ALPHA FLIGHT #1 (1983)
From the Uncanny X-Men #120, the Canadian super-hero Vindicator meets with the Prime Minister to determine the course of action to force Wolverine back and serve the Canadian government. As we saw in Giant-Size X-Men #1, Wolverine left Canada and the Weapon X program to be a part of the team of mutants within the United States, called the X-Men.
Then in the Uncanny X-Men #109, the first appearance of James MacDonald Hudson, also known as Weapon Alpha and then Vindicator, he drastically failed to apprehend the AWOL Weapon X, now known as the Wolverine.
Continuing into Uncanny X-Men #120-121, the X-Men were flying from Japan and suddenly forced to make an emergency landing in Canada. Vindicator, now known as the Guardian, met the X-Men with his very own super-powered team, Alpha Flight. Let’s give a hand of applause for the first appearances by: the Olympic professional ski champion, photo-kinetic speedster Jean-Paul Beaubier – Northstar (my favorite member), his twin sister a teacher but a little damaged Jeanne-Maurie Beaubier – Aurora, the awesome Doctor Michael Twoyoungmen – Shaman, officer of Canadian mounted army Anne McKenzie – Snowbird, and the biophysics Professor Walter Langkowski – Sasquatch.
The freak blizzard created by Shaman forces the plane on land in Calgary and Sasquatch throws the plane to an empty hangar. Storm uses the snowstorm to her advantage and makes an intense fog for the X-Men escapes to the city. “Suddenly, Nightcrawler is enveloped in pure elemental light”. Northstar captures Nightcrawler as Sasquatch takes down Wolverine. The Guardian mistakenly crashes through the roof a mall and out of extreme fury, Banshee’s sonic energy seems to have injured his vocal cords. Storm takes the power of the wind and sends Guardian across the store, but she recognizes she is creating unnecessary damage and flies away. Storm and the other X-men meet up outside the mall and is quite determined to get Nightcrawler and Wolverine back even at the cost shedding some Alpha Flight blood!
As a kid/teen in the ’70s & ’80s, I loved reading Alpha Flight by John Byrne. Byrne had the most creative ideas and could take minor characters and turn them into the most interesting people with distinct personalities. He did so with the Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four, and then Alpha Flight.
Alpha Flight #1 begins on a sad note; “You are witnessing the death of a dream.” Canada’s greatest heroes are FIRED! In the first few pages, James MacDonald Hudson, currently known as Vindicator, recaps and evaluates the importance of the team. Vindicator is Alpha Flight’s captain and he takes his position very seriously! The threat of total shut down on the team and Department H is not an option! Though there may not be much action in this section, it delivers a supersonic punch. Hudson helps the reader understand the challenges the team face when they are given power to change a dysfunctional organization. Even though power is a taboo topic for many people, it is what sets the leader apart from others in the organization. John Byrne has excelled in Vindicator’s character building and expresses that effective leaders understand and have a need to accomplish their goals.
Vindicator reaches deep within himself almost like a parent remembering his children when they were young. Byrne shows off his knowledge by referring to connecting storylines: Uncanny X-Men #139 & #140, as Alpha Flight join forces with an American team to defeat a monster. Byrne’s outstanding storytelling teaches the reader that the usage of power effectively is no easy task for a leader. There are many challenges that, if not met, will create disastrous results for individuals and the organization. Hardship is often improved by a coach and the Canadian Prime Minister expresses great empathy that Department H is no longer going to be government funded. Also, he provides support and offers everything in his power to help Vindicator deal with the challenges being set forth to Alpha Flight.
Meanwhile, in the Northwest Territories, a near-starving man obsessed with death, conducts an ancient ritual in which he summons one of the power Great Beasts – an entity known as Tundra. Suddenly, Bryne takes the reader to different locations of Canada where we find each member of Alpha Flight. I remember the first time reading this issue and I did not care for the jumping around. However, it did not take long to realize it only strengthens the storyline. As each member of Alpha Flight is currently residing throughout Canada, Byrne’s writing takes the reader like a fly on the wall and provides a taste of each character’s personal life outside of the superhero group. I remember as a kid, I was intrigued by Doctor Michael Twoyoungmen, aka Shaman. Though, I was among the Caucasian population, my appearance wasn’t an accurate fit for this category. Yes, I am technically white, but I quickly tan with a reddish-brown skin color. It was this character that engaged my curiosity on why. Just as intriguing, medicine – more specifically genetics, took a role in my life because of Twoyoungmen. Byrne’s brilliant storytelling in Alpha Flight #1 grasped the reader’s attention through some basic, but valuable personality traits of each character. Even before Northstar came out of the closet, I was infatuated with this character and of course his sister Aurora too! Many readers were introduced to DID for the first time and a taste on how it may affect family members.
As Alpha Flight #1 continues, so does the action. It’s fascinating to find out that all members of this team possess some sort of cybernetic implant. How messed up can a government run organization, like Department H, to invade a human being to do their bidding. I may be overzealous on this subject, but DAMN! Well, at least it has a positive influence. Each member is summoned to the Northwest Territories and Tundra! The battle is on!
This is where the artwork by John Bryne and colors by Andy Yanchus really show off their articulating skills to produce eye candy for the imagination. The panels where Walter Langkowski transforms into the Sasquatch and is racing to his allies are like a standstills but watching an action movie at the same time. Similar, Bryne and Yanchus provides stunning artwork as an owl transforms into Snowbird. As Alpha Flight arrives, Tundra has risen high from the Earth and can command the power of the environment. Vindicator begins attacking Tundra with a steady stream of electromagnetic energy, but in concern of environmental safety, he pulls back. Sasquatch begins tearing into Tundra’s side, but the Great Beast swats him away like a fly. Snowbird and Shaman join forces and wears away large portions of Tundra. As Marrina arrives, Shaman uses excess water to finish Tundra off for good. Realizing how effectively everyone worked together, Vindicator offers to re-establish Alpha Flight as an independent super-hero team. Lastly, Puck wants in on the deal and he’s not taking no for an answer!
Byrne and Yanchus along with Jo Rosen on lettering provides solid character development and fast-paced storytelling with an interesting villain and a healthy slice of humor. You can’t go wrong with Alpha Flight #1.
This is comic book storytelling at its finest!
ALPHA FLIGHT #1 (1983): Tundra
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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