1983 · The 80s

May 1983: Alpha Flight 1-Or, Wouldn’t a radio be better than surgical implants?

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Synopsis: Alpha Flight 1 was written, drawn & inked by John Byrne and opens with the ending of Alpha Flight. Once government sponsored and funded, now kept on as RCMP auxillaries. As their headquarters is shut for the last time, the now unemployed James MacDonald ‘Vindicator’ Hudson is despondent as he flies home in his costume/battlesuit. As this is going on, an old man carves a pattern in soil somewhere in the northern tundra and begins to use some forgotten magic on this person-ish shaped mark on the ground… it begins.

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Dr Michael ‘Shaman’ Twoyoungmen senses that something has happened and speaks to the severed skull of his grandfather the learn of this new threat. Elsewhere Jean-Paul ‘Northstar’ Beaubier is visiting his sister Jeanne-Marie ‘Aurora’ Beaubier they are very different people. Jean-Paul is an outgoing professional skier at olympic level whilst his sister, quiet and repressed, teaches at a strict girls school. Neither have much interest in Alpha Flight, but it did seem that Jeanne-Marie was better off there, when he pushes this in conversation, Jeanne-Marie blacks out.

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At Mac Hudson’s house, his wife Heather greats him and the two have a lovely tender moment until Heather takes a call from Gary Cody, the former Department H liason to Alpha Flight, he tells them to put the TV on. They do and see freakish weather patterns and other strange phenomena. Mac puts back on his Vindicator mask and heads out to Resolute Bay. Heather suggests summoning the rest of Alpha Flight, but as Vindicator shouts back, there is no Alpha Flight. Ignoring that, Heather uses the computer equipment and summons the team, including two new members.

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Then we see Aurora, Northstar, Anne ‘Snowbird’ McKenzie and Dr Walter ‘Sasquatch’ Langowski all summoned and heading to the same place as Vindicator and Shaman. We also get to meet to new members, in New Foundland we meet the aquatic looking Marinna who is told by local Dan Smallwood that she has been summoned. In Toronto, we meet Eugene Milton Judd, a diminutive barman who despite completely demolishing two drunks who are sexually harassing a waitress, he hears the call and races into action.

The members of Alpha Flight converge on the source of the threat, the giant monster Tundra and a pitched battle ensues. Well to be honest Eugene misses out in his identity of Puck due to transport issues. Working as a team and taking advantage of the timely arrival of Marinna on a three mile long waterspout, Tundra is destroyed by a team that still works well as a team.

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Once more at the Hudsons’ the team reunite and declare their intent to remain a team, with or without government assistance. Finally arriving, Puck announces his desire to join Alpha Flight as the team discuss a new name. A brief fist fight starts between Puck and Sasquatch, leaving Heather to wonder “Suddenly I don’t know if this is such a great idea.”

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Notes: Well considering I am something of a mark for this era of John Byrne, we can agree that I am going to be less than objective regarding the art at least. Alpha Flight were supporting characters from the iconic Byrne/Claremont run of X-Men and Byrne is clearly having fun expanding on them here. His heroes are distinctive and fantastically designed, his heroines are pretty and yet each very different, far from the accusations of his limitation with body types and his over-use of similiar faces. Tundra is drawn as huge and horrific and is fantastic threat to start this all new era.

The story is equally fantastic, we have the end of Alpha Flight program and it’s bullpen Beta Flight and the trainee program Gamma Flight (how is this not more of a thing with super teams?) There’s the great relationship between the Hudsons, Heather is loving and supportive, but calls Mac on his s**t and then goes behind his back, for his own good. That’s a wife right there. The two page vignettes introducing the team shove tonnes of backstory in a very digestible manner and you end up knowing quite a bit about this nascent team. There’s a fantastic fight scene, with a very 1980’s all working together ending and a fantastically sit-com-like denouement, which made me giggle. This is Byrne sharpening his skills as a writer/artist as he begins to forge his own legend at Marvel. He would go on to do bigger and better things.

 

Next Time: Speaking of which, John Byrne on Fantastic Four (who don’t actually appear)

 

 

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