Alpha Flight (1st series) #96

Issue Date: 
May 1991
Story Title: 
Slave to the World

Fabian Nicieza (Writer), Michael Adams (Penciler), Mike Manly (Inker), Jackson Guice (Cover Artist), Bob Sharen (Colorist), Janice Chiang (Letterer), Eric Fein (Assistant Editor), Danny Fingeroth (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

From his space ark, hovering above Earth, the Master plots new plans in his quest for world domination, for then he can be the Master of the World in more than just self-reference. He watches a oil tanker on fire, and welcomes the surprise of Alpha Flight coming to give assistance. He teleports one of his “specimens”, in the guise of a oil tanker worker who has been trapped in the disaster, and monitors the proceedings. Alpha Flight get to work putting a stop to the fires, while the Master thinks back across his origin and his previous dealings with Alpha Flight. The Master undergoes a process to rejuvenate his body, and it is successful, he is essentially reborn, everything perfect, including his head no longer deformed. Alpha Flight rescue the Master’s specimen disguised as a worker, before Heather embarks on a solo mission to prevent the oil tanker from exploding. Aided by Windshear she is successful, and with everything safe, they stay for the clean up. The Master kills his pet falcon, before making his final proclamation in his new plan for world domination.

Full Summary: 

Diary Entry: Day 113 - Year 998.981

It has become a continual source of aggravation for me, magnified intensely by the sheer weight of my arrogance. I find myself incapable of accepting the simple truth of the matter. The truth is, my name is a lie. I am a lie. I am the Master of the World in self-reference only. That must change. I am the forever man. I have lived for thousands of years. I will live for a thousand more. In all that time, I have known only anger, pain, misery and despair. And now I must make a decision. I am quite capable of asserting control of this planet’s fate. The question that won’t leave me is: do I really want to? Do I really need to seize control of this Earth in order to fulfill my own inner quest for satisfaction? Are the feeble beings who scurry like ants across the tapestry of time really deserving of my control? It is a decision I must delay no longer. The ants below me need an answer….

From within his spaceship base orbiting Earth, the self-proclaimed Master of the World stands proud. ‘Fly, Vesuvius!’ the Master exclaims as his pet falcon gracefully rises and soars across his “ark”. Vesuvius is unaware that he is skimming across the very heavens themselves. A gossamer kiss across the exhalation of a planet’s sweet breath. As the Master puts it, it is a place which can literally take your breath away.

Turning to a large panel of screens, the Master points out that it is a place from which he can see all his subjects below him. He boasts that they can do nothing, say nothing, be nothing without his tact awareness. The Master claims that he is tied into the very blood which flows through the veins of Mother Earth. He can access every telecommunications system across the planet, and proves this as various snippets of conversation in various languages are heard from the large console.

The Master tells his computer to access signal 43 and override multi-screen imaging. A large ship with smoke and flames decorating it appears on the screens, and the computer informs the Master that the ship is carrying over five hundred million gallons of crude oil, which is spilling into the pristine waters of the bay, adding that rescue workers have begun operations to prevent the slick from spreading.

The Master folds his arms across his chest and mutters: ‘Splendid. How wonderfully predictable they are’. Various images of the rescue workers doing their jobs and the ship appear on the screens now, as the Master boasts that none of the worker’s actions, any of their deeds, could in any way affect the monolithic enormity of time itself. He remarks that the lives of humans are so fleeting and they all try so desperately to impart some semblance of importance to them. He wonders if he should provide them a gentle nudge in the direction of self importance, give them something to do for a few fleeting minutes of their fleeting lives.

Down on Earth, arriving at the oil spill are five members of Canada’s premiere super hero team, Alpha Flight. Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. team leader Guardian flies with newest member Colin Ashworth Hume a.k.a. Windshear, and Madison “Box” Jeffries, in the form of the omni-jet radios to Heather that they have clearance to land on the Alreyda. Heather informs Madison that he is to go and land, while she and Windshear are going to help out with the immediate relief effort. Windshear exclaims that fighting and oil spill and haranguing the tanker crew almost make him nostalgic for his old job with Roxxon - almost.

Still watching the unfolding events from his monitors, the Master exclaims that this is quite an unexpected bonus, the arrival of Alpha Flight, who he declares is a band of super-powered ants who have felt the need to interject themselves into his plans time and time again. He wonders if he can amuse himself as he determines his own fate - and Alpha’s, while also discerning why these so-called super heroes feel the need to place themselves above the dictates of their eye blink in time.

The Master gives a command to the computer before marching to some other part of his ark. The CBN news broadcast follows him from monitor to monitor as he makes his way towards the life-sciences section of his orbital space-ark. He chides himself for the impish glee in which he approaches his plank. But the clinical aspect of his personality can rationalize this as an experiment in metahuman psychology.

The Master orders the computer to release specimen 7-2C, with a stasis hold pending teleportation coordinates. Several tanks, each with a person inside it stands before the Master, and one of them is opened after the commands are given. The Master decides that this experiment is to determine how far the human capacity for unselfishness will extend.

The naked experiment stands before the Master, who orders the computer to use the wardrobe synthesizer to process a standard crewman uniform for the Alreyda oil tanker. The Master thinks that this experiment will also test what lengths these noble spandex champions will go to complete their ant-like tasks while ensuring their own survival. The Master switches on a monitor that depicts his specimen, successfully teleported into a lower corridor aboard the Alreyda, where he is trapped under some rubble. ’Let the experiment begin…’ the Master remarks ominously.

Down on the oil tanker, Madison Jeffries, Lillian Crawley a.k.a. Diamond Lil and Eugene “Puck” Judd walk down the ramp of the omni-jet. Lil tells Jeffries that he is fine and asks him to drop it. Jeffries reminds Lil that she said that after the doctors saw the results of the mammogram they wanted to perform a biopsy. Lil points out that the doctors cannot do a biopsy until they figure out a way to cut through her diamond-hard skin, before muttering that in the meantime, she can go on missions, adding that she may have breast cancer, while she may not as well, so she isn’t going to let it make her hide from the world.

‘Okay, okay!’ exclaims Jeffries, pointing out that he is just worried, when Judd asks them to postpone this discussion as they have work to do. A man approaches the three Alphans informing them that he is the rescue operations Foreman. He tells them that he is glad they could make it, before remarking that he is sorry they couldn’t bring the “big furry” as he is his grandsons favorite. ‘Sure, ours too’ replies Judd, talking about his teammate Sasquatch.

The Foreman explains that everyone has been evacuated from the ship while his crew is fighting some internal fires in the lower holds, however they are afraid some of them may ignite the leaking oil. Diamond Lil suggests to her teammates that they go down and help the rescuers out, after all, they can handle the heat and smoke better than regular humans can. ‘Starting to get into this “hero business” aren’t you?’ remarks Jeffries.

As the Omnijet transforms into Madison’s default Box armor, Jeffries pointing out that Lil is right about them being better equipped to fight fires, and with the Box armor he should be able to stop the oil leak too. Lil asks if they should wait for Guardian and Windshear.

However, Guardian and Windshear are currently tending to the spilt oil. Windshear informs Heather that he has created a hard-air funnel and his propulsion units can force back the oil slick, adding that the clean-up crews can set up the boom-slicks around it, before declaring that he is picking up a call from Box, who is ready to go into the tanker. Heather asks Windshear to tell Box that they are on their way, before moments later, they are regrouped with their teammates.

Heather asks Judd for a status report, and Judd informs her that there are fires down below and that the oil leak seems to be from a lower holding tank. Box suddenly informs everyone that he is registering a life sign in a lower corridor, revealing that life signs are sporadic on this guy and whoever it is, he is in deep trouble. Heather flies downwards with the others following her as she points out that the trapped man is their first priority. ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter right?’ asks Windshear, before muttering that he is daft for wanting to be a super hero. The Foreman asks Windshear if he is nervous, and as he flies away, Colin asks him what makes him say that. The Foreman points out that his accent gets heavier, and asks if it happens often. ‘Too often nowadays, it seems’ mutters Windshear.

Back aboard the Master’s space ark, a very naked Master of the World exclaims to his falcon that they are a puzzle, referring to his armor that lies of a table before him, he remarks that their pieces can be scattered about, be they flesh and bone, hopes or dreams…but who can put the pieces of their jigsaw lives back together again?

Diary Entry: Continued

I am a creature of flesh, remade, born of pain’s own womb, linked body and soul to a machine of alien origin. I have never formed a physical attachment in my forever life, though in regards to my own body, its intricate designs are known to me on a level of self-intimacy unmatched throughout history. I have avoided matters of a physical nature, choosing instead to cloak myself in an air of intellectual superiority to such venal and visceral activities. I have allowed myself, for all intents and purposes, to become a tactile celibate. I have allowed the pieces of myself to become mechanical in nature, safe and secure in a technological tortoise shell. I can no longer ignore the calling of my kind. If I am going to be better than they are, I must be better in all ways. That then, would be the mark of a master. In order to do that, I must rely less on my intellect, my carefully approached plans, and depend more on direct interaction. Before I can prepare myself for such tasteless activity, I must decide whether I can endure the agonies of the flesh all over again. Could I ? Should I? The decision can wait no longer. The ants below me do so very much require my crushing.

Taking off his helmet which hides his deformed head, the Master claims that he can face the pain, for pain is the only love he has ever known. He believes it has been a kind lover, leaving her mark on him. He imagine, as only a true lover can. ‘Scars of the skin and soul’. The Master claims to know pain well, as he met “her” forty thousand years ago, and he begins a recollection of his origin. The Master recalls how he felt a calling, a tugging of the heart that his primitive mind could not understand - until he found it - the alien ship.

He, of all sentient beings on the planet, was the only one capable of reaching the ship and answering its silent call. He boasts that he was the fittest being on the planet, only him, and he had found it. But conversely, it had found him. It studied him, tore him apart, put him back together again - all for the sake of information. He doesn’t know how long he lay there, subservient to the sadistic whims of an unfeeling alien machine. A year? A hundred? A thousand? More?

Then one day, he gained control. Eshu - as he was known back then - seized control of the ship, for his will was stronger than that of the machine which had tortured him. Through the intimacy of their contact, his mind had become a very part of the computer network itself. ‘In the long run, my mind proved superior’. Eshu spent thousands of years learning of what had happened in the world during his absence. He used the ships technology to craft a life-sustaining armor which would take care of all his needs. ‘After all, had I not risen above such petty limitations as eating and excreting?’ The Master thinks to himself.

The Master also learned of the alien race which spawned the craft and what their intentions had been - and the destiny of the ship was revealed by the arrival of a young amphibious creature named Marrina and her allies in Alpha Flight - the original Guardian, Snowbird, Sasquatch, Northstar, Aurora, Shaman and Puck. The Master recalls how he confronted the Alphans and others of their ilk - Invisible Woman and Sub-Mariner - in his attempt to use Marrina’s alien Plodex physiological programming - to fulfill the ship original goals, now his own as well - for the creation of an army savage warriors for the sake of dominating the world!

A still-naked Master admits that his plans were foiled repeatedly by Alpha Flight and the others. But now though, he has taken the measure of his opponents and found them wanting. He can now fulfill his destiny and don the mantle of superiority he earned forty thousand years ago by the one who reached the Plodex ship.

Walking through his ark, the Master believes it will take only two simple things on his part. Two simple things and he can be the overman - the strongest being on the face of the planet. Reaching out for a vial, the Master claims that it is all right here in front of him, as this vial contains the last fluid remains of the paragenetic human male known as Scramble the Mixed-up-Man. The Master explains that Scramble was able to reform physiological traits in others as well as himself, though he was killed in combat with Alpha Flight.

The Master explains that he has already used the fluid on various specimens he has dubbed the Remnant Men, as well as the Alphan known as Puck, so he knows that the serum works. With the first act taken care of, the Master has the means to reform himself into the Overman. The Master orders the computer to access the Alreyda oil tanker security monitor cameras and initiate playback, for he believes the second act still needs to be addressed.

Back on the Alreyda, Windshear arrives where his teammates are and asks Jeffries how it is going. As the Alphans remove debris and fight the fire, Box replies that it is going slow but steady, and informs him that his sensors are registering life signs two decks below, however the pulse is weak and EEG virtually non-existent, meaning he is dying. Guardian declares that they have to get to him faster, but Windshear points out, as he blocks some fire with a hard-air force field, that the fires are not being very cooperative. Diamond Lil asks is she and Puck can go on ahead, as the fires cannot do much to bother them.

Judd tells Heather that Lil has a point, to which Heather agrees, but asks them what would happen if the two of them come up against an obstacle like this dead end before them, as their invulnerability cannot do much against it. Judd tells Lil that Heather has a point, to which Lil mutters ‘So does the two of my boot, Juddsie’.

Heather tells everyone to watch their eyes, as a plasma blast should make so much scrap of this door, and unleashes her powers on the door. With the door gone, the five Alphans rush through, Colin pointing out that it is getting hotter in here, and Jeffries’ sensors tell him that it is even hotter ahead. Guardian informs everyone that they will have to take the heavier fires as they come.

Still watching on his monitor, the Master thinks that Guardian is so confident, and believes that it is incredible her conceit and arrogance can dare to be the equal of his own. ‘Preposterous, vainglorious ego-stroking whispers in the scream of existence!’ exclaims the Master, who boasts that the second act is assured then by Heather’s very deeds and words. The Master injects himself with the serum. He has firstly the material to alter his physical form, and the force of will on his own part to endure what is to come - not to mention the strength of courage to proceed!

Lying on a table, the Master lies, his body changing, just flesh, no skin at the moment. He calls to Vesuvius, who hovers above him, and informs his eagle that every flutter of his wings is like a thousand cascading waterfalls, the slight rush of air as he gracefully soars like the rushing of a hurricane. He exclaims that it courses through him, and the Scrambling Enzyme flows through him like acid.

Diary Entry Continued

I have know pain, as I said previously. It has been my lover and my misery. It has been the only thing I could call my own over the last several thousand years. That is the beauty and horror and pain. Truly it is the only thing in existence that we can call our own. When this damnable alien ship first captured me, it decided to learn all it could about the human species on any and every conceivable and inconceivable level imaginable. My bones were ground to paste - one bone at a time, one millimeter at a time over the course of months. My blood was intermingled with a variety of liquids to see the effects it would have on the circulatory system. I still remember the particularly sticky sweet mixture which could only have been tar.

My eyelids were turned inside out, my eyes popped out of their sockets like escargots. My tongue was subjected to taste impressions across the analytical spectrum. My skin was pulled off and stretched out, sewn back on, cauterized, liquefied and forced to bear the sensations of needles pricking at its surface, fire at its core. My internal organs, my muscular system, my nervous system, my genitalia…. Why recite this litany of pain over and over again? Because it was my pain! It was all I had to cling to for so very long, and now, as the scrambling enzyme courses through my veins, it reminds me of the stinging beauty, the clarity of vision that is my pain again. And I promise myself, as my bones ripple over my muscles and my heart beats around my stomach, that I will show them what it is like. I will show all of the ants below what it means to embrace and cherish their own pain….

The Master struggles to get to his feet, and he tries to laugh at the irony of it all - but his tongue forces his teeth to ripple like piano keys and the sound comes out like a gurgling choke. The Master knows that in order to become stronger, he must reduce himself to a state of ultimate weakness. He flexes his fingers and finally the joints do not miss and grind against each other. Skin forms around his muscles and flesh as he flexes his toes and knows that the ligaments are all connected. He breathes in deeply, stifling the panicked sense of exultation. His lungs do not fill with fluid.

The Master tenses, the pounding pressure of his temples ceases its rhythmic monotony. He can see through eyes made clear as if for the first time. Beyond perfect eyesight - he now has perfect vision. For now he sees the beauty inherent in the possibilities of power he has earned. The Master, still very naked, stands, his body rebuilt, his head no longer deformed, and declares ’I am the Master of the World. I am the Master of man. I am the Forever Man! I am destiny waiting to be fulfilled’.

The Master looks out a window, with Earth down below him. He asks if they can hear him. ’I am better than you now!’ He claims that he is faster, stronger… ’I am you Master, Alpha Flight! Now and forever I am your Master!’

Back on the Alreyda, Alpha Flight arrive at the location of the dying man. Judd checks his vitals and informs everyone that he is still breathing, but not by much. Water is pouring into this section of the tanker, and Windshear deals with the fire by constructing a hard-air screen. Jeffries points out that this section is flooding too fast, and realizes that the pumps are breaking down. He tells everyone that they have to clear out, for if the generators blow, then the oil could go with it.

Guardian declares that they cannot let the oil ignite, as the entire bay will turn into an environmental disaster area. Jeffries explains that the only way to give the pumps any time to clear the oily water is to go in there and manually operate the valves. Heather understands that it would relieve a lot of pressure on the pumps, and orders her team to get out, to save the young man and evacuate everyone still aboard the vessel immediately, as she is going in and doing what she can to keep the Alreyda from turning into an inferno.

The Master is watching Heather’s valiant mission as she courageously goes into the heart of the devil. ’Ah, Mrs Hudson, such a sadly noble little ant…’ he exclaims.

Heather arrives at the pumps, and using the enhanced strength she possess thanks to her battle suit, she manages to push them back into place. The water begins to rush out, and she decides that at least now if the generators blow there will be no oil left in this hold to ignite. Suddenly there is a loud boom as the generators blow, and flames being to pour into the room.

Heather realizes the flash fire is coming up behind her, through the vents, and knows that she cannot outrace it in these tight quarters. ‘This is going to hurt…’ exclaims Heather, when suddenly she sees Windshear, who senses Heather’s surprise and informs her that he figure she would need the help of a ‘wily tanker fire vet like myself’.

Hume dowses the fire with his mutant abilities and Heather admits that she wasn’t expecting that flash fire, before thanking Colin, informing him that what he did took a lot of courage. Windshear picks Heather up and flies back to meet up with the others, remarking that he wasn’t acting like himself then, if what he did took a lot of courage. Heather suggests that maybe he is learning, to which Hume remarks that would be a real kick.

Heather and Windshear regroup with Jeffries, Lil, Judd and the Foreman, who congratulates Alpha Flight on a job well done, informing them that the tanker’s fires are not spreading beyond the ship’s inner holds thanks to them. The Foreman also reveals that the oil slick has been contained before it reached the shore. Heather remarks that they got lucky on this one, before Judd points out that it isn’t over yet, that they will stay and help out some more. ‘You don’t have to twist my arm, I don’t know what I would have done without you!’ replies the Foreman.

Back in the Master’s ark, The Master tells the computer to end the transmission. He has had enough of this simpering ego-stroking patter. He decides that the time has come to prepare himself for the coming of the Controller of Men, the Overlord of Mankind. He presses a red button on a console, thinking that the tortoise shell has been remade as has the man inside it as his costume appears before him, afresh.

The Master begins to dress himself, cybernetic lace-mesh runs the inside of the entirety of the uniform…providing him the ultimate synthesis of man and machine. He explains that the armor has now incorporated flight capabilities as well as a host of offensive weaponry. Combined with the radicalization of his body’s cellular construction, he is now prepared to assert his destiny….

The falcon lands on the Master’s arm, and the Master remarks that Vesuvius knows what it is all about. He strokes the bird, remarking that he knows it is about the hunter and the prey, that it knows about life and death, about man’s precarious grip over controlling his own life, his own death. ‘That is where I come in, Vesuvius, because I now have that control in my own two hands’. With that, the Master snaps Vesuivus’ neck, and the falcon falls lifeless to the ground.

The Master decides that given time, he will be the Master of Men, the Master of the World - then the Master of the Universe. All because he now knows what is is all about - life and death. He claims that he controls both now, because he cares about neither. ‘I am the Forever Man, I am the Master of Time, the Master of Life, and very soon, the Master of you as well…’.

Characters Involved: 

Box IV, Diamond Lil, Guardian III, Puck, Windshear (all Alpha Flight)

Master of the World

Vesuvius (Master’s pet falcon)

Master’s Computer

Pawn of the Master

Rescue Foreman

In Flashback

Master of the World / Eshu

Aurora, Guardian, Marrina, Northstar, Puck, Sasquatch, Shaman, Snowbird (all Alpha Flight)

Invisible Woman

Namor the Sub-Mariner

Story Notes: 

This issue is narrated by the Master of the World.

The Master of the World first appeared in Alpha Flight (1st series) #2. His origin was told in Alpha Flight (1st series) #3, he was killed in Alpha Flight (1st series) #16 and resurrected by Llan the Sorcerer in Alpha Flight (1st series) #78.

Diamond Lil had a mammogram in Alpha Flight (1st series) #95.

For more on the Plodex, the alien race of whom Marrina is one, and the mysterious ship, see Alpha Flight (1st series) #4, #16 and Alpha Flight (3rd series) #3.

Scramble the Mixed-Up-Man a.k.a. Dr. Lionel Jeffries a.k.a. Omega was killed in Alpha Flight (1st series) #49. It is unknown how the Master obtained his fluid remains.

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