Alpha Flight (1st series) #37

Issue Date: 
August 1986
Story Title: 
Death Birth

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

Brief Description: 

Alpha Flight are on their way to a place of power in the Arctic Circle where Snowbird is to give birth, when after Aurora hints at some feelings for Roger Bochs, they are joined by a near-insane Talisman, who has planned to see her father, Shaman, humbled for all the past wrong-doings to her. As Alpha Flight surround the place of power to protect Snowbird and the baby Talisman reveals that she is forbidding any of the spirits to aid her father, but she commands some to comfort Snowbird, showing Shaman how cruelly she uses them. Snowbird’s Arctic God family appear before her and Thompson, her husband and offer Narya one last chance to join them in Paradise, which Narya rejects for fear of losing those who love her. The birth takes place when Talisman’s plan comes into place as giant leaches surround the birthplace, causing those Alphans who can to try and stop them, however Vindicator, Northstar, Aurora, Box and Puck are overcome by the forces of death and decay which are commanded by the being that has been stuck between life and death under the ice where Snowbird gives birth. This being, Captain F.R Crozier who takes the name Pestilence succeeds in overwhelming Alpha Flight, leaving only a weakened Snowbird, the human Thompson and the feeble Shaman remaining. Talisman steps forward and declares that she will now save the day after seeing her father humbled, only to learn from Pestilence after he withers her father that he is corrupting the purity of the baby. Pestilence then does the remarkable and rips the tiara from Elizabeth’s brow and tosses it aside, where it lands near Shaman who sees his daughter being strangled by Pestilence and thinks that there may only be one way to save her. Meanwhile, Namor the Sub-Mariner arrives in Atlantis to reclaim both his throne and lover, Marrina.

Full Summary: 

(Flashback, 1848)

April 25th, from the journal of Captain F.R. Crozier. No breeze stirs and he hears nothing save the rasping of eternal ice against the hulls of the ships, the aptly named Terror and Erebus. It has been three years since Crozier had signed on as doctor and chief science officer with the famed Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin on his quest to find the fabled Northwest Passage to the East Indies. Six months out however winter caught them sailing through an uncharted waste and the ice closed in. Everyone aboard the two ships have prayed in vain for a spring that has never come.

Six months prior, Sir John set forth seeking aid, however Crozier never laid eyes on him or his party again. The supplies on the two ships meanwhile have become nearly exhausted, and it is Crozier’s turn to lead the scarecrow-like remnants of the starving crew out across the solid sea whose waves stand beneath them like a frozen sky. Crozier wonders as he walks out into a world unfavorable to man whether Sir john’s spirit watches over them from a better some better place, or whether his soul, like the ships, lies locked in some icy embrace from which it shall never escape.

April 30th, the glare off the ice blinds them and frigid winds whip through their ragged garments, the cold clutching at the sealskin soles of their bursting boots. Crew members stumble, some who fall never rise again. Some who sleep never wake and the dead go unburied. Crozier and his companions believe that civilization lies some 600 miles to the South. They do not stop in their trek. Ahead of them, Crozier sees their advance scout who appears to be signaling to them. Crozier wonders what he has seen and he and the crew press on to catch up with him. Upon reaching the scout they see he is frozen solid, and know that whatever he saw, or thought he saw, his frozen eyes would go on staring at it for all eternity.

May 8th, Crozier is without hope that daybreak will deliver those of them who are left and that with death the ice will claim their corpses. However Crozier is determined that the ice shall not steal his soul, and he is after all a man of science. While they were still aboard the ship, Crozier prepared an elixir to slow his bodily functions to a deathlike state where he would need neither food nor drink. Appearing dead, it was Crozier’s hope that his men would leave him for dead, his body preserved by the very ice that would doom everyone else until the spring would warm his blood and revive him.

However, Crozier was the Captain and the crew all looked up to him for leadership. He knew he would be betraying them, but there was only enough elixir for one, and while Crozier agonized over the decision, the desire to survive was in the end too overpowering. Crozier drank the elixir and his crew woke around him when they heard him scream. As he fell he heard someone call out his name.

Through wide-open eyes, Crozier saw his men crowd around him, his flesh felt their hands futilely searching for signs of life, but his ears heard them pronounce him dead, meaning his elixir had worked. However a new sound startled Crozier, the sound of spades scraping at ice. Crozier realized that out of respect for his rank or reverence of his memory the crew delayed their trek to dig him a grave. Crozier was mortified, for his crew were about to bury him.

And they did, burying him so deep that no spring thaw would ever warm his blood, that no summer sun would counteract the effects of his elixir. So deep that body and soul would lie for all eternity screaming out against the accursed embrace of the ice.


Alpha Flight’s Omnijet streaks northbound on a mission of dire urgency. Inside the sleek aircraft, the quadriplegic Roger Bochs, a.k.a. Box asks Eugene Milton Judd, the diminutive Puck why Northstar feels the need to fly ahead of them all. Judd just tells Roger that Northstar is an Alphan who likes to keep to himself. Roger supposes that thanks to Northstar’s accelerated biosystem he would not have to worry about freezing in the subzero temperatures outside, while the magnetic spirits that Shaman conjured forth continue to lock the ships gyros onto the place of power were Snowbird’s baby will be delivered.

Judd reminds Bochs that Shaman also summoned wind spirits to increase their speed, for without them they would not be able to keep up with Northstar. Bochs remarks that he has not gotten used to the powers of the “new” Shaman before offering Judd a peanut. Judd smiles but rejects the offering, declaring that he heard peanuts stunt your growth. Bochs jokes that they never stopped his waistline from expanding.

Just then the sultry Alphan Aurora enters the cockpit asking the men if this is a private conversation or if they would like the company ‘of zee adorable Aurora?’ Aurora smiles noticing Roger admiring her winter costume. She boasts that she would prefer to wear something more revealing but she is no longer immune to the cold like her brother. Roger stammers that he doesn’t mind, and Judd jokingly agrees. Watching as Aurora leans over to give Bochs a kiss on the cheek, team leader Heather McNeil Hudson, a.k.a. the new Vindicator asks Aurora if she is no longer mourning for Walter Langkowski.

Aurora tells Heather that she will never forget her beloved Walter, but as she flies out of the plane into the open air she declares that memories can not keep one warm at night. Flying beside the plane, Aurora maintains speed beside the cockpit window and tells her 'dear Rogair’ that she is attracted to brains as much as she is to brawn. “Deer Rogair”? mocks Judd turning to Roger before Heather asks the men to keep their eyes on the gyros. Roger turns back to the gyros and alerts Heather to the compass, Heather does and she sees that the magnetic spirit Shaman summoned to guide them to the place of power is spinning totally out of control.

Ahead of the ship and the flying twins a figure floats in the air surrounded by a powerful green glow. Roger wonders if the compass is spinning out of control because it is under the control of this person, and decides that he better get into his Box armor now. Vindicator sees that the spirits are bowing to the figure walking on the air, and as Northstar and Aurora approach the new arrival they see that it is their former teammate Elizabeth Twoyoungmen, a.k.a. the phenomenally powerful Talisman! Aurora asks Talisman what she is doing here, and without flinching, Elizabeth just snaps back that her father knows.

Back inside the Omnijet, Heather rushes into a back room to see Michael “Shaman” Twoyoungmen who knows already what is going on and declares that Elizabeth has joined them, for he senses the terror in the spirits for the one they call the Binder. The pregnant goddess Snowbird lies on a bed and her husband, Doug Thompson asks what new madness is going on.

Talisman suddenly teleports into the ship and greets her former baby-sitter as Vindicator. Heather asks Elizabeth how she knows she had taken that name, to which Elizabeth haughtily asks if she is not the Talisman, the Binder of Spirits, the Breaker of Dark Spells and the Promised One. Glaring at her father, she asks if she is not what he has made her? Shaman closes his eyes and declares that in an hour of great need he had her reach into his medicine pouch, and that the destiny found within it was foreordained. Elizabeth snaps that it is too bad he never prepared her for the fact that fulfilling her destiny would cost her humanity.

Hands on hips, Elizabeth declares that the spirits have informed her that Shaman will attempt to deliver Snowbird’s child. She proclaims that she has come to watch him fail. Vindicator is obviously annoyed by Talisman’s cruel tendencies but before she can say anything, Doug Thompson asks Shaman what Elizabeth means and asks if his wife is in danger. Shaman informs Thompson that his daughter bears him little love and delights in reminding him of what she considers to be his past failures before reminding Thompson that he did safely deliver Narya and bind her to Earth and shall attempt to do the same for his child, once they have reached the place of power.

Just then, a black mass begins to brow like a cancer on the white landscape below …

Once the Omnijet has landed, Thompson carries Snowbird onto the place of power, accompanied by Vindicator, Box, Shaman and Talisman, while Northstar and Aurora circle the area and Puck remains in the Omnijet. Inside the Box armor, Roger declares that it feels good to have legs again before asking if the circle of stones they stand in is the place of power. Vindicator replies that Shaman’s spirits seem to think so, but she doesn’t like it. Shaman asks Heather if she senses something wrong and wonders if that is why she has the twins circle overhead and Judd remain in the ship. Heather replies that she just wants to be ready for trouble and to be able to get out fast when it strikes.

Still holding Narya, Thompson asks if this is the place of power where they expect Snowbird to give birth and angrily tells Alpha that they are all crazy before boasting that he is going to put his wife back in their ship and fly her to a clean, quiet and sanitized hospital. Fed up with the narrow-minded Thompson, Shaman raises his voice and informs him that he was a physician long before he became a Sarcee shaman and can assure him that no mortal man of medicine unversed in the lore of the land possess the skill to deliver the child of a goddess. He tells Thompson to let any other doctor try, and they will doom both Snowbird and the unborn infant.

Thompson stops his rambling and is at a loss for words when Narya speaks for the first time in a long time, asking Doug to trust Shaman, for her sake. Clinging to her husband Narya recalls that she tried to deny her heritage so that she may experience the love and warmth of others, but was unexpected for the emotional and physical pain that she would feel, or inflict on others. She wonders if she chose her path wisely.

Talisman tells Thompson that he should trust her father … to his everlasting regret. Box declares that if his robot framework had a sense of smell, he would say ‘it stunk like rotten eggs around here’. Vindicator tells her team to spread out and stand guard as Shaman declares it is time to let the birth begin.

Beneath the ice, Captain F.R. Crozier feels something stir, and hears someone speak … after all these years, someone stands upon his grave.

Talisman steps forward and asks her father where his concern for his patients comfort it, and she commands some spirits to form a bed of air, which Snowbird is then laid upon. Shaman watches his daughter with some discomfort at how easily she commands the element spirits of which he can only beg for the aid of. However Twoyoungmen feels that his daughter uses the spirits callously and cruelly and punishing them if they are too slow to serve her. Possessed of such great power, Elizabeth is condescending of all lesser beings – the power is corrupting her!

Shaman puts a hand to his head and believes that if Elizabeth is a monster, it is one of his own making, and wishes he could rip the tiara from her brow, restoring her humanity and reclaiming her love. ‘Its too late for that, father! You lost my love a long time ago!’ cries Talisman, surprising Shaman who thinks she read his thoughts. When he questions her on this, Elizabeth informs him that she read his mood and can imagine how much he would like to “help” her. Power surges from Elizabeth’s hands as she asks her father if it is not enough that he cost her humanity but the life of her mother also. Shaman reminds Elizabeth that cancer killed her mother and that there was no cure, but Elizabeth just tells him to ‘save it’ and bluntly tells him that he failed his wife like he failed her and is going to see him humbled for it.

Captain Crozier’s eyes narrow, he senses hate. In the beginning he used to love life and envied the living. But after 138 years of living death, all he can feel is hate and jealousy. Immortality has been so cold to him and wants to steal the life of those above and have revenge for all the years they had life while he was trapped.

Back on the ice, Thompson holds his wife’s hand and asks the beautiful goddess why she married someone who cannot deal with this insanity. Snowbird replies it is because she loves him when suddenly, the Arctic Gods Nelvanna, Hodiak and the Shaper, appear and inform Thompson that Snowbird also chose him because the daughter of heaven thought to bind herself to immortality.

Thompson turns and faces the Arctic Gods, shocked and he cries ‘Oh my God!’ Snowbird’s grandfather, Hodiak corrects Thompson, declaring the obvious, that there are more than one God before him, and introduces Narya’s mother, Nelvanna and Turoq the Shaper. Nelvanna declares that her daughter was conceived to defend the land against the Great Beasts, and as the Shaper points out, that task has been completed and Narya’ place is with them. ‘With you?’ questions Thompson.

Nelvanna speaks to her daughter, offering Snowbird one last chance to come with them and rid herself of the stench of mortality. She tells Snowbird that the choice must be made now, for after the baby is born, she will no longer be welcome. Looking at her fellow gods, Snowbird thinks to herself that the pain is so severe, that she could almost go with them. Narya is so afraid of what is about to happen, but even more afraid of losing the people whom she loves and who love her back.

Snowbird’s True Fires are set forth and she informs her mother that she cannot leave what she has found on Earth. Motioning to a portal, Nelvanna shows Snowbird one part of the Paradise that could be hers. Nelvanna tells Narya that because she was so foolish as to bear a mortal’s child she has subsequently turned her back on living eternally in the Realm of the Gods.

Thompson shakes his fists and asks they Gods why they come to torment Narya when she is in pain before boasting that it is no wonder that Snowbird wanted to become human. Shaman asks Doug whom he is shouting at, and angrily he replies ‘the Gods’ and asks if Shaman didn’t see them. Twoyoungmen puts a hand on Doug’s shoulder and informs him that the Gods must have chosen to hide themselves from all eyes save his and Narya’s. However, Shaman declares that the appearance of the Gods confirms his belief that they have brought Narya to the proper place, for there is power here.

Just then, a green and yellow bean streams upwards from Snowbird and she screams from the pain. Talisman agrees to herself with her father, there is power here, but not the kind of power he thinks. Thompson is amazed at the light, and when he queries Shaman about it the reply is that it is the child’s life force shinning from Narya’ womb, for her baby is about to be born.

Below the ice, Crozier senses life coming into existence above him, a spirit seeking solidity needing to be bound to the land to take form. He wonders why they brought the mother here, to a place, which so long ago his hate corrupted. However, he cares not for that, as their mistake is his salvation, ‘Today I shall be reborn!’

Back in the circle of rocks, Snowbird’s close friend, the handsome Jean-Paul Beaubier declares that he has a bad feeling about this, to which Heather tells the former Olympic skier to stand his ground, as no one will get to Narya through them. Shaman calls to the spirits of life and land to aid him, while Talisman just smiles and tells her father that he is a fool, so proud of his pathetic power to summon aid from the spirit world, and asks him if it did not occur to him that no spirit would come to aid him unless it had her permission.

Talisman reveals that she set her father up, that the spirits led him to this spot because she commanded them to, for it is place of power, ‘but it is also a place of death’ she trumpets. At that moment, black leech-like creatures rise from the ice and begin to feed on the life force of the child. Shaman begs his daughter to stop them, while Snowbird screams for her baby. Jean-Paul Vindicator, Aurora and Box all rush towards Narya when they realize that the danger comes from within the circle itself. Box declares that the danger comes from Talisman herself, but Elizabeth professes that she is merely a catalyst.

Vindicator starts to question that revelation when Twoyoungmen himself confirms it, declaring that the threat to the child comes from below the ice. As Northstar rushes to aid his friend he suddenly finds himself stuck, for something turns the ice beneath him into ooze which holds him fast. Aurora speeds past her brother professing that she would set him free but reminds him that with the slightest contact their powers are negated. Box is also running towards the center of the circle and tells Aurora that their priority right now is to stop the leeches threatening Snowbird’s baby.

Aurora is somewhat hesitant and worries about Jean-Paul, but Northstar exclaims that he will get free and asks his sister to see Snowbird’s safety. Aurora complies and is about to strike one of the leaches when her hand passes right through it. Pulling her hand back towards herself, Aurora is mortified to find it covered with maggots. She struggles up in the air as the maggots begin to cover her entire body. Seeing the woman who gave him some attention earlier in danger, Bochs forgets that he told Aurora not to help her brother and decides that he needs to help her.

However Vindicator informs Bochs that it is just the revulsion of the maggots that is paralyzing Aurora and suggests that the maggots might go away if they destroy the leaches. Box is about to fall in line and do as his leader asks and hurl a rock at the leaches when rust suddenly spreads from the rock and immobilizes him.

Vindicator realizes that the forces of decay – rust, maggots and muck - are attacking them and she sees flies swarming towards herself. Even though the flies perish as soon as they touch her electromagnetic shields, more and more keep coming and she can no longer see, trapped in a black cloud of flies.

Judd then rushes out of the Omnijet, for while he did as he was asked and remained at the controls of the ship in case they needed to make a quick getaway, Heather needs him. But as Puck rushes across the ice cracks below him and he falls into the icy waters.

Back in the center of the circle, Shaman asks the spirits to help him, but Talisman steps forward and exclaims that the spirits will not help him, because she forbids it. Twoyoungmen pleads with Elizabeth and asks why, when she states again that she wants to see him fail in the eyes of his fellow Alphans, and because she wants to see him humbled by that failure. Elizabeth smiles and then adds that she wants her father to see how easily she shall step in and pick up the pieces by saving the child from the horror that her father ineptly released.

Shaman wonders what Talisman means by “save the child” and as they watch the baby begin to take form Elizabeth declares that beneath the ice she sensed a spirit that was trapped between life and death so many years had come to hate life and the living. Talisman knows that the creature sought rebirth only to deal death to those more fortunate than itself. As the baby’s features begin to change Talisman reveals that the creature could only reanimate itself by the life force of a child yet unborn before asking what better way to humiliate her father than by offering the creature it the very life which Shaman had sworn to deliver safely?

Where once Snowbird’s baby hovered in the green beam, now rests the full-grown form of Captain F.R. Crozier, who grins wickedly and declares ‘I live! And upon the living I shall bring plague and Pestilence!’ Doug Thompson looks up and asks if that is his child, to which Snowbird replies it is not. Pestilence grins down at Narya and Doug and informs them that their child is inside of him, and while the baby’s soul is strong, his corruption will eventually overcome the purity of the baby.

Addressing everyone now, even the Alphans struggling with their enemies of decay, Pestilence declares that the baby shall know death as its first experience of life as he calls down destruction, decay and decomposition of the parents. Shaman steps up to Pestilence and orders him to release the child and bring death to no one. Pestilence asks who there is among them that possess the power to deny death. Shaman suddenly keels over and finds himself withering as his body grown weak and feeble, as does his heart. Thompson turns to Shaman and Pestilence tells him that he will not suffer long, for his death draws near.

Thompson asks if there is no one who can free his child and stop this slaughter, when Talisman steps forward and declares that she can now that her father has suffered for all the wrong doings he has done to her. Thompson is furious and asks Elizabeth why she caused this if she is just going to end it. Talisman informs him that Shaman has been humbled and now knows that his power is not enough to save himself let alone others.

Talisman powers up and facing Pestilence she tells the villain that she tricked Shaman into letting him loose so that she could step in and save him as he had previously failed to save her mother from death and herself from inhumanity. She attacks Pestilence and declares that by destroying him she will destroy her father’s pride. Pestilence asks why the one who helped resurrect him would want to destroy him and calling Talisman a ‘boastful child’ he exclaims that he will not be send back to the darkness where he lay for 138 years.

As he grabs Elizabeth by her neck, Elizabeth orders Pestilence to unhand her, reminding him that he is a spirit of death and that she is the Binder of Spirits. Talisman chokes when Pestilence tightens his grip and exclaims that Talisman made a mistake, for he is not a spirit as he never truly died! Talisman is horrified at her mistake and watches unable to do anything as Pestilence informs her that chemicals and the cold preserved his body against time and decay, meaning he is as alive now as he was the day of his entombment.

He tells Talisman that she cannot command him, and adds that that is not the full extent of her mistake, for thank to her he now possess all the power that would have gone to a child conceived of immortal and mortal. Pestilence declares that where the baby would have embodied the life of the land, Pestilence’s hate corrupted that power so that he now embodies death! Talisman is dismayed when Pestilence puts a hand to her tiara. She informs him that her tiara cannot be removed from her brow without causing her incredible pain – but Pestilence cares not, and rips the cronet from Elizabeth, indeed causing her to scream in agony.

Pestilence tosses the powerful tiara to one side, and it lands near the weak Twoyoungmen who looks up, unable to aid his daughter. Elizabeth presses a hand up to Pestilence’s face trying to ward him off as he declares he has not held a woman in his arms to more than a century, and that he never dreamed that when he did again it would only be to kill her!

The weak Michael Twoyoungmen watches the scene, realizing that by removing the tiara, Pestilence has done what he never could, restoring humanity to his daughter. However without her power she cannot call forth the spirits of the land and command them to defend her, she will die. Shaman goes wide-eyed and realizes that someone else may be willing to sacrifice their humanity and become a new Talisman….

Meanwhile, in Atlantis, Attuma and one of his barbarian warriors stand before the small orb that serves as the prison to former Alphan, Marrina. Attuma declares that his plan to use Marrina to lure the Sub-Mariner back to Atlantis so he could kill him has failed. Marrina declares that if Namor no longer loves her then she is glad of it, for as she is a monster she can claim no hold on the heart of the Prince of Atlantis. The barbarian corrects Marrina, declaring that Namor is the former Prince, and that Lord Attuma rules here now.

Suddenly, someone calls for the guards to be sent out, as the Sub-Mariner has just arrived! Attuma smiles and informs Marrina that he had hoped that when Namor heard that his mortal enemy had captured the kingdom and the woman he once hoped to make his queen that the passion and pride of the Sub-Mariner would get the better of his brains…and by the look on Namor’s face, it has.

Characters Involved: 

Aurora, Box, Puck, Northstar, Snowbird, Vindicator II (all Alpha Flight)

Marrina, Shaman, Talisman II (Former members of Alpha Flight)

Doug Thompson (Snowbird’s husband)

Snowbird’s baby

Namor the Sub-Mariner (Marrina’s lover)

Hodiak, Nelvanna, the Shaper (all Arctic Gods)

Pestilence / Captain F.R. Crozier



In Flashbacks

Captain F.R. Crozier

Crew of the ships Terror and Erebus

Story Notes: 

Aurora’s boyfriend, Sasquatch / Dr. Walter Langkowski was killed in Alpha Flight (first series) #28-29 / Incredible Hulk #313.

Elizabeth was transformed into Talisman in Alpha Flight (first series) #19.

This is the first time that the Arctic God the Shaper has been given a name, “Turoq”. Rather amusing since he had previously been called “the Nameless Shaper”.

Snowbird, with some help from Alpha Flight destroyed the Great Beasts over the course of the first 24 issues of Alpha Flight (first series). [Alpha Flight (first series) #1, 6, 18-19, 23-24]

This time of year was a bad time for babies to be born in the Marvel Universe, for Snowbird’s baby was possessed by Pestilence, while the Scarlet Witches twin sons born in Vision and Scarlet Witch (second series) #12 would later turn out to be figments of Wanda’s mind.

Marrina left Alpha Flight after meeting the Sub-Mariner and he asked her to come live with her. [Alpha Flight (first series) #4] She was separated from Namor and captured by the Master of the World who revealed her origin to her over the course of Alpha Flight (first series) #14-16. Marrina was then captured by Attuma in Alpha Flight (first series) #35.

Issue Information: 
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