Alpha Flight (1st series) #18

Issue Date: 
January 1985
Story Title: 
How Long Will A Man Lie In The Earth ‘Ere He Rot?

John Byrne (Writer and Penciler), Bob Wiacek, Andy Yanchus (Colorist), Rick Parker (Letterer), Linda Grant (Assistant Editor), Denny O’Neil (Editor), Jim Shooter (Editor-in-Chief).

Brief Description: 

After being reunited with his estranged daughter, Shaman examines the skull she found. While they discuss their current situation, a young woman called Emily Stang tries to convince her great-grandfather not to end his life and to build up a relationship with her. Despite the old mans best efforts, he eventually agrees. Emily proceeds to make scrambled eggs, which quickly increase in mass and take over the kitchen. Elizabeth tells Shaman that she is going to accompany him to the Stang’s house after the police are informed of the situation, despite his wishes. Upon arriving at the Stang household, Shaman quickly battles the killer scrambled eggs, before severing the ectoplasmic boundaries. However they realize this is a diversion, and upon finding Lucas Stang, Shaman learns he has a deadly secret. Suddenly, Emily is possessed by Ranaq, one of the Great Beasts, and with Shaman momentarily incapacitated, Emily attacks Elizabeth – until using latent powers, Elizabeth manages to fight back, and with Shamans’ help, Ranaq is purged from the young woman. The Stangs are returned to normal and all seems to be over, however as Shaman informs Elizabeth, the “adventure” is not over as they have to go into the past to find out why Ranaq was here in the first place.
Heather Hudson decides that as leader of Alpha Flight she is going to have to get the team a more stable footing, and that they need a headquarters. She starts to call up everyone to see who is still interested in being part of the team and when she calls Northstar, she gets rudely hung-up on. Trying to call Shaman, she learns from his receptionist that he had not been at his office for two days after leaving with a stroppy young woman. Meanwhile, Snowbird meets with Doug Thompson, and she admits that she loves him, but she cannot be with him, and she shows him her True Fires!

Full Summary: 

Toronto, where Heather Hudson is in the bedroom of the boarding house she is currently staying at, and holding up one of her dead husbands spare costumes to her own body. Eugene Milton Judd, the diminutive Alphan known as Puck walks in and is shocked to see the symbolic costume up against one of his closest friends. Heather smiles and greets Judd, noticing the McDonalds in his hands she mocks him for adding to the corporation’s gross yearly income. Judd blushes before telling Heather not to mind that, and asks her if that is one of Mac’s spare battle suits and if she is thinking of doing what he thinks she is doing.

Heather frowns a bit before putting the costume down and telling Judd that it is only a spare costume that Mac wore over his actual battle suit, adding that the suit itself was destroyed when Mac was killed. Heather sits down on the floor with Judd and begins eating the fast-food with him, informing Judd that the spare costume had been in her suitcase, and that she just found it a few minutes ago whilst unpacking. She adds that she doesn’t really know what she was doing with it, perhaps just remembering Mac though.

Judd tells Heather that she needs to be careful of those kinds of memories, before informing her of how glad he is that she has accepted the position of Alpha Flight’s leader. He adds that he thinks her contribution to the group will be more than just ‘putting on a union suit and playing super hero’ especially as that may end her back up in hospital. Heather looks slightly forlorn as she realizes what Judd is hinting at, but in reply she tells him that she is not going to shrivel up every time someone mentions that to her. She adds that while it will be a long time before she can fully accept Mac’s death, she can at least acknowledge it, without letting it destroy her.

Judd grins and tells Heather that that was exactly what he – and the rest of Alpha Flight – wanted to hear. Judd informs Heather that he always works best when he has a game plan, and asks her what she wants to do first. Burger in one hand, she grabs the phone with the other hand, deciding that for Alpha to survive as a group they need to become more centralized. She mentions how the Avengers and Fantastic Four both have headquarters which are meeting points within easy reach for all its members, but Alpha Flight is scattered from one side of Canada to the other. Heather thinks she should call her teammates, starting with the closest – Northstar!

The phone at the posh residence of Jean-Paul Beaubier rings, and a handsome man answers it. He tells Heather that Jean-Paul is in and calls to the powerful Alphan who is currently swimming in the pool. The super fast mutant picks up the phone within seconds and after Heather asks him to forgive her high school French, she informs him she has something very important to discuss with him.

Slightly surprised, Jean-Paul asks Heather why she even thinks he would be interested in Alpha Flight regrouping, adding that since his sister Aurora has terminated their partnership he has no further motivation for continuing his association with Alpha. With that, he bids Heather a good day, before hanging up on her – much to Heather’s annoyance. Judd tells Heather it was no great loss Northstar not rejoining, for as long as the have his sister, they don’t need him. Heather says she just hopes that that wasn’t a bad omen, before ringing Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen, a.k.a. Shaman, at his medical center on the Sarcee Reservation in Calgary Alberta.

The receptionist answers the phone, and informs Heather that Dr. Twoyoungmen is not in the office, but offers to take a message. Heather asks when Michael will be back, but the woman responds that she honestly doesn’t know, for he left in quite a rush two days ago, with a young woman who just barged into his office. The receptionists tells Heather that the young woman was very rude and wouldn't listen to her when she told her that Dr. Twoyoungmen was with a patient, but she just walked in demanding to see someone called “Shaman”. Heather and Puck just stare into the receiver, uncertain of what to make of this strange revelation.

Meanwhile, the man in question, Dr. Twoyoungmen has accompanied his long estranged daughter to the dig site, the original Fort Calgary, where special restorations are under way that led Elizabeth to seek out her father, a man she hates very much. Dressed as Shaman, Twoyoungmen kneels over the skull that the apparition sprang from some days earlier and a police inspector asks him what the story is. Shaman informs the inspector that he senses residual spirit energies in the skull, and that what ‘Miss Twoyoungmen’ has unearthed is clearly a focus of great anger, perhaps even evil. Which either, Shaman adds, something was definitely unleashed when the skull was uncovered.

Walking back to his car, the inspector informs Shaman that he was not around when Alpha Flight fought the X-Men a little while back, but from what the chief says, Alpha Flight established their credentials, so he is going to take whatever Shaman says as gospel. The inspector proclaims that he does not understand why Miss Twoyoungmen saw the outburst, and that none of the other fifty people on the site saw anything at all. Shaman thinks to himself that the inspector is very perceptive, and decides to speak carefully, or else he may sift from his words more than what he wishes the inspector to know. Shaman knows that Elizabeth saw the manifestation for the same reasons she has proven to see through the masking spell he uses to disguise his true identity. Elizabeth is after all his daughter, and the blood of an unbroken line of forty generations of Sarcee shamans flows in her veins.

Shaman tells the inspector that he will need more time before he can answer that question and suggests that for now he takes steps to seal off this area from the public. With the inspector gone, Elizabeth tells her father that his words have the ‘ring of procrastination’ to them, and she asks him why he just didn’t tell the inspector the truth. Turning to his daughter, Shaman asks her if she appreciates the complexity of the question, informing her that the inspector accepts his presence because he has been instructed to do so, but really he is a man of the 20th century and has little patience for magic and mysticism.

Elizabeth admits that not so long ago she would have agreed with the man, but after seeing what she saw, she knows there is nothing in modern science that would be able to explain what she saw. Shaman agrees with Elizabeth before cautioning her to be careful of her new acceptance, for the forces locked in the ground reached out through her, and no one else. Shaman adds that he doubts anyone else could have acted as a bridge like she did. Elizabeth asks her father if he is implying that the spirit has been let loose because she caused it to do so. Shaman tells his daughter that she never caused it to do so, for the cause lies hidden in antiquity, and revealing that problem will be something they must now face. He adds that undoubtedly there was something within Elizabeth which served as the trigger, but something else also, which is missing from the puzzle.

Elsewhere, in a rustic old villa, a stern nurse tells her elderly patient, a man by the name of Lucas Stang, to take his medicine and that if he doesn’t then she will not be held responsible for the outcome. Stang waves his walking stick at the nurse and reminds her that it was his idiot great-granddaughter who hired her, not he. He adds that he is not likely to get much older, so why should he waste time trying to stay alive? Hands on her hips, the nurse tells Stang that there is a contradiction in his sentence, but if he cannot see it then she is not going to bother explaining it to him. Stang tells the nurse to go count her pills and leave him to die in peace.

At that moment, a young blond woman, Stang’s great-granddaughter walks into the room and asks him why he has to say such horrible things, adding that he has years ahead of himself and therefore needs to look after himself. ‘The eternal optimism of youth’ Stang cries before reminding Emily that he is one hundred and seventeen years old and has seen more of life than she has and is tired and not afraid of death. Emily suggests that there is a difference between being unafraid of death and not doing anything to postpone it. She tells her great-grandfather that he is special to her and she doesn’t want him to die.

Stang tells Emily that she keeps saying that, yet one year ago he did not even know she existed. Gruffly he tells her she is not in his will and will not ever be, informing her that she has nothing to gain from being nice to him. Stang asks Emily why she decided to seek him out after knowing all these years how her own father hated him, that he has systematically destroyed everyone he has ever loved. Kneeling at his side, Emily replies that she does not know the answers to those questions, but something told her that he might need someone to love, someone like her, who demands nothing of him, and loves him for what he is, not despite it.

Emily pauses before reminding her great-grandfather that he is her only living relative, as her mother and father are dead and she never had aunts, uncles or cousins. Stang hugs Emily, proclaiming that he must be a rare prize for such a young and pretty girl. He tells Emily that for her sake – and hers alone - he will hold on a little longer to what life he has left, adding that he hopes neither of them will come to regret it. Emily hugs back, telling her great-grandfather that they won’t regret and they can be a real family!

A few minutes later, Emily goes into the kitchen, pleased that her great-grandfather has stopped trying to drive her away, she thinks to herself that she knows he has done horrible things in his past, but deep down she knows there is something good about him. Emily hovers around the oven while she prepares an omelet, and decides that nobody could be as bad as her great-grandfather makes himself out to be. As Emily pulls something from a cupboard she gets the impression that Stang has driven away everyone he loved out of some need to protect them, but she cannot think of the reason why that would be the case.

As the young woman measures some flour at another bench, she fails to notice the stove, where the egg seems to be growing. Emily remembers that her great-grandfather was totally oblivious when she came to work as his cook, she had to know if he was as bad as her mother said he was. Emily recalls that it was only when she revealed her true identity that Stang turned nasty…Emily’s attention is quickly drawn to the stove – where she is shocked to see the foamy egg flowing out of the frying pan!

At the Calgary Police Station, the inspector alerts Shaman and Elizabeth who are milling about in his office to a phone call he just received, in which Lucas Stang’s great-granddaughter informed him that her scrambled eggs attacked her. Nonchalantly, Shaman replies that that was the sort of thing he was expecting, after all, eggs have both the dubious distinction of representing not only new life, but also the promise of life unfulfilled. Shaman asks the inspector to find out everything he can about the family and contact him at the mansion when he does.

As he gets up to leave, Elizabeth tells him that he is not going anywhere without her, as she was in it from the start and wants to see it until the end. Almost calling his daughter by her first name, Shaman stops himself to protect his identity and tells “Miss Twoyoungmen” that he cannot condone her course of action. Especially as he has no idea of the real nature of this manifestation, which is why he has been unable to track it mystically. Michael tells Elizabeth that he cannot allow her to place herself in further danger.

Hands on hips, Elizabeth smugly tells her father that he cannot allow her to tell everyone who he really is either, stating that her mind is made up and he has no choice in this. Pulling something from his medicine pouch, Twoyoungmen tells himself that Elizabeth is right, for he has already tried to cast a spell of silence on her knowledge of his true identity, but it did not effect her for her latent powers are too strong. Shaman complies wit Elizabeth, and as he prepares his teleportation spell, he warns her that she is bound to find the journey ‘a trifle disorientating’.

Meanwhile, sitting on a rock in the crisp air of the Northwest Territories, a lonely man waits. His name is Doug Thompson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and he is waiting for the woman he loves. A white hare comes into view behind Thompson, when suddenly, the hare vanishes, and Snowbird takes its place! ‘Greetings Douglas. Have you been waiting long?’ the powerful goddess asks, startling Doug in the process. Doug doesn’t know whether to call her “Anne” or “Snowbird”, and so changes the subject to the news she told him she had to tell him - ‘something about us!’

Closing her eyes, the serene goddess admits that she has considered in great depth his recent declaration of love for her. Narya proclaims that she fears she cannot return the love, while she wishes she could, she doesn’t have the means to do so. A confused and somewhat surprised Doug asks Snowbird what she is talking about, after all, she is a woman and he is a man, and if she loves him as much as she then that is all that matters. He pauses before saying ‘as for the means’ but Narya cuts him off, until Doug grabs her and tells her that they have the same means men and women have had for millions of years, before grabbing her and kissing her.

Crying ‘No’ Snowbird pulls away, her head spins and her blood seems to boil. She leans against a rock, while pressing her fingers to her lips. For while Snowbird wears the form and holds the intellect of a grown woman, she has lived upon the Earth less than six years, and has never known the loving touch of a man. She is a child of the gods, though her father was a mortal man, and suddenly, that mortal and repressed side of her cries out for release.

Snowbird looks up at Doug Thompson and tells him that he doesn’t know what he is doing, before admitting again that she loves him. Suddenly her form changes, as she proclaims to Doug that she can wear the form of any creature of the Arctic, it is merely a construct – as is this human form. Where the beautiful goddess once stood, now stands a being indescribable – a god. Snowbird tells Doug to look upon her True Fires, and then speak to her of love….

Back in Calgary, Shaman climbs the steps to the front door, while Elizabeth adjusts to the teleportation, almost in disbelief. Shaman calls back that he knew she would find the experience unsettling, before asking her to come as they are expected. Emily Stang opens the door, a little surprised to see Shaman so soon after the police informed her he had only moments ago left. Shaman merely replies that the urgency of the situation called for great haste before asking if the manifestation is still occurring. Letting the Twoyoungmen's into the house, Emily replies that she has been to afraid to go near the kitchen to check, as Elizabeth asks the others if it is cold in here, or if it is just her.

Shaman informs her that cold is common element of manifestations like this, and he discovers that the spirit energies are still present, and still enraged. Opening the door to the kitchen, Shaman proclaims that there is only one way he can deal with such an unknown as this enemy – by confronting the entity directly! Walking into the kitchen, Shaman is met by the egg-monster, Emily’s scrambled eggs! But they are not just scrambled eggs anymore cries Elizabeth as she shuffles Emily out of harms way.

Shaman realizes that the egg creature is replicating itself at an incredible rate, and therefore must be functioning as a dimensional interface, siphoning energy from the spirit plane, and instantly converting the energy into ectoplasmic matter. Drawing something from his medicine pouch, the Alphan quickly throws the energies at the entity, for his primary task is to seal off the interface and halt the growth pattern, for if he doesn’t, the rift could grow to uncontrollable proportions. This could in turn lead the flow of energies to become two-directional, draining life entirely from this plane of existence.

He thinks it is working, as the spell he cast links the rift to the interface within his medicine pouch. Since it is Shaman’s spell, he controls the nature of the energy drawn from the bag – and can make sure that the energy is incompatible with that now crossing the ectoplasmic boundaries. As the medicine man says ‘The result should be quite…explosive’ his words prove true, as a seemingly endless flow of egg billows from the mansion, through the windows and doors and up into the sky.

On the floor of the kitchen, Emily asks what just happened, to which Elizabeth mentions it seemed as if the whole world was blowing up, and yet she didn’t even feel anything. Shaman informs the young women that it was a discharge of pan-dimensional energies, colorful, but harmless. He adds that he had no time to warn them what to expect, before telling Emily that she will find this part of the manifestation has now ended. Walking around the kitchen, Emily sees that it is intact, as if nothing ever happened. Shaman tells her that nothing of a permanent nature did happen, admitting that he himself is still somewhat puzzled as to what happened.

Shaman states that whatever force or intellect was manipulating the scrambled eggs was using up its energies at a phenomenal rate – almost as if it was a diversion…. Emily panics at this, realizing that the real purpose of the mysterious enemy was somewhere else in the mansion – her great-grandfather! Shaman grabs the distraught young woman as he asks her why she never told him someone else was in the house, before telling her to take him to her great-grandfather. Elizabeth stands silently, watching her father, she has never seen her father so forceful and in control, reminding herself that when he failed to save her mothers life she called him weak and has hated him ever since.

As Elizabeth follows Shaman and Emily up the stairs, Elizabeth remembers how she lived with the McNeil family for ten years after her mothers death, and that she had almost managed to forget her father existed at all. That is until she saw a newspaper photo of the man called “Shaman” and she instantly knew who he really was! Emily urges the Twoyoungmen’s on, and as the burst into Stang’s room, the are blinded by a white light that has engulfed the room, save for the old man sitting in a chair. ‘Holy!’ cries Elizabeth, until Shaman tells her that it is not “Holy” at all.

Emily calls to her great-grandfather, and the old man tells her not to interfere, reminding her that he warned her no good would come of this relationship. Stang announces that al his life he has worked to seal himself off from the rest of humanity, guarding against this day he has anticipated for so long. He gets up from his chair and tells Emily that he has waited one hundred years for this moment, waited for it – and feared it. His form can be seen clearer now, his body has transformed somehow and he proclaims that now the moment is here – the evil is coming home to roost!

Stang proclaims that as it was foretold, “they” will strike at him through the ones he loves. He informs the others that he cannot allow that to happen, and while he will die soon, it will be at a time and manner of his own choosing, adding that Emily must go before he does. Shaman raises a hand and tells Stang to ‘hold’ before telling the old man that he doesn’t know what power he has summoned, but he swears he will find a way to counter them. Stang uses his powers to pick Shaman up, informing him that he too must die, and as foretold, the blood of an innocent shall be spilt.

Elizabeth calls to her father, but before going to his aide she turns to Emily, who has seemingly stopped moving, head down, her face is covered by her hair. Cautiously, Elizabeth walks over to her, when she gets closer, she hears a voice ‘ No, not Emily…. Death! Death! Death!’ The young woman’s hair flows back, revealing a monster, and she screams at Elizabeth, telling her to ‘feel her power; and perish! “Emily” unleashes a burst of power on Elizabeth. Trapped in the energy, Elizabeth’s body distorts, the pain is almost turning herself inside out, but for some reason she is not dying, she is resisting it - growing stronger!

Steadying herself, Elizabeth realizes that the shower of power “Emily” is pouring on her is flowing over her, and she feels she can take hold of it and shape it – and return it! And she does, taking hold of the power, Elizabeth pushes it back, and raising her arms in motion with the power, she manages to knock “Emily” back. On the other side of the room, Shaman’s eyes widen in amazement – and alarm. Worried his daughter is glowing, like a newborn star, he realizes her mystical potential has been unleashed. He doesn’t think Elizabeth’s powers are like his own however, as his came through years of learning and training, while Elizabeth’s are more instinctive and seem to be on the level of genetic mutation.

Shaman knows that Elizabeth is unskilled in the use of her powers however, and that Emily has been possessed by Ranaq the Devourer – one of the Seven Great Beasts! Shaman knows that Elizabeth’s counter attack is powerful enough to drive Ranaq out, possibly even destroying him, but not without destroying the host – Emily – as well! He knows he has to intervene, but carefully as the powers around him are raw and almost uncontrollable, and that if he gets his timing wrong, then his actions could not only destroy Elizabeth and Emily, but most of Calgary as well!

Shaman waits as Elizabeth battles Ranaq the Devourer, their powers crackling across the room, reality bends and twists, screaming like a living thing stretched upon the rack. Seizing the moment, Shaman pulls from his medicine pouch a handful of baubles and throws them at the possessed Emily Stang. The drift almost lazily across the chamber, unseen by the Beast until it is too late, and as they hit Ranaq, there is a single moment where the universe itself seems to blink out of existence.

Shortly, the mansion around them nearly all destroyed, Shaman asks his daughter if she is all right, she replies that she is before asking after Emily. Shaman checks the young woman and replies that she is herself again, adding that Ranaq is gone, possibly even destroyed as he can see no trace of the Beasts’ presence in the ether. Shaman tends to Lucas Stang, for he too is alive, though nearly catatonic. Shaman tells Elizabeth that they have won an incredible victory on this day.

Somewhat surprised, Elizabeth asks Shaman if it is all over – the monsters and weird powers. Turning around, Shaman replies that this part of the ordeal is over, and while Ranaq has been defeated, they still do not know why the Devourer was raised, or why he struck at Stang. He informs Elizabeth that the answer lies in the skull she had unearthed at Fort Albany, and unlocking its secret will require a most dangerous venture. Dramatically Shaman tells Elizabeth that with her fledgling powers barely tested will find herself at the black heart of the evil – for they must now break the barriers of time and make a journey one hundred years into the past! And so it begins….

Characters Involved: 

Northstar, Puck, Shaman, Snowbird (all Alpha Flight)

Heather Hudson

Doug Thompson

Elizabeth Twoyoungmen

Lucas Stang

Emily Stang

Northstar’s friend

Shaman’s receptionist

Police inspector

Lucas Stang’s nurse

Ranaq the Devourer

Story Notes: 

The title is a quote from Hamlet, when the prince contemplates the death of court jester Yorick.

Heather became leader of Alpha Flight in Alpha Flight (first series) #17, despite having no powers and little experience, and aside from a couple of teammates who give her a hard time for being a “non-costumed non-powered leader”. Heather serves to a satisfactory degree and in Alpha Flight (first series) #32, dons her own electromagnetic costume, and she would lead Alpha Flight for many years. Becoming the team’s greatest leader and champion of Canada, re-defining Alpha Flight at many times and standing up to the government on many occasions, becoming perhaps the most powerful woman in Canada. Her leadership skills have been compared to that of Captain America.

Shaman and Elizabeth were reunited after Elizabeth saw an apparition, which led her to believe her father – as Shaman – was the only person who could discover what it wanted. After strolling into his office in her usual abrupt manner, Elizabeth and Shaman were reunited. [Alpha Flight (first series) #15]

Alpha Flight fought the X-Men for custody of Wolverine in Uncanny X-Men #120-121.

Snowbird revealed to Doug Thompson that the identity “Anne McKenzie” was just made up as a cover for her in Alpha Flight (first series) #15, the very same issue where Doug declared his love for her.

Shaman promised a very young Elizabeth that he would save her cancer-stricken mother, but with little success, and when she died, Elizabeth disowned him. [Back story in Alpha Flight (first series) #5]

While Shaman mentions that Elizabeth’s powers seem to come from genetic mutation, she is definitely not a mutant.

The Great Beasts are powerful and ancient beings that roamed the Earth until they were banished to their own dimension by the Arctic Gods. When the barriers of the Beast’s realm grew weak they managed to start returning to Earth. With the Arctic Gods trapped in their own paradise, they created Snowbird to champion against the Beasts’; thus far she and the rest of Alpha Flight have faced off against Tundra and Kolomaq. [Alpha Flight (first series) #1, #6]

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