Alpha Flight #23-24
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #23, Alpha Flight #24
For the series' second anniversary, almost the entire Alpha team (sans Marrina) is reunited in a battle against the Great Beasts that are the mortal enemies of Snowbird and her pantheon. We start with the revelation that Snowbird has actually been associating with one of the Great Beasts without realizing it.
She then shows up where a subset of Alpha Flight are mopping up after a fight with the deliberately low-rent villain Caliber (and prior to that, the headquarter-less team was training at the local Gym & Raquet Club).
Sasquatch was injured during the fight, and the team was getting a bit worried that he might go out of control as he had in the past, but when Snowbird shows up, she doesn't waste any time explaining anything.
It soon becomes clear that Sasquatch is, in fact, not himself.
The Great Beast possessing Walter Langkowski is called Tanaraq. Similar to, say, Zarathos and Ghost Rider, i've debated listing him as a separate Character Appearing at least whenever he exerts his own appearance, but considering that he doesn't ever seem to appear apart from Sasquatch, i've decided against it.
Since he's mystical in origin, Talisman is able to help out in the battle...
...but things get really cool when Snowbird turns herself into a sasquatch to fight him.
It's worth noting that Tanaraq isn't a native of the North, and neither was Langkowski, but Snowbird says the fact that their hybrid form was is what allows her to take his/their shape.
The battle ends when Snowbird literally rips out Sasquatch's heart.
With the immediate threat over, the team is of course not exactly happy with the way things turned out...
...but Shaman reveals that the soul of Langkowski may still be alive.
All they have to do is travel to the "Eye of the World" and then cross over to the dimension of the Great Beasts to get it.
They've got Langkowski's body in a crystallized state, waiting for the return of his soul.
Talisman tries to reach out to request help from her father, but when Shaman arrives...
...he says it was more of a compulsion than a request. In fact, the summons was so strong that Northstar is forced to show up as well. Aurora greets him about as warmly as you'd expect.
When Northstar tries to leave, however, Snowbird reveals a hidden power. She can compel others to aid her in her battle against the Great Beasts, if they will not do so willingly.
Shaman isn't pleased with this, but he lets it go for now. The rest of the Alphans are silent on the matter. You'd think that no matter how little regard they all have for Northstar, and no matter how great their need, someone on the team might have a major objection to forcing someone into battle, but apparently not.
Shaman pulls a giant key out of his medicine bag...
...and transports all of Alpha Flight (except Heather, who stays behind with Walter's body) to the Great Beast's dimension.
The Realm of the Beasts is depicted in all black & white, which is cool.
Shaman says that this Realm was once a planet like Earth until the Beasts "rose here" and corrupted and pillaged the world. They then tried to invade the Earth but were repelled by Snowbird's pantheon of Northern Gods. The Beasts tried three times, but on the third try the Northern Gods trapped them on this colorless planet. However, Tundra managed to entrap the Northern Gods as well, preventing them from returning to Earth.
The Great Beasts fight with each other as much as they fight their enemies, unless they are kept in line by Somon the Great Artificer.
In addition to him, the Alphans have to face Tundra, who they've fought previously...
...and two new Beasts: Kariooq the Corruptor, who looks like a giant First Edition AD&D troll...
...and the somewhat uninspired Tolamaq.
Despite the power of these demonic entities, they're rather easily defeated when Snowbird turns into a polar bear and attacks Somon...
...causing the other Beasts to turn on each other.
Somon attempts a dirty trick after promising to lead Alpha Flight to Langkowski's soul, but Snowbird rewards him for it.
The soul is stored in something called the "Phistash-Hasrak". Sensing that his companions were injured by Somon's trick, Langkowski's soul donates some of his own life energy to restore them.
When the Alphans get back to Earth, they discover that Box has arrived, also compelled by Talisman's summons (but not as fast a traveler as Shaman or Northstar. Presumably Madison Jeffries and Marrina are also trekking their way here as well, on foot).
He's been keeping Heather company. Unfortunately, Langkowski's crystal body has crumbled. But his soul has to go somewhere. So...
An interesting mystical story, and a nice conclusion to Snowbird's plotline. Even more than Omega Flight, it could be argued that the Great Beasts were Alpha Flight's biggest foes, so it's interesting to see them defeated so conclusively here (several are said outright to be dead or "utterly destroyed"; the remaining three are left fighting each other while the world dies around them, and Snowbird again says that they've been "destroyed"), even if at the cost of Sasquatch's physical body. Some great opportunities for Byrne's art as well. It's also cool how the Alpha Flight team is rarely seen as a single unit, but for both issues #12 and #24 they wind up back together.
The story does end on something of a corny note. With the Beasts defeated, Snowbird announces that her purpose is served and she's heading back into the heavens. In truth, she heads back to Mountie Doug Thompson, and, well...
I've said before that the Snowbird/Thompson relationship reads like a tribute to romance comics, but this is getting a little ridiculous.
Still, a nice anniversary arc.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Shaman is not around in issue #23 (Elizabeth says she wishes her father were here to discuss the possible resurrection of James Hudson that Heather thinks she witnessed), so it's possible that Iron Man #195 takes place concurrently with that issue. Shaman teleports in at the beginning of issue #24, compelled to do so by his daughter. Northstar is surprised to hear about Shaman's daughter, and Shaman says "Oh yes. I forget, you do not know of her. She first joined us after you had departed." Now, we had to cram in X-Men/Alpha Flight somewhere before Walter Langkowski got stuck in Box, and both Talisman and Northstar appear in that, so we'll have to assume that things were moving so quickly in that mini-series that they didn't have time to get introduced. Ugh.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (12): show
It seemed to me an easy way for a future writer to bring back Langkowski/Sasquatch was to assemble the crumbled pieces of his body and reassembled them once Walter's soul had "regained" the life energy he spent resurrecting those who were killed by Somon. Instead, we got a very bizarre return of Walter later.
Posted by: Chris | May 19, 2012 12:36 PM
I remember reading this for the first time at a friend's house and going "Holy Crap! Snowbird just ripped out Sasquatch's heart!" One of the more graphic death scenes that I recall up to this point. Not as bad as some later stuff at both Marvel and DC, but pretty graphic for the time.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 27, 2015 11:14 AM
Snowbird's control of Northstar is a good example of one of Byrne's most characteristic writing traits: he likes to create ethically challenged characters and spotlight those flaws, although he rarely follows up on them. It is a bit like Marv Wolfman writing about love interests: we can expect him to go back to that wheel often along the years.
Come to think of it, characterization is Byrne's strength, certainly when compared to his plotting, which tends to overextend itself and become slow and difficult to follow.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 26, 2016 9:34 AM
#23 was my only issue ever of Alpha flight and I had no idea what the hell was going on. I did like that the villain got taken out early in a few panels and the rest of the issue was the team fighting each other.
I found it a bit odd that Snowbird could outfight Sasquash in that form considering he was much more used to it.
Between this and my only other exposure to the team in MTU annual, I felt that AF spent more time fighting each other than the baddies.
Posted by: kveto | December 27, 2016 12:34 PM
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