Alpha Flight # 1 - 12
This blog covers Alpha Flight, Volume 1 # 1 - 12. The goal of this issue was for me to learn about Alpha Flight and determine whether or not I felt it was necessary to read the entire run. Spoilers, it's not!
Alright, Alpha Flight, here we go. I'll come right out and say that I'm conflicted. I talk a lot about how I love when new characters are introduced, but I'm not really feeling this so far. I'm definitely going to read through the New Mutants spin off (as mentioned in my last blog). I still haven't decided if I'm going to keep with the Dazzler spin off, however it's starting to look less likely.
Alpha Flight got 127 issues between 1983 and 1993. On one hand this gives me hope that perhaps it gets better (since it took 10 years before getting cancelled) and is worth sticking with. On the other hand, I recently realized that MANY of these issues are not included in my Marvel Unlimited Subscription, which means I will need to spend extra money to acquire and read them. Another knock against continuing to cover them is that there is very little crossover (so far) with the X-Men.
Good old John Byrne is the plotter, scripter, penciler and inker for Alpha Flight. You may remember John as the penciler and co-creator of The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past. In "We the North" scholar Brenna Clarke Gray praises Byrne for featuring:
"members who are gay and straight, white and nonwhite, federalist and separatist, French and English….with one female character even coping with significant mental illness."
Since I didn't think many of the plots from the Issues were too compelling, I am instead going to focus on introducing you to the individual characters. So let's jump in!
You may be thinking, wait...Isn't that Vindicator? Let John explain in his own words from Comic Creators on X-Men:
“I wanted to call him Guardian in X-Men 109 because this was his name as a fan character, taken from a line in the Canadian National Anthem. But Jim Shooter said we couldn’t use Guardian because of Guardians of the Galaxy. So Chris called him Weapon Alpha in his first appearance and later Vindicator, which he got from a cool airplane. Anyway, as soon as I got Alpha Flight in their own book, I decided that we were not going to call him Vindicator any more. Canada doesn’t have anything to vindicate."
Well Alpha Flight was created by John Byrne. That name may seem familiar because he was the illustrator with Claremont during the Phoenix era of the X-Men until they had a big falling out over creative choices. Byrne felt strongly that this character was supposed to embody Canada and Canada had nothing they needed to vindicate! He felt Guardian felt more inspiration and appropriate so it was changed early into Alpha Flight.
James MacDonald (Mac) Hudson is actually a normal human being and his super powers come from the suit that he built himself. His suit gives him flight, super strength, the ability to create a shield and to fire energy bolts. Oh, and that's Heather. She's his wife and she is such an instrumental part of this team that she'll be getting her own blurb.
To get a little backstory on Guardian, we learn that he created a prototype of his suit when working for a Canadian Company, however we got pissed when he learned it was going to be sold to the American Military. Those damned Americans!
He decides to steal the suit and leave it where anyone can find it, however he steals the helmet which is necessary in order to actually use it.
Mac is worried that he is going to arrested, but Heather has a contact within the Canadian government. In a shady backroom deal, the Canadian government decides to retroactively employ Mac and therefore claim credit over his suit and protecting him from legal charges.
While working for the Canadian Government, he sets up sector H and recruits other super powered beings, starting with Wolverine.
I included these two panels because Wolverine was just informed that Mac was killed (in a Kitty Pryde and Wolverine limited series) and it was the first time any of these events had touched the main X-Men line. I doubt he's really dead, but as of what I'm read through right now, I don't know.
Heather is worth getting a few panels from me because she seems to be holding the whole group together. In her back story we learn that she was a VERY young intern at the company Mac originally worked at. She was very forward with him and as mentioned above, played a pivotal role in helping him transition from the private sector to working for the Canadian Government.
I included the scene above because it shows that Heather and Mac had a secret room in their house which is where they would go to contact the rest of Alpha Flight. In fact, Heather actually contacts Alpha Flight herself to give her hubby backup in the first issue without him asking her to.
Michael Twoyoungmen is a Sarcee tribe Shaman who wields nature-based powers. He is also a world renown doctor.
In his backstory, we learn that he spent most of his life as a doctor and had no interest in being a Shaman like was expected of his family line.
Remember how I said Heather was the connective tissue for Alpha Flight. It turns out that as a kid she was friends with (or babysitter for, not sure) Michael's daughter.
Unfortunately, his wife died and his daughter took it hard.
This point is actually a bit confusing to me. His daughter ran out crying and seemed to blame him. We learn that Heather's family took her in, but I don't recall him ever taking her back. I'm sure he did...I mean, he's a hero. Hero's don't ditch their daughters, right? I probably just missed something because these comics were boring me and I started to skim.
It turns out that his grandfather died on the same day as his wife.
Michael goes to collect his grandfather's things and finds his magical bag. I'm still trying to understand how this works, but Shaman always reaches into his bag before producing whatever spell he unleashes on his enemies. Apparently you're never supposed to look inside either.
He sees the spirits of his ancestors and decides to fully accept his fate as the magical Shaman.
To cement his statures as one of the best magicians on earth, Stephen Strange grants his stamp of approval.
In "We the North" scholar Brenna Clarke Gray thinks that:
"Indigenous characters – as appropriated by primarily white mainstream comics artists – are often coded as markers of Canadian identity in mainstream American comics in a larger echo of Canada’s own corporate, institutional, and governmental practice."
Narya hail's from a long line of Gods that fight for earth. She is a shapeshifter (limited to Artic Animals) who also has flight, self healing auras, superhuman strength, postcognition (seeing into the recent past), and she seems to be able to compel others to do her will.
In the past, an archeologist was contacted by some ancient Gods.
One of the Gods presented as a beautiful woman and asked if he would be willing to lay with her for one night of ecstasy to save the human race. Ummm, yes please!
When the God was willing to give birth, she summoned Michael Twoyoungmen (see, it's all coming together!).
Shaman raised Snowbird as his own (Still not sure where his real daughter is).
One day Shaman's car broke down and they happened to get help from an old friend, Heather!
Shaman, Snowbird, Guardian, and Heather all meet.
She is set up as a Corporal in the Canadian Government.
One of her biggest plot points is that she has a new boss who is skeptical that she constantly disappears at work.
Similar to the Hulk (and inspired by him both in and out of the world), Walter Langkowski has the ability to transform (at will) into the giant hulking Sasquatch.
We learn that he actually wanted to be like the Hulk so he experimented on himself.
After traveling out into the world the first time, he reverted back into his human self and almost froze to death before Snowbird found him!
This was a cool panel showing him transform. I honestly don't have much to say about him. He's kind of meh.
Oh, and by Issue # 12 he's banging Aurora. Her jealous, overbearing, speedster twin brother Quicksilver (oops I mean Northstar) isn't a big fan of Sasquatch for this reason.
Aurora and Northstar
Jeanne-Marie Beaubier (Aurora) and Jean-Paul Beaubier (Northstar) are boring twins with speedster powers. They can link hands to create light, use photokinesis to create concussive blasts, flight, and both have superhuman speed.
We learn that they didn't even know of each other's existence until Mac told them about it.
After they met, they were difficult to separate.
Northstar is a dick. That's his strongest personality trait. Since he's a dick, he had no problem exploiting his speedster powers to become an Olympic Ski Champion (lol @ Canada).
Aurora actually suffers from multiple personalities (Dissociative Identity Disorder). She spent years as a convent acting straight as an arrow, but when she turns into Aurora she is sexy and flirty and a little wild. It's a little interesting. I'm somewhat interested in her.
I put these two humorous panels in here because I found this terrible entertaining. Aurora went undercover to get a crime boss to give up his secrets. As they are flying home, Northstar nonchalantly says "I just assumed you slept with him to get what you want" and as you can see Aurora is like "WHAT DID YOU SAY ASSHOLE?" As of Issue # 12, she is living with Saquatch and not talking to him.
Eugene Judd goes by the superhero name of Puck. I need to be honest that I had to Google his super powers because they haven't been explained so far. According to Marvel Fandom, his body was genetically manipulated which makes his body like rubber. This affliction gives him superhuman strength, speed, durability, agility, reflexes, and stamina.
Regardless of his super powers, I love this little fucker. He's a dwarf with a chip on his shoulder. He clearly has a heart of gold but he doesn't take no shit from anyone. He's hilarious and I wish we would have gotten more panels in the first 12 issues. If I keep reading beyond this point, Puck will be a major reason why.
In the panel above you see Sasquatch (in human form) giving him a hard time and he goes right after him.
You may noticed that Puck was not mentioned in my previous blogs when the X-Men intersected with Alpha Flight. That's because he had been on the JV team and really, really wanted to be called up to the main team.
Here's him skipping around when he finally got the call to be a member of Alpha Flight. It turns out that Heather called him on accident, but he got to stick around anyway.
Puck got an entire issue to himself when he was in the hospital and he solved a drug operation happening under his nose.
Like Puck, Marina was another member of the JV team called up in the first issue on accident by Heather.
Marina was hatched in an egg, found in the bottom of the ocean by a fisherman.
She hatched as a young creature and was raised by humans.
In one of the earliest issues, she hears a siren's call and goes berserk, slashing Puck (which is why he was in the hospital solving crimes).
Marina is called to an underground spaceship led by someone named "The Master." He tells Marina that she is actually alien brought here to take over the earth, but her egg had been sitting at the bottom of the ocean for thousands of years.
The Master experiments on Marina.
Eventually Marina escapes from the Master with the help of her team-mates. She ended up meeting up with Namor and has been absent from Alpha Flight for a number of issues while she hangs out with him in Atlantis.
Sorry, but I'm just really not digging Alpha Flight. I won't be continuing my coverage because the comic seems underdeveloped, I think I can easily skip this without missing out on larger X-Men mythology, and it's not worth the additional investment to buy the comics since the run is not complete on Marvel Unlimited.
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