Alpha Flight #11-12
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #11, Alpha Flight #12
Soon, these heroes will face their greatest challenge.
It's the first time a character's death has been used in advance to promote a comic (at Marvel anyway - see the comments below). The identity of the character that would die was a well kept secret at the time. Most letter writers wrote in predicting that it would be Northstar, on the grounds that he's unlikeable and Aurora has the same powers anyway.
There is a legend that Peter David, then working in Marvel's sales department, distributed advance artwork revealing who dies, but details vary regarding why he was doing so (David says he was given the art by the editor as part of a package to promote), who David was supplying the art to (either a limited group of dealers, or on the floor of a comic convention), and the degree to which Byrne, also at the convention, flipped out about it. But David and Byrne haven't been on friendly terms since.
Delphine Courtney has continued to recruit members of the old Beta and Gamma Flight teams, as we saw her recruit Smart Alec in Alpha Flight #7. The only member that has doubts is Roger Bochs, who controls the giant robot Box.
But he plays along and meets up with the others in the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It seems that the members of Gamma didn't know the members from Beta, and vice versa, so introductions are made.
The team has been gathered at the request of Jerry Jaxxon. Jaxxon was James Hudson's boss in the origin back-up from Alpha Flight #2 that showed Hudson stealing the exo-suit that he developed. Jaxxon was disgraced and humiliated by Am-Can after that incident, and now he's after revenge, with the backing of Roxxon, who wants Guardian's suit. The entire job offer turns out to be part of the set-up.
Heather gets kidnapped and used as a lure for Guardian. Some of the above background is explained to Heather in a video recorded by Jaxxon .
Notice that the Roxxon exec is named August D'Angelo. Per Aaron in the Comments, the woman in the photo on his desk is his daughter, Julie, who was appearing in Byrne's Fantastic Four run. And August D'Angelo appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #236 (since this is a flashback, he's older in the Spider-Man appearance).
To Heather's (and Byrne's) credit, she has no interest in being bait and tries to take matters into her own hands.
Unfortunately it turns out that her captor, Delphine Courtney, is a robot (and one with subtle mind-control powers)(and it's also said that Courtney's influencer has been turned on the former Beta and Gamma Flight members, aggravating their annoyance at the disbanding of their groups (this is stated even more clearly in the recap for issue #13); this potentially allows for the reformation of the Omega Flight members at a later date).
When Guardian arrives, he faces Omega Flight.
Before entering the trap, Guardian used the Alpha signal device to summon the rest of the team. It will be the first time the entire team has been together since issue #1.
Well, almost the entire team. Marrina is busy frolicking with the Sub-Mariner and misses the call.
Aurora picks up Sasquatch. We last saw her showing up at Langkowski's apartment, but she's been off partying in St. Tropez without him. She's feeling frisky and is annoyed that he insists they go immediately to join the group.
Northstar picks up Puck. Prior to the call, Puck was meditating to focus past pain that he was experiencing.
Regarding this, Byrne has said:
Of course, he [Mantlo] then went on to do the "origin" of Puck, with the whole "demon inside" thing being based, apparently, on the single reference Puck had made to being in constant pain, something which Bill failed to grasp was an effect of the condition -- achondroplasty, called by name in the same issue that referenced the pain -- which caused Puck's dwarfism. (This was a manifestation of something I used to call "Claremont-itis", before it came to infect almost everybody -- that manner of backstorying characters in such a way that absolutely no one, nowhere, is ever "normal".)
After Northstar arrives, he's snippier than usual; he's still hurt over the fact that Aurora has "broken up" with him. When the group all gets together, he tries to make amends with Aurora but she's not interested. The argument results in a fight that quickly gets out of hand (and makes Roy Thomas' Avengers look like a happy family).
Sasquatch loses control of his beast form, and the rest of the team is forced to subdue him. Aurora is able to calm him, but Sasquatch will be less effective in the fight ahead because he's concerned about losing control again.
After the in-fighting, Shaman teleports the team to New York, where they join the fight with Omega Flight.
I love that line when Snowbird says, "Hold, Wild Child! You are not the only one with claws...". Unfortunately for Snowbird, it turns out that she's not actually able to leave Canada. Once she does, her power and youth drain away.
Despite some set-backs, Alpha generally does ok against Omega. Smart Alec manages to grab Shaman's medicine bag, but that doesn't work out very well for him.
However, Box manages to separate Guardian from the group, and proceeds to beat the holy hell out of him. It turns out that Box is being controlled by Jaxxon, not Bochs, who is tied up. Guardian defeats Box by exploding a damaged power pack in his face. The feedback kills Jaxxon, but Guardian's suit is now badly damaged and in danger of exploding. Ten second countdown...
...and then Heather wanders into the room, distracting her husband at a key moment. He dies in a fiery explosion that Heather is forced to be witness to.
Tragic and traumatic. It's an arc that clearly has an impact. And in the meantime, we've got some great characterization and a cool team super-fight.
As Heather is walking through her empty old house one last time before the trip to New York, the narration captions are filled with dialogue from memories of the past. Of interest is the fact that Heather, from an Irish Catholic family with lots of brothers and sisters, tells James that she doesn't want to have children (much later, she'll change her mind).
A letter in Alpha Flight #12 has a humorous ironic tone, but shows some of the criticism of John Byrne that was going on at the time.
I've just begun reading ALPHA FLIGHT and I really enjoy it. I'm looking forward to your continuing on the title for at least the next 200 issues. I'm sure after that long it will become an institution and you will have the characters evolved into so truly unique and mature individuals with fiercely loyal fans.
The response is that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby both support Byrne's efforts on FF, but that really misses the point of the criticism (not that i necessarily think the complaint was valid).
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The back-up story from issue #11 is covered in a separate entry. It's the final origin back-up.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (26): show
The whole Brass Bishop situation is a complete mess. Two Brass Bishops were introduced- one in Alpha Flight 121, one in the 1997 Alpha Flight series. The Marvel Appendix discusses the mess here:
Posted by: Michael | July 17, 2011 4:20 PM
Peter David maintains that Byrne caused his own problem by throwing a loud fit over the artwork, supposedly causing more attention to be attracted to Guardian's surprise death than it would have received if Peter had just quietly handed the art out. I'm not sure how Peter could know that, but Peter David rarely acknowledges his own blunders anyway.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 9, 2011 12:34 AM
DC did use the death of Batwoman as advance promotion of Detective Comics in the late 1970s, and I think it was done sporadically a few times prior by DC as well.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 9, 2011 12:42 AM
I'm not very DC-literate, so thanks for the correction on my "advertising a character's death" comment.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 9, 2011 3:41 AM
Byrne's "Claremont-itis" line, besides just being nasty and childish, also never really made sense as a criticism. They're writing SUPERHERO comics. How NORMAL are the backstories going to be? These are people who, first, have superpowers (in most cases), and who then actually decide to become superheroes and supervillains. They're weird people. Their lives are probably weird to start with, and they're probably a bit crazy (which would make their lives even weirder).
Extraordinary people have extraordinary backstories. What was Byrne asking for? "Well, I can shoot lasers out of my eyes, and time travel, but I've just been going to community college part-time and hanging out with my friends. But ya know, I think me and my weird powers will go fight/commit crime now. But until this decision? I'd been totally normal!" That wouldn't make very much sense.
Posted by: Paul | May 16, 2012 11:28 PM
I think what Byrne was getting at was how Claremont and others kept turning regular people into super-people. Colleen Wing is suddenly a samurai. Doug Ramsey is a mutant, not just Kitty's geeky friend. Puck isn't just an acrobatic dwarf; he's an ancient dude with a demon sword in his head. More recently, Rick Jones, General Ross, and Betty Ross all become Hulks. Flash Thompson is Venom. I think it's an inevitable phenomenon in an ongoing fantasy universe, not something you can pin on Claremont, but it is a little annoying.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 17, 2012 9:25 AM
I actually agree with it, put like that. I think in the case of longtime supporting characters (Ross, Ross, Jones, Flash Thompson, Aunt May) they should be left alone - although certainly they could be plausibly brought into greater involvement, if it's done carefully (more carefully than it was actually done).
But Doug Ramsey appeared six times over about that many months, in a very light supporting role, before Claremont made him a mutant. So for that one I don't think it's a fair criticism. Plus Kitty is explicitly referred to as a computer genius (I believe) in her early appearances, so if some local kid is keeping pace with her or even outdoing her, it being a mutant power is actually a no-prize kind of explanation.
Puck is a fair criticism because it was unnecessary (he was already super-powered and weird, and it was explainable w/o the addition) and stemmed from a misunderstanding by Mantlo. I don't know enough about Colleen Wing to say either way, but wikipedia says she battled alongside Iron Fist in her debut, and gives her a samurai backstory (tho I imagine it was supplied later). So I don't know how she was actually portrayed early on.
And of course poor Madelyne Pryor is the opposite case. Claremont wanted her to just be a normal gal.
Posted by: Paul | May 17, 2012 5:25 PM
I will say that if they'd made, say, Stevie Hunter a mutant, that would have been a perfectly valid criticism.
Posted by: Paul | May 17, 2012 5:26 PM
Just checked, the White Queen says Doug is a mutant in NM 15, which I think is his third appearance. And his being a mutant is probably half the reason she invited him to her Academy, which invite took place in his 2nd appearance. So he was a mutant from the start.
Posted by: Paul | May 17, 2012 6:00 PM
Paul, Claremont did make Amanda Sefton a sorceress after she'd been around for four and a half years without any hints of powers.
Posted by: Michael | May 17, 2012 7:28 PM
But even there, while it was four years, it was only her sixth appearance, with never more than two in any one year. That's very few appearances, and very sporadic (never more than two appearances in any one year); she hadn't really been established as a supporting character in that time in such a way that to suddenly reveal her as having powers was shocking or upsetting or jarred with the portrayal - there hadn't really been a portrayal. That's very different from Flash Thompson or Betty Ross, or even from Stevie Hunter (who appeared in 20 comics in four years).
Posted by: Paul | May 17, 2012 8:47 PM
But she'd been in danger twice- once she was kidnapped by Arcade and once she was held at gunpoint by an evil circus owner- and she never considered using her powers to save herself.
Posted by: Michael | May 17, 2012 9:19 PM
We have no way of knowing what she considered.
Significantly (I think), she was also in danger a year after her reveal as a sorceress - abducted by Arcade, along with (non-powered) loved ones of various X-Men. It's just the portrayal, at least to that point. Maybe she didn't feel she was really in such great danger any of those times, or maybe she wasn't that powerful. In her next appearance after being a hostage, a very silly issue of Man-Thing, she's a prisoner AGAIN.
Posted by: Paul | May 17, 2012 10:07 PM
According to Byrne, Box was originally supposed to be a quadruple amputee called Tank. He changed both details because of the amputee in Frank Miller's Ronin and the character Tank in DNAgents.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 8, 2013 3:55 PM
Byrne also stated that Wild Child was supposed to have the same origin that Byrne thought up for Wolverine, but got tossed away by Claremont.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 17, 2013 3:58 PM
It's worth taking with a grain of salt Byrne's claim that Mantlo misunderstood the reference to Puck's pain, in light of how Byrne has misremembered other "error" on the part of fellow professionals, such as the Wendigo sunset incident. Maybe Mantlo was ignorant of achondroplasia, or maybe he wasn't and decided to make Puck's backstory more elaborate anyway.
Byrne himself was guilty of Claremontism in making Puck not just a secret agent so cool even Logan respected and could ID his handiwork, but a guy who knew Hemingway, too. And unless Puck is well into his 40s, he couldn't be a normal guy who in '84 recalled bullfighting with Papa, even if we take that as referring to Hemingway's last excursion.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | October 26, 2013 4:33 PM
The minimum age for a bullfighting license in Spain is 16- I think that Byrne intended him to be exactly 40 in 1984. (Grell intended Oliver Queen to be 48.)
Posted by: Michael | October 26, 2013 5:30 PM
I kind off agree with Byrne on the "Claremont-itis", when it comes to the tendency to reveal that characters were already involved with "super" stuff before their origin stories. Like having Kitty Pryde not just being your average girl discovering she's a mutant, but having her be a Neo changeling. Or having Peter Parker's parents be super spies. Or having Reed Richard's dad be a universe-traveling super scientist (ehm... who introduced Nathaniel Richards again?)
Not only does it rather ruin the escapist fun of superhero comics (Not just anyone can be super, you have to be born into it), but it also rather stretches plausibility if all these people who get their powers by accident actually turn out to be descendents of other super-people.
Posted by: Berend | February 27, 2014 9:27 PM
Well, the problem there is that so many characters got their powers from radiation. The question eventually became why doesn't everyone exposed to radiation get super powers? Then, we move in to the reality that it's really unrealistic that radiation gave these people powers, when in reality it gives you cancer or kills you.
Kitty was always portrayed as a gifted teenage girl, and that's all she'll ever be. No one wants to ever think about the Neo ever again.
A lot of Marvel's characters were always larger than life though. Tony Stark was a genius inventor and super rich.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | February 27, 2014 10:18 PM
True, but their extraordinary qualities tie in to them becoming super powered. Reed being so smart leads him to doing the kind of experimental science that gives the FF their powers. Tony being an industrialist inventor makes him the target of a kidnapping, and gives him the skills to make the Iron Man suit. Both their dad being dimension hopping agents of an ancient Illuminati-like organisation, that's just random. Even their dads already knowing one another is a bit of a coincidence.
It's probably just a personal preference, but I can accept "Marvel Universe radiation is magic that can trigger super powers in some people" a lot more easily than "Everyone's dad was also a superhero". I can swallow the big nonsense, but the little coincidences throw me off :P
Posted by: Berend | March 2, 2014 8:31 AM
Pay close attention to the page of Guardian's death, particularly the bottom middle panel. He's muttering the word "Heather" as he's slowly dying. So clearly he did not instantly teleport when the explosion happened, as explained by Delphine Courtney shown in Alpha Flight #25.
Therefore, Guardian is actually still dead, and whoever is running around claiming to be him now is yet another impostor waiting to be
I had John Byrne commission a recreation of the death scene shown here:
where Byrne also discusses the death some more.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | March 25, 2014 9:05 PM
As I mentioned after I wrote the piece, I didn't include this issue in my "10 Deaths That Mattered to Me" because I hadn't actually been reading Alpha Flight - almost all my Alpha Flight was from their interactions with the X-Men. But I wish I had read it at the time - this first year, with the team separated and culminating with the death of Guardian really is pretty impressive.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 18, 2015 1:12 PM
Not certain if this has been brought up in another entry, but Alpha Flight #12 has a flashback when Jerry Jaxxon meets the chairman of Roxxon, August D'Angelo, and on D'Angelo's desk is a photo of Julie Angel (aka Juilette D'Angelo) from Byrne's Fantastic Four run. On the John Byrne Forum, in a discussion of this issue -- http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=22577 -- Byrne mentions that this reference was intended to have been followed up on in Fantastic Four, but for some reason that did not happen.
August D'Angelo's first appearance was in Amazing Spider-Man #236, but I am not sure whether anything else has been done with the character.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 10, 2015 12:40 AM
This is the first time in all these years that I've had any evidence anyone but me caught that Julie Angel's dad was a bad guy. -Pity Byrne didn't at least follow up while he was writing Iron Man.
Posted by: BU | August 10, 2015 7:26 PM
BU, I know what you mean. I had noticed it at the time when I read these issues when they were published -- and I made the same assumption that the two of them are father and daughter -- mainly because I was really interested in D'Angelo after his appearance in Amazing Spider-Man. At that time, I never imagined that anyone else was paying quite the same obsessive attention to "minor" characters as I was -- if only SuperMegaMonkey had been around back in 1984, I would have known better... :0)
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 10, 2015 8:05 PM
Aaron, thanks for pointing this out. I've added the scan of August D'Angelo at his desk with some notes. I would have never recognized Julie from that photo.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 11, 2015 5:45 PM
Fnord, You're welcome. But you catch so many references that I miss, so I'm equally indebted to you. Your site really rekindled my interest in the late 80s Marvel Comics.
And I'm still surprised that I recognized her in that panel, myself. In my memory, the image of her is clearer than it is in the actual comic. I recall spending a lot of time studying that panel in Alpha Flight #12, looking for clues about August DeAngelo, as I got the impression from his Amazing Spider-Man appearance that he might be involved in witchcraft, given the unusual decorations along the window of his home in that story. So I think I was primed to notice that connection only because I was dead certain that there had to be something hidden in that scene. Crazy, I know...
I'm even more impressed with other readers who caught it as well. Us comics readers are a interesting, insightful bunch!
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 12, 2015 4:05 AM
Little Easter Egg I spotted in the first panel of issue 11: on the spines of the books in Bochs' apartment are the names "Lee" "Byrne" "Yanchus" "Higgens" "O'Neil" and "Shooter"
Posted by: Brian | March 26, 2017 2:51 AM
Regarding Claremontism, I definitely don't think he necessarily meant giving a supporting, non-powered character powers (That's something he's certainly done, although as implied above, Byrne 's pulpit can be very "Do as I say, not as I do"), but the tendency to make the character's very background a smorgasbord of fantastical elements. The Ninja Zombie Pirate Robot.
Like, a great example of Magma. She's a mutant from Brazil BUT she's also a citizen of a hidden Roman colony that was ruled over a by a mutant who learned magic. Or Shatterstar--he's from the future, but NOT this reality's future, rather a future from an alternate dimension where governing is based on television ratings, and he's a gladiator who actually has mutant powers, but he prefers not to use them. I think Claremont felt these sort of things were cool and flouted the rules of genre and also give his characters more storytelling avenues. But I think the concern becomes that it becomes harder to pick up new readers, and may end up requiring a great deal of exposition, and may curb relatibility. ("Boy, wouldn't it be neat if I were a mutant! But I there's no way I have a hidden x-gene. But that's unlikely. I've spent my entire life in the same historical era, I've never been cloned, I don't know any ninjitsu, and I'm pretty sure I don't have a single sorcerer in my family tree!")
This may be why the X-Men movie has not been as successful, relatively.The Gordian knot cutting leaves fans unsatisfied.
Posted by: rabartlett | April 26, 2018 3:43 AM
@ rabartlett -
That would be pretty impressive for Claremont to have that kind of input on a character created by Rob Leifeld.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 26, 2018 6:00 AM
Claremontism: Literary Ebola - https://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=136&p=7957#p7957
Posted by: andrew | April 26, 2018 8:09 AM
Yeah, he didn't create him (And I did mean to clarify that), but I would say he had that input , or influence, as he is the sum of a lot of things that were, at the time, in Claremont's playground.
Posted by: rabartlett | April 26, 2018 11:08 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|