Alpha Flight is a fictional superhero team published by Marvel Comics, noteworthy for being one of the few Canadian superhero teams. Created by comic book writer/artist John Byrne -who is himself Canadian- the team first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #120 (April 1979). It's considered an X-Men spinoff even though they're more like Canadian Avengers. Throughout most of its history, the team has worked for Department H, a fictitious branch of Canada's Department of National Defence that deals with super-powered persons. Most team members have distinctly Canadian attributes, such as Inuit or First Nations heritage. Their name refers to the three levels of training that team members undergo- Alpha, Beta and Gamma- with Gamma Flight being the least trained and Alpha Flight the best. The other flights tend to act as sidekicks for Alpha (though one version of Gamma Flight went rogue.)The team was originally just a part of Wolverine's backstory; he left Alpha Flight to join the X-Men. Their first appearance was an attempt to force him to return, during which a fight ensued. They proved popular with readers and after a second appearance in the pages of X-Men in 1983, Byrne launched an eponymous series featuring the group, which continued until 1994. Three short-lived revivals have been attempted since, the most recent titled Omega Flight, in April 2007. Most infamously, the entire team was killed off in one panel just to set up how dangerous The Collective, a new Avengers foe, was.Notable members of the team include:
The original team's dead members were resurrected during 2010-11's Chaos War, and the reunited team has an eight-part maxiseries in 2011-12, tying into Marvel's Fear Itself event. It was boosted to be an ongoing, but Marvel pushed it back to an eight-parter after sales dropped off.
Angst: And lots of it after Guardian was killed in issue 12 of the original series. Heather's guilt because she felt she killed Mac eventually led to her putting on his suit and training herself to use it. She then called herself "Vindicator" for a short time, as Mac did for a while before Puck persuaded him to change to "Guardian."
Northstar resented Heather trying to take Guardian's place. Especially at first, when she assumed the helm under Puck's recommendation despite the fact that she wasn't even a Badass Normal. This put her in danger too much, which led to more angst and eventually the decision to put on the suit.
Animal-Themed Superbeing: Sasquatch fits the Mythical Monster Motif type while Snowbird fits the All Animal Abilities type.
Animorphism: Snowbird's best-known ability is to turn into an albino female version of any animal. Her favorite is a human-sized owl.
Back from the Dead: Mac was killed in the first year of Alpha Flight and not resurrected until seven years later.
After Chaos War, all dead members of Alpha Flight are back.
Like a Badass out of Hell: Puck, who apparently died somewhere between the return of his dead teammates and the start of the new series. He went to Hell, and teamed up with Wolverine to escape, but only Logan managed to get out, while Puck slayed demons who imprisoned him and took his place. And upon learning his teammates may be in trouble, he immediately gave it up to return and save them.
Body Backup Drive: The handicapped Roger Bochs has a robot body called Box which he can transfer into and out of at will. During one story arc when Walter Langkowski (Sasquatch) dies his consciousness is transferred to Box until they can find him a new body. They think they found one out in the interdimensional crossroads, but it turns out that it's Incredible Hulk. Langkowski decides to let his soul dissipate in the crossroads.
Body Horror: Scramble the Mixed-Up Man used his powers to create these, the last of which was Omega, a fusion of himself and Roger Bochs. It was just... messy.
Body Surf: Related to the Body Backup Drive above, how Sasquatch came back; his consciousness found a way to access Shaman's medicine pouch Hammerspace from the crossroads, where he entered the mindless, shrunken body of Smart Alec. After escaping the pouch, he transferred to Box again to help Alpha Flight fight off Pestilence (who'd reanimated the recently-deceased Snowbird's body, which was stuck in Sasquatch form). Electrocuting Pestilence out of Snowbird's body drained Box, but allowed Walter to make one more jump into Snowbird's body (see "Freaky Friday" Flip below).
Brainwashed and Crazy: The premise of the fourth series is that the entire nation of Canada has been brainwashed to serve the Master of the World and his Unity political party. By the end of the series, everyone is de-brainwashed... except, unfortunately, Heather, who flew off to parts unknown, and it'll probably be years before anyone gets back to what she's up to.
Brother-Sister Team: Northstar and Aurora in their first appearances. They had identical powers and generated a blinding light upon physical contact. This was subverted when they fell out early in the book's run, causing Aurora to redesign her costume and even had her geneticist boyfriend Sasquatch alter her powers to further distinguish her from her brother. As a result, she isn't as fast (the difference between Mach 5 and Mach 2, but still), but can generate light on her own in addition to other abilities that seem to come and go with her multiple personalities.
Sasquatch and Aurora's personality were also kind of an item at the time. So as a Take That to Northstar, whom Sasquatch considered an impediment to a full-blown relationship with Aurora, he changed the "touch-to-make-bright-light" power into "touching-cancels-both-your-powers-out." Which, of course, neither Northstar nor Aurora knew about until they touched during a battle.
Captain Geographic: Guardian and Vindicator always had this going on, though the entire original team plays up some aspect of Canadian culture: Mac, Heather, and Puck are from Ontario; Marrina's from the Atlantic Coast; Northstar and Aurora are from Quebec (with Northstar being a former separatist); Snowbird's from the Northern Territories; Shaman represents the First Nations; and Sasquatch is from British Columbia.
Clothes Make the Superman: Mac Hudson's original Guardian suit (which Heather used during the first series) was electromagnetic. After he came back, Heather was given her own suit that had geothermal powers (at which point she took the name Vindicator).
Coming-Out Story/Very Special Episode: Northstar's coming out surrounded a baby girl with AIDS, from which the original Major Mapleleaf's son died, but because he was gay he didn't become a media darling like Northstar's adopted daughter. In all honesty, the story suffers from bad dialogue and worse art, but it still made history when Northstar became Marvel's first openly gay hero.
Cool Shades: Heather's near-sighted, and normally wears glasses, so when she takes leadership of Alpha Flight, she dons prescription shades in the field. She adds them to the rebuilt Guardian suit when she first becomes Vindicator. Between the first and second series, Heather gets laser eye surgery, but after a few missions in the geothermal suit, she brings back the Cool Shades to protect her eyes from the wind.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Jerome Jaxon, who sought to sell his subordinate Mac's original armor (designed to burrow underground in search of mineral resources) as a weapon to the U.S. military; when Mac steals the armor and takes his control helmet (which he designed in college) to the Canadian government, Jaxon is ruined, and after being Driven to Suicide only to fail, manages to join up with evil Mega Corp. Roxxon and seeks revenge against Mac by forming the original Omega Flight.
Darker and Edgier: The second and fourth series attempt to make Alpha Flight EXTREME. The second series in particular was a case of "Follow the Leader" by turning the book into an X-Files clone, if
Diabolus ex Machina: The first Guardian's death was unwittingly caused by his own wife. After a particularly nasty fight with a supervillain, his suit goes into meltdown and he has to disassemble it, like, fast. At the last second, Heather barges in the room, distracting Mac. Kaboom.
Disappeared Dad: Shaman lost his wife. His response? Abandon his six-year old daughter for ten years.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: The entire classic team had just been resurrected plus the two most beloved members of the third series before The Collective killed them in one panel.
Escape Battle Technique: The original Guardian armor could cancel out the effects of the Earth's rotation, causing it to instantly move westward at the Earth's rotational speed (about 1,000 miles per hour). This allowed the armor's user to essentially vanish from combat in the blink of an eye.
Excuse Plot: The whole idea of Walter Langkowski going "fishing" for a new body for himself in the interdimensional crossroads (so he wouldn't have to stay in the Box robot, denying the paraplegic Roger Bochs his mobility and himself the physical pleasures of his girlfriend Aurora) was an excuse to bring the Hulk, who'd been tripping through the crossroads in his own book, back to Earth. It also just happened to coincide with John Byrne leaving Alpha Flight to write The Incredible Hulk, as Bill Mantlo came over from Hulk to write Alpha Flight.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Alpha Flight's members and enemies were always a blend of Badass Normals, mutants, aliens, robots, magical beings, and so on. There were times when the team's membership was mostly mutants and its enemies mostly magical, but it was always an interesting blend.
Flanderization: Ever since joining the X-Men, Northstar has been portrayed as arrogant and snobbish, completely ignoring years of character development over the course of Alpha Flight where he actually became a likable team player.
"Freaky Friday" Flip: Walter Langowski is the king of getting stuck in other people's bodies. He starts out turning into a big orange Sasquatch. When it turns out that this form is actually an evil spirit, his soul gets shoved into the Box robot. After a search for a new flesh-and-blood body brings the Hulk back to Earth instead, Walt consigns himself to the interdimensional crossroads. He eventually finds his way to the pocket dimension of Shaman's medicine bag, only to eventually emerge in Smart Alec's shrunken body. From there he surfs into Snowbird's white Sasquatch body (sort of), which incidentally gender-bends him into a Wanda. Eventually, he gets his own gender and coloration back with help from Snowbird's spirit.
Fusion Dance: The Switcher version. Sasquatch originally thought he was turning into a furry beast after replicating The Hulk's gamma-ray incident, but it turned out he was switching bodies with the dark god Tanaraq, whose mind was slowly taking over. Of course Snowbird had a bad feeling about the whole thing from the start, but nobody listened to her until she had to kill him in what was one of the coolest fights in the book. It wasn't until after he got better that he was able to finally shapeshift on his own. How? It's a long story.
Man in the Machine: Originally, Box was a remote-controlled robot, but it was altered to allow its paraplegic creator, Roger Bochs, to physically join with it. It later played host to the spirit of Sasquatch, and then became a variable-form mech with Madison Jeffries.
Misplaced Wildlife: Snowbird's animal shapeshifting was initially limited to animals native to Canada. During a fight where she is rendered unable to see, she mentions that she could use a bat's sonar, but was unable to since bats do not live in Canada. Except that they do.
Monster Modesty: Marrina is a rare female example since she's a non-human wearing a skimpy one piece swimsuit. Sasquatch fits this trope in a way. Despite being an educated gentleman, he "wears" a fur loincloth and nothing else.
Nice Guy: Major Mapleleaf, often to the point of naivete.
Not Blood Siblings: Marrina was raised alongside a (normal human) adoptive brother, Dan Smallwood. In his few appearances it was established that Dan was in love with his sister. Unfortunately for him, his love was unrequited.
One Robot Army: Madison Jeffries as Box; his ability to morph inorganic materials allowed him to reconfigure the Box robot into virtually any configuration he could think of, basically making him an unlimited-form Transforming Mecha.
Remote Body: In early issues Handicapped Gadgeteer Genius Roger Bochs had a robot called Box that he control with a neural interface helmet.
Scarf of Asskicking: Notably averted. Aurora would wear a scarf with one of her more revealing costumes during winter/arctic missions. However, the blue scarf visually clashed with the white-and-yellow costume, and at least once a villain tried to strangle her with it.
Split Personality: Aurora. Whooo boy. At her least complicated, she is split between a free-spirited Femme Fatale who loves her mutant powers and being a superhero ("Aurora"), and a stuffy schoolmarm who would rather lead a quiet life teaching and is religious to the point of bigotry against her own brother Northstar ("Jeanne-Marie"). However, villains who treat this as a weakness learn not to make that mistake twice. Once Jeanne-Marie conceded to helping Alpha Flight, her unique perspective came in handy a few times, and she had energy powers that even Aurora was unaware of.
Originally, Jeanne-Marie couldn't access Aurora's powers at all, not that she wanted to. However, by the time the "Unity" storyline comes around, Jeanne-Marie is able to access Aurora's powers and use them quite easily. It's also revealed that the split personality came from abuse while she was a student in a parochial school.
Take Our Word for It: Very deliberately invoked by John Byrne when, early in the first series, Puck mentions his adventures fighting the "Brass Bishop", with an editors note pointing out that this adventure has yet to be chronicled. Whether Byrne ever intended on writing said adventure is anyone's guess. It would take almost a decade for other writers to avert the trope and actually pen a "Brass Bishop" story.
Team Mom: After Mac's apparent death, Heather was chosen as the new leader for this very reason, even though she was still a civilian (she didn't become Vindicator till later).
Third Line, Some Waiting: Fish girl and Newfoundlander Marrina spent more time in her own subplot than on the team. Most readers know her better as an honorary Avenger and Namor's wife whom he had to kill when her alien powers spiraled out of control.
Took a Level in Badass: Heather, when she became Vindicator (and later taking the name Guardian). Even when her husband, the original Guardian came back, he acknowledged that she had built up more experience using the suit than he did.
UST: Wolverine with both Snowbird and Heather. However, both ladies figured legitimately into his backstory before WolverineMania started getting out of hand. Heather helped calm him down after the adamantium procedure, while he and Snowbird shared a mutual attraction during his time on the team.
Wearing The Maple Leaf As Your Costume: While Guardian (and later Vindicator) wore a unique battle-armor based on the Canadian flag, the entire team would later adorn similar Maple Leaf-themed costumes in the early-to-mid 90s.