Alpha Flight (1st series) #26

Issue Date: 
September 1985
Story Title: 
If At First You Don’t Succeed ...

John Byrne (Writer & Penciler), Bob Wiacek (Inker), Andy Yanchus (Colorist), Rick Parker (Letterer), Don Daley (Assistant Editor), Dennis O’Neil (Editor), Jim Shooter (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

Guardian and several other members of Alpha Flight are practicing against a new army weapon, which is in the final stages of testing, and during the battle, Aurora is injured. When the battle is over, Alpha Flight receive a message from Heather, that informs them that something troublesome is occurring at the West Edmonton Mall, so Guardian, Talisman and Puck go to aid her and Northstar, while Shaman and Langkowski take Aurora to be treated. Arriving at the mall, the heroes split up, and one by one they begin to encounter the enemy – Omega Flight. Puck encounters Diamond Lil, while Talisman goes up against Flashback and Northstar gets a to fight Wildchild again. However, each time, the hero is defeated by a mysterious person who is leading Omega Flight. Guardian meets up with Heather and things suddenly fall into place, as “Mac” removes his mask and then face, revealing to Heather that all along it had been Delphine Courtney masquerading as her deceased husband as she has come to finish her original programming the destruction of Alpha Flight.

Full Summary: 

At some proving grounds for the Armed forces, the recently believed deceased leader of Alpha Flight – James MacDonald Hudson, a.k.a. Guardian, stands in front of his team, Alpha Flight, Canada’s premiere super heroes as they prepare to fight the army’s new robotic armor defense weapon. One of the soldiers in the armor declares that no one mentioned they would have to go up against Alpha Flight, to which Aurora replies that life is full of surprises as she takes to the air. Walter Langkowski, now inhabiting the Box armor after the loss of his own body jokes that one can imagine his amazement waking up to learn he was going up against his fan club. The attractive Native American, Elizabeth “Talisman” Twoyoungmen agrees that they do look like Box, but in ‘a clunky sort of way’. Elizabeth’s estranged father, Shaman pulls some power from his medicine pouch as Guardian tells the soldiers in the armor that they have two options – to surrender to Alpha Flight’s obviously superior force, or to end their careers as expensive junk. Eugene Judd, better known as the diminutive Puck jokes that it should be an easy choice.

One of the soldiers tells Judd to ‘go to the bottom of the class’ as he and his companions have blasted their way through half the Canadian Armed forces, and he thinks they can handle Alpha Flight. He fires a blast at Judd who flips backwards, dodging it and exclaiming that he will need to do better to catch him. Using the incredible strength of the Box armor, Walter lifts up the ground one of the armored soldiers is standing on and proclaims that he will give them another sample of the kind of power they are up against. The soldier uses the flight powers of the armor and leaves a blazing trail behind him as he tells Walt to remind him to be impressed – ‘every time I visit you in the hospital’.

In the air, Aurora informs the soldier that he displayed an impressive power, but asks if he has anything else to show them – for flying is old news to Alpha Flight! ‘So I’ve heard’ grumbles the soldier before mentioning that super-heroes were not part of the plan, yet they are supposed to be highly adaptable. Wires suddenly spring from the armor and ensnare Aurora, who is shocked, as she did not even have time to move. The tentacles squeeze Aurora and frightened she calls to her boyfriend to help her. Guardian flies up beside Aurora and tells her that Walter is busy, but that he can help. Aurora smiles and Mac cuts through the wires with an electromagnetic blast, but as he does this, Aurora shrieks in pain as there is feedback which surges through the tentacles and harms her enough so that she cannot stay flying.

Box and Puck are fighting soldiers on the ground and see that Aurora is falling, but neither of them can get to her quick enough. However Shaman reminds his friends that his medicine pouch provides many more uses than offensive weaponry, and from it spread hundreds of bubbles which converge on the ground beneath where Aurora is about to land, and as she lands the bubbles cushion her fall. Shaman goes to her and Aurora tells him that she cannot breathe properly. Twoyoungmen ascertains that Aurora must have broken a rib or two and tells her to lie still while the others deal with the robots. Mac flies over and asks Shaman how Aurora is and Twoyoungmen looks up sternly at Mac as he informs him that Aurora will be okay, but that it was careless of him as he should have considered the consequences of his actions.

Mac flies away and calls back to Shaman that he can tell him off later, after they have ‘polished off the bozo brigade here’. Electromagnetic waves spread through the largest armored soldier and he declares that his circuitry is being disrupted. He tells Guardian that they still have one more ace to play and calls to his teammates for ‘joint venture mode’. The Alphans dodge out of the way of the soldier they were fighting as they all take to the air and link up with the central armored soldier, all five converging into one larger unit. The giant robot unleashes a powerful blast, spreading the Alphans in all directions.

In the air, Box remarks that the soldiers show an impressive display of teamwork as Guardian calls to Shaman and Elizabeth to go against the giant robot first. Twoyoungmen agrees and tells Elizabeth that her magic manipulation powers should prove useful. Elizabeth, still untrained in the use of powers asks her father what she should do, to which he tells her to follow his lead – and improvise! The father and daughter extend their hands and let power flow and form a giant magickal creature. The giant robot is small compared to their creation and it fires a blast at the magickal creature, but it doesn’t have any effect! A direct assault is tried, but it doesn’t work either.

With the soldiers off guard, Mac calls to Walter who flies back towards the ground and lunging at the Macro-Man grabbing at the robot’s feet he pulls him off the ground. In usual Langkowski fashion Walt makes a joke about how he is not a great lullaby singer so he will have to rock them to sleep – and he flings the soldiers into a pile of rocks.

From the sidelines, someone calls ‘Terminating testing sequence’ and Alpha stop with the battle, Walt joking that he was just starting to enjoy himself. Guardian lands on the ground and tells Walt to do as Captain Mansfield asks, reminding his teammate that Alpha Flight is here at his request. Mac asks the Captain if he found out all he wanted to know. Mansfield smiles and informs Mac that it was exactly the trial by fire he had in mind when he contacted Alpha Flight, for the Macro System had proved unstoppable against all conventional resistance, but they needed one last major test before the Government would commit a full-scale production.

Standing by Aurora, Judd remarks to Twoyoungmen that it is strange to see people chatting so casually with Guardian, for it is hard to realize most of the nation did not even know he is supposed to be dead. Twoyoungmen agrees before admitting that even he finds it somewhat chilling being with him, for his resurrection is nothing short of miraculous. Judd remarks that “miraculous” is not a word someone with Shaman’s knowledge would use lightly. He starts to say something else when he is interrupted by an officer who rushes over to Mac and Mansfield, informing them he has a special coded dispatch from someone called “Heather”. Mac takes the note and reads it out loud: Heather to Hubs – the fat’s in the fire, rendezvous at…Mac proclaims that he knows the co-ordinates and turns to his teammates, telling them that they don’t have anytime for a rest, as Heather has uncovered something rather suspect.

Motioning to Langkowski, Shaman tells Guardian that they will have to miss this one as Aurora is hurt and needs his medical attention. Walt remarks that where Aurora goes he goes and Mac agrees, adding that he doesn’t have a problem with it, as Heather has Jean-Paul with her, and with Elizabeth and Judd it should be enough. Elizabeth asks where the ‘nastiness’ is at, and with Judd on his back, Guardian takes to the air, Talisman flies beside him in her own fashion and Mac tells her that it is not far, at a place he has read about but never been to – a place that is supposedly the largest shopping center in the world…

…The West Edmonton Mall! As the trio of heroes descend to the sprawling complex, Elizabeth declares that she has seen cities smaller than it. Noticing a large gathering of people at one entrance to the mall, Mac sees that there are some officials among them and as they get closer he asks who is in charge. A man dressed in a suit, approaches Guardian and thanks him for coming, fearing that the two of “his people” that are already there would not be enough against “them”! Guardian suggests to the man that he give them a quick briefing, namely answering the questions of who is “them” and what is the size of their force. The man replies that he is not sure, for at first it seemed as if there were only three of them – two men and a woman – but suddenly there were hundreds! He reveals that they chased all the customers and staff out of the mall and now they are threatening to blow it up. Judd asks if there were any ransom demands, but the man replies that there wasn’t, and all he knows is that they call themselves…Omega Flight!

Guardian, Elizabeth and Judd are momentarily speechless until Mac takes lead and tells his companions that they will take the mall from three different angles, to get in and nail Omega Flight hard. Before Judd can enter the mall, the official mentions to him that his leader seemed upset. Puck replies that he had good reason – for he has fought with Omega Flight before, and they are the ones who killed him! The man just looks confused.

Moments later, Eugene Milton Judd walks stealthily through the West Edmonton Mall and noticing the amount of non-shopping attractions decides that it looks as if someone dropped a lid over Disneyland. He tells himself not to be surprised, as with theme parks and shopping malls much the rage it was only a matter of time until someone came along and combined the two in some way. Suddenly, a voice calls to Judd from behind him asking him what his rush is and whether he has time to say “hi” to an old friend. Judd turns around and as he says “who?” he is greeted with a kick in the face from Diamond Lil. Lillian Crawley sarcastically remarks that she is hurt Judd doesn’t remember her, but on the ground Judd just smiles and tells Lillian that he does remember her. Calling her “Creep-Crawley” he exclaims that she is the best figure this side of Aurora and the biggest ego this side of Northstar, he adds that Lil may be twice his height, but only half his brain power.

Judd flings himself up to the air and asks the sultry former Gamma Flight member if she forgot that it took more than a few kicks to take him out, even from a woman who is indestructible. He exclaims that he wants to find out if she is as hard as her namesake is but as Lil cries ‘Boss, now!’ Judd finds himself suspended in the air for something has grabbed hold of him. He asks how, as Lil cannot do that. Diamond Lil just smiles and tells Judd to ‘take a look’ as ‘some of us have friends in high places’. Judd looks up horrified at whom he sees he says ‘No, it cant be’ but the person he sees calls back that ‘it can’ and tosses Judd aside. Diamond Lil is told to go and collect Puck and meet them all at the rendezvous point.

Walking through a part of the mall filled with trees and a small lake, Elizabeth exclaims out loud that she thinks the mall is amazing, though doesn’t know whether to be impressed or grossed-out by all the money and effort used on it. ‘You always talk to yourself, Squaw?’ Elizabeth turns quickly at the offensive comment and sees a man in a white and black costume standing beside a rock, she realizes he must be a member of Omega Flight. ‘But which?’ she asks before saying that he is ‘obviously the one with the worst manners’. Gardner Monroe tells Elizabeth to ‘watch yer lip kid’ and introduces himself as Flashback. He boasts that he eats ‘punks like you for breakfast’.

Elizabeth walks over to the cocky former actor and asks him to excuse her for not falling down shivering and quivering. Flashback frowns as Elizabeth tells him that she may not know his powers but that he does not know hers either. Flashback tells Elizabeth that he doesn’t need to know her powers, and calling her a “brat” tells her to look behind herself. Unimpressed, Elizabeth doesn’t, and asks if she will ever get to fight anyone with some originality. Out of the corner of her eye however she sees someone behind her and dodges a branch being aimed at her as she realizes that there is more than one of Flashback.

Elizabeth suddenly becomes surrounded and Flashback informs her that he can summon one hundred versions of himself if he wishes too, all plucked out of his own future. Elizabeth compliments him on a nifty power but tells him that it is not good enough and charging her powers she informs Flashback that unless there us anything extraordinary about his future-selves then her powers should suffice. Suddenly she is knocked out by a blast from someone up in the air that tells Flashback to get Talisman and meet at the rendezvous point.

Meanwhile, flying through another part of the complex is the handsome Jean-Paul Beaubier, former founding mutant member of Alpha Flight, fed up to find himself again playing foolish games with a team he thought he was free of involvement with months ago. He wonders why he is here, as he has no interest in being a “super-hero”, even though his twin sister, Aurora enjoys it very much. Someone calls out to Northstar and Jean-Paul turns to see Wildchild. Kyle Gibney remarks that he is glad Jean-Paul remembers him, as one does not like to be forgotten by their enemies. Northstar declares that after the thrashing he gave Gibney last time they met he is surprised he would want to oppose him again.

Gibney reminds Northstar of how unkindly he treated him last time they met and asks Jean-Paul if he thinks it is time for a rematch. Jean-Paul does an aerial loop and flies downward towards the deformed former Gamma Flight member, declaring that while he may be as ruthless and savage as Wolverine, he does not have the skill, or the cunning. Northstar boasts that as he smashed Wildchild once before he shall do so again – until he himself smashes into something, falling to the ground. Wildchild tells the unconscious Jean-Paul that as last time he was smashed into a steel wall, it is only fair he gets his revenge, by slamming Northstar slamming into an invisible electromagnetic field barrier. A figure stands beside Wildchild and tells him not to bother with the explanations, as Northstar is in no condition to appreciate them. He tells him to wait at this point for the others, as he has one last ‘very special fish to fry’.

In the outfit she has donned as her official “costume” Heather Hudson walks past a comic book store in the mall and is surprised when Mac calls out to her. She tells him she is glad he is here and asks if the other Alphans are with him. Guardian replies that some of them are before asking her if she has seen the enemy. Heather says that she hasn’t, but from the descriptions would guess that the enemy is Diamond Lil, Flashback and Wildchild, but exclaims that for all she has seen of them the enemy may as well be the Invisible Girl. Heather asks Mac if he has seen them, and smiling he declares that he has. Shocked, Heather turns to her husband only to see him grinning, and she asks him some questions only to get confused before asking him to say what he said again.

Guardian asks Heather what he wishes her to say, and Heather exclaims that something has happened to his voice. Removing his cybernetic helmet, Mac asks Heather what she means by his voice is different and declares that it should still be a voice she remembers. Heather realizes that it is the voice of Jerry Jaxon- but Heather knows he is dead. Mac – if that is indeed who he is - asks Heather if she means “dead” as in the way Guardian was dead, and asking that if she could accept one resurrection then why not another? Highly confused, Heather exclaims in mixed up words that Jaxon was killed when Mac was killed, and Mac grabs one of Heather’s wrists and asks her if it isn't too confusing seeing her husband’s face with her enemy’s voice.

“Mac” pulls at his face and tells Heather that he will make it easier for her, ripping away at the skin he reminds Heather that last time they met he was looked and sounded like a woman called Delphine Courtney! ‘Oh no’ gasps Heather as the face is pulled away and Delphine declares that a robot can look and sound like anyone with just a little rebuilding and the proper syntho-skin covering. Heather is frozen in shock as Delphine remarks that she can change in anyway possible if it allows her to complete her programmed task, which she has already halfway succeeded in – the destruction of Alpha Flight!

Characters Involved: 

Aurora, Box III, Puck, Shaman, Talisman II (all Alpha Flight)

Northstar (former member of Alpha Flight)

Heather McNeil Hudson

Roger Bochs

Delphine Courtney / “Dark Guardian”

Diamond Lil, Flashback, Wildchild (all Omega Flight)

Mall owner

Mall patrons and staff
Captain Mansfield, Armed Forces agent

Army Officer


Story Notes: 

Alpha Flight’s former Government liaison Gary Cody forbade the Alphans to inform anyone of Guardian’s death. [Alpha Flight (first series) #14]

Northstar thrashed the savage Wildchild in their first encounter as enemies. [Alpha Flight (first series) #12]

The Invisible Girl is of course Susan Storm Richards, now known as the Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four.

Jerry Jaxon was the wicked former employer of both Mac and Heather who formed Omega Flight to get revenge on them. [Back story in Alpha Flight (first series) #2-3, Alpha Flight (first series) #11-12]

Issue Information: 
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