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Alpha Flight #6 (1984, January)

August 4, 2014

So it looks I’ll be going to Guardians of the Galaxy tomorrow, instead. So I can do a comic review today after all. And, since today’s a civic holiday here in Canada, it’s only appropriate to have a Canadian comic! So, by John Byrne, “Snowblind.”

Snowblind

This cover’s either brilliant or lazy.

We start in the Northwest Territories, with Snowbird’s boss demanding to know about her unauthorized absences from her post. He doesn’t know she’s Snowbird. She explains that the absences were authorized by his predecessor. He says that his predecessor’s dead, and he’s in charge now. He orders her confined while an investigation into her activities is done. Another officer, Doug Thompson, wants to help her, but she can’t tell him anything. He’s clearly got a thing for her.

To the south a bit, an oil well is being drilled. A First Nations guy says to stop the drilling, because the place is haunted. Then the drill is blown up by weird energy. In the end, Kolomaq is free. Snowbird’s sitting in her cell, wondering if her Anne McKenzie identity has become a liability, when she senses Kolomaq. She busts out through the wall and flies down. Then we cut to Ottawa, where Guardian’s flying around. He heads home, and finds a letter from Roxxon.

Back to Snowbird! She’s challenging Kolomaq, the second of the Great Beasts. She tells him his foe, Tundra, isn’t around, and then he sees that she’s the daughter of Hodiak and Nelvanna. And then he creates a snowstorm. Here, we see Alpha Flight’s contribution to Assistant Editor’s Month, as the next 5-and-a-half pages are completely white. There’s captions describing the action, there’s thought bubbles and sound effects. But the art is totally white. She shifts into a bear and attacks Kolomaq, and they roll off a cliff. She changes to an owl to save herself, then back to normal. She attacks in her human form, and he throws some ice daggers at her, which cut her and make her bleed. She gets scared, but then overcomes her fear, and taunts Kolomaq. He intensifies the snowstorm, which cause the cliff they fought under to collapse on him. And the art is back! With Kolomaq defeated, his snowstorm ends.

The foreman on the drillsite runs over. Snowbird tells him to cover the rockslide with concrete, then heals herself and flies off.

Then, the second part of Shaman’s origin. He’s spent 10 years out in the wilderness. A couple days after his wife and grandfather died, he was given a bag, and told not to open it until the time was right. Finally, he opens it, and his grandfather’s spirit comes out. Also in the bag was his grandfather’s skull. And, also, a medicine bag. His father tells him to reach in and pull out pine needles. But there’s nothing in there. His grandfather tells him never to look in the bag, and then starts the lesson. He trains his body and mind. After several weeks, he tries again to find pine needles in the bag. And he does! Dr. Strange sees it happen through his orb, and is pleased.

This is a really good story. Aside from the brief scene with Guardian, it’s entirely about Snowbird. I have to say, I like Snowbird. She’d be an easy character to dislike. She’s got the whole god thing going for her, which makes her aloof, but Byrne writes her well. It’s also interesting seeing how her personality differs between her Anne McKenzie and Snowbird forms. It’s not a major change, but it’s there, and it’s cool. I’d kinda like it if the next volume of Alpha Flight brought back her Anne McKenzie secret identity.

The art is excellent. The white pages are a hilarious touch. I like the way the panels are laid out the same as if the fight was visible. I almost wonder if maybe some of the captions might have been removed, though, just to leave the readers with no clue what’s going on in a couple panels. Oh well. Either way, I loved it. This is the sort of thing I loved about the Assistant Editor’s Month. Claremont’s books had stupid little one-page gags added on. But the best comics incorporated the concept into the comics themselves.

John Byrne was also writing and drawing Fantastic Four. So for issue #262, The Trial of Reed Richards, he put himself into the story as an observer. Lilandra plays a major role. Byrne calls her an “arrogant witch.” It’s another really fun story. Byrne’s Fantastic Four run was brilliant.

But back to Alpha Flight. The Shaman back-up was good, too. It was cool seeing him come to accept his mystical heritage. It’s also interesting learning a bit about his sack. Heh.

Song of the day: On Top of Your Love by Royal Wood.

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