked by the butler, but killed him and ran away. She worked to figure out Diablo’s immortality potion, and then with a new weapon, returned to Transylvania to track down everyone responsible for trapping (and she presumed killing) her lover. She seduced and married one of them, and then turned him into a living, frozen, gold statue using her new abilities. She then seduced, married, and statued seven more men, before, I guess, bringing them all to her house on the west coast of Canada. Gilded Lily drags Aurora away, wanting to make her her first female statue. Walter is still conscious inside his gold prison, and recaps last issue before triggering the transformation to Sasquatch, and freeing himself. Snowbird flies through the sky, and is wracked with pain that drops her to the ground. She doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. Sasquatch, wandering the halls and tunnels under his great aunt’s house, finds Aurora trapped over a bubbling vat of gold (so different from the way we’ve already seen Gilded Lily perform her work). Lily has the floor attack him, and Sasquatch just starts wrecking things. He pulls away Lily’s cloak, revealing that she is mostly a slim golden cyborg. When he pulls her mask off, she screams and turns to dust. The labs around them start to collapse too, so Sasquatch grabs Aurora and protects her as everything falls on them. With a mighty sneeze he clears the dust off them. Later, they realize that the interior of the house is completely gone. Sasquatch wonders why Aurora didn’t use any of her abilities to help herself, and worries that a third personality is emerging in his lover.
- Jean-Paul is surprised to find Aurora standing at his door, freezing in a bikini. When he says her name, she gets angry, and we realize that it’s really Jeanne-Marie in front of him. He gets her inside and starts warming her up. We learn that while she was on the boat with Walter after last issue, Jeanne-Marie, becoming dominant, felt uncomfortable with his advances and continued use of Aurora’s name, and she fled, flying across the country for three days before coming to her brother’s. He’s surprised to learn that she can fly as Jeanne-Marie, but she reminds him that it’s Aurora who usually blocks her abilities. After she goes to bed, Jean-Paul thinks about calling Walter to tell him what’s going on, but decides not to, thinking that he can keep her to himself. In Vancouver, Heather and Elizabeth, who have gone to see Walt, walk in the rain and talk about his issues with controlling Sasquatch, and why that problem is causing Shaman to worry. Heather thinks she sees her dead husband Mac and chases after him, but he runs away. Jean-Paul takes Jeanne-Marie with him to see an old friend, Clementine D’Arbanville, who runs a circus currently stationed in Montreal. She is having a problem with a new employee, Pink Pearl, a very large woman who gets fat shamed throughout the issue, but who is also a terrible person. It appears she’s been causing members of the circus to have accidents, and has been replacing them with her friends, and slowly taking over. She shows up at Clementine’s trailer and punches her, threatening Jean-Paul. Her associate, Bones (think Ragdoll from Secret Six) pins Jean-Paul down, and when Jeanne-Marie tries to hit Pearl, she suffocates her in her bosom, and then slaps Clementine. Roger Bochs and Madison Jeffries are testing the new Box armor, which Bochs now phases into, providing him with more mobility than his wheelchair. We learn that Bochs still intends to go after Jaxon and anyone else who helped kill James Hudson. Aurora wakes up in the circus’s big top, and sees Jean-Paul and Clementine (she registers shock that he’s with a woman). Pearl talks about what’s going on. She knows that Clementine was once part of a French separatist terrorist group, like the FLQ, and wants to blow up a bomb at the circus that will take out a house down the road where the Canadian Prime Minister and US President are meeting to arrange an Arctic laser missile defense treaty, for her employers. Aurora, her hands tied behind her back, starts flying around and glowing, kicking Pearl’s other associates. Pearl jumps at her, and then holds her up by her hands for Bones to throw a knife at. Clementine knocks Bones just as he throws, and his knife lands in Pearl’s chest. She’s not dead, but in shock. Later, after the police have taken the criminals away, Aurora confronts Jean-Paul with the fact that she’s figured out that he was also involved in the separatist movement, and has decided to tell Alpha Flight all about it (it’s amazing to me that Department H wouldn’t have found this out when vetting him).
- Snowbird dreams that the three gods she is descended from, Nelvana, Hodiak, and Shaper, visit pain on her for her failure to defeat the Great Beasts, revealing that Sasquatch is one of her ancient enemies. She wakes up at Douglas Thompson’s place, and explains what’s going on. Puck is training Talisman to fight. Walter interrupts them to let them know that Heather is sleeping, and still upset because she thought she saw Mac. They discuss his possible interruption, but are interrupted by Aurora arriving the tell them that there is a super villain rampaging through Vancouver. Caliber is a guy in an armored suit, and he’s causing a lot of destruction. The four members of Alpha Flight show up, and he shoots Sasquatch with something strong enough that he feels it. Aurora blinds the guy and Sasquatch knocks him down, but Walter is acting strangely. Just then, Snowbird swoops in, turns into a large owl, and attacks her orange friend. Aurora tries to help, but is surprised to find that Sasquatch has changed in tone. Talisman feels mystic energy coming off of him, and tries to control it. Snowbird explains to Puck that when Walter conducted his gamma experiment, he weakened a mystical barrier and allowed Tanaraq, one of the Great Beasts, into his soul. Slowly, the Beast has been taking over, and now is in complete control. Snowbird uses her powers to become a Sasquatch herself, and fights Tanaraq, ultimately ripping out his heart and killing him. It is Walter’s body that falls to the ground though, and Aurora is very upset. Snowbird makes it clear that there is a way to save Walter’s soul, but they have to go to the Kingdom of the Beasts.
- Snowbird, Puck, Talisman, Aurora, and Heather have brought Walter’s body, which Snowbird turned to crystal to preserve, to a place called The Eye of the World, up north, so they can safely access the realm of the Great Beasts to get Walter back. Shaman arrives, having been strongly summoned by Talisman. Northstar also shows up, having received the same summons. Aurora punches him for being arrogant, and Shaman fills him in on what’s going on. Since Northstar had quit the team, he prepares to leave, but Snowbird uses another new power and compels him to stay. Shaman uses a giant staff to teleport the team (leaving Heather behind to watch Walter’s body) across the great barrier, and through a few pages of strange worlds. They arrive at the distant planet where the Beasts live, a black and white planet of great ruin. We learn that the Beasts tried to cross from this world to Earth generations ago, and that when Hodiak and the others sent them back, the Beasts were able to use the same magical energy to trap Snowbird’s family. The fliers start to scout around, and spot Somon, the Artificer, who has control over the other Beasts. Snowbird attacks him, and he calls forth Tundra, Kariooq, and Tolamaq to fight the heroes. Heather is cold and alone at the Eye, until Roger Bochs shows up in his Box suit, having also received Talisman’s call. Heather is happy to see him, until he points out that Walter’s body is starting to crumble. Alpha keeps up the fight against the Beasts, while Snowbird, in the form of a polar bear (funny how her mystical connection to Canada isn’t needed when she’s on another planet). She knocks Somon down, severing his control of the Beasts, who hate each other and start to fight amongst themselves. They rush to Snowbird’s side, and Shaman stops her from killing Somon. The Artificer agrees to help recover Walter’s soul, and takes them to a large pit supposedly full of souls. He states that three people are needed to retrieve Walter – one who loves him, one who hates him, and one of great power – so the Beaubiers and Talisman enter the darkness. Inside the pit, they are attacked by Somon, who has tricked them and kills them, which in turn causes Snowbird to kill him. Shaman lays out his dead daughter and teammates, and they are all surprised when a large energy globe above them descends and restores the three dead heroes. It turns out that the globe held Walter’s lifeforce, and though it is much diminished now, Michael captures it in his own globe, and they return to Earth. Once there, they are surprised to see that Walter’s body has been completely destroyed, a result of the mystical nature of the Eye of the World. Shaman gets the idea of storing Walter inside the Box suit, so Roger phases out, and Walter is placed inside. He’s surprised at his new situation, and Snowbird announces that her time on Earth is over, now that the Great Beasts are all defeated. Later, Heather visits Douglas to tell him that Snowbird is gone, and he appears to take it well. Of course, she’s not actually gone; she’s come to Douglas to learn how “to be a woman.”
- It looks like Northstar is being put on trial by the team (consisting of Michael, Heather, Aurora, Walter, and Roger Bochs, who has apparently joined the team just as he lost his metal suit). Jean-Paul is not pleased about having his past questioned, and lashes out against Roger as an outsider, and Heather as a dictator who named herself leader. Puck shows up to tell everyone that Guardian might not be dead, as he’s in battle with Caliber downtown. Talisman is on the scene of this fight, and is surprised to see Guardian alive and fighting a foe that the team thought they’d taken care of. Talisman has never met Guardian, but is convinced it’s him when she sees him in action. She hears Guardian refer to having been dead before, which confuses her some. She decides to try to tap into latent mystical energy and manages to destroy Caliber’s armor completely. Guardian speaks to her, and they are joined by the rest of Alpha Flight. Heather and Guardian kiss. Later, Heather is back at Walter’s place, having fainted when she kissed Mac. He explains where he’s been. When she interrupted him in issue twelve, he managed to use his exploding suit to punch a hole in time and space, teleporting himself to Ganymede, the moon of Jupiter. He passed out, but was saved and fixed by a race called the Quwrlln, who bonded with him. He learned that he’d gone back in time ten thousand years, so the Quwrlln put him in stasis until they could find a way to get him home. When he woke up, he learned that the Quwrlln had gone to war with themselves, and their race was gone. They left him a rocket, and he used it to come home, landing in the Pacific Ocean. His ship dissolved, and he barely made it to shore. He stole some clothes and almost immediately saw Heather when he arrived in Vancouver. He ran from her because he wasn’t ready to explain what had happened to him. He tears off his Guardian suit (why he couldn’t just take it off, I don’t know) to show her that when the Quwrlln put him back together, they incorporated his battlesuit into his body, making him ostensibly a cyborg. Walter is testing out his new Box body, smashing rocks, with Roger. Aurora suggests she’s not as interested in him without a human body, and Walter feels overwhelmed. Roger suggests he has a way of getting Walter a real body again.
- The team (Guardian, Aurora, Box, Talisman, Shaman, and Puck) are fighting against a group of five robots which hold their own pretty well. When Guardian severs some tentacles holding Aurora, there is electromagnetic feedback that injures her, and she falls, barely caught by a spell of Shaman’s. She’s hurt, and at that point, the robots combine like Voltron to form a larger robot. Talisman and Shaman combine their powers to distract it, while Box tosses it around. It’s at this point that we learn that the robot attack is actually a test organized by the Canadian government to look at producing this Macro System. While the team chats, a dispatch arrives from Heather to Guardian, telling him that there is a problem that needs the team. Shaman explains that he needs to look after Aurora, and Box insists on staying with her, so Guardian leaves with just Talisman and Puck, heading to West Edmonton Mall. An official tells him that three people, or perhaps hundreds of people, chased everyone out of the mall, and threatened to blow it up. He says that they call themselves Omega Flight, which startles Guardian. The team splits up (Northstar and Heather are apparently already inside). Puck is found by Diamond Lil, but when he fights her, he is grabbed by an energy shield and tossed away by someone with a white glove. Talisman is found by Flashback, who calls her an offensive name, before attacking her with his future selves. She is blasted from above, by Omega Flight’s boss, who is seen with a red and white sleeve. Northstar, who would have had enough time to reconnoiter the whole mall a dozen times by now, spots Wild Child. He boasts, but as he speeds up to attack the guy, he hits an electromagnetic field, and we see that the boss really has to be Guardian. Next we check in on Heather, who Guardian finds. She notices that his voice is different, and is that of Jerry Jaxon. Guardian explains that he’s not Guardian, but actually the robot formerly known as Delphine Courtney, and that she’s there to destroy Alpha Flight.
- Delphine gloats to Heather that she’s won, but Heather points out that there are more teammates unaccounted for. To that end, Delphine has Flashback bring her the now-drugged Talisman, figuring that if she hurt her, Shaman would know and come to her aid. Shaman has finished binding Aurora’s ribs, and Walter wants to show her and Michael what he and Roger have been working on. They’ve been looking for a new body for Walter, figuring that they can find one in another dimension. They’ve built an inter-dimensional scanner (as one does), and in some crossroads of dimensions, have found a big, mindless, body that they figure they can use. Shaman feels that Elizabeth is in pain. At the same time, up north, Narya feels the same distress, and tells Douglas that she has to resume her Snowbird guise and go to her friends. Shaman teleports himself, Aurora, and Box into the West Edmonton Mall, but they can’t figure out what’s going on. Guardian/Delphine appears to them, and makes it look like Alpha has taken down Omega Flight. He talks about how he can’t find Smart Alec though, and Shaman explains that he shrunk him and left him in his medicine pouch. Delphine snatches the pouch, but not being able to find Smart Alec in it, turns it inside out. Immediately, the strange void universe inside it begins to expand, trapping Aurora and Box. Omega Flight leave the unconscious Alpha Flight and run. Shaman is able to grab Talisman, who is coming around. He tells her that she is the only person who can get Alpha out of the other dimension while he works to stop its spread. Inside, she finds herself disoriented, but begins to explore, finally spotting the rest of her team. From the outside, it’s noticeable that her presence is helping to shrink the void. Alpha, still unconscious, emerge from the maelstrom. Shaman, who has been soliloquizing about how proud of Elizabeth he is, is about to help pull her out of the void when Delphine takes a shot at him. She, still dressed as Guardian, has a grip on Snowbird’s neck, and is threatening to kill her. He reaches into the void to pull out some stuff to toss at Delphine, effectively saving Snowbird, but when he reaches back to help Talisman, he sees the last of the void returning into his pouch, which can’t issue anything bigger than its mouth. Basically, he’s failed his daughter once again, and she is either trapped there, or consumed by it. The letter’s page reveals that Byrne will be leaving with the next issue.
- Between issues twenty-seven and twenty-eight, Alpha Flight appeared in Secret Wars II #4, and this issue is a SWII cross-over. The issue opens on the members of Omega Flight fleeing the West Edmonton Mall, and arguing with each other over how badly their plan went. They see a car start crunching into itself, making it clear to Delphine Courtney that Madison Jeffries was on the scene. We quickly learn that Diamond Lil and Jeffries have some history between them, and that Courtney never tried to recruit him into Omega Flight. He finishes transforming the car into a robot that knocks down Lil. Jeffries goes to her, confused as to why she’s behaving so badly. The robot next tosses Wild Child around, and Courtney can’t do anything, since Shaman’s spell has still knocked out her defenses. To protect herself, Courtney moves one of Flashback’s future selves in front of her, and the robot kills it. Immediately his other future selves wink out of existence, and Flashback starts freaking out about what this means for him. (Really, Flashback doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – who among us would take orders from their younger self, especially knowing that the Omega Flight gig would go badly?). Next Jeffries turns to Delphine herself, using his powers to rip her apart. He tells Omega Flight that they will have to suffer the consequences of their actions, and leaves his robot to guard them while he enters the mall. He sees Alpha Flight standing around the Beyonder, who holds Talisman, freed from Shaman’s bag, in his arms. There is some debate about what should be done with the Beyonder, and then he teleports away. Talisman is confused, but when her memories return, she decks Shaman, furious at him for lying to her and breaking his promise to save her. She uses her powers to teleport the whole team away, sending them back to the new headquarters they’ve apparently leased at some point, surprising Roger Bochs. Snowbird is not with them, but the team is surprised to see Jeffries was teleported with them. Heather decides that everyone should take a two hour break before they figure out what to do next, and goes to take a bath and update her audio cassette journal. She talks about her concerns for Michael, who seems heartbroken. As she gets dressed, the power goes out, so she goes to see what’s going on. Walter is sitting in front of a dimensional portal with a high-tech fishing rod, and everyone (Shaman’s not there) begins to explain to Heather their plan to retrieve Walter a new body. Heather is concerned for the danger inherent in this, but they proceed anyway. Walter sends his consciousness into the portal, and Roger phases into the Box armor. Madison explains the comic book science to Heather, and Shaman arrives just as they pull the mindless creature, supposedly now home to Walter, through the portal. The thing is, they’ve brought through the Hulk, and he immediately smashes Box’s shoulder.
John Byrne’s departure from this book is one of the stranger ones I remember, as he effected a creative swap with the Incredible Hulk’s book, trading places with its creative team, right down to the editor. As such, they concocted this Hulk story to ease the transition, but Byrne clearly felt fine leaving some character arcs incomplete.
I’d say that this entire run is very unconventional though, especially for the time, and was probably a lot more ground-breaking than people realize. Look at the structure of this series – after two full-team stories, there are many single character stories, with backups filling in the history of the team. It’s something like eight months before the team gets back together again, and that’s for the death of the book’s main character. After that, it’s more months of a divided and split up team, while Heather takes charge of things and tries slowly to get them all together again.
For most of this run, the team has no funding and no headquarters. The closest they get, until the very end of the run, is hanging out at Walter Langkowski’s condo complex. But the Defenders are known as the non-team?
It’s worth looking at each individual character I think, as Byrne had a plan for all of them.
Guardian – I think killing Mac off was the best thing that Byrne could do for this title, as he was both kind of boring and uninspiring, and because with him around, the team felt too much like the Canadian Avengers. Without him, characters could grow into leadership roles, or become more problematic, as their personalities dictated.
Heather – Heather is arguably the centre of this book from the very beginning. She starts off as an optimistic cheerleader, and slowly builds a sense of responsibility for everyone she knows. She lets tragedy wreck her for a while, and then she picks herself back up, and is pretty inspiring. I hate when Byrne (or maybe it was Andy Yanchus) started putting her in red and white outfits all the time, and I hate her wrap-around glasses, but deciding to not make her Guardian II from the jump was very smart.
Shaman – First off, it’s nice to see an Indigenous character like Shaman, who becomes the backbone of the team, without always having to resort to stereotypical portrayals. Sure, there are problems with Shaman, but for the early 80s, his inclusion is pretty cool. The idea of him feeling like a failure for not saving his wife, and then abandoning his daughter, adds nuance to him, but it’s also cool that he’s this highly respected doctor as well as a superhero. His relationship with Elizabeth is interesting. One thing that bothered me with him is that in the early issues, his people are referred to as the Sacree, and later, it switches to Sarcee, which is what I remembered. A bit of Internet research tells me that the Sarcee are really called the Tsuut’ina, and are from the area around Calgary. I guess the earlier spelling was a mistake, and I wonder who caught it.
Puck – Puck got less screen time than I remembered, aside from his role in helping Heather get back on track after Mac’s death. He’s an interesting character, and I like how often Byrne refers to his past and worldly experience. I guess most of the development I remember comes later.
Northstar – It seems pretty clear that Byrne always intended for Jean-Paul to be gay, or at least he dropped enough hints about it here that it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to any close readers. It’s also interesting to see Jean-Paul portrayed as so stubbornly insistent on speaking French in Anglo settings, and that Byrne gave him some past history with separatist terrorists. I’m not sure how many American readers in the 80s would have known the history behind all this, but it’s very cool to see it included here. It’s also interesting that he never really saw himself as part of the team, and was only there to spend time with his sister.
Aurora – Byrne portrayed Aurora with great sensitivity and understanding, and made her a pretty fascinating character over his run. While her diagnosis of schizophrenia is clearly wrong, this is one of the earliest comic book portrayals of mental illness I can think of that didn’t victimize the character. Aurora is a strong woman, and so is Jeanne-Marie. The changes wrought on her by Walter don’t really make sense, and needed to be explained more, but I really enjoyed the complexity of the character.
Sasquatch/Box – Walter started out a pretty bland guy, but as this run continued, and he “died” and came back in the Box suit, he became a lot more interesting. One thing that I didn’t remember about Walt and how Byrne drew him as Sasquatch is his finger toes. That actually really bothered me this time around, and grossed me out.
Snowbird – Narya starts off as an interesting character, but really becomes pretty limited pretty quickly. She has a wide variety of powers, but no real personality. It’s cool that she chose to become more of a human, through her relationship with Doug, but we don’t see a lot of it, so it doesn’t really count.
Talisman – I had a bit of a crush on Elizabeth as a kid, and still see a lot of potential in the character. Her relationship with her father, and her complete lack of knowledge of her abilities, gives her a lot of space to grow as a character. I also like that she’s another strong indigenous character.
Marrina – Lowkey, I kind of hate Marrina, largely because once she was discovered to be an alien, every story she ever showed up in had to be about that. She needed someone to take more time with her to make her more of a character.
Box – It’s cool that this book had a double-amputee character, even though he largely served a supporting role, and didn’t get much opportunity, at least so far, to do more than plot revenge on Omega Flight (and then miss out when the team fought them again).
I liked the way Byrne chose to strengthen the team’s ties to Wolverine, but resisted putting him in multiple issues. It seemed that Byrne was determined to have this book stand on its own, with the only guest stars from American Marvel being characters he was already, or would become, connected to (like Invisible Girl and Namor).
This book did a great job of establishing Canada as a real place, and Byrne had the team heading back and forth across it numerous times. In truth, he gave the country more coverage than America was getting, at a time when just about every Marvel hero was stationed in New York. There are some cool Easter Eggs for Canadian readers, and the book demonstrates our geographical diversity quite nicely.
It blows my mind that Byrne was working on this book at the same time that he was also writing and drawing the Fantastic Four, but that also explains the general lack of backgrounds in the early issues, and the occasional appearance of Keith Williams as “inking assistant”, which I understand to mean background artist in general. Byrne has always been a favourite of mine, although I didn’t follow him over to the Hulk, having little to no interest in that character back then.
I have some fond memories of Bill Mantlo’s long run on the book, but also remember not liking some of the characters he introduced to the team. I guess we’ll see how his work stood up next time around.
If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.
If you’d like to read the stories I’ve talked about, you can get them here:
Alpha Flight by John Byrne Omnibus
Alpha Flight Classic Vol. 1
Alpha Flight Classic Vol. 2 (Alpha Flight (1983-1994))
Alpha Flight Classic Vol. 3 (Alpha Flight (1983-1994))
Tags: Alpha Flight, John Byrne, Marvel, Retro Reviews