Alpha Flight #67-86 (February 1989 – July 1990)
Written by James D. Hudnall (#67-86)
Pencilled by Hugh Haynes (#67), John Calimee (#68-71, 73-76, 78-82, 84-85), Gerry Talaoc (#72), Huw Thomas (#77), James Sherman (#83), Mark Bagley (#86)
Inked by Gerry Talaoc (#67, 72), Sam De La Rosa (#68, 70), Hilary Barta (#69-70), John Nyberg (#70), Mike Manley (#71, 73-82, 84-86), James Sherman (#83)
Colour by Bob Sharen (#67-74, 76-86), Gregory Wright (#75)
Spoilers (from twenty-nine to thirty years ago)
James Hudnall, the third writer to take over Alpha Flight’s title, passed away recently. I remember being a fan of his run, which, as I recall, refocused Alpha on supernatural threats, with a long storyline having the team go up against an evil sorcerer. I remember that he returned Shaman and Talisman to prominence, added Diamond Lil to the team, and took as much time as he needed to tell his story, all of which I appreciated. I also remember being pleased with the unconventional artwork of John Calimee, his main artistic collaborator.
When I started to read through this series again for this column, there were three runs I was most excited about – John Byrne’s, Steven T. Seagle’s, and Hudnall’s. Let’s see if it’s as good as I remember…
Let’s track who turned up in the title:
- Snowbird (Narya; #67-68)
- Puck (Eugene Milton Judd; #67, 75-76, 78, 81-82)
- Vindicator (Heather Hudson; #67-86)
- Box (Madison Jeffries #67-86)
- Sasquatch (as Wanda Langkowski; #67-68; as Walter Langkowski; #68-76, 78-86)
- Shaman (Michael Twoyoungmen; #68-76, 78-79, 82-86)
- Talisman (Elizabeth Twoyoungmen; #68-76, 78-86)
- Diamond Lil (Lil Crawley; #76, 78-86)
- Aurora (Jeanne-Marie Beaubier; #81-82, 84-86)
- Northstar (Jean-Paul Beaubier; #81-82, 84-86)
- Laura Dean (#67-71, 81-82, 85-86)
- Goblyn (#67-71, 81-82, 85-86)
- Purple Girl/Persuasion (Kara Killgrave; as Purple Girl, #67-71; as Persuasion, #81-83, 85-86)
- Nemesis (#76, 79-80, 84-86)
- Witchfire (#76, 79-80, 84-86)
- Silver (Jimon; #76, 79-80, 84-86)
- Auric (Zhao; #76, 79-80, 84-86)
- Wild Child (#76, 79-80, 84-86)
- Nightmare (#67, 70)
- The Dreamqueen (#67-70)
- Ox (China Force; #69)
- Snake (China Force; #69)
- Rat (China Force; #69)
- Rabbit (China Force; #69)
- Llan the Sorcerer (#71-72, 78-80, 83-86)
- General Brian Winslow (#71, 81-84, 86)
- The Kingpin (Wilson Fisk; #77)
- Zeitgeist (#78)
- The Master of the World (#78)
- Nekra (#79-80)
- The Scorpion (Mac Gargan; #79-80)
- The Tinkerer (#79)
- The Owl (#79-80)
- The Asp (#79-80)
- Jade Dragon (#69)
- Dr. Strange (#78, 86)
- Captain Forsa (#78)
- Wong (#78, 86)
- Nahita (Talisman’s former life; #83)
- Firehand (Tribe of the Moon; #83)
- Talks-To-Spirits (Tribe of the Moon; #83)
- Willow-Dancer (Tribe of the Moon; #83)
- Bear Brother (Tribe of the Moon; #83)
- Elizabeth Twoyoungmen (the depowered Talisman; #67-68)
- Diamond Lil (Lil Crawley; #71-75)
- Veronica Langkowski (Walter’s ex-wife; #78)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- Hudnall picks up right where Bill Mantlo left off, with Elizabeth Twoyoungmen and some guy entering the cairn that they’d discovered in an archeological dig somewhere in the Canadian north. They find the skeletal remains of a man, bound to the Earth. Between his legs lays an artifact. When Elizabeth tries to touch it, she sees her hand burst into flame, and she passes out. She is visited by Snowbird, who narrates much of the issue from this point. We learn that the classic villain Nightmare, long ago, coveted a succubus named Zhilla Char. He forced himself on her, and later left her in an empty dimension until their child was born. As is typical for demons like her, the child burned Zhilla, and took over her body, keeping all of her memories. Thus, the Dreamqueen was born. She ruled over her land for a very long time, and got very bored, recognizing this world as a prison. Three hundred fifty years ago (story time, I guess three hundred and eighty for us now), a Native tribe called the Chickaqua were suffering from drought. Their shamna, Nanquato, used his astral body to try to find the gods to ask for help. Instead, he found his way to the Dreamqueen, who lied to him, and sent him back home with a totem of hers. When he returned to the Earth, she was able to manipulate events so that the people became afraid. They killed Nanquato. All the Dreamqueen needed was for one of the people to touch her totem so she could travel there, but Nightmare, in an effort to foil her, had warned one of them – the totem was buried with Nanquato’s body. Much later, the Dreamqueen discovered Goblyn in her domain, which eventually led to her confrontation with Alpha Flight (discussed in my last column), and her return to her realm with Puck. Hudnall confirms that the last few issues of Mantlo’s run were showing various attacks that the Dreamqueen made on the team. Most recently, she’s been torturing Puck (who she made younger). She also helped manipulate Elizabeth to enter the cairn. Snowbird finishes telling the story, and Elizabeth wakes up to find her fellow archeological students around her. They try to get Elizabeth to touch the totem, but she taps into some of her Talisman abilities to restore them to their rightful minds. She rushes off in her underwear to warn Alpha of what’s happened. The Dreamqueen is visited by Nightmare, who warns her that Earth is more dangerous than she imagines. Meanwhile, Vindicator has gathered Alpha and Beta Flights together (we’re not sure where), and so Box, Sasquatch, Purple Girl, Goblyn, and Laura Dean sit together. We learn that Manikin rejected the summons. They talk about their recent Dreamqueen-induced problems, and then start to glow around the heads. They all collapse in pain, and the Dreamqueen manifests on top of a coffee table.
- Elizabeth rushes to a payphone to call Heather and warn her that the Dreamqueen (whose name now seems to be written as two words, unlike before) is coming, but it’s the Dream Queen that answers the phone, gloating. She knows how far away Elizabeth is. The Dream Queen picks Wanda as a pawn, and kisses her unconscious forehead before leaving. Somehow Elizabeth manages to get to Ottawa from the Yukon in four hours (it’s about an eight hour flight normally), and finds the team still unconscious. She wakes Heather up. The Dream Queen hitches a ride with some guy, and we learn that she can’t alter reality on our world, only people’s perceptions of it. Elizabeth talks with the team, and convinces them that they need Shaman and the powers of the Talisman he still wears. She knows that he’s somewhere up north, and Madison prepares a new Boxship. The Dream Queen is in Edmonton (that’s a thirty-seven hour drive, in case you’re keeping track), where she has gone to the condo building where the richest man in Canada lives (in 1989 that would have been Ken Thomson, who lived in Toronto). She has her driver walk into traffic and laughs. Alpha head to the Eye of the World, the place where Wanda’s first body was destroyed. They find Shaman, cold and distant as ever, waiting for them. He claims he can’t help them, but will travel with them anyway back to Ottawa. On the Boxship, Shaman explains that he can only observe the conflict, but Elizabeth claims that it’s time for her to take back the role of Talisman. She says she was immature before, but now she’s ready. Box mentions that they are over Calgary (which makes no sense, as the Eye of the World was in Northern Quebec, and they are supposed to be heading back to Ottawa). Shaman explains that handing over the Talisman to Elizabeth, as its rightful owner, will not cause him pain, but as he’s about to give it to her, Wanda turns into Sasquatch, grabs it (causing them both pain), and jumps through a hole she rips in the floor. She lands in Calgary with Vindicator giving chase. The team goes after her, with Shaman explaining that the Dream-Queen (now with a hyphen) put a spell on Wanda. Wanda is wearing the Talisman, and is able to wield its powers because she is in Narya’s body. She takes down most of the team, and is on her way to carjacking a ride to Edmonton when Snowbird appears. She turns Wanda back into Walter, which breaks the Dream Queen’s hold on him. He hands the Talisman over to Elizabeth, who is back in her original outfit. The rest of the team catches up to them, and are surprised to see that Walter is back. Talisman tells them that the Dream Queen has taken over all of Edmonton. We see a variety of regular people who, believing they are in the middle of happy dreams, are doing terrible things, while the Dream Queen laughs.
- It’s been a few issues since China Force attacked Jade Dragon in Ottawa, but apparently that has been taking place concurrently with the last issue. Dei Guan fights his former comrades, but they inject him with a drug that reverts him to human and inhibits his powers for twenty-four hours. Later, they have him in a plane heading for Alaska, and talk about how he will have to stand trial for defecting, even though he didn’t. As the plane flies over Edmonton (in a record two hours, usually a four hour flight), China Force falls under the Dreamqueen’s sway, and believes they’ve reached home. They land outside West Edmonton Mall, while the Dream Queen laughs. She checks up on Alpha’s progress next. In the Boxship, en route, Heather makes plans with Shaman, Laura, and Kara. Talisman directs Box to fly to downtown Edmonton, and he heads for the Mall. Realizing that the Dream Queen has him under her control, Elizabeth zaps him. The Boxship crashes into the Mall’s waterpark, almost drowning everyone. Heather is furious with Elizabeth, but then realizes the necessity of what she did, even though it left Madison unconscious. The Dream Queen looks out on the city, where people are creating all sorts of mayhem under her direction, as her influence spreads. Soon she will control all of North America. Kara sees the Purple Man in the Mall, but it’s actually Rat, who slices her with disease-inducing claws. Shaman treats her (apparently he has his medicine pouch back, and can use it again), but it knocks her out. Sasquatch runs off to get their enemies. He finds Dei Guan tied up, and begins to fight Ox. Vindicator stops Rat from scratching him. Sasquatch doesn’t do great against Ox and Rabbit, but Goblyn terrifies Rat. Snake grabs Heather, while Rabbit goes for Talisman, Shaman, and the others. The teams gather together, and it’s clear that China Force believes they are defending their country from invaders. Laura opens a portal to China, and the Force is pushed through it. Dei Guan chooses to join them, to clear his name. Madison wakes up, and the team gets ready to go to the Dream Queen. Laura opens a portal to downtown (it’s convenient that her powers are now basically just those of a teleporter), and they leave the still sleeping Kara behind, while the Dream Queen laughs.
- The Statement of Ownership for 1988 lists an average press run of 147 000, with average newsstand returns of 16 500.
- Alpha and Beta Flights arrive in downtown Edmonton through Laura’s portal. This is noticed by the government in Ottawa, where the Prime Minister (although he doesn’t look like Brian Mulroney to me) are aware of the growing dead zone around the city, where they have not been able to establish any contact. They aren’t happy to see Alpha together, but recognize they are the only hope. The Dream Queen also sees that they’ve arrived, and is annoyed to learn that Talisman is protecting them from her influence. She prepares for them. Talisman leads the team to the building she’s in, and they split up to search for her; Elizabeth insists on going it alone. Sasquatch, Laura, and Goblyn take the elevator to search some floors, while Vindicator, Box, and Shaman fly up the shaft to search some higher ones. The first group finds themselves in a restaurant, where Aurora is waiting for Walter, and their parents are waiting for Laura and Goblyn. Vindicator and Shaman find themselves in a lush greenhouse, and Box is convinced they were making out, and gets angry. Purple Girl wakes up in the West Edmonton Mall, all alone, and feels abandoned by her team. Aurora ends up attacking Walter. Shaman thinks he’s saving Talisman, but ends up falling out a window. Laura and Goblyn’s parents turn into demons and attack them, and Laura falls out a window as well. Vindicator and Madison, who phased out of the Box robot, get trussed up by some man-eating plants. Dream Queen gets visited by Nightmare, her father, who warns her that Earth is going to destroy her. Just then, Talisman arrives. Shaman, who can levitate, manages to catch Laura, and they start slowly floating to the top of the building. The Dream Queen calls on some buff guys to attack Talisman for her, and tells them to start carving her up. Vindicator busts free of the plants, and she and Box fly towards the top of the building. Sasquatch and Goblyn get away from the creatures they were fighting, and take the elevator up. Talisman manages to get away from the men, and is about to kill the Dream Queen when all the other heroes arrive. Laura opens a portal, and Talisman punches her through. Heather is upset that Elizabeth lied, and Elizabeth points out how easily the Dream Queen was able to control them when they were close to her. Box asks if they are going to be a team again, and Talisman replies that they need to be as worse is still coming.
- With the threat of the Dream Queen taken care of, the military dispatches soldiers to speak to Alpha Flight. The team is relaxing in the condo where they fought, and Vindicator decides it’s the right time to talk about the team’s future. She is concerned that Talisman is trying to take control; their conversation is cut short when the army busts in. Most of the team (including Sasquatch, who is suddenly white again after being orange the last couple issues) start to fight them, but Talisman stops everything. Some guy named Dexter is lecturing his wife, Carol, about the environment while they are camping. He stumbles over a stone idol of a man with a horn sitting on a throne or chair. General Winslow tells Vindicator that the Canadian government is ready for Alpha Flight to return to them. Talisman, without consulting Heather, explains that they are going to set up base in Edmonton, with the help of some men in the corner. The camping couple goes to sleep, and Dexter begins to speak with the idol in his dreams; it offers him the chance to save the environment, and also tells him his wife is cheating on him. Heather is now at home (in Ottawa), narrating events from the recent past (which makes it more confusing when we cut to Dexter and Carol’s story every couple pages). The men in the corner were the mayor and his entourage, and they offered Alpha Flight help so long as they promise to protect Edmonton. Heather told them she’d think about it, and then the team went to get Kara from the West Edmonton Mall. She wasn’t too happy to have been left behind, and decided she wants a normal life. She left with Laura and Goblyn. Dexter is talking to the idol when Carol finds him, and he snaps at her, then continues to talk to it; it’s clear that it wants him to do something awful to his wife. Madison is at his place in Ottawa (this is the first we’ve ever seen him having his own place), getting ready for Heather to come over when he gets a surprise visit from Lil Crawley, Diamond Lil. She’s just out of prison, and it appears that she and Madison had a thing once. She kisses Madison in front of his window just as Heather comes down the street. She sees and heads home, upset. She’s not happy to see Elizabeth there waiting for her. Dexter chokes Carol to death, hangs her from a tree, and drains her blood into a pot where he’s placed the ido. It has him drink the blood the idol has dissolved into. At the same time, Heather and Elizabeth talk. She explains that the common incursions by the Great Beasts, and the fights with Pestilence and the Dream Queen were all signs that a great planetary alignment that happens every 10 000 years is taking place, putting Canada at great risk for evil. The idol takes over Dexter, and he suddenly has a dorky supervillain look, and flaming hands. He teleports to outside Heather’s house. Heather calls Madison, asking him to come over, and Elizabeth suggests he picks up Shaman on the way. Elizabeth can tell that someone is coming, and the new, so-far nameless bad guy busts through the wall.
- Issue seventy-two is narrated by Madison, who at the beginning of the issue is sitting on the trashed Box robot on a strange looking world. He was with Lil when he got Heather’s call, and realized something was wrong. He got in the Box robot, and agreed to let Diamond Lil come with him, even though he knows that Heather hates her for her role in her husband’s death. At Heather’s, she and Talisman faced the Sorcerer, the still-unnamed bad guy from last issue. The Sorcerer had been waiting ten thousand years to return to Earth, and claimed that the world was ripe for him now. It became clear that there was some reason why Elizabeth couldn’t act against him, having to abide by some “rules of engagement.” The Sorcerer transported Heather and Elizabeth to another dimension, a neutral zone where the gods battled him before. He put Heather in her Vindicator battlesuit, and then teleported Shaman and Walter to them. He also brought over Box and Diamond Lil. Heather wanted to fight the Sorcerer, as did Shaman, but Elizabeth stopped them. She tried to keep everyone calm, but Sasquatch made an attack and got his arms broken. Heather and Lil attacked, as did Box, but all were unsuccessful. The Sorcerer started to torture Madison, which finally goaded Elizabeth into taking action against him. This freed the Sorcerer from whatever restrained him from attacking Earth. He moved to kill Elizabeth, but Madison, having phased out of his robot, but still in control of it, grabbed him. The Sorcerer grew to giant proportions and smashed the robot. He told the team he was going to leave them in that dimension, and then teleported away. Elizabeth explained to the team how she ended up breaking the rules, and how now they were stuck on this ancient and barren battlefield. This catches us up to the first page. Madison sits, narrating still. Elizabeth thinks she can detect a portal somewhere, and she and Heather have been arguing. As the camera pans out, we can see that the ground makes up a giant chessboard.
- The team, and Diamond Lil, are fighting their way towards a dimensional gateway. We get a flashback to the last issue’s events, and learn how the team was walking towards the gateway on the world the Sorcerer left them on. The Sorcerer did something to the Box robot so that Madison can’t control it anymore. When they make it to the first portal, Elizabeth leads them to a crossroads. She figures out which is the first world they have to traverse on their way home, and leads them there. Hungry and grumpy, Lil and Heather get into it. Lil reveals that the Canadian government had her pardoned for her crimes with Omega Flight because they are putting together their own team to rival Alpha. She and Heather trade some blows, until Elizabeth points out a taunting message from the Sorcerer. Heather and Lil argue again, and Madison makes it clear to Lil that he’s with Heather now. Elizabeth is having trouble figuring out where the next gate is, because of all the tension, and as she thinks, they are attacked by giant snakes. Lil ends up saving Madison, which makes Heather jealous. Elizabeth locates the gate, and then they move to a world where giant robots stand sentry over fields. As they near the next gate, they are attacked. Madison turns one of the robots into a new Box, and they go through the next portal. On the next world, they are attacked by the various robots seen on the first page of the comic, and Heather and Lil end up working together. Elizabeth believes that the next gate will take them home, but they believe the Sorcerer might be waiting. It looks like they are in New York, and they find a message on the wall from the Sorcerer. Elizabeth picks up a newspaper that’s headline reads: “President Richards Disbands Senate, Congress”.
- In the letters page of issue 73, Hudnall or his editor requests that readers in Canada send photos, tourist brochures, or other data to help them make Canada appear more authentically in the comic. Man, the internet has made research easier…
- Diamond Lil narrates issue seventy-four, which opens with her dragging a dead Spider-Man, who she killed, to a dumpster. She begins to climb a downspout, trying to get to a roof, and eventually to the Brooklyn Bridge. She narrates how they got there, and how they figured out that they were away for six years, during which time Reed Richards became President of the United States. They decided that they should return to Canada, so they can figure out if they are on their Earth or an alternate one. Box headed off to find a scrapyard so he can make a Boxship, while the rest of the team decided to go to a diner to get some food. People were looking at them strangely, which continued in the restaurant. Heather asked the waitress why people were so wary, and she replied that they didn’t know what side they were on. When Heather explained they were from Canada, the waitress talked about how James Hudson, Guardian, is the Prime Minister now, and is married to Aurora. Box noticed that New York looked smaller from the sky, and then flew into a barrier. He saw Iron Man approaching him. The rest of the team waited for Madison for hours, until three Avengers – Vision, Wonder Man, and She-Hulk entered the restaurant and took them into custody. They took them to a facility where they were reunited with Box. Captain America told them that he believed they were working for “the enemy”, and proceeded to tell them how the greatest villains of the world took over the Soviet Union and then threatened the rest of the world, leading Richards, Hudson, and Captain Britain to take over their respective countries. As Cap cried (seriously) and ranted, the team prepared to fight him. Things turned into a conflict, and Alpha Flight got away from them. On the street, they were attacked by more heroes – Rogue, Cyclops, Thor, The Thing, Iron Man, the Human Torch, and the Hulk. Lil got separated from the rest of the team, which is where Spider-Man found her. When they fought, she killed him, accidentally. This brings us back to the present, where she is hoping to make it to Alpha’s rendez-vous site, the Brooklyn Bridge. Thinking she’s close, she is not happy to see Colossus and Wolverine approach her.
- Puck is still in Liveworld, the place that the Dreamqueen came from. He’s learned how to alter reality around him, but as he explores, he’s surprised to find a small version of Manhattan. Creating a telescope, he finds his friends, Alpha Flight, in the middle of the city, fighting a variety of Marvel heroes. We see the fight continue for a few pages. Shaman takes Thor’s hammer to his stomach, which really hurts. Talisman is starting to figure things out, and is able to freeze the Human Torch. Diamond Lil, meanwhile, is fighting Wolverine and Colossus on a rooftop away from the main fight. Puck grows himself some wings and heads into the city. Lil hurts Colossus, but is surprised when he and Wolverine burst into flames. Puck did this, and Lil is surprised to see him. They catch one another up on things, and Lil refers to the Sorcerer and Llan, which is the first his name has been used. Puck tells Lil they need to help the rest of Alpha. Most of the Marvel heroes are focusing on Talisman, and we see that the Thing has taken Box apart. Box pulls himself back together, and Vindicator and Sasquatch move in. Captain America, Vision, and She-Hulk join the fight, and things get wild again. Thor is about to kill Talisman when he’s interrupted by the sudden appearance of Elvis Presley, who breaks his guitar over his head. Diamond Lil arrives, and cuts Iron Man in half with her hand. Talisman burns up Thor, while Vindicator kills Rogue. Cyclops is about to blast the injured Shaman when he is shot up by a machine gun toting Santa Claus. Lil kills a few more heroes, and the fight is over. Puck reveals himself to his friends, making it clear to them all that they are in the Dreamqueen’s realm (although she is trapped elsewhere still). They check on Shaman, who is using the nature of the realm to help accelerate his healing. Madison suggests that Elizabeth can get them home by harnessing their creative energies. She opens a portal to Heather’s place, and Puck comes with them, bidding farewell to the Elvis and Santa he created.
- Some kind of disaster has happened in Montreal, and dead bodies lie around a neighbourhood. The police have arrived, as has Canada’s superteam – Gamma Flight! Nemesis (obviously not the one from Byrne’s and Mantlo’s runs, as she’s died twice now) learns that the area has been sealed off, and that attempts to investigate by helicopters led to crashes. Nemesis consults with her teammate Witchfire, and then sends Silver and Auric to recon, and tells Wild Child to stay with her. In Ottawa, Heather calls her mother and learns that the team’s been away for three months. Shaman starts to cough up blood and collapses. The whole team takes him to the hospital, where they learn that he has serious internal injuries. Puck realizes that the methods he used to heal himself and Michael on the Dreamqueen’s world aren’t working anymore, and he collapses too, feeling the pain of the Dreamqueen’s torture. The team (which, at this point, appears to include Diamond Lil, as she’s still with them) learns about whatever is happening in Montreal, and they leave Puck with the doctors. Silver and Auric, siblings, put out a fire and don’t notice zombies creeping up on them. Witchfire leads Nemesis and Wild Child to the source of the problem, which turns out to be a possessed little girl, doing the bidding of Llan the Sorcerer. She says she has a message for someone who is still coming, and then zombies attack. Alpha approaches Montreal, and Box learns from military broadcasts that Gamma Flight is there. Lil explains that the government was putting together a new team, and had tapped her to join them, alongside Wild Child. When Alpha arrives on scene, the head cop says they don’t need their help. Gamma Flight finds itself struggling to hold off all the zombies. Vindicator leads her team into the fray. The possessed girl recognizes Talisman as the recipient of her message. While the others deal with the zombies, Elizabeth confronts the demon girl, who tells her that Llan has been busy while they were away, and is ready to make his next move. She suggests Talisman could still defeat him if she is clever. Elizabeth banishes the demon from the girl, and all the other zombies collapse. Nemesis tells Heather that she has to arrest the whole team. The little girl returns to her senses and then dies, leading to Elizabeth vowing to fix everything.
- Heather is in Calgary, on a shopping trip, when an assassin shoots a man walking past her on the street. She rushes into a department store so she can change and try to catch the sniper; she is pursued by the police. Making it to the roof, she almost catches the guy, but a microwave transmitter set up on the roof by the phone company interferes with her suit, causing it to fail and her to fall. She’s taken into custody, because now Alpha Flight is illegal (but we don’t know why they weren’t arrested by Gamma Flight last issue). Later, she is interrogated by two internal security (CSIS?) agents, who let her know that the victim was Edward Barlow, an American senator and one-time presidential candidate. He’d been trying to stop the American funding of Contras in the country of Costa Brava. They tell Heather to stay out of things, and let her go. On her way out of the police station, she is stopped by a man who identifies himself as Larry Warren. He says that he was friends with Senator Barlow, and wants to talk to her. They go to a bar where he explains that he came to Canada as a draft dodger, and that Barlow had come to tell him that he was afraid for his life – that an American general with mob connections was after him. Heather goes to call Madison – she was supposed to go to his place in Ottawa, to tell him she isn’t coming. Madison mentions that they need to work on their relationship, but then it’s revealed that he’s hanging out with Diamond Lil. On her way back to their table, Heather notices that two men were listening to her conversation with Larry, so she cuts their night short. She changes into Vindicator, and when she sees the men follow Larry, she follows as well. They’ve arranged a roadblock for him, and surround him with guns. Heather gets involved, stopping the men. They admit that they were hired by the same general Larry was talking about, and at Larry’s suggestion, Heather goes after the general. Larry tells the men that he isn’t working for the same people they are, and it’s suggested that he shoots them. In New York, the Kingpin is upset to learn that the men they sent to kill Larry didn’t report in, and orders the general killed. Heather tracks down the general’s mansion, and sneaks in, where she finds the same assassin from the beginning of the issue. They fight, and she learns that the general and his wife are dead. Since she knows the assassin won’t be punished for his crimes, she breaks his hands. Later, the Kingpin is still upset. We see that Larry’s people, who call him Garcia, were hired by the Kingpin to kill him. Back home, Heather tries to call Larry, but his number doesn’t work. Later, she sees a news report that shows Larry’s picture, but mentions him as a Costa Bravan refugee who died by suicide. Heather hugs Madison, and figures that at the least, she ruined the Kingpin’s plans.
- Doctor Strange meditates in his sanctum, and recognizes that something’s wrong with Canada. He tries to focus on it, and is first shown a caped skeleton floating over South America. In Brazil, the great Brazilian hero Captain Forsa (who is appearing here for the first time) speaks to the media about a number of killings of heroes on the continent. He flirts with a female reporter, and then retires to his hotel room, where he finds the same reporter waiting for him. She shows him photos of himself, dead, and then reveals that she is actually the villain Zeitgeist, who kills him with a sword, and then takes the pictures that he just saw. He is going to kill all the world’s heroes and villains, he says. Strange continues to meditate, and sees a building, followed by the Canadian flag being encircled by Talisman’s tiara. Talisman and Vindicator are in Edmonton, where they are checking out an empty office complex as a possible new headquarters. When Heather shows interest, Elizabeth draws her aside to explain that they have to secure the property. She goes on to explain that she’s always known that will be their new base, and, for the first time, explains what’s happening with Llan. She says that he’s trying to open the Gateway of Night, and that Alpha, using the Earth magic under that building, will stand against him and open the Gateway of Day. Strange next sees bleeding Canadian money, and a legal document. Veronica Langkowski, Walter’s widow, is upset to hear from her lawyer that there is a new challenge to Walter’s estate. Walter shows up at the door explaining that he’s already spoken to the judge they met before, who had wanted to award him his money when he was still a woman, and that now things are certain to go his way. Next, Strange sees a heart that shatters, revealing a diamond. Diamond Lil and Madison are at the hospital visiting Michael and Judd. Shaman is making a recovery, while Puck still feels pain. Madison explains that Heather is getting them a base in Edmonton, despite the fact that they have had their “super hero clearance” suspended by the government. Judd asks why Lil is still around, and she says that Gamma Flight doesn’t want her, so she’s going to stay with Alpha. Leaving, Lil asks Madison why he didn’t tell them about them. Madison says he needs to talk to Heather, but it sounds like he doesn’t want to get married anymore. He tells Lil he still cares for her, but appears reluctant to restart their relationship. Lil kisses him. Strange next sees the Master’s helmet, and some eggs hatching. We see that the Master of the World is back, and he has a conversation with Llan the Sorcerer. Llan tells him that his ship is repaired, that Marrina has given birth to three children, and that he should find them while Marrina “sleeps a false death”. Strange is knocked out of his meditations, and is preparing himself to head to Canada when Wong approaches him, letting him know the Avengers are there to see him, to talk to him about the Acts of Vengeance scheme. Strange hopes Talisman will be enough to stop Llan until he can come help.
- Issue seventy-nine was the first of two Acts of Vengeance tie-in issues. A pair of kids fishing in Lake Superior keep finding tumorous and nasty fish, and blame it on pollution coming from the United States. The villain Nekra crosses the border from Minnesota into Canada. Talisman is speaking with Heather after she shut herself away for two days to confer with the spirits. She explains that Llan the Sorcerer is calling an army of villains to him, manipulating their fear of the American Super-Powers Registration Act. Since making use of the Earth magic under the team’s new Maison Alpha, she has gotten a better idea of Llan’s plans, and tells Heather that the team is going to have to split up to deal with each villain who enters the country. She says she’s going to send them a “compelling vision” and transport. Heather tries to connect with Elizabeth around her doubts and fears, and to apologize for being less than nice to her since returning to the team, but she is rebuffed. Heather instead sits and explains things to Walter, including the fact that as a teen she felt jealous towards Elizabeth, who was more popular than she was. In this story, Heather claims to be only two years older than Elizabeth, but that is not the way it appeared when Byrne created these characters (and Heather used to babysit Elizabeth before she came to live with them). Heather receives a vision of Nekra, and is transported away by a spirit. Mac Gargan, the Scorpion, waits at JFK airport for the Tinkerer to bring him his new tail before flying to Canada. Madison speaks to Michael on the phone. Michael is still in the hospital, but is mostly recovered. Judd wants to speak to Madison, asking to speak to Heather, but Lil comes into the room, and is summoned by a spirit, taking her to Winnipeg Airport. Sasquatch tries to explain what’s going on about the visions and villains, but Lil is already gone. In the chaos, no one speaks to Puck. As Vindicator flies east, she passes over a farmer whose crops are being ruined by acid rain coming from the US. Nekra is walking around in Winnipeg, trying to figure out what compelled her to come there, when Vindicator attacks her. They fight, and then Nekra tries to flee, jumping out of a tall building. Gargan arrives in Winnipeg (I’m not sure why Alpha had to split up when all the villains are coming to the same place), but Lil is there to meet him. They fight, and it seems that Gargan doesn’t need his Scorpion suit to take on an invulnerable woman, because he tosses her away and then carjacks a car and drives off. Gamma Flight, which is unexpectedly headquartered in Winnipeg, learns of these two skirmishes, and prepares to go and arrest Alphan and villain alike. As Nekra (who is still falling) and Scorpion (who is still driving) approach each other, so do The Owl and The Asp arrive in the country, while up north, Llan laughs.
- Llan is up at the Eye of the World, which is also the Gateway of the Night. We learn that for Llan to open it, he needs a key made of violence. Nekra falls onto a parked car, and gets angrier, making her stronger. She continues her fight with Vindicator, which is what Llan wants. We get a recap of his story, and see how he was defeated ten thousand years prior by the person wearing the Talisman. He was trapped in the idol that we first saw him as, and buried deep in the Earth for all that time, until he was dug up by the guy whose body he now inhabits. Madison and Walter aren’t too happy with the way Talisman sent Heather and Lil into battle. Elizabeth can tell that Gamma Flight is on their way to intervene, and Elizabeth wants these two to go convince them to work with Alpha Flight, as Llan is summoning more villains to Canada. The Scorpion finishes putting on his suit in a gas station washroom, just as Diamond Lil tracks him down. They continue their fight. Llan is happy Talisman hasn’t figured out what he’s up to, as he watches the two fights, and sees that Gamma Flight, Asp, and the Owl are all coming into the picture. Walter climbs into Box, and they fly off to Winnipeg. Vindicator’s and Diamond Lil’s fights converge, just as Asp and the Owl show up. Gamma Flight also arrives and declares everyone under arrest. Heather notices how crazy the Americans are acting, and realizes that Llan is working behind the scenes. The fight continues, with Gamma Flight mixing it up with the villains, when Box arrives and drops Sasquatch into the mix. He takes out Scorpion, and Heather blasts Asp before telling Witchfire to see if there is any magic being used on them. She recognizes Llan’s influence, and dispels it, which knocks out the villains, although she admits that he let her win this one. Nemesis reminds Alpha Flight that they have no right to operate in Canada, and tells them that her team is taking them in. All this violence has unlocked the Gate, and Llan begins to open the Eye slowly.
- Talisman realizes that she’s been outplayed, and sees herself as having only one more option. She summons a spirit of time and space to find three women for her. In Quebec, Sister Jeanne-Marie Beaubier meets with a priest who is concerned that her presence will lead to problems, as he sees superheroes as magnets for trouble. Jeanne-Marie recounts her past and promises that no one will come looking for her, just as the spirit Elizabeth summoned appears to take Jeanne-Marie away. It looks like it kills her, charring her to dust. In Asgard, some Cat Elves (I don’t remember this being a thing anywhere else) talk about how their outlander friend is hanging around a dolmens, wanting to return home. This is, of course, Northstar, who has figured out that he’s not actually half-elf (I guess it’s a surprise that Loki lied?). He’s attacked by Trolls who are happy to see him alone, as their high priest wants him. In Etobicoke, Kara is hanging out with Laura. She has a new costume, and wants Goblyn to see it too. Laura travels to another dimension to bring her sister back, while Kara gets changed. Through her narration, we learn that Kara hasn’t had an easy time of things, and is ready to be a superhero again. Her new outfit is late 80s terrible, with a half skirt and a bare leg and midriff. That spirit arrives and blasts them too, to take them on its quest. Alpha Flight is in some holding cells in Winnipeg. Heather had them all stand down in the hopes she can convince Gamma Flight and the government to work with them against the Sorcerer. General Winslow tells Heather that while they were gone for three months, all sorts of bad things happened in Canada, and that they have proof that Alpha was involved in all of them. Puck is visited by his doctor (it’s not clear where Shaman went), and we learn that he’s shrunk by two feet. His pain has lessened, and he is ready to rejoin Alpha Flight, but the nurse injects him with something and he blacks out. Aurora finds herself in her costume, fearing for her sanity. She’s joined by Laura, Goblyn, and Kara, who is now going by Persuasion instead of Purple Girl. The spirit tells them they need to travel to Asgard under Laura’s powers to find Northstar and bring him home, so they can all help Talisman. Laura decides to teleport back home instead, but they find themselves in Asgard anyways. While they admire the beauty of it all, they are seen by Trolls who decide to attack them.
- Aurora lets her companions know that her powers are gone, so it’s up to Kara to use her abilities on the attacking Trolls. It works, and they learn that the Cat Elves, who Northstar has been with, are in Alfheim. Kara’s powers fade away, and they have to fight the Trolls again, until Laura can teleport them away. They begin to head for the dolmens the Trolls pointed to. Talisman is pleased to see that they are doing okay, and then shifts her attention, while she is still in her sacred circle, to the rest of Alpha Flight. General Winslow explains that all of the strange things that happened while they were away, like a rain of salmon on a town, pointed to their involvement. For example, the fallen fish spelled out “Alpha Flight.” Alpha points out that they weren’t around, but the General doesn’t believe them. He explains they are there because of the plans a “higher authority” has for them. Shaman is discharged from the hospital, finally, and finds it strange the Judd left without him. We see that Judd is being held prisoner, drugged so that he will dream. The doctor injecting him refers to his usefulness to “the master”, but it’s not clear if that’s Llan or The Master of the World. Kara and the others arrive in the lands of the Cat Elves, where they are attacked until Aurora can stop things, and explain that they are looking for her brother. She is told that her brother is dead. We see some robed Dark Elves take Northstar, who is either dead or unconscious, through some ostentatious caves. The Cat Elves explain to Aurora that Northstar was taken as a sacrifice. Laura figures out how to use her powers to work the dolmens, while Northstar is paraded more, and placed on an alter. The Cat Elf guy talks a lot about how difficult the Dark Elves are, and Laura gets them underway. They wander through a crossroads, and then show up right where Northstar is, just in time to save him from being beheaded. They begin to fight, and Aurora tries to wake Jean-Paul up. One of the Dark Elves shows Aurora that they worship Llan, and prepare to join his armies. Laura gets everyone through a portal, and they find themselves in the room where Talisman has been operating. She explains that they are all needed to fight against Llan.
- James Sherman drew issue eighty-three. Alpha Flight is confronted by General Winslow, while they are still in jail. Winslow turns into a disgusting creature, revealing that he’s working for or being controlled by Llan. Shaman explains to Persuasion that he’s helped Talisman send her consciousness to another plane, so she can figure out how to defeat Llan. She travels through astral space, going back ten thousand years to see how her past life did things. Along the way, she is harassed by Llan, who says she can’t escape him. In the past, a young woman named Nahita is caught in a storm of raining skeletons. She’s knocked out, and dreams of our modern world, where mankind has poisoned the environment. When she comes to, she sees four heroes – the Tribe of the Moon, fighting monsters. Firehand, Talks-To-Spirits (who appears to be using Shaman’s pouch), Willow-Dancer, and Bear Brother fight off or kill the creatures. Talks-To-Spirits has Nahita reach into his medicine pouch, and she pulls out the Talisman tiara. Llan tries to pull Elizabeth out of that memory, but she returns to it, and sees how Nahita and the Tribe fought against a variety of magical threats, which turned out to be all trials for Llan’s emergence into that time period. As they talk about it, a man from Nahita’s village comes to them, explaining that the village was wiped out. A monster emerges from the man and attacks them. After defeating it, they go to Nahita’s village, where they find everyone dead. The ground opens, and Llan speaks to them about how he will introduce fossil fuels and other poisons to mankind, as a way of destroying the world. Llan tells the Tribe he’s going to open the Gateway of Night, but also encourages them to find it and try to stop him. In the present, Llan captures Elizabeth’s spirit again, but she realizes that she can appear to be dead to him, and can return to the story she is following. The Tribe makes its way north, until they find the Gateway/Eye of the World. Nahita sends the others to fights some dragon-like monsters so she can face Llan on her own. As she gets Llan, who appears as a dragon/serpent himself, to explain his plans, she walks around him, managing to trap him in a circle of green flame. She also reminds him that the first Talisman put a curse on him so that he can only fight in the form of his stone idol. This is how Nahita captured Llan ten thousand years prior. Elizabeth reveals to Llan that she knows his weaknesses – vanity and arrogance. She warns him that she’s going to be coming for him, and then wakes up, determined to go to the Gateway to face him. Alpha Flight prepares to fight the creature that was General Winslow.
- Alpha’s main team fight the creatures that the soldiers with General Winslow have turned into. The team isn’t doing well until Madison pulls the metal out of the walls of their cell, and electrifies it, which kills the creatures, but also makes them look human again. The team prepares to flee, knowing that things look bad, when a bunch of soldiers enter the room (remember, this is supposed to be a jail in Winnipeg) and start firing at them. Alpha gets away. In Edmonton, Shaman is working to cure Northstar of the spell the Dark Elves placed on him, when Talisman interrupts to let Michael know she’s heading to the Eye of the World to confront Llan on her own. When Michael disagrees, she blasts him, and tells Aurora to gather everyone she can to help fight the army Llan is calling forth from the Gateway of the Night. As Alpha flies, they discuss their problems. Gamma Flight receives the call to go capture or kill Alpha Flight. The team returns to Maison Alpha and learns that Talisman has left. They are happy to see Aurora and Northstar, and we learn that Persuasion, Goblyn, and Laura have gone home for a bit. Madison comments that it feels like old times, which means something bad will happen, just as Gamma Flight shows up ordering their surrender. Heather tries to explain what’s going on, but Diamond Lil punches Nemesis and things quickly erupt into a big fight. Vindicator knocks down Nemesis, while Shaman puts Wild Child to sleep. Diamond Lil punches out Witchfire, Sasquatch takes out Silver, and Northstar puts down Auric. Nemesis and Vindicator argue, and Heather is able to make clear to her that Alpha Flight is not their enemy. At the same time, Talisman arrives at the Eye of the World and sees that the Gateway of the Night is open. She sends a mental signal to anyone at Maison Alpha to help them understand, and we see a laughing Llan calling forth his armies. Since it was the fight between Alpha and Gamma that allowed Llan to finish opening the gate, they agree to work together, as we see Talisman descend alone into darkness.
- The Statement of Ownership for 1989 lists an average press run of 97 000 copies, with average newsstand returns of 7 000.
- Vindicator lays things out for Gamma Flight, and they agree to help. Heather says they are waiting for the rest of the team to arrive (presumably she means Beta Flight). Talisman arrives at the Gateway of Night and sees legions of Llan’s soldiers pouring out. She’s hidden herself from him, but when she heads towards a mountain, he acknowledges her existence. The military sees Llan’s army appear on radar (how?) and sends jets and paratroopers to attack, with mixed results. Persuasion, Goblyn, and Laura Dean arrive at Maison Alpha, and Laura opens a gate to the Eye of the World. Northstar acts like a diva when he realizes he’s expected to go fight, but when the powerless Aurora volunteers to help, he changes his mind. Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Flights all teleport into the melee and start fighting. For some reason, Shaman wishes Puck were with them, because obviously a fight with thousands of monsters, demons, and aliens needs an acrobatic dwarf. Most of the heroes do okay, but Aurora is attacked. When Northstar comes to her aid, he offers her back the light he absorbed from her before. When they begin to glow, which causes them pain, the light hurts Llan’s forces. This helps rally the Flights, who make advances on the enemy. Talisman arrives at the mountain that holds the Gateway of Light, her only hope of defeating Llan’s forces, although it might lay waste to the Earth. She is about to open the gate when Llan appears before her. Aurora has her powers back now, and she and Northstar zip around. The rest of the Flights get encircled, and begin to fall to various creatures’ attacks. Llan fights Talisman, ensorcelling the mountain and getting it to hold her while he blasts at her. She sends a message to Northstar and Aurora, telling them to get to New York to bring Doctor Strange to their aid (Llan is blocking her from sending the message herself). As they fly off, Llan prepares to kill Elizabeth.
- Mark Bagley drew the last issue of Hudnall’s run, which opens with a few pages recapping the last issue and checking in with all of the characters, establishing that Witchfire, Wild Child, Shaman, Laura, and Goblyn are all out of the fight against Llan’s hordes. As Northstar and Aurora race to New York, Llan begins to taunt Talisman, who doesn’t have the power to stop him. The Flights continue their big fight, and Box convinces Vindicator that they need to go help Talisman. Before they do, Heather tells Madison that she’s aware that things have been happening between him and Lil, and that she still loves him. Madison pledges his love to her, and they get back to fighting. Llan tells Talisman that he intends to choke the world on its own pollution, and she lets him keep talking, hoping that his arrogance will buy her time. The twins arrive at Doctor Strange’s place, and he pledges to help. Box tries to use light to fight against Llan’s forces, which rouses Shaman. He revives Witchfire and gets her to agree to go help Elizabeth. Strange tells the twins that they will need to go open the Gateway of Day from the inside, and takes them through the Eye of Agamotto to a weird dimension. He charges them with gathering the armies of light. Llan continues to rant for a bit, and Elizabeth tries to think of a strategy. Box’s light distracts him, and he reveals that it’s a weakness for his hordes. Elizabeth opens up with light against him, but it doesn’t have the same effect. It does distract him from Vindicator and Box’s attack, allowing Elizabeth a bit of time. Sasquatch finds the fighting a little easier, and he is joined by Goblyn and Wild Child, who are back in it. Shaman revives Laura so she can help teleport them to Talisman. They join the fight against Llan. Strange arrives at the Gateway of Day but finds some traps laid by Llan that prevent him from opening it. The twins bring the army, and since Strange and Elizabeth work at the same time, on opposite sides of the gate, it opens. The massive armies of light pour forth, angering Llan. It turns out that when the forces of light and dark touch, they negate each other. In no time, the battle is over. General Winslow and some other military types appear unharmed, and Llan blinks out of existence for 10 000 years, while promising that the Earth is still going to be destroyed by pollution. With the battle over, Talisman suggests it’s time for Alpha to reassess its purpose, and Vindicator agrees.
Hudnall’s run worked on a lot of levels, but also didn’t on some others. I remember really enjoying the scope and sweep of this storyline as it played out over a year and a half, and built a real epic weight to itself. At the same time, it largely consumed all character development, and was almost completely lacking in subplot. Hudnall introduced three (four if you count this Nemesis) new characters in Gamma Flight, but we never learned anything about them. He didn’t really explore what Alpha’s new status as outlaws really meant, and left a few dangling threads, such as who was holding Puck prisoner and why, and what the Master of the World was up to on Llan’s behalf. We also didn’t revisit that Zeitgeist guy who was killing heroes in Brazil when we last saw him.
After Hudnall passed recently, I read a few things about him holding unpopular right-wing views. That’s really not evident in this comic, and the underlying message about environmentalism makes me wonder how all of this new information reconciles itself. At the same time, this was written thirty years ago, and people change. So far as I’m concerned, Hudnall was a good writer who tried something different in this comic, when most of his other comics output was more espionage/action based. He managed to keep a large cast moving, and plotted out a solid long story.
Artwise, I’d be curious to know more about what people thought of John Calimee’s style at the time. I like his minimalism, although I liked the issues that weren’t inked by Mike Manley better. I’m not saying I don’t like Manley’s work, I just think they were a bad fit for one another.
In my last two columns, I was giving over space to discuss each individual character, and how Byrne and Mantlo shaped and changed them. I don’t feel like there was enough character work done in this run to warrant that discussion here. Where Hudnall did begin to build on characters, he quickly abandoned it in favour of progressing his larger plot.
Still, there are a few points of interest present. Heather’s relationship with Madison was largely ignored for a very long stretch. Establishing that Madison and Lil had a past was an interesting wrinkle, and it looked like a love triangle storyline was developing, but then it got resolved quickly and simply in the last issue. I’d have liked to see more of this, and to have learned more about Lil, who was a good addition to the team, if an unexplored one.
The rivalry between Heather and Elizabeth was interesting for a few minutes, but it also disappeared in a hurry, as did any remaining ill will or hurt feelings between Elizabeth and her father, who relinquished the talisman without becoming more human, it seems.
I like that Hudnall brought so many founding members back to the fold, as Alpha Flight kind of needs Northstar, Aurora, Shaman, Puck, and Talisman to really feel at home. I also like that he restored Sasquatch to his orange, male, self, although some more examination of how that felt was probably needed too.
I did want to know who Nemesis was, and to learn a little more about Gamma Flight. I’m glad that Mannikin was written out of the series completely, as he was pretty lame. Beyond that, I think we should applaud the level of focus applied to this story.
From here, the 90s beckoned, and Alpha Flight went through more big changes with its next writer, Fabian Nicieza. I don’t remember much of his run aside from not liking him bringing back a certain character from the dead, but that’s for next time.
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 issues discussed here, you’re going to be digging through some longboxes. This run has not been collected.
Tags: Alpha Flight, Retro Reviews