Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

Alpha Flight 2011 – It’s Good to Be Canadian Again

By Hervé St-Louis
August 14, 2011 - 01:28

Alpha Flight was revived earlier this year with all dead members being revived and teaming up again. Now Marvel Comics has decided to give the Alphans, Canada’s very own super hero team a maxi-series of its own. But is it any good?

To kick off the effort, Marvel Comics published Alpha Flight 0.1 a one shot updating Alpha Flight since the team was last seen in a comic book of its own. The story is by the same writers working on the mini-series, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente so it’s not bad at all. Half of the team was dead for a while and so, they have to come to terms with their lives and take their place back in society. For some it’s easier than others. What the creators try to do is assemble the “classic” team of Alpha Flight which for some reason has never really all played together in the past. This is also Marvel Comics reaching out and cleaning out the mess that was Alpha Flight’s history and restoring them – or trying – to their former glory.

Introduced in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, Alpha Flight was composed of national heroes from all parts of Canada and expanded further by John Byrne once he set out to write over two years of stories for the Canadian super heroes. As an offshoot of the X-Men, and penned by John Byrne, the series was ground-breaking and did not treat the Canadians as a junior X-Men team, the way some incarnations have. Some versions of Alpha Flight even contained headliners wearing American emblems. How could Marvel Comics think that Canadians would want to read about American super heroes in Canada, I wonder. Here, Pak and Van Lente attempt to give Alpha Flight enough drama and adventure to make it a book worthwhile, even if they are Canadians.

In the first three issues of the eight issue mini-series, Alpha Flight must combat Akuma as part of the current Marvel Comics crossover. But that’s not the part that’s most interesting. The writers have tied the future of Alpha Flight to real political events in Canada. This has occurred several times in the series’ history, but this time, the writers did their research. A new government has been elected and quickly proceeds to turn Canada into a military state. Now, readers that are not fond of the Stephen Harper government may find several parallels now that the Conservatives have achieved a majority for five solid years and cannot be challenged.

The Alphans are of course reluctant to follow the leader of the Unity Party but they must still combat some of the radical opponents that seek to warn people about the new Prime Minister. In a twist of fate, the creators of the series bring in something similar to the War’s Measure Act in a ploy giving the new Prime Minister Cody total power over all of Canada. We know they have done their research into Canada’s history and how the War’s Measures Act was used in the past, like when the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ)  performed terrorist acts in Montréal in 1970. Just like then, innocent citizens were arrested without trial. The Alphans rebel against that. This will be the main theme of this mini-series, including their betrayal by one of their own.

The writers attempt to capture the personalities of the Alphans right. They also allude to their complicated histories That’s all good. One source of conflict is Northstar’s reluctance to join Alpha Flight and to have his sister be a part of the team, due to her split personality disorder. One thing I really wish the writers will explore, is how different are the twin speedsters, Northstar and Aurora from the other mutant twins of the Marvel Universe, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. There are many parallels between the two sets of mutant twins, some of which is the over protectiveness of the brothers towards their sisters. The sisters’ precarious emotional states are also at issue.  

Guardian and Vindicator are also important players in this new plot. The couple both returned to the living at the same time, losing custody over their daughter. For years, Guardian and Vindicator have not operated together. They are both strong characters and it’s difficult to see which of them leads the team. Because he is the male, recent writers have made James MacDonald Hudson the real leader. But during his first death, his wife, Vindicator was the best leader the team could ever have had. She lead the team during its darker days in and out of costume. I really like her and I’m not warming up to her in this story so far. Heather MacNeil used to be such a strong character and I can’t see it here. She’s merely used as a ploy to make her husband look better.

The other team members, Sasquatch, Shaman, and Snowbird are still played as puppets as far as issue #3. Only Marrina, the once wife of Namor the Submariner gets any real personality or something worth remembering. She’s still crazy and a danger to others. She’s got that wacko edge to her that’s refreshing. She could just go nuts and kill everyone in the room at any moment. I like her much better than in the past where she never made much sense to me. Some of the annoying Canadian characters like Major Maple Leaf and Talisman are nowhere to be found, but other small players are. Puck is back but he’s different. There’s also a lot of references to Alpha Flight’s past including a reappearance by Purple Girl.

Visually, Alpha Flight has probably not looked so good. Eaglesham is Canadian and brings a sense of nobility to the characters. He’s great for the series.I do wish he would update some of the costumes of the Alphans though. When you look at them, Aurora, Northstar, Guardian, Vindicator, Shaman, and Snowbird all share the same design pattern with pointy designs. Now, Vindicator and Guardians don’t have to change. Northstar’s suite has also become his signature. However, all the other ones should be modified. Byrne did not innovate much when he created these costumes over 30 years ago. Maybe it’s time for change.

I really like where Marvel Comics is going with this revival of Alpha Flight and wish the series will be a success. If you’re not Canadian and don’t understand why you should care about this series, just remember that it’s quality entertainment with great visual design and a plot that seems a bit all too real. 

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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