John Byrne is considered by many to be a comic creator of legendary status. He’s worked on numerous titles from Superman to the Uncanny X-men, though he is perhaps best remembered for his definitive run on the Fantastic Four. His work there not only helped define who the heroes were but made the book new and exciting again during the 1980s. Many forget he also created Canada’s premier superhero team, Alpha Flight.
During his work on the Uncanny X-men, Byrne delved into Wolverine’s past in order to explore the character’s background and have it come back to haunt him. He decided that before becoming a member of the X-men, Wolverine served as an operative of the Canada government. Mac Hudson became his good friend of and mentor, helping Wolvie learn to control his beast like urges and use his powers in defense of the country. Wolverine walked out on Mac and the Canadian government when professor Charles Xavier arrived one day with an offer he couldn’t refuse: join the X-men in exchange for Xavier’s assistance retrieving his lost memories.
Hudson, the director of Canada’s super powered initiative — Department H — had built a war suit powered by the Earth’s magnetic field which gave him the powers of flight, energy blasts, and a limited force field. Hurt by Wolverine’s actions and determined to bring him home, Hudson set out for the United States. He found Wolverine with the X-men and briefly clashed with the team. After a full out attack from an X-man known as Banshee, Hudson realized he was overmatched and fled back to Canada empty handed. A few months later, he came after Wolverine again but this time accompanied by Alpha Flight, his own team of super powered individuals..
Alpha Flight made its first appearance in Uncanny X-men issues 120 and 121 as Hudson attempted to return Wolverine to Canada against his will. The X-men and Alpha Flight battled but parted on decent terms with Hudson finally coming to grips with the fact that Wolverine would not be coming home to be a part of his team. The Canadian government relinquished its supposed legal right of ownership to Wolvie and soon thereafter, Wolverine and Nightcrawler, traveled to Canada to stand with some of the core members of Alpha Flight against the supernatural monster known as the Wendigo. Hudson and Wolverine once again became true friends and from that point on, the X-men and Alpha Flight were be close allies. However, Alpha Flight soon faced far greater struggles.
The team’s first issue hit newsstands in 1983. The issue opened with Department H having being shut down and Alpha Flight disbanded due to political troubles. The first issue followed Alpha Flight as they reformed, added new members, and decided to carry on in their struggle to watch over Canada and keep it safe without the support of the government.
As of that first issue, Alpha Flight consisted of Mac Hudson — now calling himself Guardian and still wearing his battle suit — Sasquatch, Snowbird, Northstar, Aurora, Puck, Shaman, and Marina.
Sasquatch was a human scientist who had gained the power to transform into the great beast from whom he took his name. In the form of a giant, orange furred monster, he could easily lift seventy five tons and was the team’s muscle.
Snowbird was a half human, half of magical origins, young woman who could fly and shape shift, taking such forms as that of a great owl and other creatures native to her country. She was attuned to Canada’s land itself and could sense disturbances that threatened her homeland.
The brother and sister duo of Northstar and Aurora were speedsters with heightened reflexes and the ability to fly at incredible speeds. When they touched, they generated a super bright, blinding blast of light.
Puck, one of the team’s oddest members, was a midget. Both a skilled soldier and an acrobat, he carried imprisoned within his body the spirit of a very evil and powerful demon. The demon’s presence slowed Puck’s aging and made him nearly immortal.
Shaman was a descendant of a great medicine man. He was both a real world doctor and a talented magic user who was devoted to healing. His true power came from an ancient medical pouch he carried which helped him cast his spells. The pouch had vast powers of its own, and even could serve as an extra-dimensional prison .
And lastly, Marina, a woman of alien origin who could breath underwater. She could control water to a limited degree and possessed a small amount of superhuman strength.
The team’s roster changed over the years but it is the original characters that fans remember. Of the later Alpha Flight characters, Box, a super strong robot, Jeffery Madison, a mutant with the ability to manipulate machines, and Diamond Lil, an invulnerable woman who was originally an villain but reformed to join the team were the popular ones. The storylines were often quirky, fun, and different from those of the mainstream Marvel books like the Avengers and it was a title Marvel wasn’t afraid to take chances with during its run. Alpha Flight became a “cult audience” book, much like DC’s Legion of Superheroes, with a small loyal and devoted fan base who loved the team even if other comic fans mocked them for doing so. The title lasted eleven years finally seeing cancellation in 1994 and though Marvel has tried several times to bring the book back, each revamp has failed because of low sales. Marvel has now began to release collected volumes of Byrne’s early issues.
Alpha Flight is considered by many to be part of the X-men family and has often fought alongside the ragtag team of mutants against the likes such powerful villains as Loki. Alpha Flight was even featured in the “Repo Man” episode of the X-men cartoon in a retelling of their first encounter with the X-men. The team, like many of Marvel’s more popular characters, has also been reborn and rebooted in Marvel’s alternate “Ultimate” universe.
As to the original characters themselves, they met a rather unfitting and sad end, going out with a whimper in the pages of the New Avengers issue 16. In that issue, Alpha Flight faced off against a being known as the Collective who was rampaging across their country. The New Avengers stopped it, but only after it had murdered Canada’s superheroes. The bulk of the team was slaughtered in seconds. Only Sasquatch survived to carry on the fight to defend Canada.
In the wake of the superhuman registration act civil war, many villains were fleeing the United States for Canada. Sasquatch sought out the help of Shaman’s daughter, Talisman, and formed a new version of Alpha Flight, calling the new team Omega Flight. Its membership consisted of U.S. Agent (a more militant version of Captain America with low grade superhuman strength) and Arachane (a new version of Spider-woman, who could produce psychic webbing). Both of whom were on loan from the US government. The team also included a man named Michael Pointer, who wears a containment suit that looks much like the original Guardian’s and houses the left over power of the Collective in his body, and, and an alien version of Thor known as Beta Ray Bill. This new team of misfits was born in the four issue mini-series titled Omega Flight in 2007 and are still active in the Marvel Universe today, however is highly unlikely we will see an ongoing Omega Flight series from Marvel in the near future.
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