Alpha Flight (1st series) #65

Issue Date: 
December 1988
Story Title: 
When Robots Dream

Bill Mantlo (Writer), Hugh Haynes (Penciler), Al Milgrom (Inker), Bob Sharen (Colorist), Janice Chiang (Letterer), Marc McLaurin (Assistant Editor), Carl Potts (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

Heather’s parents talk to her and Madison about their upcoming marriage, while Heather also details what Sasquatch and Beta Flight have been doing since Alpha Flight’s disbanding. Jeffries has several nightmares over the course of a day, all in which his Box armor does some severe damage to innocents, or Heather. When Jeffries is no longer in control of the armor and it creates real damage it becomes apparent that his deceased brother and best friend, Roger Bochs, both of whom he had to kill have come to seek revenge, but Jeffries discovers it to be a manifestation of his own guilt, though suspects there may be something more sinister at work, nevertheless he conquers his demons.

Full Summary: 

(In Box IV’s Nightmare)

‘I’m under attack - by my brother and my best friend!’ shouts Madison “Box” Jeffries. To be more precise, he is under attack by Omega, formerly Scramble the Mixed-Up-Man, transmutator of anything organic, and by Roger Bochs, inventor and original wearer of the Box robot. Both very, very dead! Madison realizes that if his brother and best friend are both dead, then he must be dreaming, and as Scramble lunges at Madison, he tells the armored Alphan that he is dreaming, and that it is a dream from which he will never awake.

Roger also leaps at Jeffries, and suggests to Scramble that calling this a nightmare might be more appropriate. Jeffries sticks a hand up against Bochs, and it goes right through him. Jeffries realizes that Roger must be a ghost, but Roger suddenly phases into the Box armor, and tells Madison to think of him as an avenging angel - who has come to reclaim the robot that was stolen from him. It is obvious that no two objects and no two bodies may occupy the same space at the same time….


Jeffries screams as he wakes from his nightmare. Heather McNeil Hudson rushes into the bedroom, and sitting down on the bed beside her lover, she asks him what is wrong. Jeffries replies that it is nothing, that he just had a bad dream, and as he turns and looks up at the Box armor which stands beside the bed, a grave misgiving descends over Jeffries, which might jell into terror if he knew that his Box robot is not occupying the exact position he left it in last night.

Later that morning, Heather and her mother, Claire sit at the kitchen table and look out at Jeffries and Heather’s father Ramsey who are busy fixing a car. Claire asks her daughter if she and Madison have plans for today, to which Heather replies that as soon as Madison and her father are finished fixing the car, they are going into town to pick out her bridal gown. ‘You’re going to marry another super hero…’ mutters Claire.

‘After what happened to Heather’s first husband, Guardian?’ asks Ramsey McNeil outside with Jeffries. Madison tells Ramsey that he hopes, too, and as he transmutates the motor in the car, tells Heather’s father not to worry, as he is taking care of things. Ramsey agrees after Jeffries gets his old car working good again. Jeffries tells Heather’s father that the car should be good for a while now, while thinking to himself that the car will be good for a century or so, as he transmutated in a maintenance free motor!

Inside, Claire informs Heather that she and her father worry about her so much, and don’t want to see either her or Jeffries hurt. Heather reminds her mother that when she married Mac she was just his secretary, and he was her hero, but now she wears a modified version of his battle suit. Claire points out that Heather hasn’t taken her suit off since she arrived here, and reveals to Heather that she would have thought with the upcoming wedding and Alpha Flight’s disbanding, the suit might hold unpleasant memories.

Heather smiles and informs her mother that she has her reasons for keeping the suit on, and as for life after Alpha Flight, she thinks she can cope. Claire smiles back and agrees that Heather can cope in a fight, but with all these political attacks against Alpha Flight that she has been hearing about on TV…Claire’s voice trails off, before hugging her daughter and admitting that she may not understand what is happening, ‘but you give ‘em, um, heck, hear?’ Heather smiles and tells her mother that she will try. ‘We’ll try’ says Jeffries as he enters the house and hugs Heather. ‘Not without a hot cup of coffee inside you, you won’t!’ Claire exclaims.

Soon, driving her father’s car, Heather tells Jeffries that it never ran so well. ‘Yeah’ mumbles Jeffries as he stares out the window. Heather asks him if she told him she got a letter from Kara yesterday, and reveals that it seems the Purple Girl is doing fine back in school, despite the inevitable stares her skin color attracts. Heather reveals that Laura has enrolled in the same classes and seems happy, except when it is time to bid Goblyn goodbye…

Elsewhere: Goblyn manages to follow Kara and Laura to school and howls outside Laura’s classroom window. But there have been incidents, one time a student pushed Kara over in gym class, declaring that she doesn’t want to play basketball with a ‘goofy grape’. But Kara tells the girl to ‘go dribble’, and the mean girl does as she is told, dribbling the basketball. When the mean girl asks Kara how else she may serve her, Kara tells her to suck her sweat socks until they are clean.

Heather tells Jeffries that Kara believes she is gaining her classmates respect, before mentioning that Whit phoned this morning, and that it seems the many selves of Manikin are adjusting well to Whit’s internship at the hospital. Jeffries asks after Sasquatch, but Heather replies that there hasn’t been any word from Wanda. Heather points out that Wanda has been an Alphan longer than any of them and has taken the break up of Alpha Flight the hardest. Heather suggests that Wanda probably wants to be alone.

Indeed, Wanda is alone, clambering down some snow-covered slope somewhere in the wilderness.

Heather also tells Jeffries that since their ties to Ottawa have been cut, she hasn’t been able to learn anything about the Chinese super hero who returned with them after their battle with the Dreamqueen. She thinks that Dei Guan, that Jade Dragon must feel so lost.

Dei Guan is under constant security, being interrogated endlessly and is guarded whenever he eats or sleeps. As he drinks a soda, he thinks to himself that he understands that he is an illegal alien, and that Canada fears his powers and distrust his intentions…but enough is enough! Transforming into the Jade Dragon, Dei Guan turns to the soldiers and tells them that when he makes his decision whether to return to the people’s republic or to defect, then they shall be the first to know, but in the meantime, the Jade Dragon must be left in peace!

Outside the building, several, costumed beings watch through the windows, seeing Dei Guan, who is a traitor to them transform into the Jade Dragon, one of them orders the others to move in.

Back in the car, Heather mentions that she is surprised that China has not made some effort to get the Jade Dragon back. Noticing Jeffries staring out the window, Heather asks him if his dream is bothering him. Jeffries replies that it is, as he had to kill his brother and best friend to save Alpha, and even though Scramble and Bochs are dead, there is nothing to get around the fact that it was Jeffries who killed them.

Heather tries to tell Jeffries that he has nothing to feel guilty about, to which he replies ‘Tell that to my nightmares!’ Suddenly they come up to a traffic jam, and stepping out of the car they see that the bridge is out. Heather and Jeffries overhear some people who mention that the bridge was ripped apart by a monstrous metal man. Heather turns to the shocked Madison, and tells him that it was not in his dream.

Later, at Bonnie’s Bridal Boutique, Heather stands up as she is measured by the attendants. One of them asks Alpha Flight’s former leader if she isn’t going to wearing her costume under her gown on her wedding day, to which Heather asks if it isn’t naughty enough. Heather then supposes that one would not find her battle suit in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, before informing the other women that she does not like leaving home without it, and adds that this fitting is more for her parents’ sake, as she has been married before. Heather suddenly thinks to herself if the reason why she has been so hesitant to remove the suit is because after her remarriage it will be her only connection to Mac?

Sitting down on a chair and watching the fitting, Jeffries exclaims that all of this frilly see-through stuff does not turn him on like seeing the sight of Heather as Vindicator, and wonders what Masters and Johnson would make of that fetish. He mutters that he would know if reading their books wouldn’t send him straight to dreamland. A strange-yet-familiar green glow, one that has surrounded the Purple Girl and Sasquatch before, now surrounds Madison Jeffries as he falls asleep.

(In Box IV’s Nightmare)

‘We control the Box robot now Madison, Omega and I’ Inside the Box armor, trapped with his brother and best friend, Jeffries asks Bochs what he is going to make the robot do. ‘What comes naturally’ replies Bochs, before the Box robot dives towards a building and some people. Jeffries asks if attacking an orphanage, nuns and helpless kids is what comes naturally, and shouts ‘No, no!’ but Scramble and Bochs shout ‘Yes! Yes!’.


‘YES!’ screams Jeffries as he wakes from his nightmare. Standing in her wedding dress, Heather asks Madison if that means he approves.

Back at Heather’s parents’ home, Heather and Jeffries sit at the kitchen table, Heather asks Jeffries if he had another dream, to which Madison replies that it was worse than the first one. Heather tells Madison that dreams cannot hurt him, or anyone else, when over the radio a newsflash comes on, informing listeners that some sort of metal monster attacked a Catholic orphanage less than an hour ago.

Soon, Heather drives up to the scene of destruction where firemen are busy putting out a fire at an orphanage. A police officer tells Heather to get her car out of the way, when Heather begins to take her outer clothes off, revealing her battle suit underneath she declares that she is Vindicator, formerly of Alpha Flight and here to help, before saying of course unless the authorities have any objections. The police officer tells Heather that he saw how she gave it to the “authorities” on TV and while they may object to her, she has his blessing.

Heather thanks the officer and turns to Madison, asking him if he is coming, but Jeffries is frozen in fright. Vindicator declares she will handle this herself and flies off towards the burning building. Landing on the roof of the burning building, as Heather picks up the nun and stranded orphans, she thinks to herself that the power of Vindicator, the power of the suit, is sometimes such a high that she would never like to take it off.

On the ground below, all eyes are on Vindicator, except for her fiancée’s, for Jeffries’ eyes are fixated on the ground below, by the sight of the imprint of his Box robot in the mud.

Back at Heather’s parents’ again, Madison sits, dazed, in a chair as Heather rings Montreal University, informing the receptionist on the other end of the phone that she is trying to reach a student at the University, Elizabeth Twoyoungmen. Heather wonders if Elizabeth will know how to contact her father about Madison’s strange dreams. However, the receptionist informs Heather that their records indicate Elizabeth is on an archaeological dig somewhere up North and quite out of touch. Heather thanks the receptionist and hangs the phone up as her mother suggests they go and talk to Father Lloyd. Ramsey assures Heather and Jeffries that Father Lloyd is a man of the cloth and an old family friend so he is sure he will understand.

In the car again, Jeffries tells Heather that he would feel better about going to confession is he knew how he had sinned. Heather tells Madison that they are just going to talk and assures him that he hasn’t done anything wrong. Jeffries mutters that he drove Bochs out of his robot, so he is now taking revenge. Heather points out that the Box robot cannot function without him to animate it, but Jeffries exclaims that that is what he is worried about.

Silence fills the McNeil family car, while Jeffries reminds himself that his brother, Lionel, was hopelessly insane and wonders if it runs in the family. He doesn’t think he could marry Heather unless he knew for sure, or have kids either for that matter. However, he wonders if he is blowing things out of proportion and tells himself to think it through, asking himself what he has to be guilty about. He recalls that Roger Bochs built the Box robot to help him overcome his paraplegia, but that Bochs went crazy when Aurora rejected his love, and so he attacked Alpha Flight.

Jeffries remembers how he had to expel Bochs from the robot in order to save the rest of Alpha Flight, and how once he was inside it, it seemed natural for him to use his transmutative powers to manipulate the mass of metal, even against his own insane brother who had become Omega. Jeffries begins to wonder if he is only rationalizing his guilt, what if he drove Bochs out and killed Lionel because he wanted the robot - craved its power to impress Heather? ‘What kind of creep does that make me?’ he wonders. Suddenly, that strange-yet-familiar green glow surrounds Jeffries as he tells himself all the heavy thinking is making him sleepy…

(In Box IV’s Nightmare)

Jeffries stands before the amalgamation of his brother and best friend as they ask him if he has finally realized that he is no better than they were. They tell Madison that if they did not deserve to live then neither does he, however declaring that it would be too easy to destroy him, too easy and painless, for they want him to suffer as they have suffered, by making him destroy she whom he cherishes the most.

Realizing they are talking about Heather, Jeffries shouts ‘Over my dead body’ and begins to use his transmutative powers when Omega knocks him aside, boasting that it will be Jeffries very live body inside the Box robot that slays his bride, and as Jeffries steadies himself, Omega holds up Heather in her bloodied wedding gown.


‘Heather!’ screams Madison as he wakes and grabs control of the steering wheel. Heather tells him to let go of it as they drive off the road and onto some grass. As the car stops, Heather asks Jeffries what is wrong this time, to which Jeffries shouts that it is he who is wrong, a murderer, a traitor and a madman. He glows as he exclaims he is as crazy as his brother and best friend, and tells Heather that as he destroyed them, he will not destroy her.

The car becomes change form into a giant horrid version of the Box armor, causing Heather to tumble out onto the grass. The giant Box looms over Heather, who rolls aside just in time as two mighty metal fists try to come down on top of her. Heather rolls further away and strips off her regular clothes, wondering if it was the techno-virus again, but thinking it impossible as Madison assured her he had destroyed it.

However, Heather senses something different about it this time, and as she puts on her visor she cries ‘Honey! Don’t! Please!’ before unleashing a plasma blast on the out-of-control Box. It has little effect on him, and in return Jeffries fires two missiles at Heather, who takes to the sky to dodge them. Jeffries calls after Heather, telling her that he is coming for her and takes to the sky to follow her. ‘You’ve got a date to remember - you’re gonna be married…posthumously!’

Vindicator fires more electromagnetic energy back at Jeffries, telling him that he is not the man she loves, that he is an impostor! As Box snares Heather, she declares that she intends to prove it, but Box assures her that it is really him, her loving fiancée. Heather tells him if that is the case, then something must have happened to unhinge him - ‘And I’ll just have to shock you back to your senses!’ shouts Heather as she lets loose a plasma charge and frees herself when Box is knocked backwards.

Heather streaks off, but is followed by Box who informs Heather that she is finished. As Box fires head-hunter missiles at Heather, who destroys them easily with plasma bursts, Vindicator thinks to herself that if it were Madison controlling the robot, then he would know those missiles would not penetrate her battle-suit and that her plasma bursts could destroy them. However, if it isn’t Madison inside the armor, she wonders what has happened to him. Has someone slain the man she loves? Which of their enemies could have been so ruthless?

Suddenly, several missiles are diverted past Heather towards a passing jet. Heather wonders if this is a ploy to kill hundreds of innocents to get her off guard, She hears screams as the missiles penetrate the jet and as she flies towards the jet she wonders what kind of mad man she is facing. Heather begins to seal the hole in the jet with her plasma energy and recalls that Madison’s brother was mad, and Roger Bochs went mad. Heather supposes the robot may be acting on a genetic tendency, when suddenly realizes what it is that the robot reminds her of, but before she can act any further, Box comes up behind her and shoots her down.

Vindicator lands hard on the ground, sprawled across a railway line as Box looms over her and tells her it was lucky how she pulled the plane out of its dive, and raising his arms he tells her it was too bad it left her open for - ‘for the love of God! That’s my wife you’re trying to make me kill!’ screams Madison from within the Box armor and using every ounce of will power he manages to phase out.

Even with Madison out of the robot, it continues to speak and lumbers towards Jeffries and the unconscious Vindicator. The robot declares ‘You cannot stop us friend / brother’ to which Madison points out that the robot is only made of metal, while he is the master of metal. The robot swats him to one side as it tells Jeffries he has not had his mind on his work, but Jeffries ignores the robot, instead declaring that it may be out of his control now, but he will get it back.

Using the metal in a stationery train, Jeffries transmutates it into another robot, one with none of Bochs’ input, and phases into it. The evil Box calls Jeffries a fool and as they engage in hand to hand combat, the evil Box asks Jeffries if he think the train-yard scrap metal is any match for a living robot.

Jeffries screams as he is forced out of his makeshift robot, and the evil Box asks him if he concedes defeat. Tending to Heather, Jeffries calls back ‘stick it in your oil pan’!, adding that if it wants to kill Heather, then it will have to kill them both. ‘Our sentiments exactly!’ exclaims the Bochs/Scramble amalgamation of Box, but as it tries to bring a large fist down on Heather and Jeffries, it is unable to.

Jeffries stands up and calls to his brother and best friend, but realizes that they are not inside at all. And knowing both Lionel and Roger are ‘crazy as loons’ Madison declares there is no ghost in the Box armor, nothing animating it, except his won guilty subconscious. He picks up Heather and declares that while he is not a shrink, he knows how guilty he has been feeling over the possibility that he murdered to make the Box robot his own. A loopy idea he declares, but an idea just the same, yet something rebelled inside him and tried to destroy his thinking. But the more Jeffries thinks about it, he feels that there is something else toying with him, and he doesn’t like it, for his thoughts are his own.

He asks if they do not like what he is thinking, and shouting, tells them to do something to change his mind. The evil Box robot slams his fists down on the ground, causing dust and dirt to cover the are, but when the dust settles, Jeffries sees standing before him, his original Box robot.

Some days later, Jeffries and Heather stand at the grave markings of Roger Bochs and Lionel Jeffries. Jeffries tells Heather that guilt is a powerful force, that it doesn’t die when the object of it goes into the grave, that it can move mountains to get at you. Heather points out that they are good at fighting physical foes, but not good at dealing with the enemy within. Jeffries asks Heather if she means their feelings, but Heather explains that she means the psychic scars that outlast every of Alpha’s “victories” and that torture them with regret and recrimination long after they have dealt evildoers their justifiable reward.

Jeffries smiles and tells Heather that he cannot shake the feeling that there was something else more bizarre involved in this, but that he will not let guilt get a hold of him again. Heather smiles and asks him how he is going to stop it, to which he replies ‘Oh, I figure I got ways to keep myself distracted!’ and they kiss.

Meanwhile, in Northern Canada, a blond archaeologist approaches Elizabeth Twoyoungmen and looking at her sketches he asks the former Binder of the Spirits why she put a strange glow around the cairn in her drawing. ‘Glow? I don’t see any…glow’. replies Elizabeth almost trance-like as she gets up and walks over to the mysterious cairn.

Characters Involved: 

Box IV, Sasquatch, Talisman II, Vindicator II (all Former Members of Alpha Flight)

Laura Dean, Goblyn, Manikin, Purple Girl (all Former Members of Beta Flight)

Apeman, Highbrow, Proto (Manikin's past and future selves)

Claire & Ramsey McNeil

Jade Dragon



Shop Assistants


Police Officer



China Force

In Jeffries’s Nightmares

Madison Jeffries

Heather Hudson



In Flashbacks

Box, Madison Jeffries (both Alpha Flight)



Heather McNeil

In Illustrative Image

Shaman, Talisman II (both Alpha Flight)

Story Notes: 

The battle between Scramble and Bochs / Omega took place in Alpha Flight (first series) #48-49.

Jeffries first assumed the Box armor in Alpha Flight (first series) #46, before taking over officially in Alpha Flight (first series) #49.

The McNeil family are incorrectly addressed as the MacNeil family this issue.

As mentioned this issue, and with many other references across Alpha Flight (first series), Heather and Mac’s wedding is not shown until Alpha Flight (second series) #Minus1.

Guardian died in Alpha Flight (first series) #12.

Heather donned the Guardian battle suit as Vindicator in Alpha Flight (first series) #32.

Alpha Flight disbanded in Alpha Flight (first series) #61.

Jeffries’s helped Roger Bochs rebuild the original Box robot in Alpha Flight (first series) #16.

Aurora rejected Bochs over the course of Alpha Flight (first series) #40-49.

The Box armor was overcome with a techno-virus in the fill-in-issue Alpha Flight (first series) #63.

In a very uncommon move for Marvel (as it gives an explicit date) Roger Bochs’ grave has his date of birth and date of death marked on it. 1957-1985, making him 28 years of age at the time of his death.

Indeed, Jeffries is correct when he feels that there was something more to what happened to him in this issue, and it has to do with a certain spell that a certain someone cast on Alpha Flight in Alpha Flight (first series) #60. The other Alphans and Beta Flight members also experience strange happenings because of this. [Alpha Flight (first series) #62, 64-66]

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