If You've Enjoyed My "Masked Bookwyrm" Reviews Over the Years -- Check Out My Own Original Anthology...
link
 The Masked Bookwyrm's
Alpha Flight... Graphic Novel and TPB Reviews ~ Page 2
Back to other Trade Paperback and GN review(s)

coverAlpha Flight: The Complete Series by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente 2012 (SC TPB) 200 pages

Written by Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak. Pencils by Dale Eaglesham, with Ben Oliver. Inks by Andrew Hennessy, Dale Eaglesham, Dan Green.
Colours: Sonia Oback, Jesus Aburtov. Letters: Simon Bowland. Editor: Mark Paniccia.

Repriting: Alpha Flight 0.1, and Alpha Flight 1-8 (2011-2012)

Rating: * * * * (out of 5)

Additional notes: covers; character design sketches; comments and interviews with the creators (most previously published).

Number of readings: 2

Reviewed: Nov. 2012 (re-assessed, and slightly boosted, Apr. 2016)

Published by Marvel Comics

The TPB is technically titled Alpha Flight: The Complete Series by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (quite a moutful) -- which is on the spine -- but it just says "Alpha Flight" on the front cover. This can make things confusing because Marvel released the first four issues also under the title Alpha Flight. Though they never ended up releasing #5-8 as a follow up. In other words, an eager fan might have bought the first collection...and then to get the conclusion, has to buy the "complete" TPB, reprinting issues he already had! That may have indicated some problem in the sales.)

Alpha Flight, the Canadian super team, has been through various revisions, revivals, and reinventions since first catching fandom's attention as quasi-adversaries for the X-Men some thirty years ago. Indeed, in the sometimes insanely convoluted mythos of comic book super heroes, Alpha Flight's history is perhaps more convoluted than many. At one point or another, it seems as though almost every member has died and been resurrected.

And this mini-series was an attempt at another revival.

TPB collections could benefit from a text page recapping what needs recapping -- particularly as the intent of a TPB is that it will stay in print for years, so whatever the surrounding events might have been might be long forgotten. Aside from a casual fan maybe wondering about the status quo of the team prior to this, this mini-series was set amid some cross-title saga Marvel was engaged in and you can wonder a bit about references to "hammer-wielding" villains that seem to be striking throughout the world.

Still, that's not really the core plot (well -- it's relevant in that this global crisis creates an atmosphere of public unrest that the villains exploit for political ends; essentially a metaphor for international terrorism).

The core plot is that a new political party gets elected in Alpha Flight's Canada on a ticket offering security and safety (hence exploiting the global crisis). And faster than you can say, "Take off, eh?" Alpha Flight finds itself on the run from its own government, and branded criminals in the eyes of the general public, while dissidents and intellectuals are carted off to work camps.

The rise of a fascist state is a nicely dramatic concept, full of potential for deep themes and emotional soul searching. Nor is it unfamiliar terrain for past (and later) super hero comics. Though the fact that Alpha Flight lives in Canada allows the story to unfold in its own way (as opposed to having to be part of a crossover epic or wondering how this is affecting Daredevil or the Fantastic Four).

The creators made no bones about the fact that they are Alpha Flight fans, and this was intended both as an epic adventure for a team without a regular series, and also an attempt to re-boot them, and reignite fan interest. And by re-booting them...they go back to the beginning. Alpha Flight has undergone myriad cast changes and new directions over the years, but this employs what many regard as the "classic" team -- a line-up not seen in its entirety since the very earliest adventures back in the early 1980s! (It's a bit like defining The Beatles as being John, Paul, George...and Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best). So it's Shaman, Snowbird, Sasquatch, Northstar, Aurora, Puck, Marrina and headed by Guardian a.k.a. James "Mac" Hudson (who has been killed off and resurrected more than most!).

Vindicator a.k.a. Heather Hudson is also around...but ends up opposing the team, which obviously creates some emotional drama...but could also be seen as the creators wanting to focus on the founding crew. At the same time I could imagine it miffing some fans since, technically, Heather's association with the team has been more consistent than Mac's. Blithely making her the "bad guy" could be construed as disrespectful, certainly dismissive, and arguably out-of-character (though the writers cover themselves both by giving her a personal motive and by suggesting some degree of mind control might be at work -- though some of what she does in this story would be hard to brush off). In fact the story recasts a few previously sympathetic characters as villains, including erstwhile team member, The Purple Woman, and department bureaucrat, Gary Cody. On one hand, the creators are showing off their knowledge of Alpha Flight lore by including them, but equally fans might feel it's a poor treatment of the characters (though, again, that brainwashing thing can be used as a cover -- and I don't know if Cody ever elicited emotional attachment from readers anyway!)

I like the "classic" line-up and share the creators nostalgic affection for them. But, to be fair, I also have fondness for later additions to the membership, and other iterations of the team, too.

I'm not sure how much this line-up was already in play, and how much Van Lente and Pak just decided to use them, continuity be damned. Certainly in an afterward, it's indicated that Marrina's new personality was simply an arbitrary revamp, re-imagining her as the rebellious youth wing of the team, with piercings, tattoos, and defiantly embracing her alien heritage (her battle cry: "Die, human scum!"). I'm not sure it gels with continuity...but it does make her a fun personality (and arguably gives her a personality, period). And it uses the "alien" idea as a kind of race metaphor, like a teen who decides to rebel against conformity by almost over-emphasizing her ethnic heritage.

Alpha Flight's mythos is such an insane mess of characters dying, returning, metamorphosizing and then regressing, and past series ending with dangling threads, that perhaps Van Lente and Pak just decided they could either spend all their time trying to explain, tie up, or retcon past events -- or they could throw up their hands and tell a rip-snorting adventure and not worry about inconsistencies. This applies even to their own work: the story brings back a villain, Citadel, Van Lente himself had created -- and killed off! -- in Wolverine: First Class (From Russian with Love TPB) with no explanation for why he's still alive here.

And maybe that's a reasonable approach. Saddled with years of accumulating history, many super hero revivals can get bogged down before they even start with a need to smooth out all the history. Maybe it's best to get new readers hooked with a cool story -- then you can worry about explaining continuity, in dibs and dabs, in follow-up tales.

And the overall result is fun...but mixed.

On the plus side: as mentioned, it's a grandly epic concept, with the characters not just battling super villains (though there are those too) but their own government, with accompanying speeches about freedom and patriotism (the team fighting for the people...not the system). It clips along, never dragging or seeming stalled. Despite the "deeper" themes, it remains steadfastly a fun romp, with quips and daring do. And it remains about Alpha Flight...as opposed to cramming in American super hero guest stars to boost sales. Well, other than Wolverine cropping up for a bit, but his roots with the team are legitimately deep. Frankly, given Wolverine's intrinsic popularity, maybe Marvel should just try an Alpha Flight run with him as temporary member to get readers buying it.

The creator's enthusiasm is obvious and infectious. As a Canadian I appreciate how hard they've tried to make the series Canadian (helped by google and kibitzing from artist Dale Eaglesham, who is Canadian himself). To be fair, Alpha Flight comics have always made the effort to seem Canadian (and not just like a 51st State), but with mixed results. I can quibble here and there, but I applaud the nuances -- some I only really noticed on a second reading.

There are little, subtle things like a character referring to the prime minister as his MP (an allusion to the way the Canadian political system differs from the American one, with even the PM having a riding) and coalition governments (something alien to America's two party system). At one point Guardian brushes off a phone call from the prime minister and I wonder if that was meant as a subtle nod at the (arguably) different ways a Canadian might regard the prime minister and an American the president (would Superman ever be too busy to take a call from the U.S. president?) And there are in-jokes that an American probably wouldn't even notice (like a politicial slogan: "Just watch us" or an issue titled: "Born on the 1st of July").

For fans of Alpha Flight, they are clearly appealing to nostalgists with the classic line up, the classic costumes, and with some recurring foes -- eventually battling a team comprised of a few familiar faces, including the sinister mastermind behind the villainy. I have a couple of dozen comics from various eras, but I'm no expert...yet even I felt a nostalgic tingle at times! (With that said: things might be lost on someone completely unfamiliar with the team)

And you know your country has joined an elite list when a dramatic scene involves the destruction of government buildings (just like all those old Japanese, British, and American sci-fi films!)

But the hard truth is that as much as I liked Alpha Flight...I didn't quite love it.

For all that it's dealing with a big, dramatic premise...the execution didn't quite live up to it. Maybe it's pretentious of me to say, and the creators would counter this wasn't their intention, but it's not like this is another Watchmen, or Squadron Supreme, or Alan Moore's Captain Britain run. And yet, it had the potential to be just that. For a 9 issue epic...it can feel a bit perfunctory at times. It keeps a sprightly pace, but as though we are just getting a Reader's Digest version of the story. Key scenes of the characters breaking in (or out) of facilities, or going rebel and robbing banks, could've used more build up.

For all that Van Lente and Pak clearly love playing with the team...it can feel a bit as though they don't know what to do with them. Some aren't really in character, or are written too glibly. Puck here is almost comic relief, having emerged a bit wackily unhinged from whatever he's been through (apparently he was previously dead and even in hell!) -- this for a character who was almost the gruff-but-sage uncle of the team (and his longstanding infatuation with Heather isn't even alluded to). And this can also apply to powers: I thought Snowbird could turn into various Canadian animals. But as if feeling that wasn't "super" enough, here she seems to transform into a lot of made up creatures (giant owls, or a bird that spits fire!)

You'd think with a team membership, and such an epic premise, there'd be lots of little sub-plots and side stories, a chance for each character to get his or her moment and story line. Some do, but many just seem part of the group. Part of that may be a problem with the team itself...that after three decades, I'm not sure they ever really developed much of a supporting cast, or even alter egos. It's basically just a bunch of guys and gals in spandex.

With that said, the writers do create a character dynamic that would certainly be something for later writers to play with. And that is shown in some good scenes between Mac...and Northstar. Mac as the stalwart glue that holds the team together...and Northstar as the cynic who keeps them honest. A friendship between two guys who might not even consider themselves friends...but each offers something the other lacks (Blake and Avon, to use a sci-fi reference).

Just as an aside, Northstar is gay and it's interesting how frankly and explicitly the comics deal with that -- it's hard to imagine a mainstream adventure movie or TV series that would be so nonchalant (other than the British TV series Torchwood). From panels of guys kissing to Aurora's repressed, conservative Jeanne-Marie persona obliviously insisting some day Northstar will settle down with a girl. Although it's ironic that Northstar is just about the only Alphan depicted with a romantic interest or home life!

Indeed, I want to take a moment to pause on Aurora/Jeanne-Marie a moment, as it's here the comic seems to veer into some more frank, darker areas. Her denial of Northstar's homosexuality is a surprisingly effective demonstration of homophobia (instead of Pollyannaily ignoring prejudice, or playing it up hysterically, its very understatedness is nicely unsettling -- as is the way that homophobia is hinted at when Northstar's lover is brainwashed against the team and denies their relationship). But as well, the writers have much more explicitly linked Jeanne-Marie's repressive and abusive upbringing (long a part of the character) with sexual abuse -- something I'm not sure other stories had done. The writers stop short of saying it in black & white but it's clearly implied. Stuff like that may have an uneasy position in fantasy stories about super heroes, but do lend the saga some extra bite.

Anyway...

As I say, the plot isn't perhaps as complex or Byzantine as you might expect for such a big story and concept, and though there are twists and turns...the logic is tenuous at times, basically just there to get us from one scene to the next. The saga opens with a couple of characters (including an ex-Alpha Flight member) as villains...but warning of dangers posed by this new party. Ah hah, what a neat hook! Characters who seem like villains...but are actually Cassandra with their warnings falling on Alpha Flight's deaf ears. Except...it's never explained what those characters knew, or how, or if!

The art, too, was problematic -- even though it's neat to realize Eaglesham is Canadian (one of the few times, I think, a Canadian has worked on the series). I mean, the art is certainly good, it's not distorted or cartoony. As I've sometimes said about other artists: there are certainly worst artists I could image tackling an 8 issue mini-series! But equally, it's kind of stiff, in faces, in figure work. Some artists can imbue their characters with emotion, with personality, just by how they are posed, or their expressions. And some feel as though they're just happy getting the limbs in the right proportion. And some of the action scenes can seem a bit confusing. Still, I like the art more when he inks himself, providing a soft, organic finish -- initial inker Andrew Hennessy being too hard and rigid. And the art problem is not just with Eaglesham. The opening prologue chapter (from AF #0.1) is illustrated by Ben Oliver and Dan Green. And though that issue boasts an impressive, quasi-painted, photo-referenced look...the figures can also seem a bit stiff, the composition of the scenes a bit weak.

But after a second reading, I definitely enjoyed it all more than I did the first time (art included) -- and I certainly liked it the first time! As I've said before, the first time you can read something as a glass half empty, noting all the things it could've done. The second time through, accepting what they are doing, you can judged it on its merits. So it is mostly meant to be a fun, sprawling romp layered over some serious themes -- rather than vice versa. And, yes, Pak and Van Lente tend to favour quips and whimsy over too much soul-searching, the whole like a summer Hollywood blockbuster. And in that way -- it works. It's nine issues, clips along, has some twists and turns, a "big" concept, and maybe shows off Alpha Flight as good as they've been (even if individual characters are sometimes out-of-character).

And for a team with, I'd argue, few key or classic adventures, or quintessential "must read" sagas, it satisfies as an epic "graphic novel" for the team. Particularly the original, rarely used line-up (Marriana was written out in just a couple of issues, Mac killed off -- the first time -- a few issues later, with most of the early issues "solo" stories not utilizing the whole team).

What's actually funny about this series is how much it resonated in my brain -- because I'd been toying with a story like this for years. I mean, all comic fans probably have a few story ideas they've played with, a few (badly) doodled comics in a drawer somewhere. Right? Right? And for years I'd thought it would be neat to do a Canadian super hero comic (sometimes using Alpha Flight, sometimes Captain Canuck, sometimes my own made up characters) utilizing the premise of a political coup and the heroes having to take on the government. Honestly, there were scenes here that literally seemed as though they were ripped out of my brain, where I had to do a double take because it was like something I had imagined!

The series itself was first marketed as a mini-series, then partly through the run it was announced it was going to become an on-going series. But then it was downgraded back to a mini-series, implying maybe sales started to drop before the end. But maybe that backs up my initial reaction a bit. Maybe it shows there is an audience eager for an Alpha Flight revival, and interested in the "classic" team, but this didn't quite manage to satisfy expectation.

But make no mistake -- this is an enjoyable, grand romp that keeps you turning the pages.

Cover price: $ __ CDN./ $29.99 USA.


coverAlpha Flight: Waxing Poetic 2004 (SC TPB) 144 pages

Written by Scott Lobdell. Pencils by Clayton Henry, Dave Ross. Inks by Mark Morales, Mark McKenna.
Colours: Avalon. Letters: Richard Starkings. Editor: Mike Marks.

Reprinting: Alpha Flight (3rd series) #7-12 (2004)

Rating: * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by Marvel Comics

This is the second of two TPBs collecting the complete run of the third revival (and reinvention) of Alpha Flight, Marvel's Canadian super hero team (the first -- "You Gotta Be Kiddin' Me" -- is reviewed below). The series only lasted 12 issues and I'm pretty sure that was a mark of flagging sales, rather than an artistic decision on the part of the creators (and therefore it's immediate collection as TPBs is an indication of how the business works these days, rather than a sign of how well regarded the issues were).

This third series followed the pattern of reinventing the team ("All-New, All-Different" as the tagline read) both in terms of membership -- being comprised of Alpha Flight stalwart, Sasquatch, and reformed foe, Nemesis, joined by a bunch of brand new characters -- and tone, the series now squarely trying for the "humorous" brand of super hero adventure that marked things like Excalibur and the Justice League circa the late 1980s. That is, it isn't simply meant to have wisecracks, but is meant to be a comedy at times, with wacky things occurring -- even as it equally wants to veer back into drama occasionally, and is still meant to be rooted in the existing mythos.

This collection is comprised of two stories. An opening two-parter, "Waxing Poetic", in which the new team ends up battling wax mannequins of other Marvel super heroes come-to-life (and drawn by guest artist, David Ross) and then the four part "Days of Future Present, Past Participle" (with regular artist Henry back) which wants to be a wacky, twisty, time travel extravaganza. And the art is good throughout. Ross has a slightly more straightforward, "realist" super hero art, but still suits the light tone. While Henry nicely straddles the caricature and the super heroism.

The problem I have with the series, as I mentioned in the previous TPB, is that it kind of comes across as a funny comic written by people for whom comedy doesn't really come naturally. By that I mean writer Scott Lobdell is undoubtedly sincere -- I assume he was the driving force behind this revival -- but the humour feels forced. Like he's repeating gags and concepts that he read elsewhere and really liked, but doesn't quite have the knack for himself. Though I should point out I think Lobdell earlier worked on the aforementioned humorous Excalibur. And I should equally point out: I'm not always sold on these "funny" super hero comics (even the ones that sold well and were critically acclaimed) so my opinion must be considered in that light.

But the problem is there just seems to be a lot of effort expended on telling us how wacky and crazy things are (such as in the "previously" recaps in the original comics which frequently used the joke that it was all just too crazy to summarize) -- more effort than is spent on actually delivering wacky and crazy stories!

Take the four-part time travel story, which isn't just meant as a humorous time travel story, or even a spoof of time-travel stories, but is specifically giving the nod to other such tales in other super hero comics such as the X-Men and Excalibur. The premise is the team is approached by Flashback, a reformed villain whose death is pre-determined thanks to events depicted way back in the first Alpha Flight series. He convinces the team that if they go back in time, they can lift this doom from him. As an added bonus, Sasquatch thinks, they can save the life of the team's founder, Guardian, who died way-ay back in issue #12 of the first series. But each time a member is sent back to change history -- they end up messing up the present, creating disastrous alternate timelines, and so require another member to go back and change that history. And, yeah, as written it sounds twisty and complex -- but, strangely, reading the actual issues, it's fairly simple and straightforward, no matter how many times Lobdell has characters proclaim it's giving them a headache to think about it, or they shrug helplessly while trying to explain it.

The problem is, they haven't really put much effort into actually creating a logical chain of events -- a kind of narrative Heath Robinson mechanism -- so that we're caught up in all the unexpected complications. Because it's supposed to be funny, Lobdell doesn't seem to feel he needs to put much effort into the logic -- but I would argue it only becomes funny if the logic holds up. For a four issue saga full of alternate realities -- surprisingly little sticks with you. Not too mention this "changing history is trickier than it seems" thing is pretty self-evident. This derth of logic even relates to the very start of the plot. As mentioned, Sasquatch wants to prevent Guardian from being killed -- except by this point in continuity, Guardian has already come back to life anyway (he appeared in the story collected in the previous TPB!). So what exactly does Sasquatch hope to accomplish?

I can't help thinking Lobdell would justify this by saying "It's a comedy!" But, as I say, even comedy needs to hold together.

Particularly because the series is also meant to occasionally function on a serious level -- there is some character interaction, including romantic tension, and there are even moments intended to have pathos! And, as should be obvious from the plot, it's still meant to acknowledge and reference the "normal" Alpha Flight continuity.

That's where this series becomes a shame. Because I would argue Lobdell does assemble an interesting and appealing team, their quirkiness included (such as Centennial, who's a senior citizen with super powers). I could've actually seen them becoming a successful iteration of Alpha Flight if Lobdell had given them more believable plots and adventures (while still keeping a light tone). Yet despite 12 issues, Lobdell never fully explores them (presumably convinced he'd have many issues to come). So there's a scene where Centennial looks up a grandson who's in a street gang, and reclaims his home (that the gang had been using), but we see very little of that afterward.

The series ran for 12 issues -- yet it only represents three separate adventures, without even the four-parter, or the opening six-part saga, justifying themselves as complex "epics."

Perhaps seeing the cancellation writing on the wall, Lobdell starts to squeeze in things without much groundwork, such as suddenly providing some background for Nemesis (who had been an enigma) including suggesting she has a past with Centennial.

By the end of this collection, Lobdell just seems to jettison continuity out the window. I can't decide if that was because he wanted to give it a nice "ending," or whether he was hoping to get back to it himself -- or whether it was just a bit of spoiled tantrum, leaving the series in such a mess it would be a headache for the next writer.

Maybe he saw that as part of the Alpha Flight tradition! The previous revival also left things in such a confused state I'm pretty sure later writers (like Lobdell) basically ignored it. While a subsequent revival (reviewed here) seemed to exist in its own bubble, not really worrying about where or how it fit into continuity.

As it stands, both with its tongue-in-cheek tone, and the way it ended, I suspect a lot of fans aren't really sure if this series is even meant to be considered continuity at all!

Cover price: $ __ USA.


coverAlpha Flight: You Gotta Be Kiddin' Me 2004 (SC TPB) 144 pages

Written by Scott Lobdell. Pencils by Clayton Henry. Inks by Mark Morales.
Colours: Avalon. Letters: Richard Starkings. Editor: Mike Marks.

Reprinting: Alpha Flight (3rd series) #1-6 (2004)

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by Marvel Comics

This was the third revival of Marvel's Canadian super team, Alpha Flight -- with what seemed like the obligatory re-invention and re-interpretation. The previous series (which I kind of liked, actually) mixed a few established characters with new ones, and emphasized a more enigmatic, almost X-Files-like vibe of government conspiracies. While the original series, which ran a good ten years, itself went through more than a few membership changes over its run. So the fact that this was billed as an "all new, all different" Alpha was, in a sense, par for the team.

Just to keep things connected to the past, the new team is founded by Alpha stalwart and founding member, Walter Langkowski a.k.a. Sasquatch, and involves Nemesis, a recurring villainess-turned-heroine from earlier runs (Alpha Flight having recruited and reformed a few ex-foes over its time) along with new members. One of whom is supposed to be the previously unmentioned daughter of team member, Puck. She's pretty and average height, but shares his gift for strength, athleticism, and a propensity for saying "eh?" There's also Yukon Jack, heir to a lost tribal kingdom (and given to speaking in thees and thous); Centennial, an elderly man who woke from a coma with super powers; and Major Maple Leaf, a guilelessly noble Dudley Doright-like Mountie with a flying horse. (The name Major Maple Leaf itself an in-joke for Alpha fans, as that was the nickname applied to team founder Vindicator in his first X-Men appearances).

If that line-up sounds odd that's because the other thing about this series is it's supposed to be funny. It's still sort of supposed to be an adventure series, still acknowledging existing continuity, but it's equally meant to be light and tongue-in-cheek, in the vein of the early Excalibur, or the Justice League in the late 1980s by DeMatteis and Giffen.

The art by Henry is robust and bright, with a bit of a cartoony Manga flavour laid over American-style super heroism. It certainly suits the flavour of the comic, being cartony and brash enough to play up the whimsy without straying from the underlining super heroism and adventure, or without making the more realist characters (like Puck II and Langkowski) ineffective.

The story itself is supposed to have an aura of spoof, in that the plot evokes the seminal introduction of the "new" X-Men back in the 1970s (assuming fans have memories that long -- and with reprint collections galore, perhaps they do). Sasquatch appears before these new characters explaining that the original Alpha Flight vanished while on a mission from which only he returned, but with no memory of what happened. So he needs to recruit a rescue party. There are even scenes meant to spoof specific scenes from that old comic, with Sasquatch informing them he's asking them to face a world that will fear and hate them. The joke here being most of the characters, on hearing that, initially turn him down (whereas in the X-Men, they accepted right away).

It's not really till the second issue that the team is finally assembled, and then in the third we are told the mission (and learn it ties into existing Alpha Flight mythology, as it involves the alien Plotex colony ships first encountered way back in the earliest issues of the first incarnation of the team).

Now I'll be completely up-front -- I've tended to have mixed feelings toward such overtly "humorous" super hero comics. I love comics with humour, and find old Spider-Man and Fantastic Four comics can make me laugh out loud (particularly those written by Stan Lee in his salad days). But often those that set out to be funny can feel a bit like they are straining too hard for the joke, instead of the comedy arising out of the situation.

To be honest, this feels like a humorous comic written by people who are not inherently funny themselves. They want to be. They are undoubtedly sincere. But the comedy often feels obvious, like they are repeating jokes and wisecracks they read somewhere else and thought were really funny. They even mix contradictory comedy styles, some humour arising out of applying "realism" to the fantasy (like the characters rebuffing Sasquatch's call to arms) to fourth wall-breaking surreal jokes (like a scene where the characters comment on the disembodied heads narrating a flashback!) Even a comedy usually needs to decide what style of comedy it wants to be.

A lot of it can feel repetitious (the fact that it takes two issues just to assemble the team) and the plot itself isn't that twisty or wild. After all, sometimes humour isn't simply from having the characters make wisecracks, or spoofing the more obvious conventions of the genre, but by offering a quirky, off-beat plot. But this doesn't.

And yet despite the sillness, there are times where the comic veers toward drama as though it wants to have an underpinning of seriousness. At one point Major Maple Leaf's guileless memories are contrasted with scenes of an abusive childhood. Not so funny. Likewise, the story builds to a climax where the characters get involved in a serious ethical debate.

Funnily, it's stuff like that that actually starts to bring you around. As you spend more time with the heroes, you begin to see them as characters, and not just as jokes or caricatures.

In other words, for a "funny" super hero comic, it works better the more seriously you take it. But it's still a pretty thin plot. In a way illustrating the difference between old and modern comics when they do an origin story deliberately meant to reference and spoof the "new" X-Men origin -- but that previous comic was 34 pages long, while this comes in at almost 150 pages!

The story ends with the original Alpha Flight heading off on an outer-space mission, leaving the new team to hold down the fort as it were. In one of the intro pages to the original issues, it's boasted that this new series is a hit...but it only mustered another 6 issues (and TPB collection -- reviewed above) before cancelation. So either they exaggerated the sales figures, or the sales dropped off. It perhaps illustrates the changing market and the rising prevalance of TPBs that the previous Alpha Flight revival ran 20 issues (plus an annual) but so far hasn't been collected, yet the entirety of this series, which ran about half as long, was immediately re-published as TPBs.

The problem is, this story isn't really riveting stuff -- whether taken as a laugh riot, or as a super hero adventure. But the characters do kind of grow on you, so that by the end, I may not have especially liked it -- but I can't exactly say I disliked it, either.

Cover price: $ __ USA.


On to Alpha Flight - Page 3
Back to Alpha Flight - Page 1 or

Back to