Alpha Flight #29-66, Annual #1-2 (December 1985 – January 1989)
Written by Bill Mantlo (#29-62, 64-66, Annual #1-2), James D. Hudnall (#63)
Pencilled by Mike Mignola (#29-31, 47), Jon Bogdanove (#32), Sal Buscema (#33-34), Dave Ross (#35-44), June Brigman (#45-46, 49-50, 52, Annual #2), Craig Brasfield (#47), Steve Purcell (#47), Terry Shoemaker (#48), Jim Lee (#51, 53, 55-62, 64), Hugh Haynes (#54, 63, 65-66), Larry Stroman (Annual #1)
Inked by Gerry Talaoc (#29-38, 66, Annual #1), Whilce Portacio (#39-47, 49-54), Terry Austin (#47), Steve Leialoha (#48), Hilary Barta (#48), Tony DeZuniga (#55-57), Al Milgrom (#58-62, 64-65), Mike Gustovich (#63), Don Hudson (#63), Bob McLeod (Annual #2)
Colour by Bob Sharen (#29-47, 49-53, 55-66, Annual #1-2), Glynis Oliver (#48), Gregory Wright (#54)
Spoilers (from thirty to thirty-four years ago)
I remember being pretty upset that John Byrne left Alpha Flight with issue twenty-eight, but I was also curious to see what the incoming creative team of Bill Mantlo (whose Micronauts was a favourite of mine) and Mike Mignola (who didn’t stick around for long) were going to do with these characters. From what I remember, Mantlo (who ended up staying for over three years) made this a much more conventional comic, with a centralized team, a headquarters, and more interaction with American heroes.
I remember some cool things, like putting Heather into the Guardian suit, but giving her more edge by having her bring back the Vindicator name, introducing Lady Deathstrike to the world, making Walter into Wanda Langkowski, and making Madison Jeffries a member of the team. I also remember some questionable stuff, like introducing Purple Girl, and some kind of terrible things, like creating that kid who can turn into different stages of his evolution (I don’t remember his name).
I also remember that the art on this title varied wildly at times, and that Jim Lee got his Marvel start on Alpha Flight. Overall, are these good comics? I guess we’re going to find out. This is going to be a long one.
Let’s look at who turned up in the title:
- Box (Roger Bochs; #29-46, Annual #1)
- Puck (Eugene Milton Judd; #29-46, 48-50, 59-60, Annual #1)
- Vindicator (as Heather Hudson #29-31, as Vindicator #32-66, Annual #1-2)
- Northstar (Jean-Paul Beaubier; #29-46, 48-50, Annual #1)
- Aurora (Jeanne-Marie Beaubier; #29-46, 48-50, 64, Annual #1)
- Shaman (Michael Twoyoungmen; #29-31, 34-42, 44-45, Annual #1)
- Box (as Madison Jeffries #29-36, 39-45, Annual #1, as Box #46, 48-66, Annual #2)
- Snowbird (Narya; #29-31, 33-42, 44-45, 64, Annual #1)
- Marrina (#33-35, 37-40, 61)
- Talisman (Elizabeth Twoyoungmen; #35, 37-39)
- Sasquatch (Wanda Langkowski; #45-46, 48-62, 64-66, Annual #2)
- Purple Girl (Kara Killgrave; #42-46, 48-62, 64-66, Annual #2)
- Manikin (Whitman Knapp; #50-62, 64-66, Annual #2)
- Goblyn (#54-62, 64-66)
- Laura Dean (#54-58, 60-62, 64-66)
- Scramble (#30, 48)
- Deadly Ernest (#30-31)
- Razer (#32, 50)
- Attuma (#33-39)
- Lady Deathstrike (#33-34)
- Lord Dara (of Atlantis; #35)
- Pestilence (Captain FR Crozier; #36-38, 44-45)
- Kariooq the Corrupter (Great Beast; #38, 55, 64)
- Tundra (Great Beast; #38, 55, 64)
- Ranaq, the Devourer (Great Beast; #38)
- Tolomaq (Great Beast; #38, 55, 64)
- Kolomaq (Great Beast; #38)
- Somon the Artificer (Great Beast; #38, 55, 64)
- Marrina’s Plodex mate (#40)
- The Auctioneer (#42)
- Mentallo (#43)
- Sentinels (#43)
- Sebastian Shaw (#43)
- Box (Roger Bochs; #46, 48)
- Alien trees (#47)
- Omega (the amalgam of Scramble and Roger Bochs; #48-49)
- Loki (#50)
- Bedlam (#53)
- Freakout (Derangers; #53)
- Janus (Derangers; #53)
- Breakdown (Derangers; #53)
- Goblyn (Derangers; #53)
- The Dreamqueen (#56-60, 64)
- Bedlamites (#56)
- Purple Man (#62)
- China Force (#66)
- Gilded Lily (Annual #1)
- Diablo (Annual #1)
- The Hulk (#29)
- Nemesis (#31)
- Storm (Ororo Munroe, X-Men; #33, 61)
- Colossus (Piotr Rasputin, X-Men; #33, 61)
- Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner, X-Men; #33)
- Wolverine (Logan, X-Men; #33-34, 52-53, 61)
- Magneto (Magnus, X-Men; #33)
- Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde, X-Men; #33)
- Phoenix (Rachel Summers, X-Men; #33)
- Rogue (X-Men; #33, 61)
- Byrrah (#36, 38-40)
- Black Knight (Dane Whitman, Avengers; #36, 39, 61)
- The Sub-Mariner (Namor; #36-40, 61)
- Hercules (Avengers; #36, 39)
- Dr. Strange (#36)
- Wasp (Janet Van Dyne, Avengers; #39)
- Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau, Avengers; #39, 61)
- Captain America (Steve Rogers, Avengers; #39)
- Lord Vashti (#40)
- Purple Girl (Kara Killgrave; #41)
- Manikin (Dr. Whitman Knapp; #49)
- Jade Dragon (#59-61, 64-66)
- The High Lama (#59-60)
- Brian Mulroney (Prime Minister of Canada; #60)
- The Human Torch (Johnny Storm, Fantastic Four; #61)
- Crystal (Fantastic Four; #61)
- Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura, Fantastic Four; #61)
- The Thing (Ben Grimm, Fantastic Four; #61)
- She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters, Avengers; #61)
- Thor (Avengers; #61)
- Dr. Druid (Anthony Druid, Avengers; #61)
- Dazzler (Alison Blaire, X-Men; #61)
- Havok (Alex Summers, X-Men; #61)
- Longshot (X-Men; #61)
- Psylocke (Betsy Braddock, X-Men; #61)
- Bill Mantlo (#66)
- Gary Cody (head of Department H; #29-30, 39, 51-52, Annual #2)
- Douglas Thompson (Snowbird’s boyfriend; #30-31, 33-39, 44-45)
- Scramble (Lionel Jeffries; #31, 43-46)
- Shaman’s grandfather (#31, 34-35)
- Eaglet (Shaman’s familiar; #35-36)
- Nelvanna (#36-37, 45, 64)
- Hodiak (#36-37, 45, 64)
- Turoq, the Shaper of Life (#36-37, 45, 64)
- Elizabeth Twoyoungmen (the depowered Talisman; #41, 62, 64-
- Dr. Whitman Knapp (Scramble’s assistant; #43-46, 48)
- Veronica Langkowski (Walter’s ex-wife; #59, 61, 64)
- Susan Dean (Laura and Goblyn’s mother; #61)
- Darby Dean (Laura and Goblyn’s father; #61)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- The new creative team gets off to a rough start with a first issue that is stuffed with exposition and a need to recap just about everything that’s ever happened in the series. The Hulk smashes through Box’s chest, causing Roger to freak out that he can never phase out of the robot. Puck starts to distract the Hulk to provide time for some exposition. Madison Jeffries works to fix Box while Aurora realizes that Walter is probably dead, giving Northstar cause to worry for her sanity. He claims this is what he feared when she started her relationship with Walter, but I guess he doesn’t mean that his consciousness would be lost in a dimensional crossroads and cause the team to have to fight the Hulk. Puck keeps bouncing around while Hulk wrecks the lab, and Heather gets upset that Puck told her to keep back, worrying that she doesn’t have any powers (although neither does Puck). Shaman can’t help because he’s lost his faith in himself, and therefore can no longer access his mystic pouch. Hulk finally breaks through a wall, collapsing it on Puck. Hulk wants to go home to the desert, but Heather jumps on him. Northstar empathises with his sister and starts to cry. Hulk shakes off Heather and Puck and jumps away. Heather tries to rally the team, but Northstar acts like a jerk until Aurora says she wants vengeance. Jeffries has finished fixing Box, and Roger has to give a big speech before agreeing to help fight the Hulk. Michael again talks about his lack of courage. The team (without Shaman or Jeffries) flies off to find the Hulk. Jeffries says something about knowing someone who can fix bodies the way he can fix machines. Shaman sends a call for help to someone. The team finds the Hulk, who is wrecking Vancouver, and engages in battle, while Heather feels good about her leadership. The tides turn, and Hulk rips off Box’s leg. The twins try to combine their powers, but learn that after Walter experimented on Aurora, their powers now cancel out when they touch one another. Hulk comes for Heather, but just then, Snowbird arrives (having been called by Shaman), and turns into Sasquatch/Tanaraq again to fight him. The military arrives, and Hulk decides to flee. Snowbird follows him to the border, and then turns back. The team is feeling bad again, so Snowbird gives a long speech about how necessary Alpha Flight is. As she finishes, Gary Cody emerges from a helicopter, complimenting her speech (which I guess he was able to hear over the rotors as he landed?). He explains that he’s just come from Ottawa (in a helicopter?) to tell them that Department H has been refunded and that he’s in charge of it. Everyone agrees to stay on as Alpha Flight, including Madison Jeffries (Shaman’s not there), and Heather worries that she won’t be able to maintain their loyalty as leader.
- So Department H has taken over and renovated Walter’s great-aunt’s place on the extreme western side of Canada, all before informing the team that they were back. As the team moves in, Heather and Gary Cody talk some more about how independent the team is going to be, while Heather thinks about her doubts, and worries about the other members of the team. A cable connecting a large piece of equipment to a helicopter snaps, and while Alpha tries to clear the soldiers out from under it, Northstar and Aurora touch and negate their powers. Box catches the stuff, but it breaks apart, leaving it to Jeffries to transmute all the pieces into harmless flying toys (I guess we’ve already retconned away the thing that said he could only turn metal and electronics into parts that mimic his body). We are given a tour of the new headquarters, including a detailed floor plan, and then Bochs gets into it with some suit who wants to know what all his technology does. Heather challenges the degree to which the team is independent, and Cody backs her up. Once Jeffries has put all the equipment back together, he makes an off-hand remark about his brother that piques Heather’s interest. Shaman has been staying with Snowbird and Doug up north, but now he needs to go on his own path to try to recover his courage and abilities. After he leaves, Snowbird tells Doug that she wants to follow him; Doug wants to go with her. At the Alpha Mansion, Heather watches her teammates, as Aurora and Northstar feel sorry for themselves, and Puck tosses in his sleep. She finds that Bochs and Jeffries are rebuilding the Guardian suit, and at first she is angry, but then she calms down. She goes to the computer room to look through Jeffries’s file, and discovers that he has a younger brother, a doctor, in Montreal. She takes the team’s sole “omniship” and goes to the hospital where she believes he works. It turns out, he’s a patient, kept in total isolation from everyone. She is the first to visit him in years. When his room is opened, he lunges, and manages to touch her hand through the mask he wears, then identifies himself as Scramble. Alpha Flight, having seen Heather leave, and discovering that she was looking up Lionel Jeffries, followed her and somehow made it from the coast of BC to Montreal in an hour (it’s more than a six hour flight in a commercial jet). They discover a mass of misshapen and hideous creatures coming out of the hospital, and quickly figure out they are patients and staff deformed by Scramble. Jeffries explains that he and his brother fought in Vietnam, where they tried to use their abilities of transmutation for good, but Lionel lost it when he tried to bring some dead soldiers back to life. The team finds Heather, horribly disfigured, and Puck stays with her (Aurora notices how sweetly he speaks to her) while the rest keep looking for Scramble. Aurora begins to revert to Jeanne-Marie, while Box has to fight a creature made up of many people merged into one. Madison finds his brother in the morgue, trying to raise the dead again, and they fight. Madison forces Lionel’s hands onto his own head, thereby making it possible for Lionel to fix his brain and end his own madness. After fixing everyone, Lionel thanks Heather and asks for forgiveness. In the morgue, one body, properly put back together, gets up and walks off.
- Deadly Ernest is alive again, and walking naked through a rough part of Montreal. He kills a man to get his clothes, and walks around in leathers, thinking about how many people he’s going to kill. Nemesis is back, standing on a statue of Jacques Cartier and yelling at the night about how she is going to kill Ernest again. Alpha Flight prepare to leave Montreal, and are saying goodbye to Lionel, who intends to return to his medical practice now that his sanity is restored. Puck is wracked by pain, but doesn’t want Lionel to help him. An ambulance brings the dead guy that Ernest killed to the hospital, and when Lionel tries to help him, he describes his condition in a way that is familiar to Northstar. A hospital official informs the team that a body is missing from the morgue, and identifies it as Ernest St. Ives, who the twins know is Deadly Ernest. Far to the north, Snowbird and Doug are trying to track Shaman, but have lost him in a snowstorm. Snowbird decides to fly Doug out of it, but is wracked by pain and drops Doug. They decide to head to Alpha Flight so she can be examined (although Shaman would be the best person to examine her, really). He, meanwhile, finds his old cabin, although that’s not where it’s supposed to be, and inside it, finds his grandfather’s skull, which tries to talk some sense into him. Michael asks it to help him get his power back, and then the now-naked Shaman disappears. Alpha Flight prepares to go looking for Ernest, which means that first Northstar has to suggest that Heather stick around, and then Aurora and Northstar retell their Ernest story. Jeffries, circling in the Omnijet, somehow picks up Nemesis’s sword on radar. Nemesis is having a hard time finding Ernest, and then realizes it’s because he’s in the Metro, the Montreal subway system. He kills a man on a platform, and then Alpha and Nemesis all show up. We learn that his powers work on Box (whose bulk pins down Nemesis), and then Ernest is able to grab and kill the twins. He covers his death-dealing hands and grabs Heather to use as a hostage when Nemesis frees herself. Ernest takes Heather into the train tunnel, and Nemesis, realizing she can keep the heroes alive if she stays with them, gives her sword to Puck. He wrestles with the idea of killing Ernest, which he’d promised Guardian never to do again, but also feels that he would kill for Heather. The mystic energy of the sword also makes his pain worse than normal, but when he sees Heather, he attacks Ernest and slices him. He cuts off one of his hands, and while continuing to wrestle with his conscience, slices his head right off when he realizes he has to save Heather, who is now unconscious, from an oncoming train. Weirdly, Ernest is still alive, and coming after Puck, who then lops off the other hand. The trains crushes him, and Puck then uses the sword to absorb his remaining life energy off-panel. He and Heather return to the station, and Nemesis restores Jean-Paul, Aurora, Box, and the other guy to life. She then explains that she was Ernest’s daughter, and that she’s kept herself alive through mysticism and science so that she can finally rid the world of him. She crumbles into dust, leaving the sword behind. This was Mignola’s last issue, although he stuck around for covers for a while. His interiors are almost recognizable as his work, although the covers show clear signs of the artist he would become.
- Jon Bogdanove drew this issue, and answers the question of why Mignola didn’t look like Mignola – Gerry Talaoc must have been a very strong inker, as I almost couldn’t tell that the art had switched (and really, there is no similarity between Bogdanove and Mignola). Heather surprises Puck in the team’s new Danger Room, because she is wearing the new Guardian armor that Jeffries and Boch were building. Puck thought she was looking for self-defense training, and is not in a hurry to train her to get herself killed. Heather feels more confident, and starts using the suit with ease. Jeffries runs the Danger Room, using his powers to test Heather’s control, while Bochs monitors. Puck is wracked with pain again, and refers to his pain as “he”, which is a little odd. He tries to get Heather to take things seriously, and something knocks her glasses off. Practically blind, she’s not able to see some heat-seeking missiles, but by turning off her suit and letting Puck catch her, she avoids them. Puck is angry with her, and so she says she’ll get someone else to train her. Bochs hands her her prescription sunglasses, which have been altered to work with her battlesuit, and she leaves. Bochs offers to help Puck (although I’m not sure with what) and he snaps at him. Puck is wracked with pain again, and thinks about how he is in love with Heather, and how it’s tempting to just stop fighting his pain. A black cloud forms above him. On the roof, Aurora and Jean-Paul talk for a bit, and are surprised to see Heather fly off in the Guardian suit. Just after that, a massive black cloud blows through the roof, and takes the form of a large cloudy Arabic-themed mystical villain calling himself Razer. Jeffries and Bochs are checking out the Box robot (which has now been painted blue/gray, matching the way it’s been portrayed on the last few covers). Hearing and sensing that something is wrong, Bochs merges with Box and heads to the roof, where he sees the twins fighting Razer. When Razer’s sword hits Northstar, he collapses in pain and shrinks some. The same thing happens to Box. Puck emerges from the elevator shaft onto the roof, only he’s six-foot-six now, and visibly aged. He explains to Jeffries that he was born in 1914, and that as a thief and adventurer in the 30s, he tried to steal the Black Blade of Baghdad. When he touched it, he released Razer, a malevolent spirit, and in order to trap it, had to absorb it into his body, which became dwarven, and in constant pain. Now that he’s free of Razer, he is worried about his advanced age, realizing that the creature had kept him alive for a long time. He coordinates the twins so that Aurora’s light will cause Razer pain, and makes the decision to trap the evil being again. He grabs the Black Blade and slices it into his own skull, so that he becomes a dwarf again, and so Razer is trapped.
- Sal Buscema drew this issue, and while Talaoc’s inks are pretty dominant, it’s recognizably Buscema’s art. Heather flies south over Quebec (which is very far from where she was in British Columbia last issue), and as she flies, she thinks about how she wants help learning to use her new suit. Somehow she ends up over Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Ocean, which Mantlo thinks is south of Quebec (it isn’t), and she happens to fly right over Marrina, who is kind of monstrous, and being followed by an Atlantean vessel. For a moment, Marrina thinks that Namor is looking for her, but in reality, it is Attuma looking to capture her as bait for Namor. Hiding in the depths, Marrina feels pain in her abdomen and starts screaming. Also screaming is Snowbird, who is in Doug’s place, being examined by a regular doctor. He doesn’t know how to help her, but administers a sedative to help her calm down. Snowbird gets angry, morphs through a number of shapes, and then falls asleep. Doug doesn’t notice that Alpha Flight is calling him, as they are trying to figure out where Heather has gone. Jean-Paul keeps casting aspersions at Heather’s ability to lead, and Box decides to use a built-in tracker to find her. Puck is unhappy that he didn’t help her, and decides to go to her, having figured out where she’s likely gone, and feeling ready to declare his love. Heather, meanwhile, has crossed the border and is approaching Westchester County, where she looks for Wolverine. The X-Men are about to head into the city to take in the opera (seriously?) and suspect that the flying person is attacking them. Logan yells for them to stop, but Magneto (this is the time when he was headmaster of the school) has already attacked, messing up the suit’s electro-magnetic field. This same thing makes it impossible for Nightcrawler to teleport her down, so Rogue flies up to get her. Logan is protective, so the rest of the team leaves him behind. A boat full of Japanese people is tracking some kind of signal, and the new villain Lady Deathstrike (in her first appearance as such) reveals herself as being behind all this. Logan drives around with Heather (I’m not sure why) and when she asks for him to teach her, his reaction is similar to everyone else’s. She gets mad, but Logan calms her down and promises to help. They remember how Logan interrupted Heather and Mac’s honeymoon by attacking them, and how they both shot him. They took him to their cabin to help him recover, and Mac went for help, leaving Heather alone with the feral madman. When he came to, he saw his claws for the first time (this was retconned away long ago) and freaked out. She comforted him. Logan explains how he left the Hudsons when he realized that Heather saw him as a child, and that’s why he went into the Canadian Secret Service and then the X-Men. They talk about power and how to fight, and while they talk, Logan changes into his Wolverine suit, and then lets Heather know they are surrounded by swordsmen. Deathstrike says she wants what was stolen from her.
- Puck has taken the omnijet and is tracking Heather with it. He calls Alpha to apologize to them, explaining that he wants to go declare his love for Heather, and that he’s figured out she’s gone to Wolverine. Bochs is reminded to phase out of his robot, and when he does, he hears an intruder alert. For some reason, he is the only one that goes to investigate, in his wheelchair, and it turns out that Douglas has brought Snowbird, who is quite ill, there for help. He also mentions that they are now married. Shaman talks to the ghost of his grandfather, who sends him on a quest for power. In Westchester, Deathstrike and her samurai have Wolverine and Heather surrounded. Eventually, Deathstrike explains that she’s there for Logan’s adamantium-laced bones, believing they are the product of her father’s research. She gives a long talk recapping Daredevil #196-200, and then filling in the long history of her father, Lord Dark Wind, and how he came up with the adamantium process only to have it stolen from him. While they talk, Heather remembers a time before she married Mac, when she saw a file on his desk about the bonding process. She begins to suspect that Mac was responsible for experimenting on Logan, and that he purposely let Logan find them on their honeymoon. Finally, the fight begins, and Deathstrike orders her men to kill Heather, and to maybe take Logan alive. They fight, but Logan has them run to separate them and maybe avoid killing the men. Heather decides on the name Vindicator for herself, and does well in the fight. Logan starts to feel her berserker rage coming on, and has trouble fighting Deathstrike, who is using an electromagnetic sword that is as hard as his claws. Puck arrives in the jet, and unable to see clearly what’s happening, deduces that the electromagnetic signature his sensors read is Heather (it isn’t), and ends up knocking down Wolverine with the jet. Deathstrike cuts the jet to pieces, but Puck bails in time. Heather slams Deathstrike into a tree, and shatters her sword with shields. With Puck and Wolverine beside her, she asks if they still feel the need to protect her, while I guess Deathstrike just waits to be arrested. Marrina is still pursued by Attuma, and slows down when she feels pain again. They capture her.
- Fellow Torontonian Dave Ross came on as the new regular penciller with issue thirty-five. Ross has been a mainstay of Toronto comic cons, and it seems I got this issue signed by him back in 1989, which I don’t really remember, but now think is pretty cool. Marrina is being held captive by Attuma in Atlantis. Attuma talks with Lord Dara, recapping recent events that have put him in charge of the undersea kingdom, and explaining why he is holding her as bait for the missing Namor. Marrina continues to feel pain in her abdomen. Heather is flying back to BC with Puck (a distance of 3000 miles), and she’s feeling pretty good about how she did in the fight with Lady Deathstrike. At the same time, she’s still convinced that her dead husband manipulated her and Logan, and is responsible for torturing him and making him into Wolverine. She also thinks about why she can’t reciprocate Puck’s love for her until she gets over this distrust of Mac. Puck, meanwhile, feels like he’s offered Heather his heart and been rejected, assuming it’s because of his diminutive size. When they arrive at Tamarind Island, Puck doesn’t want to be carried by her anymore, and bounds in looking for their guests (there’s a seaplane moored outside). They find Doug Thompson sitting on a couch by the front door, who explains that he’s married Snowbird, and that she’s not well. The rest of the team is in the infirmary, where Snowbird is tied down and screaming, showing her “true fires”. She asks for Shaman’s help, and then starts morphing through the various shapes she can assume. Aurora has to tranquilize her, and everyone wonders where Shaman might be. We see the Michael is walking through the barrenlands, where he encounters, and has to run from a herd of spirit caribou. He jumps a chasm, but gets attacked by spirit mosquitoes, and dives into a river, where a giant spirit fish eats him. He cuts his way out after the fish goes over a waterfall (despite the fact that the narration at the beginning of this scene talks about the flatness of the Arctic tundra. He’s attacked by a pack of wolves (spirit wolves or real?) and manages to kill them all. It begins to snow, and he takes shelter in a large stone cairn. Inside, he finds his daughter, Talisman, waiting for him. She’s still angry with him, but gives him a staff and some clothing. His grandfather’s spirit arrives and gives him an eagle crest, a hat that looks to be modelled on totem pole art (that would have nothing to do with the Sarcee). Putting all this stuff on, he claims he will help his daughter regain her humanity and take off her tiara. Talisman reanimates the skeletons of long-dead Vikings around them, who apparently stole these items of power from the Sarcee (this makes zero historical sense, given the geography of Canada). Shaman’s new helm comes to life – it’s Eaglet, his new familiar. He uses the staff to blow away the cairn, exposing them all to the blizzard. He uses the powers of the staff to grow some vines, and to animate some man-shaped stone cairns, to defeat the skeletons. It’s not clear where Talisman went. Back at Mansion Alpha, Snowbird has adopted many forms at once, which looks painful. Shaman suddenly appears, there to examine Snowbird.
- Snowbird hunts a rabbit, but after eating it, still feels sick and in pain. Doug Thompson’s personality shifts in this issue, as he calls Shaman “Indian” as an insult, and suggests he’s incapable of treating her problems. Shaman reveals that he believes Snowbird is pregnant, although Doug doesn’t believe that’s possible as they’ve only been married two weeks (maybe someone needs to explain things to Doug). She shows up, looking about eight months pregnant. Byrrah, the Atlantean, gains entrance into the old submarine tunnels leading to Avengers Mansion where he has a brief fight with the Black Knight (who has weird helmet wings that are not contemporaneous with his appearance in Avengers at this time). Namor arrives and accuses Byrrah of treachery, but his cousin explains how Attuma has taken over Atlantis, and is holding Namor’s alien betrothed prisoner. Namor, enraged, apparently quits the Avengers (according to the narration, but not his dialogue) and rejects Black Knight and Hercules’s offers of help to go free Marrina. Puck tells Doug the story of how Snowbird was born, and Doug, true to his new personality, calls him a midget and says he doesn’t want the unborn baby. Shaman continues to examine Narya, and Bochs and Jeffries build him a sonogram using Jeffries’s powers in a new way. Shaman then retreats to a room full of Native artifacts (I don’t think he’d ever been to the mansion before, so that’s weird), and explains to Heather how he must now implore spirits to help him instead of commanding them, as his daughter can. He believes he needs to take Narya to a place of power to give birth, and gets confirmation from the house spirits, who are a little mischievous, that Mansion Alpha is not built on a place of power. Next he consults with the gods, Hodiak, Nelvana, and Shaper of Life, who reject Narya because she refused to return to them. Finally, he calls in Doctor Strange for a consult on finding a place of power, and he helps Michael and Heather locate an island to the north. In the short time they were gone, Doug decided to take his wife away, and now stands on the dock next to his floatplane, holding a gun on the team. Aurora disarms him, and he talks about how Michael has failed his daughter before relenting and deciding to trust him. The team leaves in their Omnijet (which we last saw wrecked in Westchester County, but that’s okay). Under the ground at their destination, a being calling himself Pestilence awaits their coming; the narration tells us that he’s somehow tricked Strange and Shaman.
- Mantlo digs into Canadian history at the start of issue thirty-seven, tapping into the mythology behind the Franklin expedition and the two ships lost in Arctic ice in the 1840s. In this telling, a second man, Captain FR Crozier, a doctor and chief science officer, stayed with the ships when Franklin and his party struck out on foot after months of being trapped in pack ice. Crozier led his group a few months later, and as they started to die off one by one due to exposure and starvation, he drank a potion that would slow his body and mimic death, until the summer sun would revive him. Unfortunately, his men buried him, not knowing he was still alive, and so he lay under the permafrost for a hundred and fifty years, slowly going mad. Alpha Flight, minus Mr. Jeffries, fly north, led by a magnetic spirit, to the place of power where Snowbird can give birth. Aurora shows off her new insulated outfit, and flirts with Roger before going outside the jet to join her brother and the wind spirit helping them along. They come across Talisman, who is floating in the air waiting for them. She joins her father on the jet, and tells him, in front of Narya and Doug, that she’s there to watch him fail. They arrive at the rocky island they’ve identified as a good birthplace, and Talisman keeps taking shots at Shaman, making it clear that she wants to make him look bad in front of his peers. Doug sees the gods – Nelvana, Kodiak, and the newly-named Turoq the Shaper (who was, last issue, referred to as nameless), who offer Snowbird one last chance to join them, but she turns them away. Tapping into the local power, Snowbird’s baby’s lifeforce appears as a beam of green and yellow light, which attracts the attention of Crozier, below. Large leech creatures come out of the earth and begin to drain that lifeforce. Northstar gets stuck in the oozing ground, while Aurora, touching a leech, has her arm covered by maggots. Box begins to rust up, and a swarm of flies surround Vindicator. Puck falls through the ice. When Shaman calls on some spirits to help, Talisman forbids it, explaining that she wants Shaman to fail before she saves the day. The unborn child becomes Crozier, who refers to himself as Pestilence. He explains that he’s taken over the baby’s body, and is corrupting him. He turns Shaman into an old man, and at that point, Talisman decides to step up, however because Pestilence isn’t a spirit, she has no power over him. He rips her tiara off her, painfully, and starts to choke her. Shaman looks at the tiara, and thinks that someone will have to put it on and become the new binder of souls. Attuma is pleased, and Marrina devastated, to learn that Namor is approaching Atlantis.
- Namor arrives in Atlantis and immediately starts fighting Attuma’s hordes, surprised that the people are not taking his side. Attuma rants a lot, and asks the people who they’d rather have ruling over them – Namor and the monstrous Marrina, or him. They take Attuma’s side, and Namor finally listens to Byrrah and decides that he needs outside help. They retreat, with Namor planning on getting help from the Avengers. He sends Byrrah to locate Alpha Flight. Alpha, meanwhile, is still in bad shape in the fight against Pestilence. Shaman thinks his way through a recap, and then considers putting on the tiara and becoming Talisman himself. He thinks he could destroy Pestilence, but then would be trading his child’s life for that of Snowbird’s. Vindicator figures out how to get through the flies that surround her, and surveys what’s going on. She heads for Pestilence, who takes on the guise of James Hudson. It doesn’t work against her, so she hits him, freeing Elizabeth from his grip. She apologizes to Shaman. Puck, who has been under the ice for a while now, manages to pull Pestilence into the freezing water. Heather uses the reprieve to help free her teammates, and Michael and Elizabeth debate who should don the tiara. Snowbird’s baby appears to be floating in front of them, but it’s actually Pestilence, trying to trick them. Snowbird takes on the form of Sasquatch, which gives Pestilence the idea of conjuring all of the other Great Beasts and taking control of Snowbird. Alpha fights them, while Michael decides to put the tiara on and become the new Talisman. This makes Elizabeth, who has regained her humanity, very sad. Michael banishes the Beasts, and returns Snowbird’s self-control. She attacks Pestilence, raking him with her claws. It looks like she is going to kill him, but he uses his powers to retreat into the Earth. Snowbird returns to her human form, while Elizabeth declares her love for her father. The team decides there’s nothing more they can do there, but vow to deal with Pestilence and hopefully rescue Snowbird’s child. As the team returns to the mansion, Byrrah arrives (having swum from the Atlantic Ocean somehow).
- Knowing, as they approach their home, that there is an intruder around, Heather sends Aurora, Northstar, and Puck to scout. Puck finds Byrrah, who insults his size, and tells him that Namor has sent him. The team gathers to learn what’s going on, and when Snowbird says they should go help their teammate, Doug gets upset, expecting her to go looking for Pestilence. Snowbird is upset that she’s been made fully mortal, and refers to Doug and their baby as mistakes, which causes him to storm off. Heather worries that going to Atlantis might cause an international incident, and the sudden appearance of Gary Cody on a viewscreen reveals that the government has been spying on the team. Heather gets angry, reminding him that their deal is that the government stays out of their business, and blasts the video monitor, telling the team they are going to Atlantis. On the new Omnijet that Bochs and Jeffries built, Heather worries that her team is tired. Jeffries reveals that Byrrah was once Namor’s enemy, but he explains that he hates having Attuma on the throne. Jeffries builds everyone who needs it a deep sea pressure suit. The Omnijet is hit by some missiles, and Jeffries saves everyone by turning it into a large raft. Some Atlanteans attack, and the team holds them off. A large vessel comes flying out of the water, knocking Jeffries into the ocean, and we learn that he can’t swim. Shaman saves him, and Jeffries thinks about how he didn’t make himself a suit because of his fear of water. Puck also can’t swim, but wants to stay in the fight. The team does well against the Atlanteans, causing Puck to think about what a good leader Heather has been. He rides on Snowbird, who has turned herself into a whale, and thinks about how her new mortality has made it possible for her to leave Canadian territory, but he worries that she might have a death wish. The team thinks they see more Atlanteans moving towards them, but it’s actually Namor and the Avengers (Captains America and Marvel, Wasp, Hercules, and the Black Knight). They chat for a bit, confirm it was Namor and Hercules who destroyed the vessel that fired on them, and decide to work together. Namor makes it clear that he’s not looking to depose Attuma – he feels that his people made their decision and he will respect it – but intends to free Marrina. This earns him more respect from Byrrah, as the teams head towards Atlantis and fight even more Atlanteans. Attuma and Namor fight while Northstar frees Marrina. Everyone is surrounded by Atlanteans, and Attuma orders their death. This story is concluded in Avengers #272.
- Apparently, at the end of Avengers #272, Marrina fled her friends and lover. Now, Namor is searching for her, with Alpha behind him. Heather sends Jean-Paul to follow him, and we learn that Namor has quit the Avengers, and that Roger, at some point during the battle, phased out of his Box robot, and contracted the bends before phasing back in. It looks like he’s going to have to stay inside the robot, which upsets Aurora. Jeffries joins the team in a sub he built, and warns them that he can see “something else” approaching on sonar. As Jean-Paul follows Namor, he thinks about his love for his sister. Namor ignores him, and then dismisses him, and the rest of the team catches up. Marrina is convinced that she is pregnant after her meeting with her Plodex mate, and worries that her progeny could destroy or take over the Earth. When Namor finds her, she explains why she’s ashamed. Alpha arrives, and they debate what to do. Marrina wants to be killed, and Heather agrees. Their argument ends when the mate arrives, in full monstrous form, and everyone begins to fight it. The team comes to conclusion that both aliens have to die, and Namor begins to fight them. At that, Marrina thinks about her past on Earth, and finds that the physical changes that she’s undergone disappear, which enrages the mate. The team, with Namor, work together to kill the mate, and come around Marrina, who has chosen humanity over her alien nature. It turns out she was never pregnant, but was in a state of receptivity, which has now ended. Namor takes everyone to his undersea villa, where they find a number of Atlanteans waiting for them. Expecting a fight, they are pleased to learn that Byrrah has brought a number of Namor’s loyal subjects there, including Vashti, and they decide to name their new kingdom Deluvia. Namor and Marrina get married and everyone seems happy for a change.
- Annual #1 looks like it fits in here, except for the fact that it doesn’t acknowledge Roger’s bends. A spirit, which we soon learn belongs to Gilded Lily, finds itself alive within the walls and machinery of Mansion Alpha. The team has dinner together, where Aurora flirts with Roger, Michael acts aloof, and Jean-Paul is difficult. Lily’s spirit explores the house, confused by all that has changed, and learns from Alpha’s computer how she died, and that Diablo is still alive and imprisoned in New York state. She conjures an electrical element and sends it over the phone line to free her former lover, and to bring him there. The team figures out something’s going on with their home, and start to investigate. Recognizing his powers, Lily sequesters and incapacitates Jeffries. She traps Judd and Michael in an elevator, and traps Jean-Paul in a hallway. Heather finds Narya outside, and when the ground swallows Heather, Narya takes on the form of Sasquatch to free her. They are locked out of the mansion and can’t get in. Roger and Aurora are at the pool, and the Box robot topples, almost crushing Aurora, and pinning Roger in the pool. Aurora becomes trapped in a mirror, with Lily intending to take over her body. Box emerges from the pool, and is surprised to run into Diablo. Lily traps Box in the walls, and leads Diablo to her lab, where she is able to manifest her physical appearance. She gives Diablo back his costume, and we get a recap of their relationship. Diablo is unhappy to learn that he’s going to be facing superheroes, and decides he doesn’t want to live forever with Lily, which enrages her, and allows Alpha to slip out of her various traps. Diablo and Lily disappear, and go to a secret cavern beneath the house. There, Lily appears in a dark mirror, clutching Aurora by the throat. She wants Diablo to help her take over Aurora’s body, but when he sees Alpha coming for him, he panics. Lily creates a dust storm that Heather overcomes. Diablo agrees to betray Lily to avoid a beatdown. Lily manages to grab his immortality potion through the mirror, but this influx of light allows Aurora to regain control of herself. She snatches the potion, and guessing that things are not what they seem, force feeds it to Lily, who turns to dust again. Aurora frees herself from the mirror. Later, the team passes Diablo over to some Mounties who are going to extradite him.
- Issue forty-one opens in Etobicoke, the strange nether-region of Toronto responsible for the Ford brothers. Kara, a thirteen year old girl, returns home very early in the morning, freaking out because her skin suddenly turned purple while she was at a party. Her mother reveals this has something to do with her father. At Mansion Alpha, the team has convened for a meeting, even though they are all very tired from their recent battles. Heather suggests that Madison Jeffries be made an official member of the team to replace Marrina (which is all odd, because she’s been gone a long time, and he’s always there already, and I’d assumed he was part of the team). Everyone agrees, although Shaman abstains, as he doesn’t really care. Elizabeth worries about how the Talisman tiara is affecting him, and Aurora takes a jab at Jean-Paul about him enjoying having “attractively-dressed men about” that is definitely foreshadowing. Jean-Paul announces that he is going to take a leave of absence to resume his skiing career (and because he’s uncomfortable watching Aurora flirt with the now robot-bound Roger Bochs). Aurora accuses him of cheating while skiing, and he gets mad, explaining he’s only going to compete in exhibition races. A week later, we see that Kara has run away, and is now in Alberta, where she’s gone to see Jean-Paul, her crush, race. He enjoys his race, and is surrounded by fans. Kara starts to realize that it makes no sense to introduce herself to him, and hides in a bathroom. A girl knocks on the door, and Kara tells her to go jump off a cliff. The girl promptly turns purple and walks away. Kara thinks about what her mother told her – that her father is the American supervillain Purple Man, who forced her mother to marry him. After he fell in love with her, he released her, and she fled to Toronto, not knowing she was pregnant with Kara. Now that Kara has hit puberty, it seems her mutant abilities have emerged. The girl from before jumps off a cliff, and Jean-Paul flies to save her. Kara realizes she is responsible for this. The crowd accuses Jean-Paul of cheating, now that they know he’s Northstar, and he decides to quit skiing forever. Kara stops him to talk to him, and when he blows her off, she takes control of him, trying to make him into her boyfriend (the age difference here is very creepy). She tells him she wants exotic flowers, and he flies off with her in his arms. They fly to a tropical island, where he gives her orchids. She gets him to go swimming with her, and when he submerges his head, he regains control of himself (and loses his purple hue). A crocodile approaches Kara, and she takes control of Jean-Paul again, so he’ll save her. After he does this, using a speed-created waterspout, he stands in a waterfall so she can’t affect him. She explains her powers, and declares her love for Jean-Paul. He explains how inappropriate it is for her to control someone she loves, and she promises to not control him again. He echoes James Hudson’s words to him, offering to take her to Alpha Flight, but then makes an odd comment about it being better for him to leave her there than to force her to choose as he did. Thinking he’s going to leave, she tells him to stop, taking control of him again by mistake. She tells him to take her to Alpha Flight.
- Kara and Jean-Paul, who is still purple, are surrounded by the rest of Alpha, who are not very happy (although Puck is making jokes). Kara explains how her powers worked, and orders him to soak his head, so he’d be restored to normal. Weirdly, as Jean-Paul is recovering, Aurora decides to get upset at Roger for still being trapped in his robot body. He leaves, and then Jeffries gives her a hard time for being mean to him. Heather returns conversation to what to do with Kara, and the issue of training her is raised. Northstar objects, comparing being under the sway of her power to being raped (which Heather uses as an opportunity to say something homophobic). Jean-Paul can’t finish his thoughts, because he suffers from a coughing fit. Michael starts to run down options of what to do with her, but lists killing her as an early choice. She freaks out and has the team freeze where they are. Jeffries talks to Roger about his bends, and turns the Box robot into a specialized depressurization chamber, designed so he can phase out but remain at the correct pressure, so the nitrogen in his system doesn’t burst and kill him. The problem is that Jeffries had to guess at the correct pressure, and when Roger phases out, he is wracked with pain. As Jeffries prepares to help him, Kara shows up and takes control of him, leaving Roger on his own. Jeffries takes her in the Omnijet, and heads to Toronto. Later, Alpha recovers from her powers, and find Roger passed out in the pressure chamber. Vindicator leaves with Northstar and Puck to track Kara and Jeffries down, and Vindicator thinks that Aurora doesn’t love Roger at all. The omnijet lands outside Toronto, and still in Kara’s thrall, Jeffries turns it into a car and drives her until they hit traffic on the Gardner (this book is feeling kind of authentic right about now), so Jeffries has it fly downtown. Kara uses her powers to go on a shopping spree and have a good time. Eventually she takes Jeffries to her mom’s place, and her mom is not happy with her. They leave, and are approached by someone calling himself the Auctioneer, who offers to make Kara rich. She gets in the car, and is immediately trapped and gassed with a mist that will make her susceptible to the Auctioneer’s control. Later, he holds an auction for advanced weapons (his customers are criminals and unsavory world leaders). The Auctioneer controls Kara into controlling Madison into making weapons. Kara, unable to help herself, comes to a realization of how terrible she has been. Vindicator and the others find the Omnijet/roadster and begin looking for Kara. The Auctioneer puts KAra in a special ziplock bag, which blocks her pheromones, and shows that he’s captured her mother. Of course, being blocked causes Jeffries to get free, and he makes a bunch of weapons to protect himself. He also sets off fireworks (I don’t know why) that brings Vindicator and her squad running. They take out the Auctioneer’s people, and we learn that Jean-Paul received a scratch on his arm and is bleeding. The Auctioneer tries to leave with Kara, but her plastic bag prison is ripped, and she tells him to drop dead. He falls, but isn’t actually dead. The team returns to Mansion Alpha (on the other side of the continent) with Kara and her mom. Roger is still unconscious, and they need Kara to use her powers to wake him and have him phase back into his robot. After that, Jeffries suggests that the team revitalize Beta Flight, and make Kara their first trainee. Neither Shaman nor Jean-Paul are sure this is the right move.
- In Washington state, it appears that a power-neutralizing helmet worn by the villain Mentallo is causing him extreme pain. A doctor who thinks that preventing mutants from using their abilities could kill them goes to help him, and is taken over by him. Mentallo escapes from prison, and orders the kidnapped doctor to drive north. A squad of four Sentinels are dispatched to retrieve Mentallo, against the wishes of the engineer who designed these special stealth Sentinels. After crossing the border, the Sentinels become camouflaged. Alpha Flight (minus Shaman and Snowbird) are flying in their Omnijet when Box goes nuts after Aurora is apparently mean to him (we don’t see their interaction), and starts trashing the jet. The team tries to restrain him, but Jean-Paul pisses him off. Kara tries to use her powers to calm him, but instead he turns on her, causing Heather to blast him and knock some pieces off the ship. She flies to stop them from falling on anyone while Aurora rejects and then blinds Box. He starts trashing things even more, so finally Mr. Jeffries has to step in and immobolize his friend. The jet is about to crash, so Jeffries turns it into a weird one-wheeled vehicle. The team heads to the New Life Clinic, a big medical facility now run by Jeffries’s brother Lionel, who was previously Scramble. They are hoping that Lionel can cure Roger of the bends. The Sentinels continue to hunt for Mentallo, but because of their stealth tech, they can only detect him when he uses his powers. The people who sent him begin to worry about what will happen if they are found in Canada, and the engineer decides to call in Sebastian Shaw, who owns the company. Mentallo finds himself at Expo ‘86 in Vancouver, and uses his powers on someone, alerting the Sentinels. They become visible and land in the middle of the Expo. Shaw shows up and is angry. Alpha Flight hears about what’s happening, and leaving Jeffries and Kara with Box, fly off. Mentallo takes control of a crowd to hold off the Sentinels – they cannot attack if it will harm humans. Mentallo has a woman kill herself to further prove his point to the robots. Alpha shows up and enter the fray. Vindicator sends Puck to take out Mentallo, while the rest enage the robots. Northstar wonders why the robots don’t see him as a mutant, and then starts coughing again. They manage to take down Northstar and Aurora, while Mentallo gains control of Puck. Jeffries shows up in the Omnijet, and is surprised to see that Kara has stowed away. Jeffries jumps out of the jet, concerned about Heather, and uses his powers to take apart a Sentinel, making some of it into a flying suit for himself. Kara aims the jet at another Sentinel, while a third targets her. She jumps out, and manages to make two of them collide, destroying them. Kara feels conflicted about using her powers, while Vindicator and Jeffries take out the last Sentinel. Heather is surprised to feel a certain way about Jeffries. Mentallo sends his crowd after Kara, but she takes control of them, having them capture Mentallo. We see that Puck is badly hurt, and needs to see Scramble; Puck feels useless and like he’s let Heather down.
- Alpha, including a healed Puck, but without Roger Bochs, return to Mansion Alpha to find a message, in the form of images of Shaman and Snowbird, coming from Michael’s medicine pouch. It urges them to come to a place called Burial Butte, where they have located Pestilence. Madison tells Kara to stay behind, and after they fly off, the shrunken-down Smart Alec emerges from the pouch. In Vancouver, Scramble works to heal Roger, who is not all that grateful, given that he’s still crippled and worried that Aurora won’t love him. Scramble suggests he can fix him. Alpha arrives in the Northern town, and find the residents all dead, and rats everywhere. They find Doug Thompson, who is dying from a plague. He explains how he tracked down Pestilence, hoping to save his son, and was made sick. He tells them that Snowbird and Shaman showed up and didn’t even try to help him; he makes Alpha promise to save his son. The team heads into the mines where Pestilence was last seen, and they split up when the tunnel branches off. Jeffries is attacked by creatures out of the Aliens movies, while Puck is trapped in a cave-in. Aurora and Northstar talk about Jean-Paul’s worsening cough, and the injury he received last issue, which is not healing. When they are attacked by rats, they touch, cancelling out their powers. In the dark, Aurora’s fears take over. Vindicator is confronted by her dead husband, who plays on her doubts. When she blasts him, he takes the form of Wolverine, followed by Puck, and finally by Jeffries. Heather realizes that Pestilence is playing with her fears and doubts, and blasts him, not knowing that Puck was somewhere behind her. She has to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which he makes a joke about. Aurora finds Jeffries, and helps him fight off the coal-based aliens. Aurora makes a move on Jeffries, which he rejects. Northstar, still coughing, finds the chamber where Shaman, controlling Snowbird in her Sasquatch form, tries to fight against Pestilence. Northstar intervenes, worried that Snowbird will end up killing her own baby, but the now-heartless Shaman doesn’t care. Pestilence draws strength from the decay inside Jean-Paul (by kissing him on the forehead). The rest of the team arrives, and Heather insists they can stop Pestilence without killing anyone. Shaman frees Snowbird from his control, and the team moves on Pestilence. He makes Aurora old, and makes Puck afraid that he will release Razer from within him. Vindicator blasts at him, but he takes on the form of an infant to get her to stop. Snowbird goes to her baby, but Pestilence realizes that he can manipulate her to do his bidding. He knows that if his body is killed, his spirit will be free. Shaman points out that the baby’s purity is weakening and destroying Pestilence. Heather wants to stop Snowbird from killing the baby, but she hesitates. Snowbird does kill him, and Vindicator in turn blasts Snowbird (still in her Sasquatch form), killing her. We see Pestilence’s spirit go free. Later, the team returns home with the bodies of Doug, Snowbird, and the baby in body bags, which upsets Kara. Vindicator goes off on her own to cry, not realizing that she’s being watched by tiny Smart Alec.
- June Brigman is the new artist on this book. I remember really liking her realistic figures in Power Pack, and being excited to see her on this book. The team assembles to bury Snowbird (still in her Sasquatch form), Doug, and their baby. Heather clarifies some things that I kind of missed last issue (perhaps I wasn’t paying attention), thinking about how she had to kill Snowbird, who was under Pestilence’s control, before that spirit could inhabit her Sasquatch form. Heather feels guilty and sad, and Puck wants to comfort her, but she turns to Jeffries instead, which makes him feel old and small. Kara also feels bad, despite not knowing any of the deceased, and they comfort her. Jean-Paul points out this is their second time mourning Sasquatch, which prompts Aurora to remember their time together, while Jean-Paul keeps coughing and worrying about the disease Pestilence referred to as being inside him. The three gods that make up Snowbird’s family appear, and Shaman argues for them to forgive her. Her spirit is offered a place in paradise, but she refuses it unless the spirits of Doug and their child come with her. They agree, which also appeases Heather’s guilt. Shaman tells the team he is going to leave them, since as the Talisman now, it is unacceptable to him that Heather gave him orders. Returning to their mansion the team sees that a New Life boat is docked, giving them hope that Roger has returned. Aurora realizes she was only toying with Roger. Lionel Jeffries, and his assistant Dr. Knapp, who is named for the first time, greet everyone. Roger phases out of Bochs, revealing a new thinner body and legs, thanks to Lionel’s powers. Aurora is very excited by this new body, and they head upstairs. Lionel and Knapp, who waves at Kara, who is only thirteen, leave, and no one notices the tiny Smart Alec under some furniture. That night, Snowbird’s Sasquatch form rises from her grave. Heather is wool gathering some more when she notices tiny Smart Alec and tries to smash him with a lamp. She catches him, and we see he’s trying to talk to her when the Sasquatch form busts through the wall. It tosses Heather against the wall, causing her to drop Smart Alec. The team assembles in their sleepwear, and Box is seen fighting Sasquatch. This is a surprise, as Roger and Aurora are the last to join them. Everyone realizes that it’s actually Walter Langkowski in the Box robot, having gotten there from Smart Alec’s mindless body. They are also surprised to learn that it’s Pestilence in the Sasquatch form. Heather despairs, while some of the rest of the team try to enter the fight. Kara’s powers don’t work, and everyone sees that Sasquatch is stronger than Box. Heather tells Walter to hold on to Pestilence, and he channels the robot’s power into the beast. At the same time that Pestilence flees the Sasquatch body, Heather tosses Shaman’s medicine pouch at him, and Pestilence is drawn into the void within. Walter, meanwhile, has transferred his consciousness back into Sasquatch, which makes Aurora really happy (and Roger pretty upset). Sasquatch reverts back to human form, but it is Narya’s form he inhabits now, not his old body, which surprises everyone.
- The team is at the New Life Clinic again, hoping Scramble can turn Snowbird’s body male so Walter can be himself. It seems most important to Aurora. There is a lot of exposition, and then Roger gets upset that Aurora is choosing Walter/Wanda over him. Scramble tries to change Walter’s body, but it doesn’t work. Knapp suggests it’s because Walter’s body is that of a shapeshifter demigoddess, and that is accepted by everyone but Aurora, who flies off. Bochs jumps in his robot and goes after her. The rest of the team return to their Omnijet and head home as well. Knapp suggests to Scramble that there’s something wrong with Bochs – we could see that he had lesions on his new limbs – and Scramble threatens to transmute him. Aurora rejects Roger again in mid-air. Later, Heather updates her files and then spies on her team. Aurora and Puck speak briefly, mostly about how much Aurora focuses on herself. Walter and Jean-Paul speak briefly (between his coughs) about how he preferred him as a man too. Heather sees Kara go to Jeffries for homework help, and thinks about how she is starting to like him a lot. In his room, Roger scratches his legs and gets angry at how he thinks he’s been played by Aurora and the others. In her bed, Aurora fights to control her fear of the dark. Suddenly, Box busts through her wall and grabs her. The rest of the team comes running at the noise, and finds Box doing his best King Kong imitation, holding Aurora at the top of the stairs, threatening to hurt her (she has passed out I guess). Kara tries to use her powers to calm him, and he kicks her down the stairs. This upsets Jeffries. Roger mentions how they’ve been friends since the “Institution” (which contradicts/retcons earlier issues when they barely knew each other). Puck grabs Aurora away, while Sasquatch grabs Roger. Puck thinks about how he, Roger, and Madison were at a place called the Clinic for Socially Maladjusted Super-Beings, which makes no sense since he and Roger aren’t super-beings. Aurora has retreated into a delusional version of Jeanne-Marie, while Roger and Walter’s fight gets more violent. Roger shocks Walter unconscious, leaving it to Heather to start blasting at her friend. He swats her aside, which really angers Jeffries, who starts using machinery in the floor to block the robot. Puck realizes that Jeffries loves Heather too and takes time to feel sorry for himself again. Jeffries tries to get Box to calm down, and talks about how Roger used to be delusional and paranoid at this institution, and reminds him how James Hudson helped both of them find direction. Roger continues to attack, so finally Madison turns his powers on him, phasing into the Box robot and kicking Roger out of it. We see that his legs are looking worse than before, and Roger accuses Madison of always planning on replacing him. Madison walks away from him.
- Issue forty-six is the first to have a Statement of Ownership (unless I just missed earlier ones, but I was watching for them). Alpha Flight is listed as having an average press run of 384 000 copies, with average newsstand returns of 142 000. These are incredible numbers.
- Issue forty-seven is odd, as it features only Heather, and has art by three pencillers, Craig Brasfield, Mike Mignola, and Steve Purcell, and also has Terry Austin joining Whilce Portacio on inks. It feels like a fill-in issue, yet fits in continuity perfectly, and is written by Bill Mantlo. An alien seedpod falls from space and lands in the baseball mitt of a kid in Heather’s hometown, Haysboro Alberta. The pod opens, and branches reach along the kid’s arm; he is compelled to walk into the nearby forest. Heather is flying towards Haysboro, reminiscing about how her parents cut off ties to her, upset when she chose to elope with Mac. They opposed his working for the government, and after they met Logan, were convinced that he would get Heather killed. Now they’ve called her home, and Heather feels convicted – she had wanted to help get Roger psychiatric help. Her mother catches her before she can cover her battle suit, and it looks like they are going to go over old arguments, but then her dad comes out, and they talk about why they called her. It turns out that a number of children have gone missing, and they want Vindicator’s help. She’s annoyed at first, thinking this is something better suited to the authorities, but she learns that they’ve found nothing. Heather and her dad are driving around when they find a kid’s bike near the woods. As Heather flies around looking for her, her dad picks up a seedpod, and is covered in wood, and joined by other tree aliens (not Groot, though). Heather returns, and is herself attacked by a couple of seedpods, which aren’t able to penetrate her electromagnetic field. She wonders where her father is. Back at the McNeil home, Heather’s mom is with the missing girl’s mother with some cops, and they hear the girl and Mr. McNeil calling from the backyard. It turns out there are tree aliens in the yard, and the cops aren’t able to stop them from advancing. Heather arrives and realizes that the locals are still inside the tree aliens. She blasts them anyway, thinking that she has to stop them from spreading, and despite the fact that it sounds like the humans are burning. She is able to rescue one kid by dumping the burning alien in a koi pond, and realizes that the wooden shells are being used to protect the aliens. She burns them all, and then douses them all, rescuing everyone. It looks like a happy ending, but there is one seedpod still sitting on the lawn…
- Terry Shoemaker was the artist on issue forty-eight, with Steve Leialoha and Hilary Barta ending Whilce Portacio’s run as inker. At Mansion Alpha, the reduced Alpha team, with Purple Girl, stand around the ranting Roger Bochs. They have him in a water-filled tank, and it appears his legs have all but disappeared, and his chubbiness has returned. Bochs keeps calling Aurora a tramp, and raging at everyone, especially Madison Jeffries. The team’s changes cause Heather to doubt herself as leader again, and to feel like she can only count on Jeffries. Things get heated, and Jeffries, in the Box robot, ends up fighting with Northstar. After Sasquatch and Heather calm things down, Jeffries suggests taking Roger to see Scramble again. Heather has misgivings, but allows this to go to a vote. Later, the team takes Roger to New Life, where Scramble suggests he can’t fix Roger’s madness, as he doesn’t have a template for sanity for him. Scramble is judgemental of Heather’s distrust of him, but takes Roger to his secret lab with Madison and Dr. Knapp accompanying him. The team is stuck hanging out waiting, and that leads to both Aurora and Kara worrying about claustrophobia, and to Puck feeling worthless again. Scramble ends up explaining to his brother that he has been using the flesh of corpses to cure his patients, and it becomes clear that he’s still crazy. He transmutes Madison so he can’t escape, and talks about creating a race of new creatures he calls the Omega; he hopes to use Alpha’s powers to help with this. Dr. Knapp turns on his boss, and Scramble reveals that Knapp has some kind of genetic potential in him; he turns him kind of gooey, and approaches Roger, offering to combine bodies with him, so the combination of Scramble’s powers and Roger’s mind can be more powerful. Jean-Paul slips away from his teammates, finally ready to ask Scramble to cure his cough and whatever disease is within him. Aurora follows, and finds a room where Scramble has been keeping some bizarre patients in glass jars. Northstar is attacked by some creature, and returns to the rest of the team, warning them. Omega, the combined body of Lionel Jeffries and Roger Bochs announces itself, and attacks. Heather authorizes deadly force, but Omega appears more powerful, eventually taking down the whole team except for Kara (who doesn’t use her powers for some reason), and Aurora, who’s not there. Madison, still hobbled by the changes wrought upon him, tries to reach Knapp to wake up his powers, and he sees something happening to the young doctor.
- Knapp starts to glow, and three other beings appear to issue forth from him – a protoplasmic blob, a caveman, and a tall lanky version of Knapp with circuitry on his leg and clothes. There’s a lot of exposition from the lanky guy, who Knapp calls Highbrow, and we figure out that these are different evolutionary manifestations of Knapp. The caveman tosses the still deformed Jeffries at the Box robot, allowing him to phase inside. As he prepares to go help Alpha, the others appear to teleport. The team is fighting against Omega, but Puck gets grabbed in a tendril, Northstar starts choking and coughing, and Aurora is still missing, leaving Heather to wonder how they can win. She tries to get Purple Girl to use her powers, but she hesitates, and Omega grabs her, gagging her. Sasquatch and Vindicator don’t have much luck, but then Box shows up with Knapp and his other selves in tow. The Caveman works to free Sasquatch, while Box distracts Omega, and Knapp himself works to free Kara. She’s not breathing so he gives her mouth-to-mouth, and Jeffries suggests there’s more to it (remember, Kara is 13!). Jeffries also calls him Manikin, and that’s not explained at all, which is weird. Jeffries transforms the Box robot into a totally new configuration (already seen on the last issue’s cover), and starts fighting Omega directly. Heather starts to help him, and Highbrow notices that Omega is getting weaker. Roger Bochs fights to regain some control, emerging as a face on the creature’s chest, but the Scramble part of the mix lobotomizes him. Jeffries blasts Omega, but Omega survives and starts ranting. Kara tells him to shut up, and takes control of him. She has him cure Jeffries. Heather is surprised by how misshapen Jeffries is, and talks about how much pain he must have been in, causing Puck to get bitter and selfish again. Kara orders Jeffries fixed, and then has him explain that Roger Bochs is truly dead. The team can’t decide what to do with Omega, so Jeffries gets back into the Box robot and blasts him to pieces. He then turns and walks away. Jean-Paul reminds them that Aurora is missing, and then is wracked by coughs again. He explains that Pestilence has accelerated an existing condition, and he collapses. Elsewhere, Aurora sits in the dark in a room full of smashed containment tubes (it looks different from it did last issue, but it’s the same place where we saw her before). She sits and repeats a rhyme – the one about the bird flying over the cuckoo’s nest, which I guess is meant to make it clear that she’s crazy.
- I didn’t reread the X-Men/Alpha Flight miniseries for this column (different set of boxes), so this issue relied on some pretty old memories. The team, concerned for both Northstar’s health and Aurora’s sanity, decided to go to the place where that miniseries was set, hoping to find the firefountain, a magical stream of energy that heals. They find a rose growing out of the northern Quebec tundra, which they see as a good sign. Box decides to dig, and finds a massive underground cavern, which houses an ancient Viking village. He calls the team down, but Aurora freaks out about the darkness and then conquers her fear out of concern for Jean-Paul. Loki watches all of this (he was the villain in the X-Men/Alpha Flight series) and remembers that Those Who Sit Above ruled that he couldn’t act against these heroes. Loki starts thinking about loopholes while the team descends. Back at Mansion Alpha, Purple Girl is alone with Manikin, Beta Flight’s newest recruit, and they decide they should cuddle, and perhaps do more. It’s worth pointing out again that Kara is thirteen! The team locates the place where the firefountain was, but it’s not there. Aurora flies through the shaft it was located in, while the narration identifies her as Jeanne-Marie Baptiste, not Beaubier. She finds a giant seal at the bottom of the shaft, and the team decides to open it based on the good feelings Aurora gets from the runes, and Puck’s beliefs in faeries (he’s determined to be cured of his dwarfism so that Heather will love him, even though he’d age a lot). Inside, they find more darkness. Loki makes the seal close behind them, and then makes Jean-Paul very thirsty. Aurora decides to stay with him, and suggests that the others go on without them. She pours some water into Jean-Paul’s mouth. The rest of the team finds the firefountain, but it’s made of black light. Loki narrates that they are in Svartalfheim, and he sends dark elves to fight them. During the battle, Puck falls off a causeway and into the firefountain, which restores his height, but also frees Razer. Puck appears to fall to his death. Loki reveals himself to the twins, and then forces some of the same water down Aurora’s throat. They dream of their father, also misnamed as a Baptiste. He was studying folklore, and found an elf barrow, full of elves. He captured one, Danae, who fell in love with him and bore him twins. Other elves attacked them, wanting to take her home, and caused the car crash that killed her. They ignored the babies and the dying father. Jean-Paul and Aurora come to realize that they are half-elf, and Loki explains that their exposure to the human world is what is killing and driving them mad, respectively. He says that the only way they can be cured is through exposure to pure elf light. Aurora decides to use her light to cure Jean-Paul, although that burns out all of her powers. Some elflings carry Aurora away. The rest of Alpha continue to fight elves, and are next attacked by Razer, whose presence they see as proof of Puck’s death. His sword shrinks Box and Vindicator, but the light coming off the newly arrived Northstar holds him back. The team retreats, and Heather orders the seal closed, even though that means leaving Aurora behind. She welds it shut, against Northstar’s wishes. After as they stand around on the surface, Northstar announces his wish to depart. He flies into the sky, and is welcomed through a shining gateway by other elves. The team leaves. Loki is summoned by Those Who Sit Above in Shadow, who question his actions. He reveals that he has left Aurora, her mind and memories wiped, at a monastery or something. He also reveals that he left the now tall and older Puck in Tibet, and that Puck is good with that. Those Who Sit send Loki back to Asgard, but they lie and send him through a door to Svartalfheim, where Razer is waiting for him. As the Omnijet flies home, Heather weeps for the losses the team has suffered.
- Issue fifty-one was Jim Lee’s first Marvel comic. I was surprised to see that he signed my copy, although I have no memory of ever meeting him. I wonder if it was at a signing he did before he became so big. The issue opens with Alpha (which is now just Vindicator, Box, an Sasquatch) and Beta Flight (Purple Girl and Manikin) defending Tamarind Island from a massive military invasion. Heather decides to put the team on the offensive, leaving Kara and Whitman to look after themselves. Heather begins to clear attackers in the air, while Madison starts taking out ground forces and reinforcements coming in from the sea. Wanda turns her attention to the tanks. Ground troops surround Beta Flight, so Kara is able to use her powers to turn them against soldiers further afield. Some helicopters target them, allowing the uncontrolled soldiers to use masks to protect themselves from Kara’s powers. Whitman splits into his four selves, and gets them out of a jam. Whitman even defends himself from a soldier. The team routs the invaders, and celebrate their win. It’s only then that we learn that this was a training and evaluation exercise, overseen by Gary Cody. He congratulates the team, and praises Heather’s leadership; she maintains that her current team is more powerful and functional than Mac’s ever was. They retire to the mansion, where Gary is surprised to see that Madison runs the Box robot, and that Walter is now a woman. After the rest of the team leaves, he again praises Heather, who in turn calls him out for the bugging of their headquarters. She leaves Gary to wait while she bathes. He reminisces about how he and Mac built the first team, and Beta and Gamma Flights, and how he managed to bring the team back into contact with the government. Madison chats with him a bit, and Cody heads into the computer room, where he downloads all their information onto a special disc. When he leaves that room, the team has gathered. Heather apologizes for forgetting what a good friend he’s been, and they all praise him. This is the last monthly issue that was available on the newsstands; with issue fifty-two, the series became direct market and subscription only.
- Annual #2 fits between issues 51 and 52. A Canadian research station, manned by three men and one woman, has been established in Antarctica to look for sources of geothermal energy. The crew engage in some banter when a sudden earthquake alerts them to trouble. A vent has formed, sending steam through the ice, and causing their surroundings to melt and slide into the sea. The scientists are surprised to see dinosaurs and cavemen emerge from the vent. They attack the men and take the woman with them. Later, a rescue ship is surprised to find dead dinosaurs; they learn from the single survivor that the woman was taken. A few days later, Alpha Flight, Vindicator and Sasquatch, flying in Box, are headed to the Antarctic to try to rescue the woman. Heather remembers how Gary Cody called and asked them for help with this, and we get a bit more of her self-doubt. The team spies a volcano erupting at the south pole, which causes an electric storm. Lightning strikes Box, knocking him out. As he crashes, Heather heads out of his jetform to fight off some pteradons. Heather is hit by lightning too, which shorts out her Vindicator battlesuit, and causes painful feedback. She falls into the vent, landing in a tropical jungle. Box crashes, but he and Sasquatch are fine on the ice fields. They get into a fight with a tyrannosaurus rex. Vindicator wakes up to learn that she doesn’t know where she is, or who she is. She fights off a snake, a saber tooth tiger, and a caveman in short order. She figures that she’s not from this world, but is determined to survive. Some days later, Box and Sasquatch are digging through the Antarctic ice. In that time, Heather has cut her battlesuit into a bathing suit, and has taken to wearing a garland of vine around her head. She finds a city, where she sees other cavemen preparing to sacrifice three misfits – differently-shaped members of their tribe. This reminds her of something, so she works to rescue them. She frees them and leads them to the space she’s been living. At the same time, Box and Sasquatch finally break through, arriving in the underground tropical world (where no one discusses light sources). They find the village that Heather has just fought her way out of, and discover the missing scientist. At Heather’s hideaway, she tries to communicate with her three new friends. Some days later, she speaks their language fluently, and learns that after Terminus destroyed the Savage Land, these people made their way to this underground land, where these three were changed by the geothermal energies. Scouting, they learn that enemies are about to attack the village, and they go to help out, despite being hated by the villagers. During the fight, Heather fires off her gauntlet. Box notices the discharge (he must have the “Find My Battlesuit” app), and he and Sasquatch join the fight. Heather is hit on the head, and is a bit delirious, but then comes back to her proper mind and memories. She helps her new friends make amends with their village, and then heads home with her team and the scientist.
- Gary Cody is standing in the old Department H facility (drawn by June Brigman to look exactly as it did in the first issue of Alpha Flight when John Byrne drew it). He’s wearing a ridiculous “portaputer” – basically a cross between the trays worn by cigarette girls in old cartoons and a computer. He’s using it to go through the data he found in the Alphanex computers. We see a flashback of James Hudson talking to himself about wanting to help Canada. We also see the argument between Mac and Logan when he left to become Wolverine. Gary continues to narrate the history of Department H, and then uses the computer to show him an earlier scene, when Mac took Logan to see a secret lab. Mac had developed a device to track down latent superhumans, and his first test subject was a convicted murderer from Nova Scotia. He’s done some kind of experiment on the guy, and now he’s lying wrapped like a mummy on a table; Mac intended to train him to use his powers for good, but Logan was sceptical. Having this data, Cody goes to the secret door to this lab, and within finds a large cocoon, which no one knows about. He is intrigued by the idea of being able to manufacture superhumans, and begins to touch the control pad. On Tamarind Island, Heather swims in the strait, and thinks about how her life has changed since Mac died (it’s the anniversary of his death). Kara and Whitman watch her and flirt with one another. Box watches them, is concerned for a moment about the decade or more in age difference between them (at this point, Kara is either still thirteen or fourteen), but decides that he trusts Whitman. Madison emerges from Box and swims out to Heather; they kiss. Wanda watches this from the Mansion’s porch (there is a lot of watching each other going on) and thinks about how comfortable she feels as a woman now. Back at the old Dept. H, we see that the cocoon has opened, that a hole has been opened in the wall, and that Gary Cody lies either dead or brainless. A light starts flashing on the control panel, which sets off a phone call somewhere. The phone is answered by Logan, who hears the recorded voice of Mac telling him that Bedlam is free (good thing Logan answered the phone at the X-Mansion…).
- Wolverine arrives at Mansion Alpha to find it utterly destroyed. Exploring the wreckage, he finds a compact piece of technology – the Box robot – which grows to its regular size. Madison phases out, and Logan helps him come to his senses. He explains that the team was training the Beta Flight members, and that as their session ended, they were attacked by Bedlam the Brain Blast, who immediately took control of everyone but Box, who was tossed out of the mansion in Bedlam’s original attack. When he returned, Bedlam tried to take him over, so Jeffries hid his mind in the robot. Logan explains that Bedlam is after revenge. In a complex in the Arctic Circle, we see that Bedlam has Alpha prisoner, along with four other people. He pools their minds, and in a forty-panel grid, we get to see the origins of the Alphans and Betans, and learn that all the other people there are the ones that escaped from Scramble’s lab, and were then captured by Bedlam. Bedlam learns that Mac is dead, and we see how Guardian and Wolverine were able to capture him before. Bedlam reveals that Gary Cody stole Alpha’s data, angering Heather. Next, he pits the team against his other prisoners, who he calls the Derangers (Freakout, Breakdown, Janus, and Goblyn), controlling their fight so he can see who is strongest. They fight for a bit, while Box and Wolverine approach in an airplane. Logan explains how he was angry with Mac for creating Bedlam, and that’s why he left Department H. He also makes it clear, when Madison figures out that Logan had feelings for Heather, that he supports their current relationship. Bedlam blasts their plane, but they’ve prepared for this. Madison gets them safely to the ground, and, to avoid Bedlam’s control, has buried his consciousness in the robot. At the same time, Logan has given in to his berserker rage. Inside, Wanda figures out that the best way to stop Freakout is to turn to her human form. Kara gets Goblyn to help get Janus off of Manikin, while Heather and Kara work together to shut down Breakdown. Bedlam can’t control them all at once, so they maneuver Freakout into fighting him, while Goblyn and Vindicator attack together. Box and Wolverine show up, and Bedlam picks up Heather’s thoughts about Mac being responsible for Wolverine’s creation. While he acknowledges that she is wrong (creating some guilt in her mind for not better trusting Mac), he uses her supposition to distract Wolverine. Bedlam turns Logan on Box, giving Heather space to figure out how she can override his commands and turn her suit against him. They fight, and Heather manages to blast his head off, freeing everyone from his control. Goblyn rushes out into the Arctic. Box lets them know their mansion is destroyed, and Wolverine suggests that they take over Bedlam’s facilities (this appeals to Heather, who is furious at Cody’s betrayal). Logan says goodbye, and gets teleported home by Egghead (who was formerly called Highbrow). Heather and Madison embrace.
- Goblyn sits outside Bedlam’s base in the Arctic, cold, but unwilling to head back inside where Alpha is. She is afraid to return to her usual world, as that would put Laura Dean at risk. Inside, Box, Sasquatch, and Manikin work to seal off the facility, which has become very cold since Bedlam died. The rest of the Derangers are dead, and there is a short discussion of making this place their new base. Kara recaps her life story, and worries about Goblyn, who she wants to go rescue from the cold. Alpha heads out to look for her, splitting up and using bracelets made by Box to help find her. Kara and Whitman remain inside, where Whitman comforts Kara. Goblyn attacks Sasquatch, blinding her. Next, Vindicator finds Laura Dean, half frozen, but when she goes to her, she swaps places with Goblyn, who attacks Heather. Box locates Goblyn and brings her back to the base, but Goblyn starts ripping him apart, causing great pain for Madison. When Whitman goes to help Madison, Kara inadvertently freezes him with her powers, allowing Goblyn to cut him. Heather finds the blind Sasquatch, and they begin to head back to base together. Goblyn corners Kara, who, when she attempts to use her power on her, ends up being inside her head. We learn that Goblyn and Laura are twins, and that Goblyn’s monstrous appearance was discovered in utero. Their father being an anti-mutant bigot, he agrees to a medical procedure where radiation would be used to kill the monstrous twin. Inside the wound, Laura maneuvered to protect her, and somehow absorbed her. When Laura was born, she was autistic, and lived on her own until Scramble found her. Goblyn attacks Kara, but Kara decides to be direct with her, offering no resistance, and showing emotion. This gets Goblyn to stop, but just then the rest of Alpha busts in, leading to more fighting. Kara stops everyone from killing Goblyn, who flees into the facility. They find her, and Kara protects her from Vindicator’s blast, taking the hit herself. This makes it clear to Goblyn that Kara will protect her, and Kara is happy that she understands that.
- Heather chats with Wanda, who is having some trouble adjusting to the changes that have happened in her life. They also talk about how Goblyn and Laura Dean have been inducted to Beta Flight, and how they are stuck at Bedlam’s complex until the storm clears (apparently no one remembers that Highbrow can teleport). Heather informs Madison and Whitman that she doesn’t want to stay there, although they show her how they can adapt the place to be quite useful, given Madison’s powers. Whitman explains how they have an unlimited supply of fish, seeing as they are above the ocean. Kara tries to talk with Laura, who makes reference to their world as the Deadworld, and reveals that when they trade places, Laura goes to Liveworld. When she and Kara touch, she is able to transport her there, but Goblyn blocks her from entering what looks like a surrealistic landscape. Outside, in the Arctic storm, Sasquatch begins moving around the ice and rock to make a strange landscape. She hears a voice, and is joined by Tundra; apparently he has created a portal for the Great Beasts to come through. They are quickly joined by Somon the Artificer, Kariooq the Corruptor, and Tolomaq the Fire Beast. They want Sasquatch to return to them, but she resists, and they toss her into the complex. The Beasts attack, but by thinking quickly, Vindicator is able to take out both Tolomaq and Kariooq with one move. Box begins to fight against Tundra, while Sasquatch squares off with Somon. Manikin attacks, and Somon psychically kills all four of his beings at once. Kara tries to get Laura to trade places with Goblyn, but it only works when she is directly threatened. Sasquatch appears to kill Somon, while Vindicator and Box fight Tundra. Tundra steps on Kara and Laura, and when he lifts his foot, Goblyn is there to fight him. Madison transmutes the entire Bedlam complex into a gigantic Box robot to better fight the massive Tundra. The rest of the team enters the giant robot, but Tundra just keeps growing. Sasquatch points out that he’s mostly made of ice, and that a giant blast would melt him. Sasquatch suggests that Madison convert the Box robot to energy to do this, but Heather worries that will kill them all. Madison does it anyway, and the issue ends on a smoking, empty crater.
- In the aftermath of the explosion, Madison turned the Box robot into a giant spaceship, and sent it flying through space (it doesn’t look like too much of its mass was converted into energy, as it’s still huge). Box is screaming, and the team has no idea how to calm things down. Goblyn starts freaking out, and Heather and Wanda have to try to stop her from causing damage to Box. Heather seems pretty bigoted towards Goblyn, referring to her as an animal. Goblyn runs away, and Wanda suspects she’s heading towards Box’s ‘brain’. They begin to search for her, while Whitman and his other selves all feel terrible from being stabbed by Somon. He absorbs his other selves, and immediately feels better. Goblyn discovers a chamber where a bunch of monstrous fish things swim in large tanks. She cuts one open, and at the same time, Heather and Wanda find themselves attacked by creatures that resemble a mix of the fish things and the aliens in Aliens. In Liveworld, Kara and Laura hang out together. Laura explains that Liveworld makes her feel safe, but as she says that, we see that she is being watched by someone through a crystal ball. Sasquatch figures out that the creatures attacking her and Heather are Bedlamites – things created by Bedlam that they didn’t find when they searched the complex. Whitman wants to start fixing Box, and the robot pulls him through a tube to its brain, which has a tumor on it, and is being attacked by Bedlamites. Goblyn busts into the chamber, and helps Whitman. The problem is, she starts shredding the tumor, releasing more Bedlamites. Heather hears Box scream and comes into the same chamber. She takes out the Bedlamites, and then wants to blast Goblyn to keep her from damaging Madison. Whitman stops her, reminding her that Kara is somewhere inside her. Heather traps Goblyn in a plasma bubble, and then starts blasting away at the remaining Bedlamites on the brain. Next she blasts the tumor, but that reveals that it’s tendrils have reached throughout the inside of the brain. Whitman guides Heather in removing a number of the malignancies. Next, she has to take out a central mass, but they are afraid it will damage Madison’s personality. He appears to Heather and tells her to take the risk. No one remembers that Manikin’s Proto self could just dissolve the tumor, but that’s okay. Heather takes her shot, the whole spaceship screams, and then its internal defenses kick in, destroying the last of the Bedlamites, and helping Wanda. The team makes its way to the bridge, where Box has formed a chair for Heather, which she kisses. Whitman reminds everyone that his love is still inside Goblyn, and Madison sets course to return to Earth.
- The Boxship is landing on an alien world to take on some minerals that can be converted to fuel. The landing on this barren world is a rough one, but the team makes it through. Wanda comments on how this world is like Earth was before a spark of energy created life. Madison phases out to make out with Heather. Whitman gets jealous and starts asking Goblyn where Kara, who is apparently now his girlfriend, is. Goblyn takes a swipe at him, causing him to call forth his other selves. Heather blasts Goblyn, which earns her a lecture from Madison about her biases. On Liveworld, Kara and Laura continue to hang out and provide a lot of exposition. Laura admits that there are some scary things on Liveworld, but that Goblyn always swaps places with her when they come near. On cue, Goblyn swaps with her, and we see a being welcoming her home, and asking if Goblyn can take her with her some time, so she can have a new world to conquer. Whitman is happy to see Kara back. The team looks out the Boxship to see a storm start, and Madison begins the drilling process he needs. Heather thinks about how Alpha is homeless. Madison’s refueled and prepares to blast off, but the Boxship is held fast by crystal growths that weren’t there before. Sasquatch suspects these might be new life, but since it’s growing all over the ship, they see it as a threat. Madison makes everyone protective suits and they head out. Laura tries to get them to understand the new life, but they ignore her and start blasting away at it. They are surprised to see that the crystals “bleed” when smashed. Kara tries to use her powers to control the crystals (despite the fact that her powers are pheromone based and she’s in a spacesuit), and the new shared consciousness aspect to her abilities causes her some pain. Believing her to be in danger, Laura swaps places with Goblyn, and Kara ends up mindlinking with her too. Heather and Manikin are surprised to see that Goblyn saved Kara from being impaled. Goblyn starts to communicate with the crystals through purring at them, and they withdraw from the Boxship. Kara explains that Goblyn figured things out, and Heather calls her an animal again (I’m not sure why Kara hasn’t just explained that she’s a mutant). The ship is able to take off, and Heather, who once nursed the feral Logan back to sanity, promises to try to help understand Goblyn. The team is concerned that Laura has not returned, now that they are out of danger (despite the fact that they were also out of danger at the beginning of the issue when Goblyn stuck around). We see that the Dreamqueen is using magic to keep Laura in Liveworld.
- The Boxship is still flying through space, and it’s beginning to look like the team is lost. They are worried that Box might run out of mass (since he’s still using it for fuel) and strand them in space, but they don’t seem concerned about the fact that they wouldn’t have any food. Wanda decides that the route to Earth might be in Box’s computer’s memory (although really, is there a computer when he’s the living robot?). They start to take him apart to get to his memory banks, but Goblyn starts acting up. In Liveworld, Laura is attacked by a flower and ends up the captive of the Dreamqueen, who tells her that she wants her to show her how to leave Liveworld. Laura claims that only Goblyn controls the transference when she’s in danger, so the Dreamqueen puts her in danger. Heather acts all speciesist against Goblyn again, so Kara tries to tap into her mind again using her powers. This ends up knocking them into the Boxchair just as Sasquatch tries to program the route to Earth into Box. Somehow, all these connected mindmerged people cause the Boxship to end up in Liveworld, where they are about to crash into a floating island. Heather uses her suit’s power to change course, but then they crash into another one. Goblyn runs off, on Laura’s trail, while Kara finds Sasquatch and all of Manikin’s selves. Box emerges from the wrecked Boxship, and they find Heather, possibly unconscious but trapped behind her suit’s forceshields. Goblyn tracks Laura to the Dreamqueen’s castle. The Dreamqueen is explaining to Laura that she has always protected Goblyn, as the only other truly living creature in the realm, but now she wants Goblyn to take her to Earth. To frighten Laura, she has creatures with her parents’ faces approach her, and Goblyn drops through a window and starts shredding them. The Dreamqueen is surprised to see both sisters together, and realizes that there are others in her world. When Goblyn bites her, all of Liveworld starts to storm. The team starts to follow Goblyn’s tracks, while the Dreamqueen gathers a large army to force her to help her.
- The Statement of Ownership for this year (1987?) lists an average press run of 347 000, with average newsstand returns of 144 000.
- Issue fifty-nine opens in Northern China, where Puck, now tall and in his mid-seventies, has been travelling to a remote lamasery, where he’s heard there is a doorway to other worlds. As he approaches, so does a troop of Chinese soldiers, who are there to shut down the peaceful monks. One of the soldiers, named Dei Guan, has doubts, caused by the fact that the Maoist regime caused his parent’s deaths. Judd watches from a nearby mountain slope, very aware of the fact that his aged body can’t do anything to help out. The soldiers open fire on the monks, who somehow turn their bullets into flowers. Next they create a forcefield around them, but the commander calls in an air strike, which kills some of them. Judd has some explosives with him, which he sets on the slope and explodes, hoping it can distract the Chinese. The commander sees this as proof of the monk’s intentions, and orders their mass execution. As the fighting continues, Judd slips through the forcefield using a trick he knows, and makes his way to the lamasery. The Chinese commander calls on Dei Guan, who we learn, has the ability to turn himself into a large dragon, called the Jade Dragon. He is able to bust through the forceshield. We learn that he was given his abilities by a geomancer, and signed up for the army having few other options. On Tamarind Island, a boat arrives with a man and a veiled woman. They talk about how, since Walter Langkowski died, the island should belong to her. They are challenged by Canadian soldiers, and the man, a lawyer, argues that the island does not belong to the Canadian government. The woman reveals herself to be Veronica Langkowski, Walter’s widow. Judd breaks into the lamasery by smashing a window, and finds himself in front of the High Lama. He explains that he wants to travel to a new world, and the lama dismisses him as being selfish. The lama explains that it’s better to live to transcend the wheel of life. Jade Dragon interrupts them, and sees Judd’s presence there as proof that the lama is conspiring with foreign spies. Judd tries to fight the Dragon, and when it is about to blast him, the Lama jumps in front of him, burning to death. This upsets the Jade Dragon, who busts out of the lamasery to tell the commander that the lama is dead. When Jade Dragon sees that the rest of the monks are about to be killed, he turns on his fellow soldiers. The lama appears to Judd, thanking him for helping him to leave life and reach enlightenment. He offers the chance to travel to another world, and shows him Alpha Flight fighting the Dreamqueen in Liveworld. Judd hesitates, wanting a fresh start somewhere else, but then chooses to help his friends. Suddenly, the Dreamqueen, her legions, and Alpha Flight find themselves in the courtyard where the Chinese commander blames Jade Dragon for this mess.
- The Soviets react to news that the Chinese are massing troops near their border, which in turn upsets the Americans. They call Canada when their satellite shows Alpha Flight in the mix, which upsets Brian Mulroney, Canada’s Prime Minister. The Jade Dragon pushes the Chinese military out of the lamasery, sealing it behind a wall of flames, which causes the commander to call for more reinforcements. Mulroney is not happy that they can’t get Alpha out of there, and everyone worries that this event might lead to a war. In China, Alpha fights against the Dreamqueen’s dream warriors, who apparently don’t even exist but are just dream figments that can hurt them. The High Lama, now a glowing figure who isn’t there, watches the fight thinking about Alpha’s heroics. Puck cradles and protects the unconscious Heather. Jade Dragon enters the fight, helping Alpha as he sees that they are protecting the priests (I thought they were monks before). Laura Dean is about to be attacked, but Goblyn comes to her aid. Box notices that the monks/priests (okay, apparently the word is interchangeable) can’t be touched by the dream warriors (is it worth pointing out that in the late 80s and early 90s, Toronto was home to a hiphop group called the Dream Warriors, and that’s all I can think of reading this?), and recognizes that they don’t exist, but can still be hurt by them. The Dreamqueen learns about Alpha’s history, while Puck speaks with the High Lama. At his urging, Puck begins to meditate, and sees that the dream warriors aren’t real. The High Lama tells him to defeat the Dreamqueen by returning her to her own world. Laura figures out that she has interdimensional powers, which is how she protected Goblyn in the womb, and her eyes begin to light up. At the same time, Puck comes cartwheeling through the battle and pushes the Dreamqueen through the still-open portal to Liveworld. As he holds her, Laura uses her power to close the portal. Puck tells her to not worry about him, and Laura closes off the portal. Box rushes to Heather, who is being healed by the High Lama. The team is happy to be together and back on Earth, and the High Lama teleports them away (along with the Jade Dragon). The Chinese commander receives a call to withdraw, to stave off the larger conflict, which in turn causes the Soviets to back down. Mulroney is happy to hear that things are calm again, but he, being the good Progressive Conservative PM that he is, wants Alpha to pay still.
- Issue sixty-one is the first in Marvel’s version of the New Format. The price went up by $0.50 an issue in Canada, but the paper quality improved, and the story was longer, so it was all good. Vindicator and Box are at Parliament Hill for a hearing into Alpha’s activities in China, and things seem pretty combative from the beginning. Heather quiets her government-appointed attorney and accuses the government of sending Bedlam to destroy them. Wanda, Kara, Whitman, Laura, and Goblyn are wandering Ottawa while the hearing is broadcast everywhere, drawing crowds on the streets. They were staying in a hotel on the government’s dime, but felt the need to get out (Goblyn is in a baby carriage). We see that Jade Dragon is also present for the hearing, and Heather recaps the last few issues. The others enter a bar that Puck used to work at (although when we saw him working in a bar in the early issues, it was in Toronto). A politician named Laughton angers Heather into blasting at his desk, which plays into his hands, as he’s trying to depict Alpha as a threat to the country. Heather is mainly angry about how her team was spied on, and the politicians have different ideas as to what the team should be. Somewhere in the US, Laura’s parents, Susan and Darby, watch the hearings and see their daughter. Wanda and the others attract the attention of some barflies, and Kara sends them away using her powers. When Wanda tries to pay for their food with Walter’s credit card, they draw even more attention to themselves. Laughton suggests that villains only come to Canada because of Alpha Flight. Wanda turns to Sasquatch to quiet things down at the bar, and they leave, not sure what to do about money. At the hearing, Heather insists that the team does not want the government’s money. Wanda remembers that she/Walter is rich, but when she goes to the bank to withdraw some of Walter’s money, she is not allowed. This turns into a scene when she turns to Sasquatch, and Kara has to use her powers to get her to calm down. It looks like Wanda, who goes around dressed for jazzercise, is getting a cold. We see that the hearing is being watched by the Fantastic Four (in it’s weird sharp Thing, Ms. Thing era), the Avengers (in the Doctor Druid era), and the X-Men (from the Outback). Heather makes clear that the team is going to continue to defend Canada, but without governmental assistance. Wanda gets angry to learn that all of her money is tied up in Walter’s will, even though Walter’s not exactly dead. When Kara and Whitman begin to make other plans for their lives, Wanda drags them to see her wife. The government pushes again for Alpha to be under its control, and this causes the Jade Dragon to go off, seeing as he had been in a similar situation. This really angers Laughton. Heather finally puts her foot down and refuses all governmental intervention. Laughton makes an effort to appeal to Madison, who, in his Box robot, crushes the man’s hand. They offer to take Jade Dragon with them, but he refuses. Outside the Parliament Building, Heather confesses that she figured Walter’s fortune could keep them afloat, and then she kind of proposes to Jeffries. Wanda leads the others to one of her former mansions (although as Walter he’d always lived in Vancouver before). Veronica, his ex-wife, doesn’t recognize him (for obvious reasons) but Wanda proves she is really Walter. At that, Veronica says that she’s keeping the fortune and slams the door in Wanda’s face.
- Zebediah Killgrave, the Purple Man, rises from his grave after being killed in the Emperor Doom graphic novel, and decides to come after his daughter. He commands other corpses to come with him. Kara wakes up from this dream, and we learn that she’s back at her mom’s place, with Laura and Goblyn staying with her. Her mom comes to comfort her, and Kara narrates the story of the last few days. When Heather and Madison joined the rest of Alpha Flight after turning down government funding, they learned that Wanda is unable to access her fortune. They were set upon by a pack of reporters, and used their powers to turn them away. Wanda referenced an upcoming court date, where she hoped to regain her fortune (I’m not sure when that would have gotten set up), and Whitman said he’s planning on leaving the team. Heather announced that the team would have to break up. Later, the gather at a train station to say goodbye to Kara, Laura, and Goblyn. As the train pulled away, Heather promised her an invite to their wedding. Kara found it hard to get back into the routine of normal life at her mom’s place, especially since the neighbourhood kids were all mean to her. Her mom received notice that Killgrave, her father, was dead, and it made her mom happy. Kara went to Killgrave’s grave (really, though, why is he buried in Toronto, and who would have erected such an elaborate gravestone for him?), where she kept calling him ‘daddy’ (very creepy), and stated that she wished he was still alive. In the present, Kara and her mom are surprised when Killgrave busts into their home, clearly still dead but conscious. Killgrave’s ability to control minds isn’t working. Goblyn attacks the corpses that are with him (just like in Kara’s dream), while Kara orders her mother and Laura away. She returns to help Goblyn, and argue with her dead father, who hates her because she’s alive. Kara tries to run from him, when it’s clear that her powers won’t work on him. It looks like the other corpses stop working once Killgrave is away from them, so Goblyn starts to track Kara. Kara is at a gas station, and Killgrave in trying to kill her, is attacked by Goblyn, who also manages to spill gasoline everywhere. Kara lights a spark and sets her dead father on fire. She hugs Goblyn as Killgrave burns. In the Yukon, Elizabeth Twoyoungmen works at an archaeological dig. She feels a surge of power, and doesn’t notice that some glowing stones are rising behind her.
- Issue sixty-three was a bit of a fill-in issue, written James Hudnall and drawn by Hugh Haynes. I’ll write more about Hudnall, who just passed away recently, in my next column, as he took over writing the book after Mantlo; I wonder if this issue was a try-out. It opens with Madison Jeffries recapping his first appearance in Alpha Flight, when Roger Bochs hired him to help him (and mentions that they didn’t know each other, which is contrary to Mantlo’s earlier assertion that they’d spent time in an institute together). Two years ago, a man named Ted Larkin wrote a computer virus and uploaded it off a 5 ¼” floppy disk to his computer. Later, he used a suitcase modem thing to place it into a bank’s computers, where it would skim money for him. Jeffries narrates how he ended up taking over the Box robot from Roger. Today, Larkin lives in luxury in Colorado, but is starting to wonder what would happen if his virus made its way into any computer systems not belonging to a bank. At the same time, in Kansas, a military guy arranges a money transfer to a bank. They notice that the transfer takes longer than it should, but don’t have time to check their computer systems, as they have to network later with a “Canadian superhero”. In Ottawa, Heather and Madison have moved into the house where Heather used to live with Mac. Madison has put together a command centre in the basement. He merges with his armor to complete a data transfer he’s arranged with the US military, to help Alpha Flight better understand various threats. Heather looks in on him, and finds that Box has taken on a more sinister appearance. Box hits Heather and then busts through the wall to get outside (despite the fact that we just learned this was the basement). Heather is knocked out for a while, and decides she needs to go after Madison. Madison, meanwhile, finds himself trapped in the Box robot. He turns his watch into a translator, just as the robot crosses the US border and a flight of fighter jets are scrambled to stop it. The computer virus has gained sentience, and explains that since its mission is to transfer “units” to its creator, and it hasn’t been able to find “units” of money in its last location, it is now using Box to return there and transfer nuclear units. It allows Madison outside vision to help it destroy the jets. Madison refuses, and the robot downs the jets, although the pilots survive. Madison keeps trying to fight the virus. It approaches a base in North Dakota and goes after nuclear missiles there. Madison phases out, and looks for ways to defeat the virus, which is kept busy by the soldiers and their mech suits. Madison heads into a bunker to find enough metal for his purposes. He creates a new Box robot, which blasts the old one, destroying it. He explains to the command that he’s a superhero, and then heads back towards Canada. He worries that he hurt Heather, just as she flies towards him. A missile is fired from a networked launcher, and sent towards Larkin’s home. In Russia, a spy reports on what happened, and pulls out a massive reel-to-reel he stole containing new Air Force computer programs.
- Wanda is in a probate court in Ottawa, in her Sasquatch form, petitioning to have her/Walter’s will declared invalid, because she’s still alive. Veronica, her “widow” is contesting this action, although she whispers to Wanda that she knows he’s really Walter. Wanda almost punches her, causing her to get admonished by the surrogate (I guess judges don’t rule in cases like this?). Veronica’s lawyer brings out a machine Walter invented to scan him, and it declares him male, female, human, and non-human at once. Wanda agrees to a polygraph test, which leads to a detailed recap of his life and times in a variety of bodies. The surrogate heads to her chambers to deliberate, and finds there someone from National Security, who makes it clear that the government does not want Wanda to fund Alpha Flight. In Etobicoke (which a text box calls a suburb of Canada, instead of Toronto), Kara and Laura rush to catch their school bus. Kara uses her powers to keep the driver from driving away from them, and it’s clear that all the kids are afraid of her. Whitman is at a hospital in BC, and uses his powers to convince a recalcitrant kid to get the surgery he needs. Madison returns to Heather’s parents’ place in Haysboro (so much for them living in Ottawa last issue), and mistakes Heather’s sister Becky for her. Heather and Madison make out in the yard, with her parents watching. In Ottawa, Dei Guan is interrogated as to whether or not he wants to defect. He gets angry and turns into Jade Dragon; he is being surveilled by at least three people who speak in Chinese, and talk about killing him if he is a traitor to China. Waiting for the surrogate to return, Wanda has a bit of a fit, and suddenly eight figures bust out of her – four of the Great Beasts, and Snowbird and the three gods she lives with. They begin to fight in the courtroom, and both sides insist that Sasquatch join them. As people flee the courthouse, a nun walks towards the chaos. Sasquatch doesn’t want to help either side, but when Somon the Artificer starts choking Veronica, she gets angry. Things go black for Wanda, and she is confused, but then she feels the nun’s hands on her head, and the darkness goes away. Sasquatch takes out all of the Great Beasts, but then rejects Nelvanna and the other gods. She also rejects Veronica, giving her his money, and says her past has no more claim on her. Wanda leaves the court, and sees the nun who helped her – it’s Aurora! She reminds Wanda that she’s turned away from her past, and explains that she herself has joined a holy order and uses her powers only rarely, to help the sick. As she leaves, Sasquatch cries. Elsewhere, Elizabeth notices the rock formation in the middle of her archeological dig, and figures there’s something inside it. The last panel shows a laughing Dreamqueen, suggesting that’s what’s in there.
- Madison dreams that he’s being attacked by his brother, Scramble, and Roger Bochs. He wakes up at Heather’s parents’ place. The next day, Madison and Heather head into town to pick out Heather’s wedding dress. She tells him that she’s heard from Kara – she and Laura are at the same school (it says the same class, but that doesn’t make sense due to their age difference), and we see that Goblyn is jealous, and that Kara sometimes uses her powers on her bullies. Whitman also called Heather to say that he’s doing well at his new hospital. They don’t know where Sasquatch is, but we see her in snowy mountains. Jade Dragon has had enough of being followed by soldiers, and turns into his dragon form, prompting the shadowy figures from before to move in on him. Heather and Madison’s trip is interrupted by a collapsed bridge; people say a giant robot attacked it. Later, as Heather tries on dresses, Madison falls asleep, and again dreams of Scramble fighting him and attacking an orphanage. Later, after they get home, Heather and Madison hear reports on the radio of an attack on an orphanage, and they head there. Heather works to save people from the fire, while Madison spots what looks like Box’s footprint in the mud. Heather tries to get Madison help, first trying to get ahold of Elizabeth Twoyoungmen, and then later agreeing to take him to talk to the family’s priest. As they drive, Madison thinks about the guilt he feels over taking the Box robot from Bochs, and for killing him and his brother. He dreams again, and sees an amalgam of the Box robot and Scramble threaten to kill Heather. He wakes up shouting, and then transmutes their car into Box, and tries to smash Heather. Box looks more like Scramble than usual, and they begin to fight. Heather figures out that Madison is not really in control, and has to save a passenger jet from missiles the robot fired at it. Box gets the drop on her, and is about to smash her, but Madison phases out to protect her. He begins to fight the robot, and again ends up standing over Heather’s fallen form as Box is about to hit her. Madison has a bit of a breakthrough, and realizes that he’s somehow been fighting his guilty subconscious. He suspects that something is at play here, but doesn’t say what it is. He ends up back in control again. Later, Heather and Madison visit Roger and Lionel’s graves (convenient that they are buried together, although it’s not clear where this would be). Madison feels in control of his issues. Elizabeth has drawn a glow around the cairn that she’s been digging up, but no one else sees the glow in reality.
- In Bill Mantlo’s last issue, he borrows a page from Grant Morrison’s book, a full year and a half before Morrison appeared in Animal Man #26. The issue opens with a text box announcing that an Alphan would die in this issue, but Whitman, who is at his hospital job, challenges the narrator, decrying the way in which the writer has put him and his friends through so much heartache and pain for pure entertainment (basically, this is Animal Man #26, without the accolades). Whitman gets Highbrow to reveal Bill Mantlo at his word processor, and shows that he knows that Mantlo’s script calls for Heather to blast Proto, and therefore kill all of Manikin’s later selves. Whitman refuses to play along. At the same time, in Alberta, Heather is very upset in advance of her wedding, and claims that she cannot take off the battlesuit that she’s been wearing non-stop for the last few issues. Madison, not knowing about this drama, gets the mail and reads a letter from Kara in which she tells them what happened with the dead Purple Man, including her suspicions that it might not have happened after all. This causes Madison to reflect on his recent problems, as well as Sasquatch’s battle with the Great Beasts; he suspects that the team is under some sort of sustained magical attack. He sees Heather fly off in a rage, and jumps into the Box robot to go after her. Somewhere remote, Sasquatch wanders through the woods and thinks about her problems. While smashing stuff, she discovers a rich vein of gold (seriously). Dei Guan is being taken somewhere when his armed guards are attacked. He transforms into Jade Dragon, and is confronted by four beings calling themselves China Force, and giving him a choice to join them or die. Vindicator busts into Whitman’s hospital, having just flown halfway across the continent, and is calling for him. Madison is right behind her, and no one explains why Heather would need a doctor to help her get out of her costume instead of the transmuter who helped design it. Whitman hides, not prepared to risk his death, and Heather tries to avoid Madison. When he tries to help her still, she blasts him through a wall, right into Whitman. Madison phases out of the robot and tries to help Heather, and she blasts him again. Finally, Whitman decides to act, and sends his other selves into the fray, but he himself takes off with Proto. Heather follows, and corners Whitman, who keeps talking about the writer’s intent for the scene. Finally, Proto drops onto Heather, and dissolves her control helmet, and it turns out that everything is fine. Whitman starts to suspect that something else is going on, and comes close to suspecting the Dreamqueen’s involvement, but the narrator wipes his memory.
And that’s the end of Mantlo’s lengthy run of thirty-seven issues and two annuals. I’m pretty sure he’s the longest-lasting writer to ever work on Alpha Flight, and while he made some very memorable changes to the characters, this run isn’t really talked about much or remembered for much more than putting Heather in the Vindicator costume, and debuting Jim Lee at Marvel.
I’m not sure how much this run deserves recognition. It has some great moments in it (the early issues are pretty good, and the Pestilence stuff is kind of great), but as the team shrunk, the book kind of fell into a bit of a quagmire, creatively. I like that Mantlo decided to bring back the Beta Flight concept, but the characters that he created for that part of the team (Purple Girl, Manikin, Laura, and Goblyn) are generally kind of terrible or uninteresting. Alpha’s embrace of governmental support, followed by their divorce from it, didn’t do much for me. I also don’t like the retcons placed on Northstar and Aurora’s backstories, nor the way in which Shaman and Talisman got written out. I did like the way Snowbird was killed off though, and love what was done with Sasquatch.
One thing that stood out to me was the shift in focus away from Alpha as Canada’s superteam, as the regional character that John Byrne built into the book was eroded into stories that had the team making commutes equivalent to the distance from Chicago to LA in no time at all. It often felt like the “Canadianness” of this book was handled with lip service, but I’ll also admit that I am more sensitive to this than most readers would have been. It is cool that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney showed up though, and Lee drew his likeness quite well.
I find it interesting that, after Byrne put so much time into making Alpha Flight into a very fluid understanding of what it means to be a superteam, that Mantlo would immediately reverse those changes, and make them Canada’s Avengers for a while. Later, he dismantled them again, and left it kind of unclear how this team operates best – as a defunded group of individuals spread across a vast country, or as a traditional team where everyone lives in the same awesome mansion.
I’m not sure how planned Mantlo’s departure from the title was, but I did like the way he began setting up the return of the Dreamqueen in his last issues, even bringing Elizabeth Twoyoungmen back into the mix in a limited capacity. I feel like he made it easy for James Hudnall to step in and take over.
As this book is full of characters that didn’t appear elsewhere, Mantlo had the freedom to make major changes to them as he saw fit. Like I did last time, I’d like to talk about each of these characters individually for a bit.
Vindicator – This is the character that changed the most from Byrne’s run. There, Heather was a civilian, yet leader of the team. Her desire to participate more makes sense, but once she puts the battlesuit on, and hangs out with Logan for the span of one battle, she’s suddenly a capable fighter and master of using a suit so technical and complicated that it killed its first owner. Reading these issues in quick succession, her status as a badass feels a little rushed. Also rushed is the way in which her emotions changed over Mantlo’s run. It did feel like she was destined to enter a relationship with Puck, but her sudden swerve to falling in love with Madison was unexpected and felt very forced. With time, it began to make sense, but its early days could have been handled better. What I really didn’t like was the way in which Heather treated Goblyn like a rabid animal, instead of a mutant human preteen girl who lived most of her life in a fantasy land. The depth of her reaction to the girl was way too strong, and out of character considering how Heather had previously shown empathy to Marrina.
Box (Madison) – It’s weird how Madison changed from a shy version of Ben Grimm in Byrne’s hands to the backbone of the team. His Box armor was a huge improvement on Bochs’s version, and I like the flexibility his powers give him with it. I’m surprised that Jeffries hasn’t been used more in other comics, save his appearances as part of the X-Club in semi-recent X-Men comics.
Sasquatch – I think that the changes that Mantlo had Walter/Wanda go through were pretty ground-breaking and interesting, and are something that I wish he’d given more screentime to. I can understand why, in the late 80s, we didn’t see Wanda experimenting with her sexuality and trying to figure out who she is as a woman, but there’s a lot here that could have been explored. She kind of became a supporting character for much of this run, and that’s a shame.
Purple Girl – I remember being much more annoyed with Kara when I first read this run than I was this time around. I do have problems with her supposedly only being thirteen when we first meet her, as she spends much of her time in this book in love with a guy who must be in his mid-twenties. There are more than a few places where Kara makes declarative statements that really should have triggered her powers, but didn’t. Really, she goes months without using them, and then later her powers somehow cause her to meld minds with only some characters? She’s got the type of powerset that requires careful attention by writers and editors, and that didn’t really happen here.
Manikin – This has to be one of the dumber characters of this period, not just in this book, but in comics in general. Did we ever find out why his superhero name is manikin? I fear it’s a cute way of saying he has “many kin.” His other selves never really show much personality, and he usually just stands around in his ugly yellow suit providing exposition and macking on a girl half his age. I’m not surprised he’s spent the last twenty years in limbo.
Laura Dean – Maybe it’s progressive that this book was depicting characters with autism in the Rain Man era, but I’m not sure that Mantlo knew much about ASD at the time. Also, after Goblyn and her manage to coexist in our world (which, really, is something that should have been remarked upon more), she more or less becomes a neurotypical character, whose autism is never mentioned again. Neither are her parents, who showed up in one issue…
Goblyn – Similarly, Goblyn is a bit of a problem. There’s not a lot of potential there, but we also never get a clear understanding of her intelligence. Everyone is very quick to dismiss her as an animal, but we know that she’s Laura’s twin and therefore human. More needed to be done to make her a more compelling character I feel.
Puck – Puck’s entire arc in this series is strange. The revelation that he’s been holding on to the demonic Razer for decades, and that’s why he’s a dwarf, is strange. I also didn’t like the way that his happy-go-lucky character that Byrne established as the true heart of the team turned into a self-pitying liability in almost every issue before he was written out. Even when he’s brought back to receive a more noble ending, it kind of grated. I much preferred Eugene the way Byrne portrayed him, and felt that his was among the most jarring of changes.
Northstar – Likewise, I hated the fact that Mantlo retconned an elven origin for Jean-Paul and Jeanne-Marie. I do like that Mantlo continued with the suggestions that Jean-Paul was gay, although some of Heather’s remarks to him bordered on the homophobic. The progression of his disease, and the way that his pride forced him to hide it, was cool, but then written away too quickly, along with him.
Aurora – Conversely, I was okay with the way that Mantlo largely ignored Aurora’s problems, until it became a little too late for her. The suggestion towards the end of the run that she’d found peace in the Church was interesting, and felt true to the character.
Shaman – Shaman really got the short end of the stick in Mantlo’s run. I liked that he’d lost his confidence at the end of Byrne’s run, and that that stopped him from being able to access his powers, but then he got the ridiculous upgraded outfit, and the ability to communicate with spirits. The worst idea (which quickly got dropped) was Eaglet, his eagle familiar that lived inside a west coast style hat. Leaving aside that it was culturally unacceptable and not representative of a grasslands culture, Eaglet was just a bad character. After Michael put on the Talisman, and became completely heartless, it was probably a mercy to get rid of him, but I did miss him in this book.
Talisman – I hated the way Mantlo portrayed Elizabeth as angry, jealous, and very childish. She was a favourite of mine in Byrne’s run, and then she was just gone from this one. It was also probably a mercy, and I remember getting pretty excited when she returned in a bunch of cameos.
Snowbird – I think Byrne said all there was to say about Snowbird, and that she became a lot more interesting once she was dead and Walter was in her body. I’m not sure why her hair turned from a more conventional blonde to white at that point, but whatever.
Box (Roger) – It’s a shame that the first paraplegic hero I can think of got killed off so quickly, after losing his mind. Roger was kind of cool, and so unconventional a hero, that I wish his story had lasted longer.
Mantlo’s run featured an impressive and wide array of artists. Mike Mignola didn’t last very long with the book, but his issues are memorable. It’s cool to see how he used them to work on elements that later became synonymous with his name. I liked Dave Ross’s run a lot, and felt that it was in his hands that the book became recognizably Canadian again. Ross does not get enough attention for being as good as he is. I also liked what June Brigman brought to the book.
Of course, the biggest name here is Jim Lee, who drew an impressive eleven issues (today that would take him three years!). You can see his style develop and change over the course of those issues, and in his covers and splash pages, show the earliest iteration of the superstar he would later become. I remember his name building buzz when he launched Punisher War Journal, before making his way to X-Men and changing history. What I found really cool about these issues is that every one of my copies were signed by him, and I don’t even remember ever meeting him.
Before wrapping up this ridiculously long column, I want to take a moment or two to talk about Bill Mantlo. While today he gets remembered most for his work on the Hulk, and for creating Rocket Raccoon, it was his work on a pair of licensed Marvel titles that I most fondly remember. I think his Micronauts is one of the best comics I ever read (and will be the subject of a future column, if I can ever get to that longbox). I also loved tracking down issues of his ROM as a kid, and think that his non-traditional superhero books were just fantastic. His Alpha Flight is good, but those comics are just so great.
Mantlo was in an accident in 1992, and has required extensive care ever since. The comics industry lost an important voice at that time. Just as I was getting ready to wrap up this column, I saw a story on Bleeding Cool about how his brother has launched a GoFundMe page, as he’s put himself deeply into debt to maintain his brother’s care. If you ever enjoyed any of his comics, I urge you to consider making a donation here.
After Mantlo left the title, it was taken over by James Hudnall, and I remember becoming a big fan of this run, which had the team face the Dreamqueen again, and then Llan the Sorcerer. I remember enjoying the art, which was unconventional at the time, and the inclusion of Diamond Lil in the team. We’ll see how it stands up next time, which I promise, will be a much shorter column.
If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.
If you’d like to read any of the stories I talk about here, you are going to have to do some longbox digging – they haven’t been collected.
Tags: Alpha Flight, Marvel, Retro Reviews