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Alpha Flight #2 (1983, September)

July 10, 2014

More Alpha Flight! By John Byrne, “Shadows of the Past.”

Shadows of the Past

“The Mystery of Marrina,” huh? Nice alliteration, but is it the mystery of how to make her an interesting character? It’ll take 25 years for that to be solved.

The story starts with the team doing some training. Vindicator has his suit’s circuitry scrambled by Northstar and Aurora, then falls into Sasquatch’s arms. Sasquatch throws him without realizing his force field’s down, so Shaman has to save him. Marrina ambushes Sasquatch with a drenching. Puck laughs, and Sasquatch chases him. Shaman tells Vindicator that he needs to choose a name that better represents Canada’s spirit. So he decides on Guardian. Marrina feels ill, and when Puck checks on her, she slashes at him then dives into the water. Puck needs immediate medical assistance, so they take him to a nearby hospital, where Shaman works with the staff to take care of him. The rest of Alpha goes to find Marrina.

Out in the Northwest Territories, Snowbird, in her civilian disguise as RCMP officer Anne McKenzie (side note: I actually kinda want to see that brought back; I’d love for Snowbird to want to spend more time as Anne, and resenting Alpha for bringing her into action) is hating her boss. She senses Shaman invoking the Great Spirit, and leaves, right before her boss walks in. He wants to bring her up on charges for not being at her post.

In Alpha’s Omni-ship, Guardian tells the others Marrina’s story. A fisherman was swept overboard during a storm, and found an egg. He brought it home, and his wife hatched it and raised her. Then she was inducted into Gamma Flight, then Beta. Meanwhile, Marrina arrives in the Arctic. She finds herself in the base of the Master.

After that is a back-up story. James Hudson was working for Am-Can, and learned that an exploratory suit he’d invented was being sold to the US military. He wasn’t happy about it. He quits. Heath McNeil quits in solidarity with him. James is determined to see his suit isn’t used for military purposes. So he heads back at night. He steals the suit and breaks into the vault with the blueprints, so he can destroy them. Then he leaves the suit on a hilltop, taking only the helmet, which he invented before being hired by Am-Can.

This issue’s OK. A bit light on character work. The training scene was fun. But I do feel like this issue wound up setting kind of an unfortunate precedent for Puck. He gets torn up pretty badly right off the bat, before we’ve even had a chance to see him in action. After Byrne leaves the book, Puck being useless will be a running trend throughout Bill Mantlo’s run. The background on Marrina is reasonably interesting, though Marrina herself ultimately fails to be. Her drenching Sasquatch was fun. I talked earlier about Snowbird’s Anne McKenzie identity. Truthfully, I do have some mixed feelings towards it. I feel like it probably wasn’t a good idea to give her a civilian identity. However, the identity she was given does actually have quite a bit of potential, which was sadly never really realized. The RCMP are basically cops with better hats. It would’ve been great seeing her doing some RCMP work. And if we ever get another volume of Alpha Flight, I’d like to see that identity brought up, and to see her doing something other than paperwork. We’re also introduced here to the Master of the World. I’ll have more to say about him next issue.

The back-up story is short, but enjoyable enough. Gives some nice insight into Guardian’s character – he’s a scientist, and doesn’t want his work used to hurt people. His boss, Jaxon, will be seen again before too long.

The art is by John Byrne. That about says it all. As good a writer as Byrne was, he was even better as an artist. The story flows well, the characters look great, there’s plenty of environmental detail. The art’s outstanding.

Song of the day: The Bad In Each Other by Feist.

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