Alpha Flight #2 (September, 1983)
“Shadows of the Past”
“In the Beginning…”
Story/Art – John Byrne
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Colors – Andy Yanchus
Edits – Denny O’Neil
Chief – Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.60
Had such a good time chatting Alpha Flight yesterday, I figured why not give it another day?
Also: Today in Audio… in the show named after this site, Chris is on Infinite Earths, Episode 35 – I dig into an intersection of True-Crime and Weird Comics History, when I discuss the story of the artist for the 1988 Crimson Avenger mini-series… as well as the Cap’s Hobby Hints filler that referenced it in Christmas With the Super-Heroes #1 (1988). If you’re interested, please give it a listen… and let me know what you think!
Our story opens with… well, kind of an overlong training session… but, it’s one of those where it’s not entirely clear at first that it is a training session, and instead just looks as though the heroes are actually fighting with one another. You’ve seen this sort of thing before, right? This goes on for about four pages… and while they’re nicely drawn, the scene doesn’t do all that much for me. It ends with Sasquatch getting soaked, and Puck losing his mind laughing at the soppy sight before him.
While Shaman and Vindicator chat about Alpha Flight’s future… and, maybe a little bit of Alpha Flight’s past (having to do with Mac calling himself Vindicator rather than Guardian), Puck notices that Marrina doesn’t look quite right. She complains that she has a strange feeling in her head, and when Gene heads over to have a look, she very nearly disembowels him with her razor-sharp claws!
The rest of the Alphas are shocked by this scene, and before they can even act… Marrina has hopped into the water and is many
miles… er, kilometres away.
Realizing their li’l buddy is hanging on by a thread, the team gives up the chase to get him to a nearby medical facility. Shaman, if you recall, is a very competent Doctor (he’s the best “cutter” in the country, eh?), tends to Puck’s wounds. We learn that his injuries are quite severe, and despite Dr. Twoyoungmen’s efforts, he’s not yet out of the woods. After getting the update, the Alphas resume their search for their creepy bug-eyed teammate.
We next pop up to the Northwest Territories, where Anne McKenzie aka. Snowbird works at a remote RCMP Post. She senses that Shaman “invoked the name of the great spirit” (whatever that means), which prompts her to shift into her hero-garb and take off (eh?). The Chief Inspector of the RCMP Post steps into her office to have a chat… and sees she ain’t there. We get a bit of history for her here… apparently the previous Chief Inspector was cool with Anne keeping “open hours”… this fella, with the suspect mustache, however, ain’t.
Back on board the Alpha Flight Omni-Ship, the team is chatting up their old Department H liaison, Gary Cody… or wuzzit Cody Gary? Whatever the case, he asked to be kept posted on the situation. From here, Mac shares Marrina’s secret origin with the crew. Ya see, it was a dark and stormy night… just off Newfoundland, and a fishing trawler got stuck in the weather. A man named Smallwood (snicker), falls overboard… and goes underwater. There, he sees an odd glowing orb of sorts.
He grabs the thing, and takes it with him to the surface. Hours later, he’s back home with his family… who wonder why he brought them a strange glowing egg. His wife notes that there’s definitely something alive inside of it… and, it ain’t no chicken.
Just then… the bugger hatched! Inside it… duh, baby Marrina.
The Smallwoods raised the child as their own, and despite looking like a horrifying Funko Pop, Marrina had herself a pretty normal life with them. That is, until she turned sixteen… at which time she turned into a living bullet underwater! Upon spying her swimming prowess, her “brother” Dan Smallwood got in touch with the Canadian government… and Marrina was off to Department H for some trainin’.
We next rejoin Marrina… as she’s swimming into an icy cave. It’s almost as though something… or someone has summoned her there. As she ventures ever deeper into the crystal cavern, she ultimately winds up at the feet of… The Master!
Our back-up feature (Alpha-Plus?) fills us in on some Alpha Flight pre-history. It opens at the Am-Can Petroleum Company in Alberta. Am-Can doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like Can-Am, does it? Anyhoo, this is where Mac used to work back in the long ago… and, it’s here he’s developed a cybernetic suit in order to facilitate excavation. He’s informed by his his boss, a Jerry Jaxon that they’re going to be selling this project to the American Military. Ol’ Mac ain’t happy… as he doesn’t wish to see his work used to fight wars.
After storming out of his lab, Mac runs into Jaxon’s private secretary… Ms. Heather McNeil (man, there’s a whole lot of “Mc”s and “Mac”s in this book, ain’t there?). She heard what happened regarding the cyber-suit project, and in protest… decided to tender her resignation. She can no longer work for such people. Hudson tells her that isn’t necessary… and she should take care of herself, but she is steadfast in her decision. She then asks him to come over for dinner… but our man has other plans tonight.
Plans like… breaking into his old lab and stealing the cyber-suit, that is. Annnd, that’s just what he does! For good measure, he even breaks into the vault… and blows up all the blueprints! He notes that all of his notes and documents are still in sealed envelopes… which assures him that none of them have yet been copied. These are the only copies… and now, dey burnt.
We wrap up with Mac dropping the Cyber-Suit on a hillside right by the Am-Can Facility… figuring his old bosses will find it without much trouble. He does, however, decide to keep the Cybernetic Helmet that goes with it… which, more or less renders the armor unusable.
Another fine outing for the Alphas. Not all that much to it, outside of giving the Funko Pop an origin story, but I had a lot of fun with it.
One thing I probably could have done without was the “Danger Room” fake-out bit at the beginning. I mean, I get why they do this sort of thing… but, damned if it isn’t just so played out. Probably can’t fault it for being what it is… as, after all, it did get us where we needed to be. Just feel like we might’ve spent too many pages on it… especially considering how our “main feature” is truncated to fit in a back-up.
Marrina’s origin was… fine. Honestly, it could’a been anything… aliens, blood transfusion from an ugly fish, you name it. This was just as good as any… and doesn’t really give us a “final word” on who or what she is… all we know is where she came from. That’s good enough for me, as it allows for future stories to build of what has been established here. Her connection (if any) with The Master… I dunno… I don’t remember much of this run, so I’m hopeful this turns into something interesting. Though, “The Master” is kind of a meh baddie.
In that classic pre-2000’s style, subplots keep bubblin’ away in the background, and boy howdy… do I appreciate that. Even if Snowbird’s civilian life isn’t the most exciting thing going, I was happy that we got to check in with her for a page here.
The backup feature was okay… though, I probably would have preferred that the pages had been allotted to the main feature instead. You know me, it takes a very special sort of back-up for me to really get excited… and, while this one did fill in some pre-history, I feel like it probably could have been told in a half-page flashback (and part of me feels like it eventually will).
Overall… while not quite as strong as the first issue… far stronger than it might’ve had any right to be! I’m still enjoying this revisit… and look forward to continuing my reread through this era of the series (whether or not they appear here at the site… I haven’t decided).
(Not the) Letters Page:
It’s always been funny to me how John Byrne would rail against the “superstar artists” of the 1990’s… when he was basically their predecessor!