Alpha Flight (1st series) #14

Issue Date: 
September 1984
Story Title: 
Biology Class

John Byrne (writer, artist), Michael Higgins (letters), Andy Yanchus (colors), Denny O’Neil (editor), Jim Shooter (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Snowbird and Shaman meet, where he warns the Goddess not to overexert herself after her near death experience, and unknown to either of them, Snowbird’s family, the ancient Gods of the North are not happy with her as another of the Great Beast escapes from banishment. Aurora has problems of her own, as when looking into a mirror it appears to her that her Jeanne-Marie persona attacks her, leaving her even more fragile than usual. Meanwhile, Puck and Heather reflect on the recent times and Heather tries to get on with her life after Mac. When a woman cries that something in the water took her baby, Heather instinctively dives Lake Ontario to save it, but when she finds nothing and resurfaces, she is attacked by a creature with tentacles. Judd pulls her out, but she then needs hospitalization. Puck meets with an inspector to discuss the case, before the Alphan works out what is going on and calls Marrina, who has just been asked by Namor to be his wife. Marrina meets with Puck and they deduce that another one of Marrina’s race must be out there in the Lake, kidnapping humans and animals alike determined to discover the planet’s dominant lifeform and assume it’s genetic make-up. Elsewhere, archeologist Elizabeth Twoyoungmen unearths at a dig site an ancient spirit, that she knows can only be laid to rest with the help of her father, Shaman, a man she hates.

Full Summary: 

“…there’s the land, have you seen it? It’s the cussedest land that I know. From the big, dizzy mountains to the deathlike valley’s below. Some say God was tired when he made, some say it’s a fine land to shun. Maybe. But there’s some as would trade it for no land on earth, and I’m one” – Robert Service, The Spell of the Yukon.

Snowbird is returning home. The beautiful goddess lands, and she feels the radiant power of the North flow up to her, reach her like warm enfolding arms, and protect her. Not long ago, it seemed like she may never again tread the rolling tundra of her homeland. The goddess rests against a large rock and lets the life force of the land flow into her pure soul. Snowbird believed herself to be immortal, though six weeks ago she felt the touch of death upon her and saw her true mortality. And it frightened her.

Narya turns around when she hears her name called, it is Michael Twoyoungmen, Shaman. The medicine man walks over to her and tells her that she should not tax herself yet, as she has not fully recovered from the events in New York. He warns Narya that she may never fully recover. Narya looks innocently at Shaman and tells him that she is a creature of the clouds, and asks him if he would deny her flight, or the otter the ability to swim, the caribou the ability to run. Shaman tells Narya that he would if their doing so presented a threat to their well being. He reminds Snowbird that she is human too, and she has frailties that she must consider.

Snowbird turns away from him and looking out at the beautiful, sprawling land before her she tells Twoyoungmen that he is a hard master, but she also senses the value in his words. She tells him she will obey. Michael tells Narya that it is not a question of obedience to him, or anyone else, but a question of common sense. He reminds her that he is the medicine chief of the Sarcee tribe, and he knows the old ways better than she. He adds that while Snowbird may have the wisdom of the gods, she lacks the life experience to make that wisdom serve her. Snowbird remains with her back to Shaman and he sits down. He tells Narya that her form is of a woman, but it has been less than six years since he plucked her from the nether-world, a mere babe. He tells her that there is a richness to life that she has not even begun to suspect. He tells her not to deny herself of this fullness. Narya says nothing, until she simply says ‘Perhaps’, and taking flight to the pink sky, says ‘I shall consider your words, Shaman’. Twoyoungmen fares her well, and adds that the time has come for he to return to his people.

Twoyoungmen reaches into his pouch, and draws out a handful of colored powders. He flings them into the air, and as they fall upon him, he is gone, whisked away across many, many miles. It is because of that, that Shaman does not notice the small stain that appears and marks the stone where Snowbird leaned upon to gather herself. The stain spreads, darkening against the rocks, until it splits like a wound, festered, rotting flesh and drips black bile. From beyond this realm of mortals, a cry is heard, faint and far away…the Ancient Gods are not pleased with their daughter…

Thousands of miles away, where three man-made islands jut into the Great Lakes, Toronto, Ontario Place to be exact, the home of the worlds largest curved cinema screen, and it is a fast growing entertainment center for Canada’s largest city. Heather McNeil Hudson and Eugene Milton Judd are just two of the many patrons at Ontario Place today, but unlike the many other patrons, Heather and Judd are no just “any old” people, but the wife of the late Guardian, Canada’s premiere super hero, and Puck, of Guardian’s team of heroes, Alpha Flight. Heather tells Judd she is glad he persuaded her into joining him her, even though this place isn’t a cure, at least it is a tonic. Judd tells Heather he is glad to hear she is enjoying herself and pointing, tells her the restaurant he mentioned is over there. Heather is at loose ends, and despite doing the best she can to pull together the shattered pieces of her life, the going has not been easy.

Already deep in conversation, Heather mentions that she has a few thousand in savings, but it wouldn’t be enough to last out the year. She thinks that it has been ten years since she went job hunting last. Puck tries to comfort her, telling her not to worry about it, and tells her life is a lot easier if you take it one day at a time. Heather picks up her cup of tea and tells her friend that unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way for everyone. She tells him that she was raised to always plan ahead, to always have everything accounted for, and that it is not easy to become a free spirit after all these years, especially under these circumstances she adds. Judd asks Heather how old she is and tells her she is talking as if she is locked into patterns that would take a lifetime to build, a much longer lifetime than you have had time to build he adds.

Puck tells Heather he understands what she is going through, perhaps better than she would think, and he adds that she will never hear a truer word from him than when he tells her that her options are endless. Heather seems to perk up a little bit, and smiles, telling Judd that hearing him say that reminds her of something she said to Mac not long after they first met. Heather recalls that Mac was moping around ready to “fall on his sword” over the mess he had got himself into, but she pulled him out of it, and when he got his life together, he went on to become Guardian, leader of Alpha Flight! Heather folds her arms on the restaurant table and looks down, saying that if he never did that, he would still be alive….

Judd tells her not to think that way, and reminds her he has been all over the world, seen things others have never dreamed of, and learned that everyone has a time, which in all their years, can not do a thing to change. Judd starts to comment on Heather saying that Mac was leader, while Judd seemed to think otherwise, when suddenly, a loud scream is heard from nearby the restaurant. Heather leaps up from her chair and wonders what is going on, and Judd thinks that it is a woman screaming, and not a “good time” scream either. Judd announces that someone is in trouble and tells Heather to stay where she is. Following Judd out of the restaurant, Heather says ‘Not likely’ and adds that she wants to know what is going on, Judd agrees, but tells Heather to stay out of harms way.

Near the lake, strangers who were only out for a good time all become a crowd of people gathering for a look at what is going on, the sudden scream bonded them. Judd pushes through the crowd, and someone gets mad at him asking who he is shoving. While the crowd formed a half circle around the edge of the lake, Judd stands separate from them, and approaches the woman trembling beside the water.

Judd carefully asks her what is wrong, and if she is all right, but the woman just shakes, stares at the water and repeats ‘No No No No No’ over and over again. Judd grabs her by the shoulders and snaps her out of it, trying to calm her down, he asks her again what happened. The woman cries for her baby, and proclaims that something in the water took her baby. She says that she was just walking by with her baby, Timmy, in his stroller…the woman kneels to the ground and puts her hands over her head, repeating ‘No’ over and over again.

Puck looks into the deep and dark waters of Lake Ontario, but he sees nothing, and thinks that it is impossible to tell if there is anything down there, but realizes he must do something. Heather has managed to push her way through the crowd of on-lookers, and realizes what Judd has planned. She runs towards her diminutive friend and pulls of her glasses, shoes and sweater, and tells Judd to stop, as he knows he cannot swim. She tells Judd to look after the girl and dives headfirst into the icy waters of Lake Ontario. Judd has no time to react, as Heather is a sudden blur across his vision. He looks helplessly at the water, thinking how afraid he is that Heather holds herself responsible for Mac’s death, and her guilt is unfounded, but she is likely to do something reckless to atone for it.

Two dozen feet below in the water, guilt is the last thing on Heather McNeil Hudson’s mind as she swims deeper and deeper in the dark water. She tells herself to put those lessons she had all those years ago at the “Y” to good use, or else there could be a double drowning. There is more than a simple chill around Heather now, and she thinks how odd it feels down in the water. Suddenly, Heather sees the stroller, and swims over to where it is tangled in some weeds. Heather tugs at the pushchair and cannot see the baby, but deduces that by the look of the seat-belts, the plastic seems to have been ripped right through, as if something just yanked the baby out of the seat, without undoing the belt. Heather thinks that whoever – or whatever – it was must have been very strong and in a hurry. She continues pulling at the stroller, and realizes that she needs some fresh air. She thinks that she should really bring the stroller up with her, but it is too much stuck in the weeds and mud.

Heather decides to give the pram one last tug before she goes back up for air, but while doing so, something resembling a tentacle creeps from behind, and brushes across Heather’s foot. She turns around and her eyes open wide, and bubbles poor from her mouth before she pushes herself up in the water, the tentacles flailing behind her…and she appears above the water, gasping for air, and terribly afraid. Judd rushes over to her and reaches his arm out to hers, asking her what was down there. Heather pleads to Judd not to ask, just to get her out of the water, but while doing so, the tentacles wind themselves around Heather Hudson’s right leg, and her face shows an even greater fear as she is pulled back under the water. Judd grabs hold of her when she comes back up, and pulls her out of the lake, Heather screaming as she leaves the foaming mass of bubbles on the dark water.

Exhausted and wounded, Heather lays on the concrete, water drips from her body and Judd tends to her. He sees that her legs have been ripped to shreds, as if somebody attacked her with one hundred razor blades. Judd calls to Heather, asking her if she can hear him, but her only response is ‘Mac…? Is that you…?’

Soon, a police officer breaks through the crowd, and asks Judd what is going on. Judd tells the officer to calm down, and introduces himself as Puck of Alpha Flight, adding that he has a ‘G-Niner’ clearance with all national forces. Motioning to the woman behind him and Heather, he says that Heather needs immediate hospitalization, and the other is in trauma. He adds that it is a code-red, that they need an ambulance and additional men here, and that they need to close the dock off. Dramatically, Judd announces that there is something nasty in the lake, and no one is going to be safe until something is done about it! The bubbles on the water have gone, and the ripples subside, but the sound above the water means nothing to the creature below. It returns to the deeps, to consider; to study and to grow.

Meanwhile, across the nation it is still early morning in British Columbia, and as the great city of Vancouver prepares itself for another beautiful day, in one of the luxury apartments near False Creek, a day that will prove most atypical for one woman in particular. Steam billows from the bathroom of Walter Langkowski, sometimes known as the great Sasquatch of Alpha Flight, though it is not he in the shower, but his lover, Aurora…. The young mutant grabs her towel and thinks that it is a pity Walter had to leave so early today. Aurora dries herself and wishes that Walter were here to play hooky with her and show her some more of his beautiful city. In her usual forward tone of voice she thinks that it is not Montreal, but it has its charms. Aurora blow-dries her hair and thinks that Walter hasn’t adjusted to her staying with him, however, Aurora has no idea how un-adjusted things are truly going to get, nor that today she stands at the edge of an abyss.

The carefree young woman smiles as she wipes the mirror, though staring back at her, is a reflection of herself, but not quite…and Aurora becomes frightened as a less flattering version of herself, dowdy and meek, smashes against the glass, crying to be let out. But it is not really happening, nor is the hands of Jeanne-Marie reach out to attack Aurora through the mirror, and the harsh cries of Aurora’s other self do not really fill the suddenly chill air. But Aurora does not know that, for her, this is all very real, horribly real, and she falls to the bathroom floor, only her towel to cover her as she shakes from the fear. She can feel her tenuous grip on sanity weaken, and beneath Aurora, the abyss yawns wide.

Back in Toronto, at the gleaming tower that is the Bethume Memorial Hospital in the heart of city, Judd puts down a copy of Time magazine and asks the doctor how Heather is. The doctor walks out of Heather’s room and tells Eugene Judd that she is very lucky, as there was a lot of damage, but their doesn’t appear to be any tissue loss. She adds that Heather will not be posing for any L’Eggs commercials for a while, but she will be able to walk again, with minimal scarring. Judd does not hide his relief and asks when he can see her. The doctor tells him that he can go in now, but not to stay too long as she needs her sleep.

Judd opens the door to Heather’s ward and holds her hand when he reaches her bed. Heather greets him and tells him she thinks she made a mess of herself. She says that the “hero business” is a lot tougher than she thought. Judd comforts her, telling her that she did well, considering the circumstances, he adds that he doubts anyone else from Alpha Flight could have done better. Judd fixes his eyes at Heather, not looking away she is so drawn and pale without make-up, and the tunnel that holds the blanket off her legs is like a bloated worm on the edge of his vision. Heather tells Judd that he is a sweetheart for saying so, but she disagrees. She mentions the “thing” in the lake, and asks him what it is, and whether anything is being done. Judd tells Heather that the police wanted to debrief him on it, but he wanted to see her first. He tells Heather that he has an appointment with Inspector MacMurray soon, and asks Heather to tell him all she can. And Heather does, slowly, halting sometimes even stumbling, searching for words to describe the indescribable, but she tells it all.

(two and a half-hours later)

Judd is in Inspector MacMurray’s office, and has just finished telling the Inspector his story, and Heathers’ account of what happened beneath the water, before he asks the Inspector what he thinks of the situation. The Inspector tells Judd that he is packing a lot of questions, and asks him how a string of killings that make Jack the Ripper look like Strawberry Shortcake sounds. Being serious, the Inspector tells Judd that there have been sixteen murders in ten months, and they are only the ones that are accounted for, as no one knows how many else have gone missing. ‘Sixteen’? Judd asks, before asking how they have kept it out of the papers. The Inspector pulls down a wall chart of the sixteen missing persons and in answer to Judd’s question, says that he uses prayer and favors he wishes he still had afterwards to keep it out of the papers. He motions Judd to the chart and tells him that there are sixteen people, all with nothing in common. ‘Except that they are all dead…and they all died on or near open water eh?’ says Puck, before adding that just like Timmy Rodgers and almost Heather Hudson.

He asks the Inspector what the condition of the bodies was. The Inspector tells Judd not to ask and asks him if he remembers the scene from Jaws where Richard Dreyfus goes to examine the first shark attack victim and the doctor pulls out a tub the size of a pizza box. He says that their medical examiner had even less to show him than that, but he had something to say though, and told him what he was looking at. That the victim had been radically dissected with no major organs left intact, bone fragments scrapped clean of marrow, damage even down to a cellular level. The Medical Examiner added that the presence of white blood corpuscles at certain incisions indicated the victim was still alive when the process took place. The inspector tells Judd that while the Examiner have a professional reading, he could tell he was on the verge of losing his lunch.

He proclaims to Puck that he has been on the force for eighteen years and he as never seen anything like it, though he adds that if he believed in such things, he would say it was the work of a vampire! Matter-of-factly, Judd tells the Inspector that such things exist, or they did until recently, and he says that he heard along the grapevine that something big and of permanent nature happened to them all. Judd tells the Inspector that it is not a vampire they are after, and from Heather’s description, he says that it doesn’t seem like any supernatural thing either. Judd says he is more inclined to think it is “not of this Earth”. The Inspector asks Judd if he is talking about an alien invasion, and tells him that this is Canada, that they don’t get much traffic in the way of flying saucers. But Judd isn’t talking about UFO’s, but something real, and he tells Inspector MacMurray that it happened some time ago, and has a direct link to Alpha Flight! The Inspector tells Judd he is being very cryptic and asks if he would like to elaborate. Judd tells the Inspector that he doesn’t know if he can, but that he knows what must be done.

The official motto of Canada is Ad Mari Usque Ad Mare, which was adopted when British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871, creating a nation, which stretched from “Sea to Sea”. One of those “seas” is the sprawling Atlantic Ocean. Far beneath those ever-rolling waves lives another nation - the fabled land of Atlantis! In technology and culture, this race of Homo Mermanus equals, and sometimes surpasses its surface dwelling cousins, their race a proud and ancient one, ruled by one man…Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner.

With a touch of excitement in his voice, Namor asks how much longer he has to wait. Not keeping him waiting much longer, the mysterious woman known as Marrina walks from her dressing room into his sight, and he tells her it was worth the wait. Marrina tells Namor that his royal tailors did a beautiful job of re-working her costume, though she tells him she is not sure why the modification was so insisted upon. Namor pulls Marrina over to himself and tells her that her old garments suited her role as a member of Alpha Flight, but lacked the elegance to a consort of the realm. Marrina looks stunned and stutters as she asks him if he is saying he wants her to be his consort. Namor tells her that he is king of Atlantis, but a king without a queen is a lonely man. He proclaims to Marrina that he has chosen her as his queen.

Before Marrina gets a true grasp on what has just been proposed to her, her Alpha Flight signal goes off. She tells Namor that she is needed and as she starts to leave the room, tells him to forgive her but it has been months since she was needed. She tells him that she must go to Alpha Flight. Namor tells Marrina to wait, that he will go with her, as the matter is too urgent to leave unresolved. However, just as Namor is leaving the room too, an assistant of his called Ramin comes in and tells Namor that Lord Dara is returning from the surface world. Namor tells Ramin not to bother him with bureaucratic details as he has more important matters to deal with. Ramin gives Namor one thousand pardons, and tells him that he thought the negotiations concerning the entry of Atlantis into the United Nations was of most importance. Namor fists his hands and thinks that Ramin is right, but that the business of peacetime government bores him. Namor asks Ramin to tell Lord Dara his will confer with him when he returns, but matter of the state do not concern him now, only matters of the heart, and he begins to track Marrina’s course over the miles.

(a few hours later)

Puck is sitting on a dock and tells himself that if Marrina responded immediately to the signal she should arrive right about now, and as if on-cue, Marrina emerges from the water. Judd welcomes Marrina and the surprised young woman tells him she did not expect to see him after what happened last time they met. Judd tells Marrina that he does not carry grudges, and tells her that he has a case that needs her special powers. Marrina tells Judd he is a good friend and asks him what is happening.

Quickly and concisely, Judd tells the aquatic girl what has transpired, adding that things such as cars and trucks, a well as birds, cats and dogs have also been linked to the mysterious disappearances. He tells Marrina that he was beginning to see a pattern forming, and it made him think of her and what they know of her origins. Hugging herself Marrina tells Puck that she thinks she understands – that she wears the form and functions of a human female because her cellular structure matrix first came in contact with Gladys Smallwood, that if she had not received that “programming” she may have taken on the form of something different. But the compulsions of Marrina’s genetic memory was for her to seek out and imitate the dominant life form of this world. Marrina says that the in-born compulsion was destroyed when her mother, Gladys Smallwood, forced open her egg prematurely.

Marrina starts to drift off, wondering what happened if another of her race survived somewhere out in the waters. Marrina sits down on the dock, and Judd tells her she has grasped his theory, and reminds Marrina that forty thousand years ago, she was only one of millions on the ship that crashed landed waiting to be programmed with the genetic code of Earth’s dominant life form. He reminds her that something went wrong, that the pods were launched prematurely, and that they had thought most of the eggs destroyed over the centuries, but maybe not. Marrina agrees with Judd, after all, if she survived, why not another? Judd tells Marrina that they are lucky with her, because of the damage to her genetic memory, she grew up almost human, full of compassion and love. Marrina’s eyes widen and her mouth gapes open, telling Puck that they know her race is a savage one, only intent on seizing worlds and destroying life which is not their own.

Judd tells Marrina that if they are guessing correctly, one of her people is out in the water somewhere now. But, he adds, it is beneath the waters and doesn’t know what it is supposed to be, as the ship that housed the programming was destroyed. Marrina thinks that it has been conducting its own “biology class” to figure out what it is supposed to be. She puts her hands over her face and sobs. Judd tells her to hang on, as Alpha Flight needs her now more than ever, as she is the only one who can help deal with that thing – the only one who can help destroy it!

Meanwhile, in Calgary, Alberta, near the Canadian Rockies, a city torn between its rural backgrounds and its struggles in the harsh realities of the twentieth century. It is also a city of reason, and this year marks the anniversary of its founding. On the banks of the Bow River, delicate work continues in the slow unearthing of the remains of Fort Calgary. Students, Amateurs and professionals band together in this project, drawing from the earth the pieces that form the jigsaw puzzle of history. Just beyond where the Eastern wall of the fort once was, working apart from the others on a small patch of land she has staked for herself, is a student named Elizabeth Twoyoungmen. The pretty girl smiles as she finds something strange in the dirt and carefully tries to unearth it. As the dirt is brushed away, Elizabeth thinks to herself that it doesn’t look like an artifact, and she is shocked when the dirt reveals a skull, even more so that it is a white man‘s skull.

Suddenly, the skull appears to jump out at her, shrieking “Revenge” before it disappears. Elizabeth is stunned, even a little scared and doesn’t think anybody else saw it. She knows it was real though, and fears that she has let loose a vengeful ghost. She knows it has to be laid to rest again, but there is only one man who could do such a thing, and he is a man she hasn’t seen in fifteen years... Michael Twoyoungmen, her father!

Characters Involved: 

Aurora, Marrina, Puck, Shaman, Snowbird (all Alpha Flight)

Heather McNeil Hudson

Elizabeth Twoyoungmen


Ramin, assistant of Namor’s

Inspector MacMurray

Police officers

Medical examiner

Doctor at Bethume Memorial hospital

Woman whose baby is kidnapped

Local people at restaurant and lakeside

Marrina’s Plodex mate

Ranaq (Great Beasts)

Story Notes: 

When Alpha Flight battled Omega Flight in New York [Alpha Flight (first series) #12] Snowbird nearly died, and it was revealed that Narya would weaken and die upon leaving Canada, as Shaman magically bound her too strongly to the land when she was born. [Alpha Flight (first series) #7 back-up story]

Heather and Mac’s meeting occurred in the back-up story of Alpha Flight (first series) #2, she helped him out of his problems in #3, they married in Alpha Flight: Flashback, and Mac was apparently killed in Alpha Flight (first series) #12.

Jack the Ripper was a notorious killer of prostitutes in 19th Century England, two recent movies about him include From Hell Starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, and the lesser known film Ripper: Letter From Hell .

Strawberry Shortcake was a 1980’s cartoon about Strawberry Shortcake and her friends, also named after similar sweets. Additionally, Marvel (under the labeling “Star Comics”) also produced a comic book of her.

Jaws is a cult-classic movie about a killer shark, directed by Steven Spielberg, spanning three sequels and an overwhelming fear of the water.

When talking about vampires, Puck is referring to their then destruction at the hands of Doctor Strange.

Namor and Marrina first met in Alpha Flight (first series) #3-4 when Namor and the Invisible Woman aided Alpha Flight against the Master of the World. Following the Master’s defeat, Marrina accompanied Namor back to Atlantis.

Marrina did not take part in the battle against Omega Flight in New York because she was busy with Namor and did not hear her signal go off when she was called. [Alpha Flight (first series) #12]

Marrina was responding to an uncontrollable urge and in fleeing Alpha Flight she disemboweled Judd on the way [Alpha Flight (first series) #2]

Parts of Marrina’s origin were shown in Alpha Flight (first series) #2-3.

First appearance of Elizabeth Twoyoungmen as an adult, she first appeared as a child in Shaman’s origin story. [Alpha Flight (first series) #5] After Shaman promised his young daughter Elizabeth to save her dying mother and failed, Elizabeth told him she hates him and was raised by the McNeil family (Heather’s parents). Shaman and Elizabeth have not seen each other since.

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