Alpha Flight (1st series) #32

Issue Date: 
March 1986
Story Title: 
Short Story

Bill Mantlo (Writer), Jon Bogdanove (Penciler), Gerry Talaoc (Inker), Bob Sharen (Colorist), Jim Novak (Letterer), Rosemary McCormack-Lowy (Assistant Editor), Carl Potts (Editor), Jim Shooter (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

Heather Hudson has donned a super powered costume, giving her electromagnetic abilities like her dead husband used to have. Puck refuses to train her, but she holds her own against Alpha Flight’s “Danger Room” and after being given special glasses to wear in combat by Jeffries and Bochs who helped redesign the battle suit Heather angrily leaves Judd and flies away from Tamarind Island, planning to go to the one man she knows will help train her. Judd is concerned for the woman he secretly loves and loses control of his inner pain, causing the Black Razer, an ancient and evil sorcerer imprisoned within him to escape. Razer attacks Aurora, Northstar and Box, cutting the latter two down in size while Judd has been returned to his original size, six-foot-six. Puck informs Jeffries of his origin and how he came to have the Razer imprisoned within him, and though he is free from the pain now he knows that Black Razer will continue to hurt people unless he contains him, which he does so, returning to the dwarf size, but regaining his extended life, and Northstar and Box are returned to their rightful sizes.

Full Summary: 

The door to Alpha Flight’s training room opens and team leader, Heather Hudson walks in, announcing to Eugene Judd a.k.a. Puck that she is here for her battle training. Upon seeing Heather, Judd shouts No! – for she is wearing the costume of her dead husband, Alpha Flight’s former leader – Guardian. Heather smiles and asks her diminutive teammate if something is wrong before reminding him that she always felt rather inadequate as Alpha Flight’s team leader without having any powers to call her own. Heather reveals that she found the power, a battle-suit just like the one Mac wore, and now she wants Puck to supply the training.

Judd thinks to himself that Heather briefly encountered power in their most recent adventure with the X-Men, and after the way she was victimized by two villains recently – Deadly Earnest and Scramble – he should have foreseen that Heather might try to make herself equal to those whom she leads. Judd reminds Heather that the costume couldn’t keep Mac from dying, as it was the suit’s power pack that blew up. Heather flies up above Judd and declares that the costume didn’t kill Mac but his lack of combat skill did, for Mac was a scientist not a soldier, while Heather was just a secretary then, his wife.

Heather reminds Judd that he and the rest of Alpha Flight saw fit to elect her as team leader and now she wants him to give her the edge that Mac lacked. Make me a warrior, declares Heather as she is propelled through the air by the electromagnetic battle suit. Watching from the training room’s control room are Roger Bochs a.k.a. Box and Alpha Flight’s ally Madison Jeffries. Bochs declares that the battle suit responds to Heather’s every thought, and Jeffries reminds him that he servo-linked the circuitry to Heather’s brainwaves. Jeffries declares that those very same circuits let “Dark Guardian” mimic the original and he figured he could make them work for Alpha Flight.

Bochs admits that he is not too thrilled Heather is wearing the remains of the robot that tried to kill Alpha Flight and murdered her husband, however he is comforted in the fact that of Delphine Courtney’s remains her malevolent “brain” was not among the scrap. Bochs adds that from all the instrument indications the suit is functioning flawlessly. Jeffries says bugger the instruments, Boxxie, let’s put it through its paces in a real test. He reveals that Alpha Flight’s “Danger Room” was patterned after the X-Men’s, but with one important exception, as he is a transmutator of metal and machines, it is he who runs the whole show.

Jeffries smacks one of his hands into the other and with that gesture two large beams zoom out from the walls and clamp together – Heather dodging them just in time. Judd looks up and remembers that when Heather asked him to train her he thought it would be just basic defensive tactics and that it never occurred to him she would have Bochs and Jeffries re-create the Guardian suit. However he can understand why she did it, but Mac learned the hard way they one cannot just acquire super powers. Most of Alpha Flight were born with powers, while Judd himself never needed more than his own agility.

Judd springs over the beams while thinking that Heather is coming to this job literally from a desk job, however combat is not a “9-5” job and he knows he has to talk some sense into her. However as he is in mid leap he is struck by the pain that he is so often struck by. Judd lands awkwardly while knowing that now is exactly the time when he would strike him, when he knows that he will forget to focus past the pain due to concern over the one he loves.

Deadly balls with spikes on them are shot up at Heather who manages to keep herself from harm thanks to the suit’s forcefields. Heather thinks that it is more than just the suit as she can almost feel the power flowing through her. Heather is so exhilarated that she has forgotten about Judd, however he is incapable of forgetting about her and sprinting back into action reminds himself that he has held the pain in check for too many years to let it overwhelm him now. However every move he makes to reach Heather sends new agony into his body. Heather however is not in any need of assistance and Jeffries and Bochs are both happy with the way the suit is performing.

Bochs suggests that they test Heather, wondering if she can cut it in a combat situation. Jeffries makes another gesture and the machinery he commands obeys, in the form of a giant claw coming from the ceiling and clamping down on Heather. Heather manages to slip free and realizes that if someone more powerful than Jeffries had been controlling it, it might have crushed her. Heather remembers what Wolverine once said when he was still with Alpha Flight – The best defense is an offense. Heather uses concussive energy-beams on the claw before asking Judd if it isn't the Mayor of New York who is known for asking How’m I doing?

Judd reminds Heather that this is a simulation, designed to mimic real combat conditions and in a real battle one cannot afford to get cocky or distracted. Heather asks Judd if he is going to offer advice now after refusing to train her and snaps at him, saying that she is doing just fine without either. Just then a metal beam shoots out at Heather and knocks her in the air, causing her glasses to fall off. Judd thinks that it was idiotic of Jeffries and Bochs not to have advised Heather to wear contact lenses before putting on the battle suit. Judd tells Heather not to be concerned as he will get them – however he misses them and they crack as they land on the hard ground.

Up in the air, Heather asks Judd why he called out, reminding him she is near-sighted and therefore can’t see him. Bochs admits that he is not so sure about this but since Heather wanted the danger levels high he tells Jeffries to let loose the hunter-seekers. Jeffries does so while saying that Heather better be up for it as the hunter-seekers can really knock you around if they connect with you. Heather can hear something rushing towards her, and as it comes into her plane of vision she sees that they are missiles. Heather realizes she has to get away from them, but they track her every move.

Backed up against a wall, Heather tells herself that any self-respecting enemy of Alpha Flight would know about and devise weapons capable of locking onto the suit’s electronic fields and realizes that if she is going to survive this game she has to out think as well as out fight her foes. Shocked, Bochs declares that the instruments are not registering any power flow from the battle suit’s electromagnetic array. He wonders if it has failed as Jeffries declares that Heather has shut it off, and the missiles are moving too fast for him to do anything.

Judd looks up at Heather – who with the suit turned off starts to fall from the air, just as the missiles fly past her and smash into the wall. Heather declares that her plan worked and Judd realizes that the suit didn’t fail as he catches her in his arms. Heather tells him that of course it didn’t, but as long as the power pack was on she figured the missiles would keep homing in on her, so she turned it off to throw the missiles off, and looking at Judd tells him she knew he would be there to catch her.

Judd tells himself that the pain almost prevented him from doing so, but he knew he had to do it to save the woman he loves. Judd calls Heather a fool, and leaping from his arms Heather takes to the air, asking if she is a fool because she wants to be able to share the dangers she sends her team into or because she wanted to survive the way her husband could not. Heather reminds Judd that he has seen more combat and survived more battles than all of Alpha Flight combined and thought that he would be able to help train her. Picking up her broken glasses and getting back onto the ground Heather informs Judd that if he will not help train her she knows someone else who will.

Bochs and Jeffries enter the training room and Jeffries tells her she was great, Bochs agrees and informs Heather that both she and the suit performed above expectations. Heather looks at her glasses and states that she survived, as opposed to the glasses. Roger tells her that he noticed that and has devised a solution. He hands Heather some goggles, which can be attached to her costume and as Heather puts them on Bochs informs her that they are the correct prescription. Heather proclaims that they look and feel like her sunglasses and Jeffries informs her they are her sunglasses, just altered somewhat. Bochs reveals that the glasses have been super-hardened and specially treated to be unbreakable.

Heather thanks Roger and Madison, and walking from the training room she tells them that they have provided her with the power she needed to make herself a contributing member of Alpha Flight. Heather adds that all she needs to do now is find someone sympathetic enough to train her in the use of that power. Bochs turns to the silent Judd and asks him if he has any idea whom Heather is referring to. Bochs turns his back and mumbles that he has a good idea before Roger tells Judd that he knows he has feelings for Heather and asks why he will not give her the training that she wants. Judd starts to walk from the training room and tells Roger that Heather is a novice in a profession notably lacking in pity when it comes to apprentices. Judd declares that he doesn’t want to see Heather get hurt because he cares for her and because I’m just a lousy little dwarf who lacks the right to tell her so. Roger tells Judd that he is being rather hard on himself and offers some help, to which Judd turns down, asking what kind of help a cripple could offer another cripple.

As Judd walks through a corridor in one of the sub-levels of Mansion Alpha he belittles himself for alienating the woman he secretly loves and a friend who never did him any harm. He wonders if he has been a loner for so long now that he is afraid of anything that might change his status, however he thinks he already made that change when he joined Alpha Flight. Suddenly, Judd keels over from the pain, which he thinks is worse than ever. Judd knows that it all started again when he used Nemesis’ sword to kill Deadly Earnest, however he had no choice, as he had to kill Earnest to save Heather, breaking his promise to Guardian that he would never kill again when he was paroled into Beta Flight.

Puck manages to get himself into a elevator and falls over inside it, he realizes that breaking the promise really shook him up, even if Earnest did deserve death, adding to that the way he feels about Heather getting herself hurt has him all torn up inside and when he is confused he knows he cannot focus past the pain. Judd knows that he senses that, and after decades of torturing him from within he has found his chance to get out. Judd wonders why he should suffer still, for he has suffered enough, and it would be so easy to stop fighting and let go, enabling him to offer himself to Heather as he was, not a half-man anymore. He wonders if dwarves deserve happiness too and Judd collapses, not because the pain gets worse but because it stops, and a strange darkness flows from his body and begins to rise towards the mansions roof.

Outside, on top of the rood, the twins, the handsome mutant speedster Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier and his flighty sister Aurora are admiring the view they get from where they are, however Jean-Paul tells his sister that they did not come to discuss the natural beauty of the British Columbian island which their headquarters sits on, but about what has happened to both of them. Aurora declares what’s done is done and asks why they cannot let the past die as their beloved Walter did and face the future together. Annoyed, Jean-Paul tells Aurora that that is exactly what they cannot do, for they now find themselves cut off from physical contact with each other because they now negate each other’s powers. Aurora reminds her brother that it was the result of an experiment gone awry, Northstar knows the experiment was conducted by Walter who sought to realign Aurora’s genetic structure to prevent her persecution as a mutant. Walter succeeded in altering Aurora’s powers, but Northstar asks what if the scientist did more, as there could be other effects of which they are unaware of.

The twins’ attention is drawn suddenly to the other side of the rooftop where Heather rushes out the rooftop access door. Aurora thinks she sees Guardian, but realizes it is someone wearing his costume, and Jean-Paul sees that it is Heather. As Heather takes to the sky, Northstar calls after her, but she does not respond. Jean-Paul declares that Heather’s battle suit is as powerful as the one Mac wore and Aurora wonders why she is wearing it and where she would be going. Hands on hips, Northstar says that Heather has probably gone to prove herself worthy of stepping into Guardian’s shoes and mocks that she may end up doing something foolhardy which will cause Alpha Flight to choose a real leader. Aurora starts to ask her brother how he can be so callous and cruel when she diverts his attention to one of the mansion towers.

Black cloud billows from the tower enclosing the elevator, which Judd was using to get to the rooftop when he collapsed. Aurora and Northstar look down into the elevator, Aurora mentions that the shaft just erupted without the heat or noise that should follow such explosion. Jean-Paul motions to the black clouds over them, which encircle the figure lying in the elevator. Aurora adds that it is hard to make him out through all the smoke but he appears to be hurt and she suggests they help him. Suddenly a face pushes forth from the smoke and angrily tells the mutant twins to keep away, as the body is his. The mysterious foe declares that no one will touch the keeper and that he claims Giant Judd as he claimed him. As the twins edge backwards the as the enemy declares that all who seek to aid Judd will fear the black-blade of Razer! Northstar asks if the over-sized man lying in the elevator is Puck and Aurora thinks it is impossible but declares that whomever it is they have to save him. Northstar agrees, providing they can save themselves first and Razer’s sword swipes at the twins.

Meanwhile, in one of the workshops in the mansion, Bochs sits at a desk while Jeffries asks him what he can help alter on Box next other than a new color job. Bochs declares that it almost felt as if the whole mansion shook for a moment, but Jeffries says that it cannot be an attack as the mansion has more alarm systems than the Bank of Canada. Bochs boasts that instincts are more accurate that instruments sometimes and declares that he has an inkling that something is not right. Bochs phases into the re-colored Box armor and Jeffries informs him that he could reach the rooftop by flying up the launch tube, reminding his friend not to stay inside the armor for too long unless as he may never get out of it. As he flies up the launch pad, Bochs replies that when he commands the robot’s power he sometimes wonders why he would ever want to leave the robot.

As he flies through the opening to the rooftop Box sees the twins flying around the Black Razer and realizing they are under attack wonders why the alarm did not sound. Northstar informs Box that this appears to be a mystical being in origin, something that their instruments are not attuned to detect. Aurora adds that if Shaman or Talisman were still members of Alpha Flight, or if Snowbird were at the mansion today they might have sensed Razer’s assault. Box asks who Razer is and Northstar informs him that this is how the horror they fight introduced himself after strangely altering and striking Puck down. Suddenly, Black Razer strikes Jean-Paul through his middle declaring that he now knows the power of the black-blade. Jean-Paul falls to the rooftop and Aurora sees that the strike left her brother six inches shorter.

Box flies through the black smoke, wishing that Talisman and Shaman had not walked out on the team even though their mysticism scared him they both would have been better to deal with not only Razer but also better at coping with Nemesis, especially as he is only a robot hero straight out of the pages of “Popular Mechanics”. Bochs wonders if Razer is real or incorporeal as his built in monitors don’t register him at all, and his eye beams do not pick up anything – which is why Razer is so easily able to strike Box down with his sword. Roger knows that while he feels no physical sensations when merged with the Box armor, he cannot avoid the psychological shock of knowing that when a black-blade slices through robotic steel, one should and must experience excruciating pain. Overwhelmed by his own perceptions, Box falls while shrinking in size as Northstar did.

Meanwhile, Judd climbs up from the elevator shaft, telling himself that he cannot let Razer do to Alpha Flight what he did to him. Aurora sits by her fallen brother’s side and declares that she and Jean-Paul used to need to hold hands in order for both of them to emit a blinding white light. However; Walter’s experiment changed that and now Aurora can glow on her own, except when she makes contact with Northstar. As Black Razer looms over Aurora she knows that her light kept Razer at bay would soon return when she leaves her brother’s side, but Jean-Paul is unconscious and unable to escape. Aurora makes the decision to abandon her brother if she has any chance of saving both of them.

Madison Jeffries has made it up to the roof and walking onto the roof sees Judd – or some basket-ball player wearing his costume – and as he rushes over to him, Judd declares that he is the real Judd. Jeffries helps Puck up and asks him how he can be, as he is no longer a dwarf, but about six-foot-six – and when he sees Judds face, Jeffries realizes that Judd must be about one hundred years old. ‘Seventy-one’ Judd corrects Jeffries, who asks him if Razer aged him and where he came from. Jeffries suggests Judd give him the Readers Digest version as he may be able to help, adding that Aurora is holding her own at the moment against him. Judd informs Jeffries that Razer is a sorcerer- or was a sorcerer before, centuries ago until he became a wraithlike manifestation of mystical force. Judd declares that it wasn’t Razer who aged him, but if anything it was their shared existence that has extended his life. Judd reveals that he was born in 1914 and from then lived an adventurous existence as a soldier of fortune’…

(Flashback, 1939)
The rare treasure known as the Black-blade of Baghdad had come to Eugene Milton Judd’s attention and certain dealers in antiquities had made their desire for the ancient blade known to him. However, Judd’s own curiosity would have compelled to obtain the blade without their retainers. So in Baghdad he entered the palace, as Judd regarded the unraveling of riddles as more important than human life and was not afraid to kill those who stood in his way, for the Black-blade of Baghdad was an enigma with origins shrouded in the super natural. Judd had only skirted such paths before and it excited him to do so, and he only did what excited him.

Coming across the black-blade, Judd reaches out for it, perhaps doomed from the moment he intended to double cross those who had hired him, for he knew the moment he set eyes on it that it was one treasure he would not offer for resale. The black-blade seemed to respond to Judds dishonest thoughts as well as his touch as if it sensed a kindred spirit, a sinister scream sang along from the ebony steel and Judd was knocked backwards as something sprung from the sword. In an instant his mind was flooded with legends of a renegade sorcerer imprisoned by the spells of Persian mystics inside a shining white scimitar.

The Black Razer thanks Judd for freeing him, declaring that he must now slay him for the fear that he will contemplate incarcerating his spirit again. Judd cartwheels out of Razer’s sword swipe, wanting only to get out of the palace in one piece. However the Black Blade strike him, cutting him in two – but it didn’t kill him. Judd sees that his about six inches shorter for Razer’s blade must have stole some of his life force, and with it reduced him in size.

Judd struggles to get the blade from Razer, admitting that he now knows why Razer’s fellow sorcerers sought to contain him, as he would make men small and steal their souls, reducing them to nothing only to make his own power grow. Judd and Razer struggle for the sword some more and Razer boasts that most found their reduced size a sweet surrender. Judd declares that obviously some did not, otherwise there would not have been enough left with the power to oppose or contain him. Razer reveals that he has corrupted the light that once shone from the blade in which he was imprisoned and those who forged it are long dead. As Black Razer slides the sword into Judd through his face he boasts that Judd is not the equal of the mystics.

Judd knows he is not a mystic but had been around some before and though he never practiced himself, he remembered some of the lessons they tried to teach him. The black-blade began to whittle Judd down in body and soul while he reminds Razer that sorcery bound him centuries ago, the sorcery of the sword, which is not a sentient being. The blade could not prevent Razer from corrupting it so that it would release him when grasped eons later by one who had forgotten the legends. Judd declares that a living vessel might sacrifice itself to do the task of senseless steel, and declares that stealing souls can be a two-way-street. He asks Razer of he wants his soul, and sucking Razer into himself due to a mystical spell, Judd shrinks further in size, informing Razer that he can have his soul, but that he will be his prison instead of the sword.

Judd tells Jeffries that the years became decades of unending pain as the force within him struggled to escape, and his current crisis of conscience gave it the chance it needed. So you’re free at last? asks Jeffries, and Puck replies that he has been freed, but now Razer menaces his teammates. As Judd rushes to Aurora’s side, Jeffries asks him what about the pain should he try to contain Razer again, and Judd declares that he hopes he can find another way.

As Aurora keeps Razer at bay with her light powers she asks Judd if it is really him, and leaping past Razer, Judd informs her that it is, though a little taller and slower than she is used to, but ready to do what must be done. Seeing Aurora glowing he assumes Northstar is revived and tells Aurora to keep Razer at bay some more while he gets to her brother, as they will need his help. Reaching Jean-Paul, Judd tells the amazed mutant that it is really him and while he would like to stroll down memory lane he already had the conversation with his sister and he thinks they both agree that they have more pressing matters to tend to.

Jean-Paul agrees and asks Judd what they can do. Judd replies that he wasn’t sure until he saw Razer cower from Aurora’s light, but realizes that light can contain Razer’s darkness, either the sorcerous light shining off the blade of a mystical forged sword, or the light of a spirit fighting to survive. Judd declares that he never fully realized it, but it was the light of his own spirit that defeated Razer’s darkness. However Razer has now grown stronger and Judd regrets that the twins can no longer shine as one. Northstar declares that they cannot, but they will not just lay down and die either and rushes into action.

Jeffries helps Box over to Judd and Box suggests that he and Jeffries could make up some kind of light projector. Judd replies that Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four would appreciate that kind of solution, but he is afraid they need someone like Shaman or Talisman to tap into and attack Razer with the light drawn from living souls. Northstar speeds around Black Razer creating a vortex and while he is unbalanced the enemy soon recovers. Judd asks the twins to keep up their actions for a bit longer.

Jeffries grabs Puck and asks him what is going to happen then, reminding him he has already said that nothing other than a mystical master could contain the Black Razer. Judd corrects Jeffries, for what he said was the light of a living soul is what will contain Razer, as he would eventually corrupt any other vessel like he did the black blade. However a living soul can resist corruption and fight back, imprisoning Razer as long as it takes. Jeffries reminds Judd that whoever makes that sacrifice gives up normal life as a “reward”. Frowning, Judd reveals that there are advantages, not the least of which is immortality. He declares that he cannot ask anyone else to make such a sacrifice as there would also be an infinity of pain, though can he make that kind of sacrifice again?

Judd declares that after resuming his rightful age he wonders how many years he has left. He admits to Jeffries that he thinks he would like to go on living – at any price. He excuses himself and walks over to the Black Razer, his time to play warden has come again. As Judd approaches, Razer asks him if he is mad that they are free of each other at last. Judd informs the enemy that he is free of the pain he has inflicted upon him all these years, but in turn Razer is free to inflict even worse pain on mankind. Judd knows that the latter is his own fault, which makes it his own responsibility. He tells Razer that they have been together too long now for him to live without him noting that already their contact has caused him to condense, and as Razer shrinks he asks Judd why he is reaching for the blade.

Judd stands tall and informs Razer that as he used the blade to steal men’s souls he is going to use it to release the light of his soul, and to let the same light that empowers Razer bind him and his darkness to Judd once again. Judd shoves the blade into him, seemingly splitting Pucks’ skull, letting the light of his spirit stream forth and ensnare the writhing Razer. At the time same time, Judd releases the life forces stolen from Jean-Paul and Box and they are returned to normal height and strength. The trade-off is that some of Judd’s soul is lost in the process and as a result he shrinks down in size again. The Black Razer screams as he is drawn into his prison, where he will be contained as long as Judd lives out his eldritch-extended life. Judd kneels over on top of the roof, and Jean-Paul, Aurora, Box and Jeffries can only silently stand around him.

Characters Involved: 

Aurora, Box, Northstar, Puck, Vindicator II / Heather McNeil Hudson (all Alpha Flight)
Madison Jeffries

Black Razer

In Flashback

Black Razer

Story Notes: 

Heather became leader after Guardian’s death [Alpha Flight (first series) #12, 17] and despite having no powers or skills of her own she was a capable leader, until writer Bill Mantlo took over. [Alpha Flight (first series) #29]

When Alpha Flight teamed up with the X-Men, Heather was given a “power” by the magickal Fire Fountain. This was the “power” to lead. [X-Men & Alpha Flight (first series) #1-2]

This battle suit that Heather wears was built by Bochs and Jeffries from “spare parts” of Delphine Courtney, a.k.a. Dark Guardian. [Alpha Flight (first series) #30]

Heather will continue to wear a battle suit for the rest of her Alpha Flight career, even when Mac returns, they both have their own suits. When Alpha Flight is reorganized [Alpha Flight (second series) #1] she is given a new suit, one that controls geothermal aspects which she wears to this day, while Guardian continues to wear the electromagnetic one. The only time Heather does not wear a suit is when she became Alpha Flight liaison, [Wolverine (second series) #142] which she no longer is.

Judd killed Deadly Earnest in Alpha Flight (first series) #31.

Sasquatch was lost in Alpha Flight (first series) #29 / Incredible Hulk #313 in the process of trying to find a new body, he realized that he could not take the one of his old friend, the Hulk, so his mind wanders aimlessly without a body.

The Black Razer is later freed from Puck’s body [Alpha Flight (first series) #50] and would go on to appear once more in the back-up story that took place in the “Kings of Pain” annuals. [New Mutants Annual #7, New Warriors Annual #1, Uncanny X-Men Annual #15, X-Factor Annual #6]

Later writers of Alpha Flight fixed up the mess that is Puck’s origin and when Razer is freed from Judds body he is returned to his taller size, though eventually ends up being short again, and the “tall man trapped in a small man’s body” origin is never mentioned again.

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