TITLE: Marvel Comics vol. 1, Issue #12
YEAR: July 1984
COMPANY: Marvel Comics
Creator/Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Letterer by Michael Higgins
Colorist: Andy Yanchus
Editor: Denny O’Neill
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
John Byrne has established himself as a legend in the comic book industry with his wonderful work for “The Uncanny X-Men”, The Sensational She-Hulk”, “The Fantastic Four”, “Wonder Woman”, “Superman” and the “Incredible Hulk”. But also, for his creator-owned work on “Next Men”, “Babe” and “Danger Unlimited”.
In fact, if you were to read a John Byrne comic book, you won’t be disappointed. It’s one of the reasons why his books are considered as keepers or must-find comic books.
But there was one title during the ’80s that John Byrne worked on as writer/artist for Marvel Comics that no one knew what to expect and that was working on the Canadian superhero group, Alpha Flight.
Unlike other titles where characters were well-established, unless one read “X-Men”, especially issue #120 (April 1979).
It was a series that John Byrne was reluctant to work on and it was a series he didn’t have much fun working on, despite working on it for the first 28 issues.
But one thing was for sure, “Alpha Flight” was popular, with its first issue selling over 500,000 copies and while the series received criticism for not being focused as a team when compared to “The Avengers” or “X-Men”, because of John Byrne’s involvement with the series, he made the comic book worth reading and the characters would eventually grow on readers.
If anything, the series earlier on dealt with character dynamics. Featuring a few characters at a time and for the most part, the series was entertaining but not too complex.
So, surprisingly, readers were not prepared what John Byrne had planned for issue #12.
DON’T READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! SPOILER ALERT!!!!
The series began with Heather Hudson being taken to an undisclosed location near the World Trade Center in New York City by a woman named Delphine Courtney.
Demanding to see her husband, Delphine tells her to watch the television and she sees Jerry Jaxon, a man who formerly worked with James Hudson.
He goes on to say in the video that he was betrayed and how the suit that James Macdonald Hudson created was stolen and he was fired from their company because of it. And how Am-Can, a company he had dedicated 18 years of his life disrespected him. [Note: Hudson who worked as the leading petrochemical engineer and scientist for the Am-Can Corporation developed the powered exoskeleton suit and when he found out that it would be used for American military purposes, he raided his workplace ands tole the prototype suit and destroyed the plans. While he left the suit to be found, it could not be controlled without the helmet.
To make matters worse, the airline ticket back to Canada wouldn’t work and when he arrived back home from America to Canada, his wife left with the children and now was unemployed. He was destitute, broke and had no prospects that he wanted to kill himself. So, he attempted suicide by trying to hang himself. While the landlady found him before he was to die and was rescued, because of the lack of air to his brain, it caused brain damage and he was never able to walk again.
While the Guardian made his first appearance in Canada and becoming the first superhero for the country, he noticed that the Guardian’s battlesuit was similar to the suit that James Hudson created and when he went to to do research, he uncovered Guardian’s government connection to the Ministry of Defense and when he called the Ministry in Ottawa, James Hudson answered the phone.
Immediately, he went to Roxxon with this information, met Delphine Courtney, who became her legs.
He would then mirror what James Hudson did and created Omega Flight for one purpose, the death of James Hudson and the destruction of Alpha flight.
As Heather tries to escape, she is thrown back by Delphine and when Heather tries to fight her, she tears her face which appears to be a mask.
Meanwhile, Shaman and Snowbird send a distress call to the other Alpha Flight members but because of the problems between Jeanne-Marie and her brother, they are not talking. And as Jeanne-Marie (Aurora) is spending time with Walter (Sasquatch), Northstar goes to retrieve Puck. And when they arrive, Northstar tries to apologize to his sister but Sasquatch interferes and tells him to lay off his sister and it ends up causing a fight between both men, which Aurora and Puck get involved, forcing Shaman and Snowbird to get involved.
As hostilities end, Shaman takes everyone to the action where Guardian is seen fighting against Omega Flight. And a battle ensues between both groups. Meanwhile, James (Guardian) fights against Box which leaves his cybernetic uniform damaged and about to blow. With ten seconds to disconnect the power pack from his suit, for some reason, the disarming of the power pack is not working. And when Heather walks and sees her husband, he tries to warn her to get away and sure enough….BOOM!
Words could not describe how shocked to see ol’ Mac obliterated in such a way.
Guardian was such a popular character in “Alpha Flight” that I had no reason to believe a major member would die and sure enough, John Byrne shocked everyone by killing off Guardian.
Of course, sticking to the Marvel Comics “if you didn’t see the body, then they are not dead” theme, the real Guardian would come back many, many years later. But still, what a way to surprise your readers by killing off the leader of Alpha Flight.