Alpha Flight (1st series) #6

Issue Date: 
January 1984
Story Title: 
<BR>Snowblind (1st story)<BR>The Old Ways (2nd story)

John Byrne (writer, penciler), Michael Higgins (letterer), Andy Yanchus (colorist), Linda Grant (editor), Jim Shooter (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

First Story: Snowbird’s civilian guise, Anne McKenzie gets a lecture from her superior, Inspector Hamilton, at the RCMP post, and she is imprisoned until she can explain to him her unaccounted for absences. Her colleague Doug Thompson tries to help her, but it’s no use. Inside her cell, Snowbird’s mystical senses alert her to one of the Great Beasts having broken free. She easily breaks free from her holding cell, and flies towards the drillsite, where construction workers accidentally released Kolomaq, the living embodiment of winter. Snowbird challenges the Beast, who recognizes her divinity. Kolomaq unleashes a powerful snowstorm, covering the area in white, and filling the air with snow. Snowbird and Kolomaq have a battle in the snow, in which Snowbird puts her shapeshifting powers to the test. She almost gets lost between the animal psyches, but overcomes it only to get wounded by the Beast. Finally when Snowbird taunts the Great Beast, he brings about his own demise by causing a landslide to fall upon him. As the soil of the tundra is Kolomaq’s natural enemy, he is once more detained. Snowbird mystically heals herself, bids the drill site workers to seal the area in concrete, and flies off, realizing that the walls between dimensions grow weaker. She fears that once the other five Beasts have been defeated, her time on Earth may be done. In Ottawa, Guardian arrives at his home, only to find a very surprising letter addressed to him from Roxxon Oil, an American oil company.

Second Story: Alone, residing near at an isolated cabin near a small lake, where he has been staying for the past ten years, Michael Twoyoungmen does the same thing he does every day, stare outward, though his eyes no longer see the beauty of the land. Remembering the day, his wife and grandfather died, and his daughter stopped loving him, he decides that now is the time for him to open the package left to him from his grandfather. When the package opens, the spirit of his grandfather is released. Michael does not know whether it is a joke or if he has finally lost his mind. The spirit tells him the time has finally come for Michael to carry on the traditions of the old ways, and after Michael unsuccessfully tries to pull pine needles from the mystic medicine pouch his grandfather left him, he begins with his lessons. After weeks of rigorous training of mind, body and soul, Michael attempts to pull pine needles out once more, and this time, with his grandfather’s guidance he is successful. The emergence of the new, possibly greatest Sacree shaman is secretly watched by Dr. Strange and the Ancient One from afar.

Full Summary: 

First Story:

In Chief Inspector Hamilton’s office, at a remote Royal Canadian Mounted Police post, in the district of MacKenzie, NWT, Hamilton asks Anne McKenzie to explain her unauthorized absences from her post. Anne reminds Hamilton that her absences were authorized by his predecessor, Chief Inspector Cranmer. Silent through all of this argument, Corporal Doug Thompson thinks to himself that Anne said the wrong thing, and as Hamilton is after her pretty blond head, she is only going to aggravate him further. Pointing his finger at Anne, he tells her that as well-remembered as Cranmer is, he is dead, and now that Hamilton is in charge, he reminds Anne that he has told her things are going to be run differently around here. The woman who is actually a goddess begins to protest, before Hamilton tells her to be quiet. Hamilton tells corporal Doug Thompson that he wants a full investigation of Anne’s actions since she has been on this post, and that until that is completed to his satisfaction, she is to be confined. Doug understands, but thinks to himself, that Hamilton can play the power games now, until one day when he goes too far.

Leading Anne out of Hamilton’s office, Doug tells her he is sorry it came to this. Anne, who unbeknownst to Doug is actually the powerful Alpha Flight member known as Snowbird, tells him not to apologize as she is sure he did everything he could to help her. Doug tells her it doesn’t amount to much, as he became assigned to this post even after her, and does not know what the arrangement was that she had with the deceased Chief, and just went along with it because everyone else did. Thompson asks her if she can just tell him something that he could use to keep Hamilton calmed down for a while. Narya tells him that she would if she could, but she can’t. And even if she could she doubts he would believe it. They enter a room filled with cells, and Thompson tells her not to say he never tried. He tells Anne that he will get her some blankets so they can hang them up over the bars giving her privacy. Narya thanks him, and tells him he has been very kind, and that she wishes she could be more open with him.

Thompson tells her it is nothing that any red-blooded Canadian boy wouldn’t do for such a beautiful damsel in distress. He asks her if there is anyone he can call for her. Anne says there is, but withdraws it quickly before sitting on the bed by a window. When Doug leaves the cells, and the door slams shut, Narya is at last alone with her thoughts. She wonders if she should have asked Doug to call the Ministry of Defense, as even though Alpha Flight are no longer attached to the government, Gary Cody is still their unofficial liaison. Gary might have been able to contact Guardian, but Narya doubts that even Canada’s premiere super hero would have been able to help her.

Meanwhile, some forty miles North. At a drill site, Thom, a worker at the site tells his foreman, Ed Barrow, that he must stop the drilling, as this is a bad place, and that his people fear it, with good reason. Ed tells Thom that he is a good worker, and he respects him, but he tells him that their seismology tells them there that must be oil here, and they need it. Another worker suddenly alerts Barrow to one of the drills, Barrow is stunned, as strange energies dance around it.
Fifteen seconds later all who work at the drill site become witness to something never seen before, and as the strange eerie green mists flows up from the drill, it seems as if the destructive forces of the land have been released. Though the power does not strike from the earth, but rather against it, and as the large drill is torn from its grounding, destruction gives birth to creation, and a energy sphere grows and draws the broken rock of the land into itself, until suddenly, a large creature is released from it. It calls itself Kolomaq, and says that after one thousand years, it is finally free!

Back in her cell at, Narya contemplates her situation more. She thinks that while Guardian created her “Anne McKenzie” identity so that if Alpha Flight needed her she would be easier to find, the cover identity is fast becoming a liability. Suddenly the goddess’ senses detect that a mystic field has been breached, and another of the Beasts is loose. The human looking woman transforms, into the exotic looking Snowbird. Minutes later Doug Thompson returns, with the blankets he promised Anne. After calling to her and getting no response, Thompson is shocked to see a large gapping hole in the cell wall. Already two-dozen miles away, the goddess Narya flies through the skies towards her destination, not knowing which if the Great Beast’s she may find.

At the same time, only thousands of miles to the South and East, a more familiar figure cuts through the skies of Ottawa, Canada’s Capital City. James MacDonald Hudson, a.k.a. Guardian thinks to himself that it is a lot easier to enjoy being a super hero if he lets himself cut loose every now and then. And after spending the past few months a little gloomy, he welcomes the change. He thinks that maybe he is finally getting used to the idea of Alpha Flight as an independent body, no longer affiliated with the government. Mac thinks that while he has never really been able to accept the idea of Alpha on its own, the removal of government funding actually takes some weight off his shoulders. He is still out of a job of course, but he and Heather seem to manage on her salary. He thinks that there is also something of an ego stroke in being Canada’s Captain America.

As Mac’s outlook suddenly brightens, he approaches one house over a quiet residential neighborhood, fast enough so that no one will be able to recognize him. As Guardian flies through an open window, James MacDonald Hudson is home. He thinks to himself that there is no point in calling out a T.V.-type greeting as Heather is still at work, even executive secretaries have the open hours of unemployed petro-chem engineers. Mac takes out from the refrigerator some iced tea and pours himself a glass. He notices that Heather must have gotten the mail in already, but is shocked when it is addressed from Roxxon. Mac wonders why America’s biggest oil company would be writing to him, and even more importantly how did they get his address? As he reads the letter, he says ‘Great Scott !’

Snowbird arrives on the scene of devastation, and orders the Beast to end its attack on the land. Kolomaq is surprised to see a flying human, and realizes that much has changed since he last walked the Earth. Not understanding whom she actually is, the Beast bids Narya away, telling her that his fight is with his ancient enemies. Snowbird tells him that his foe is the land Beast, Tundra, and that his power is long since fallen, but reminds him that he has other, older enemies. Snowbird tells him to look past her mortal guise upon her True Fires, and see whom it is that he now faces. Kolomaq is astonished. He sees within Narya the spirit of Hodiak and the power of Nelvanna, though in a mortal form. He tells the goddess that if she truly is a daughter of the gods, then she will know his power, and he tells her to ‘Feel it now’. Snowbird cries out as the Great Beast unleashes a pure white blanket of snow around the drill site.

The snow whips around Snowbird, like a living thing, thicker and colder than any blizzard in memory. Even the child of the gods is taken by surprise. Snowbird scolds herself, saying she should have remembered that Kolomaq is the living embodiment of Winter. But he is vulnerable, like any living creature he can be attacked directly. Narya’s human form melts into that of a polar bear. The goddess tells herself she must be careful, as Kolomaq is one of the most savage of the Beasts. She also prays that she does not loose control of the animal, and gives into its lust. When all conscious thought has floated away, the being that growls and attacks Kolomaq is truly a bear. The ancient Beast manages to let out a feeble cry before a thousand pounds of tooth and claw slam into him.

As the beast faces the Beast, they tumble through the tress and boulders, until suddenly beneath them there is nothing but empty air. In a terrible and horrible instant, raw panic seizes the bear, its animal instincts overpowering all human reason. Until suddenly a shriek can be heard through the snowstorm, and only one thud onto ground below. The transformation was unbearable, as never before has Snowbird attempted to morph from one animal to another, without assuming her human form in between. In her blind panic she seems to have forgotten that her human form could fly too. Now, as the arctic owl struggles, Narya tries to gain control over it. Dizzy, the snow owl tries to climb the clifftop, stumbling in the snow, Narya begins to regain control as feathers give way to limbs, and finally it is Snowbird who collapses at the cliff edge.

Soon, Snowbird realizes that Kolomaq is still alive, as without his power to guide the snowstorm, it would have vanished. Snowbirds ultra keen eyes peer into the swirling snow, only to find nothing. Snowbird thinks that as she is as good as blind, she needs the senses of a bat, but unfortunately for her, that creature is not one of her domain, and she cannot take its form. Suddenly, the Great Beast’s voice looms nearby. He asks Narya if she grows afraid, as he still lives, and still hates. He mocks the goddess, asking her if she will use her “small” powers against him again. His voice is colder than the ice itself. Snowbird manages to gain some altitude and hovers above the Beast. She reminds herself that there were seven Great Beasts involved in Last Battle, one thousand years ago. And had her elder gods not sacrificed everything, then the Earth would have been destroyed. Tundra was awoken, and though all of Alpha Flight was on hand to battle him, they certainly had a hard time. Snowbird wonders if she alone can stop the viscous Kolomaq, as though her power is mighty, it is diluted some by her human blood.

Kolomaq calls to her, telling her he is waiting for her. Narya decides the only option now is a direct one, and by following the sound of his voice must strike at him, in her human form. Snowbirds’ cape spreads like wings, she swoops, and her strength is great, she strikes the Beast, catching him off guard, which causes him to loose balance, and he falls again from the cliffside. Snowbirds’ angelic body circles back, knowing that even though the Beast is silent, the storm still rages, meaning he is alive. Suddenly, the Beast cries ‘Die God-child’! And throws daggers made of ice at her, which strike like knives of steel. Snowbird is horrified, she bleeds! Never before has such a thing happened, and she feels her life draining away. Narya calls to her mother, Nelvanna, asking for her help, telling her that her daughter is afraid.

Snowbirds’ cries go in vain, as her mother is beyond the power to help. Snowbird, weakened, she acknowledges that if her kinship with the gods is not enough, she is still a member of Alpha Flight, and knows that there is a way to defeat the Beast, even if it is dangerous, and she must use it. Narya calls the Beast, and she slices through the storm, circling above him, and it is now she who taunts him. She tells him his powers have faded with his imprisonment, and there is nothing he can do but threaten without the force to back his threats up. Enraged Kolomaq asks her if she dare speak to him like that, and tells her to learn the folly of her words. The goddess thinks to herself that her plan is working.

Kolomaq has now unleashed the full force of his power against Snowbird, and the tearing, wrenching night of a million winters rips out, smashing into Snowbird and the cliff-face alike.
Snowbird calls to her grandfather, Hodiak, to grant her the strength she needs to beat this, until suddenly there is a great rumble, like a legion of dinosaurs, moaning in mutual agony. Towering above, the cliff-face slips away, as Kolomaq’s storm rips across the base. The Beast cries out in pain and defeat as the cliff collapses into his storm, and himself, burying him beneath mountains of rubble.

Torn and bruised, Snowbird crawls by, thinking that her plan worked, and once again the unbreakable embrace of Kolomaq’s ancient foe, the tundra itself, holds him. A voice shouts over to Narya. It is Ed Barrow. He introduces himself as foreman of the drillsite, and apologizes for letting the Beast loose. Recognizing her from pictures, he asks her if she is Snowbird. The goddess tells Ed he is correct, and tells him he has witnessed the latest chapter in an old and bitter conflict. Barrow says that they didn’t actually witness all that much, as the storm clouded their sight. He asks if there is anything left to be done? Narya tells him there is much, and that the Beast must be imprisoned more securely, and suggests he arrange the whole area to be sealed in concrete. Narya says that for herself, there are other matters she must contend to, and the goddess begins to glow, as a mystical healing power falls over her, restoring her ripped costume, and healing her wounds and bruises.

With that, Snowbird takes flight, and thinks that there is much to consider from that battle, that this was the second Beast to rise in the matter of months. Narya realizes that the barriers must grow weaker everyday and wonders whether her family will be free from imprisonment too. If so, then Snowbird‘s time on Earth will be done!

Second Story:

(set five years in the past / ten years after the backstory of Alpha Flight #5)

Near the townsite of Banff, Alberta, alone upon a barren, untouched cliff overlooking a lake, Michael Twoyoungmen has escaped civilization seeking peace, but even in the silent winter, he finds none. Twoyoungmen’s eyes gaze out to the land, and he sees the same thing he has seen for the past ten years. But he no longer sees the beauty of the land. His eyes are filled with pain, but he has run out of tears to cry. He is looking for secrets that he does not know if they even exist. Michael lumbers back to his small cabin, which has been his home for the past years. A far cry from his luxurious suburban home in Calgary. That was the home of Doctor Michael Twoyoungmen and his family however. Michael closes the door, trapped in the stale air of the cabin, and realizes that something far greater than time and space separates him from the man the he once was.

(flashback, 10 years ago)

Michael and his daughter Elizabeth watched as wife and mother Katheryn, who just passed away, was covered with a blanket. Michael was supposed to be the best physician in Canada, but he could not save the woman he loved. That death also cost him the love of his daughter, to whom he promised he would save Katheryn. She hated him as any child can. Even more grief was laid upon Michael when he learned that his grandfather died that same day. Two days later, a companion of Michael’s grandfather brought him a gift, and she told him that he must not open it until he would know he was ready.


Michael thinks that he had always laughed at his grandfather’s old ways, he supposed it was the magic that made him an outcast as the Sarcee world marched into the twentieth century. When Michael’s father died in the war, it made things worse as his grandfather expected Michael to follow in the old ways. Even as a child Michael could feel the strange call that beckoned him to the white man’s science, and he rejected his grandfather over and over again. Now ten years later, he hears another call. Twoyoungmen begins to open the package, and as the dry hide wrappings fall away, a miracle explodes into the hut.

It is the spirit of Michael’s grandfather. His grandfather calls to him, telling him not to be afraid, and he has waited a long time upon the mortal plane for Michael to hear his call. He tells Michael that his time now is short, and yet Michael has much to learn. Michael has no ears for the soothing voice of the dead man, and thinks that he has gone mad, as he cowers on the floor he knew it would eventually happen. The spirit of Michael’s grandfather tells him he is not mad, and to look at the gift for him on the table. Michael looks and is stunned. Even though the skull sitting before him is stripped of flesh, the line of the cheek and jaw are unmistakable. Twoyoungmen looks upon the skull of his grandfather, and feels the world grow suddenly smaller and further away.

Michael asks his grandfather what kind of savagery this is? He knows that the flesh had been boiled from the skull, he knows the signs. Yet Michael thinks that the woman bought him this only two days after his grandfather’s death. He asks the spirit that if he truly is his grandfather, how could he condone such a thing? The spirit replies it was necessary, that because of his stubborn refusal to accept the old ways, the spirit tells Michael, he conceived this means to delay his passage into the Great Home. Michael’s grandfather tells him to place his skull to one side, to pick up the medicine bag underneath it, to open it up and take out a handful of pine needles. Michael hesitates, and his grandfather tells him he must hurry, as every moment wasted is one they can never reclaim, and it may cost him dearly. Still doubting his own mental stability, Michael obeys, and as he puts his hand in the bag he notices how strangely dry and cool it feels, and empty. Michael says that this has gone on long enough, and though he doesn’t know if it is madness of some cruel joke…. The spirit tells his grandson to not look into the medicine pouch, he must never look into the pouch. He asks him to place aside his doubts, and to let the lesson begin.

(over the next weeks)

The lesson that follows the next few weeks is more than just that of words passed on, it is that of discipline. As a doctor Michael kept himself in good physical condition, but now he enters a regimen designed to keep his body in near perfect condition. At the same time he learns other skills too, and soon enough he can run through the forest without disturbing any bird or animal in his passing. Michael baths in the mountain streams, which until not long ago had been snow, and he grows stronger. He grows wiser too, as he learns to look upon the world with new eyes. His mind no longer lonely reaches levels, as he tries to climb to new heights.

One day thereafter, the spirit of his grandfather tells him that his time is done, that he has taught him all he can, and what follows must come not from him, but from Michael himself. Michael asks if it is time again for another handful of pine needles? The spirit tells Michael that only if he truly believes, as there is still within him much of his old self who doubts, and in times to come the doubts may cost him dearly. The spirit says it is time for the testing, and for Michael to concentrate, turning his mind away from the path of the world beyond the room. Michael must look inwards, extending not his thoughts, but his feelings into the bag. He must not think of pine needles, but know them, by smell, touch…everything about them. They must feel as real to Michael as the fabric of the medicine bag against his skin. As the spirit says ‘Let them be real’ Michael opens up his hand, revealing a handful of pine needles.

At that moment, nearly three thousand miles away, in Greenwich Village, Dr. Strange witnesses the scene as he looks into his viewing globe at Michael Twoyoungmen. He says that it is good, to which the Ancient One replies the old ways have finally passed to Michael at last. Dr. Strange tells the Ancient One that Michael is a wise and powerful man, and he will make a great Shaman to his people, perhaps the greatest they have ever known...

Characters Involved: 

First Story:

Guardian, Snowbird (both Alpha Flight)

Chief Inspector Hamilton, Corporal Doug Thompson (both RCMP)

Ed Barrow construction foreman

Thom and other construction workers


Second Story, set in the past:

Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen

the Spirit of his grandfather

Dr. Strange

The Ancient One

in flashbacks:

Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen

Katheryn Twoyoungmen

Elizabeth Twoyoungmen

Heather McNeil

Dr. Max Bassaraba

unnamed companion of grandfather Twoyoungmen

Story Notes: 

The cover to this issue was voted the 86th all-time best comic cover ever. [Wizard the Comics Magazine #127]

First Story:

January 1984 was known as “Assistant Editors Month”, and most comics released in this month had something different about them, which the assistant editor (in this case Linda Grant) permitted. For this issue, the entire battle between Snowbird and Kolomaq (6 of 16 pages of main story) was not seen, as the pure white force surrounding of the blizzard was surrounding the combatants. Each panel was white, only with captions, sound effects, Snowbird‘s speech and thoughts, and the Beasts’ speech.

James Hudson arranged Snowbird the guise of “Anne McKenzie” to also help her adjust to mortal life.

Snowbird‘s rarely mentioned healing power is once more seen in the first X-Men and Alpha Flight limited series.

Alpha Flight battled Tundra, another of the seven Great Beasts, in Alpha Flight (1st series) #1.

Snowbird was originally created by the gods as a champion upon Earth whose purpose was solely to defeat the Great Beasts. However over time Snowbird began to challenge her family and decided upon a new role for herself.

Second Story:

The death of Shaman’s wife, and estrangement of his daughter was shown in the backstory of the previous issue, part one of Shaman’s origin.

Issue Information: 

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