Alpha Flight (1st series) #77

Issue Date: 
November 1989
Story Title: 
Shattered Design

James D. Hudnall (Writer), Huw Thomas (Penciler), Mike Manley (Inker), Bob Sharen (Colorist), Janice Chiang (Letterer), Marc McLaurin (Associate Editor), Carl Potts (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief) All unaccredited

Brief Description: 

Taking a well deserved break in the midst of the Sorcerer Affair, Vindicator is almost killed when a sniper shoots and kills an important Senator. Vindicator becomes involved, getting caught up in an intricate web of double crossings. A supposed friend of the Senator’s tries to help Heather, but as it turns out he is actually a spy for another country which was involved in drug trafficking. Little does Vindicator know that the American crime lord the Kingpin is tied up in this, and eventually she thwarts his plans. Heather and Madison also admit that they need to talk about their relationship, which has become rather rocky since the return of Diamond Lil.

Full Summary: 

New York, New York. A newspaper sits on a desk, the headline of the Daily Bugle reads “Congress Vetoes Contra Aid Bill”.

Steven’s Avenue Mall, Calgary, Canada. Heather McNeil Hudson spends most of her time in a costume, leading a team of super heroes called Alpha Flight. They fight menaces from other dimensions, distant stars or New York. But now they are illegal, the Canadian government doesn’t want them anymore, they are on their own. So “Vindicator” is taking a break before deciding their next move.

A man called Edward Barlow watches Heather’s approach, trying to hide his interest. Looking at her, Edward can forget the fears that follow him like hungry dogs, looking at her, he thinks his wife would kill him for this. As Heather and Edward cross paths, a bullet is fired from nearby, and both of them are knocked to the ground.

In New York, a man stubs out his cigar, asking if they have received conformation on the kill of their target. ‘Not yet, sir,’ comes the reply, to which the smoking man declares that it had better come soon.

Back in Canada, Heather sits up. ‘What happened?’ picking up her glasses, she feels blood on her temple, and turning to the man lying beside her, she sees a bullet hole through his head. Looking at the buildings around her, Heather realizes there must have been a sniper, and when a passer-by asks her if she is all right, Heather replies that she is fine, and rushes to a building with the aim of finding the sniper, when suddenly a police officer calls to her, ordering her to stop.

The police officer calls into his walkie-talkie, radioing for back up, as he has a female suspect fleeing the murder scene and heading into the Bay Department Store. Heather looks back at the officer, but decides that she cannot stop as she has no time for questions, as every second wasted helps the killer escape.

Heather shoves people aside as she runs towards a elevator, apologizing to them as she knocks them over. Several police enter the department store, and as the call ‘Freeze!’ a shopper suggests that everyone gets down. Heather doesn’t stop, and runs into a lift, pulling someone out of it as she goes. A policeman talks into his walkie-talkie, requesting more officers as she has entered an elevator.

Inside the life, Heather wishes her powers were in her instead of her Vindicator suit, and knows she only has a few seconds to change before they override the emergency stop button. The police officer orders his colleagues in various directions, trying to cut Heather off. When the elevator is cut off, Vindicator is able to fly up the elevator shaft anyway, and bursts onto the roof.

Flying fast, Heather sees the sniper, the killer, wrong building though. Heather flies across the rooftops, telling the sniper that his gun won’t help him and that he is going down. But suddenly, it is Heather who is going down, as she has a systems failure, she loses power and with her suit dead, she falls to the ground. The sniper laughs, while Heather attempts to use the reserve power base - but it is too late, she hits the ground. Sometime later, Heather wakes, surrounded by armed police.

In New York again, where the mysterious smoking man sits in his office, a painting of Vanessa Fisk against the wall, the smoking man’s assistant informs him that they now have confirmation of the targets death, before revealing that there has also been some interference from a local super hero. The smoking man declares that he wants full details.

In the backseat of a police car, Heather realizes it was microwave transmitters that cut her power off, as a phone company had a transmitter on the roof and the energies interfered with her suit, shorting out the electromagnetic field that allows her to fly. One of the police turns to Heather, ‘looks like the little angle lost her wings’ he says. The driver tells his colleague that he doesn’t think she is an angel as she is wearing red. The first officer smiles and remarks that now Alpha Flight is illegal, the press is going to love hearing that Vindicator has killed a civilian.

Endless hours later, Heather sits in an interrogation room, telling her interrogators again that she was shopping. ‘In that outfit?’ one of the interrogators asks. ‘Of course not!’ replies the frustrated Heather, asking the men what is the matter with people like them, asking why she would murder someone after spending so many years at the defense of her country? She exclaims that there was a sniper on the roof and he was trying to shoot her, but ended up killing that man instead.

One of the interrogators informs Heather that they are not with the police, but with the Canadian Internal Security, and that they know all about her, as they have read her files. The other replies that they do not believe she was the target in the assassination. They hold up a photograph, and asks Heather if she recognizes the man in it by any chance. Heather examines the photo, and exclaims that he looks familiar - before realizing he was the man who was shot by the sniper.

One of the Agents informs Heather that he was a United States Senator, and a very important man, before asking her if the name Edward Barlow rings any bells. Heather thinks hard, before admitting that she is not up on American politicians and asks if Barlow ran for President. The agents inform Heather that Barlow ran but didn’t make the primaries, but even so, he is very influential. The agent declares that in Washington, this is believed to be a political killing.

Heather is informed that Barlow was an opponent of the last President’s policies toward the country of Costa Brave, and Barlow was against aid to the countries there. Heather remembers now, and recalls that Barlow was the person who started the investigation into the contra scandal, and that the contras were trading drugs with American gangsters, adding that some people in the US military were involved.

Heather scowls when one of the agent calls her a “good girl” for reading the newspaper, before opening the door and telling her that she can go. The other agent tells Heather that they have kept her out of the press, so not to go making the mistake of getting involved in this. Heather puts her mask and goggles back on as she leaves the room, the agent telling her that this is their ball game and she should stay out of it.

Vindicator strides through the police station, someone whistles at her and everyone in the waiting area looks at her. Her suit is back to normal so she can fly back to her car. But Heather doesn’t believe this - she has never been so humiliated. As she leaves the precinct, a man reading a newspaper turns and follows her, putting his paper in a bin, with a “Wanted” poster of the sniper behind it.

Outside, Heather decides that she doesn’t care what the agents said, but she has to find the killer, she cannot have him walking the streets. The man who was reading the newspaper catches up to Heather and asks her if they can talk for a minute. Vindicator asks him who he is, and he introduces himself as Larry Warren, a friend of Senator Barlow’s. Larry reveals that he knows a lot of things about his murder, and that he cannot trust the police, he needs someone like her.

Heather asks Larry what he has to do with any of this, and Larry asks Heather if he can buy her a drink somewhere, as the police station is not a great place for this conversation. Heather agrees.

Later that day, Heather and Larry sit opposite each other and Larry orders a High Test. Heather asks for a Diet Coke, before Larry begins his story, informing Heather that he was a draft dodger during Vietnam and came to live here in 1969, and never moved back, even after the Carter Amnesty. Larry reveals that he and the Senator went to school together and were best friends, even dated the same girls.

Heather asks Larry if Barlow was in Canada to see him, and Larry confirms that he was, as he needed someone to confide in, as he felt that he was in danger. Larry declares that Barlow uncovered something big, something dangerous. He looks around to make sure that no one is listening, before leaning over the table and with a hushed voice, reveals that Barlow came across some information that links the US army general with an illegal operation to overthrow the government of Costa Brava. Larry reveals that this general has underworld connections and was planning to finance a coup with money supplied by some gangster.

Larry continues, explaining that the gangster’s money would eliminate any paper trails leading to the general, and in return, the new ruling junta would give the gangster exclusive crop rights to all the drug plantations. The general would use military cargo planes to ship the stuff back to the US everyone would make out. Larry stops talking when the waitress returns with their drinks, and Larry pays her, telling her to keep the change.

Heather realizes that the new senator knew to much and asks what made him feel he was in danger, if the wrong people learn he was a liability. Larry replies that he wanted to expose the whole thing but needed more evidence, and that he was afraid someone would get to him before he had enough facts together, as he felt he was being watched. Little do Heather and Larry know, but they are being watched also - two men in suits sitting in the booth behind them have with them a small recording device and are listening to and taping the conversation.

Larry explains that Barlow came to him and told him everything, as he wanted someone to know the facts in case something happened to him. Heather asks if Barlow wanted him to talk to a super hero instead of the authorities, and Larry supposes that Barlow trusts Heather’s people more than he trusts the authorities. Heather notices the time on her watch and realizes that it is 7.30 and she was supposed to be back in Ottawa now. She gets up from her seat and asks Larry if he minds her making a quick phone call. Larry replies that he doesn’t, and Heather leaves the table.

Heather makes her way towards a public phone, and the phone rings in the apartment of Madison “Box” Jeffries, Heather’s lover and teammate. Jeffries is watching some sport game on the television and shouts ‘They score!’ before answering the phone: ‘Madison’s nuclear pizza! Radioactive pasta’s our speciality!’ Heather greets Madison, explaining that she is ringing to apologize, as it doesn’t look like she will be coming over tonight as something has come over.

Madison replies that had figured that by now and asks Heather if everything is all right, telling her that she sounds rather serious. He asks her if her parents are okay, and Heather replies that they are fine, that she visited them before going shopping, and while she was out shopping someone almost killed her. Heather explains that she is now busy trying to find out who. Madison is shocked and asks Heather where she is, declaring that he will come right over.

Heather tells Madison that she is okay and that she wants to handle it on her own, that it is rather personal, adding that it is nothing she cannot handle. Jeffries tells Heather not to be afraid to call if things get rough, and he will come to her. Jeffries pauses before asking Heather when she thinks she will be over, admitting that that their relationship hasn’t been doing great over the last few weeks, and that they need to talk. Heather pauses before agreeing, and suggests that they try for tomorrow night. Madison smiles and replies that it sounds good adding that he has something to do tonight anyway. As his ex-girlfriend, Diamond Lil comes up beside him he tells Heather to give him a ring tomorrow.

Heather walks back to the booth in the diner and wonders what Jeffries meant when he said he had something else to do. Walking past two men in suits at the table near hers, she decides that there is something strange about them and wonders if they had been listening to she and Larry talk. Sitting down at the table, Heather informs Larry that something has come up at home, so she thinks she better get back. Larry tells Heather that it is okay as he thinks he has told her everything there is to tell, and asks her if she can give him a call later.

Heather agrees to and asks Larry to give her his number, so he writes it down on a napkin, before handing it to Heather and asking her if she needs a ride back. Heather thanks him but declines, as she has her own transportation. As Heather and Larry leave, Heather feels two sets of eyes boring into her - not the kind of look she usually gets from men.

Outside, Heather has one more question for Larry before she leaves, and asks him if Senator Barlow ever told him any names of any participants. Larry replies that there was only one - General Will Zimmerman who is based in Washington and is supposed to be in bed with the gangster. Larry gets into his car as Heather thanks him and tells him that they will be in touch. Larry replies that it sounds good.
Heather runs into an alleyway, knowing that now is the time where she sees whether she is right or not. She changes into her costume and flies to the rooftop of the restaurant. ‘It’s time to get down to business’. The men in suits run out of the diner too, annoyed that Heather has disappeared they decide to go after Larry Warren, and follow him in their car.

Of course, Heather overheard them and tracks them, vowing to get some answers tonight, this is not one adventure that is going to lead her in circles. She recalls that the last few nights have been a nightmare, a whirlwind of supernatural devastation. Heather mutters that she only wanted one day off, a reprieve from the pressures of leadership, and a rest before they track down the Sorcerer. Heather supposes that this beats fighting demons, zombies and creatures from alternate dimensions though, at least it is something she can relate to, something down to earth.

Twenty minutes pass and the two cars pull off onto a country road. Heather knows that this way only leads to desolation and wonders if Larry knows he is being followed. Ten minutes later though, the opposition forces this issue, and as a large truck is parked across both sides of the road, Heather knows that it is almost time for her to show her hand. Larry gets out of his car and calls to the truck, asking what it is doing here and where the driver is. The lights flash from the car that was following him, and as the armed men in suits approach Larry, he asks what is going on, as he hasn’t finished his job yet.

Others step out of the truck, declaring that they are not with his people and all are about to fire - until Vindicator intervenes, removing the weapons from the men in various fashions. One of them shouts ‘Kill her! She’s dead meat!’ and they begin firing on her, but Heather’s force field protects her, and she yells ‘WRONG!’ as she flies towards the men and blasts them into the truck, before turning to Larry and announcing that it looks like they have found their killers.

Larry tells Heather that she got here just in time, before Heather walks over to one of the agents and standing over him declares that she is going to make this simple, that she wants him to tell her who hired him. The man wipes blood of his face exclaiming that he doesn’t make confessions to women in strange costumes, and tells Heather to take her freaky habits elsewhere.

Vindicator grits her teeth before telling the man that she thinks he is going to be very cooperative, as the alternative isn’t pleasant. She informs him that her fiancée has been acting strange, that her government has tries to make her a criminal and that some fool almost killed her today. ‘I’m not in a very good mood!’ she shouts, firing a blast of plasma at the ground beside him.

The man covers his face and calls Heather crazy, exclaiming that he doesn’t talk to crazy people. Heather informs him that her costume can generate force beams equivalent to 250 pounds of TNT, and that she just demonstrated a light tap. Smiling, Heather asks the man if he is sure he doesn’t want to talk. As Heather’s hand, charging with power, closes in on the man’s crotch, he is shocked and throws his hands up, pleading ‘Okay! Okay!’ and revealing that General Will Zimmerman is the one who hired them.

Heather notices Larry pick up a weapon behind her, and when she turns to him, he informs her that he just wanted to cover her in case the others made move, before suggesting to Heather that she go after Zimmerman, adding that he can hold these men until the cops get here. Heather decides that it is time she got to the bottom of this, and flies away, telling Larry that she will see him later.

Larry tells Heather to take care, before turning to the men, machine gun in his hand he points out that they are all alone now. The men try to reason with Larry, ‘No hard feelings right?’ ‘She’s going to call the police, so you better…’ Larry reminds them that they previously said he doesn’t work for the same people as them, and with a cruel look in his eye, begins laughing.

In New York, the smoking man looks at the headline of the Daily Bugle, “Senator Barlow Assassinated”. His assistant informs him that their team failed to report in, as he was expecting confirmation of the hit at 20:15. The smoking sits in the shadows of the room and declares that he can only assume his men failed, and his assistant agrees, pointing out that Larry Taylor may still be alive. The smoking man begins to scrunch up the newspaper, he knows that Larry leaked information to the Canadian super hero, meaning their deniability has been compromised, meaning they are left with only one option. His assistant asks ‘The general, sir?’ and stepping out of the shadows, the Kingpin declares ‘Exterminate him. Now!’

Vindicator flies across Washington DC, it took her two hours to get here from Canada, flying nearly at MACH-1 and at a low altitude to avoid US radars. Heather knows she is in General Zimmerman’s town - the man who almost had her killed - and the man who is going to pay.

Heather stops at a phone booth and finds the General listed in the phonebook, address and all. She purchases a map at a gas station and ten minutes later, she swoops down on his home. Heather has decided to surprise him rather than show up on his doorstep, after all, he certainly had her surprised this morning. There is also another reason - a voice inside her says to be careful.

After entering through an upstairs window, Heather suddenly runs into the sniper! She flies towards him while he tries to shoot her, but the bullets bounce of her electromagnetic field, and as she punches him to the ground she tells him that he has killed a good and honest man, not to mention nearly killing her. She lunges on top of him, telling him that he has five seconds to explain himself, and asking him why.

Vindicator notices someone else in the room, before realizing that he is dead. The sniper tells Heather that General Zimmerman died of a “heart attack”, laughing that it is an amazing coincidence. The sniper smiles as he tells Heather that the General’s wife took an overdose of sleeping pills after “finding him”. He declares that such pathos should sell a lot of newspapers and keep certain people’s attention from where it is not wanted.

Heather ask the sniper if he killed them because the General could implicate his gangster colleague, to which the sniper confirms, adding that he doesn’t like loose ends. Heather asks him if he is forgetting something, reminding him that he shot the Senator and all she has to do is bring him into the police and make a statement. The sniper just smiles and tells Heather that his employer own all the right people and she could never take him in, and definitely couldn’t prove anything.

The sniper reminds Heather that she has no jurisdiction in the States, or even in her own country for that matter. Heather knows that he is right, but tells him that he will not be doing any killing for a while. He asks why, and suddenly power surges through his body. Heather gets off him and starts to walk out of the room, ‘As you Americans are so fond of saying…have a nice day’ she says to the now paralyzed sniper.

In his office, the Kingpin reads the Daily Bugle, two headlines of importance this time: “Chief of Staff dies of heart attack, wife commits suicide” and “Four men shot dead in Calgary”. The Kingpin exclaims that the whole operation is a fiasco, that he lost a general and that one of his best assassins is incapacitated. He tells his assistant that the whole Costa Brava campaign has to be reassessed. The Kingpin mutters that he will have to talk to the Chinese gentleman, even though funding his operation will be expensive in the short term.
The Kingpin tells his assistant, Wesley, that the spy cost him much, and if it hadn’t been for the super hero he would still have the general. He asks Wesley if he has heard from the his people yet, and Wesley replies that he is expecting them to call within the hour. ‘Excellent’ replies the Kingpin, smoking a cigar.

In a hotel, several men approach Larry, calling him Garcia, they tell him that he has ruined everything. Larry asks what they mean, pointing out that Vindicator believed his story, and went of to Washington like they planned. One of the men informs him that the Kingpin caught wind of their game and had the general assassinated. He declares that the super hero didn’t get to the General in time and now the media will never know about their planned coup attempt.

Two of them back Larry towards a balcony and when he asks them what they are doing, his in told that there are new arrangements now, that they made a deal with the Kingpin - ‘And you’re the payment!’.

The next day, Heather is home, and tries to call Larry’s number, but the number he gave her is out of service. Her thoughts are of retribution and anger, and she can only think of getting justice. Now that her head is clear though, she is beginning to see a pattern forming, a twisted design. Later, she starts doing some housework, when Larry’s face comes on the TV screen. Heather turns off the vacuum so she can listen, the reporting saying: ‘ - apparently, committing suicide by jumping from the 10th story window. Police say Mr. Garcia was a Costa Bravan refugee’.

Heather is shocked, and realizes that Larry - or Garcia - wasn’t American, but a spy! The pattern becomes more obvious, the design sharpens into focus. It was all tangled web of espionage, a tapestry of dirty deals and deception. Madison Jeffries steps out of the shower and comes up behind Heather, he smells of soap and wet hair and suddenly everything makes sense and Heather feels content.

She knows that whatever happened yesterday, whatever it was that she accomplished, has ruined somebody’s plans. The dark pattern of the shadow players has been dealt a serious blow, and nothing remains but the broken shards of a shattered design.

Characters Involved: 

Box IV, Vindicator II (both Alpha Flight)

Diamond Lil

Edward Barlow

“Larry Warren” / Garcia

General Zimmerman


Wesley, the Kingpin’s assistant

Other men


Agents of the Canadian Internal Security



In Painting:

Vanessa Fisk (Kingpin’s wife)

Story Notes: 

This issue is narrated by Vindicator II.

Vindicator and Box’s relationship has been rocky since Diamond Lil came back into their lives, and Vindicator saw them kissing, even though it was Lil forcing herself on Jeffries. [Alpha Flight (1st series) #71] Heather has also noticed Jeffries being protective of Diamond Lil when she accompanied Alpha Flight on their dimension-hopping journey. [Alpha Flight (1st series) #72-75]

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