It’s that time again for another look-back at a Classic Comic. The first Friday of every month, I will take a classic comic from my personal collection and review it. I also have to apologize for no reviews this week as I just felt like I needed a Wednesday off from writing (as I believe I am entitled to).
Anyway, with the events of Marvel’s Chaos War closing last week, a particular team was inexplicably left alive while the rest of the old dead-heroes remained, well, dead. That team is Canadian-born Alpha Flight, who were killed off by Omega in New Avengers #16 (2006).
First appearing officially in X-Men #120 (1979), Alpha Flight had been back-and-forth on the X-Men’s good-side. The first suggestion of a Canadian mutant team was back in X-Men #109 (1978), where Vindicator fought the X-Men to reclaim Wolverine. It was also the first time Wolverine was called “Weapon X” (for you trivia-enthusiasts out there). But despite their problems, Alpha Flight have been an integral part of Marvel’s Canadian fan-base, always supporting and promoting the team at Cons throughout the country.
So let’s take a look at their first big solo run – right out of the pages of X-Men!
Alpha Flight #1 (August, 1983)
John Byrne (writer, penciler, inker, cover). Andy Yanchus (colours), Joe Rosen (letterer). $1.00 ($1.25 Cdn)
Opening where Uncanny X-Men $140 left off – three years prior (who said comic book continuities had to be spot-on?), Alpha Flight is disbanded as Prime Minister Trudeau tells James Hudson, aka Vindicator, that government funding is no longer available for the team. Vindicator reflects on his time with the X-Men, as well as his Alpha Flight members, Snowbird, Shaman, and Sasquatch. He also sheds concern for the Gamma and Beta Flight members who have not even had their chance at becoming agents for the government.
Going home, he ponders his life without a job. He realizes that he will only have his soon-to-be wife’s salary to live on and wonders what will happen to them. He even asks himself how Captain America deals with such issues. Coming home, he breaks the news to Heather McNeil – his fiancée. Distraught, Vindicator vents to Heather on why the government would give up such a crucial team.
We get our first cut away to a stranger out in the middle of nowhere – chanting to the earth and drawing out a strange figure in the snow. . .
The book then cuts towards Jean-Paul (Northstar) and Jeanne-Marie (Aurora) Beaubier in Quebec. JP meets with JM at the all-girls school she is working at, to convince her that even with Alpha Flight gone, JM should still do good with her powers. After much convincing, she eventually turns around – but not without deep conversation between the two twins.
After receiving a phone call from friend Gary Cody – alerting him of a major problem – Vindicator sets off and tells Heather to contact the rest of Alpha Flight via their cybernetic implants.
Going into James’ office to contact the team, Heather stumbles upon two other member profiles to contact – both were in Beta Flight and were ready to be promoted into Alpha Flight until the disbanding. Those lucky members are Marrina and Puck.
Here is where the reader is introduced to each Alpha Flight member as the “roll call” presents itself.
The two non-Alpha Flight members, get the call. Marrina gets summoned as her apparent boyfriend gives her the message that she is needed. Puck is found working as a bouncer in a restaurant in Toronto. He receives the call and gathers himself to meet up with Heather at her home to see what she needs.
Snowbird, receives the call and heads to the rendezvous point, where a large monster named Tundra – made out of the earth – tramples itself along.
Vindicator and Shaman quickly arrive to try and stop Tundra. Shaman attempts a few spells to no effect. He needs the creature to be weakened first. Suddenly, Sasquatch appears and jumps from a helicopter and lands on the monsters back – tearing the earth from it. He is beaten off it while Northstar and Aurora make their appearance. With their powers, they spin around the monster, dazing it, while Marrina makes her appearance, followed by her trail of water. With that, Shaman takes the water and blasts the monster making it unable to sustain itself and leaving it defeated.
Back at the home of James and Heather, Alpha Flight discuss keeping the team together despite the lack of government approval. They find that they are needed and will form together. Suddenly, there’s a knock on the door. James opens it to see Puck standing there wondering whether or not he’ll be able to join despite being late. After a quick ruse from Sasquatch, the two get into a friendly fist-fight and thus concluding the first story of Alpha Flight.
Coming right out of the pages of X-Men, albeit late, Alpha Flight #1 does not disappoint in any way. John Byrne sets up each character with deep plot points that each person begs to have their persona fleshed out. For example, during the first “roll call,” Sasquatch is out doing reconnaissance. For what, who knows? Also, what are Beta and Gamma Flight? Where does the government stand on Alpha Flight continuing without their approval? It’s little tidbits like this which drive the story with so much strength.
One thing specifically that got to me while re-reading this tale was how much characterization – natural, human characterization was placed into all of the individuals. Vindicator worries about bills. Marrina has a love life just waiting to be explored. The twins, outside of their rivalry, have so much more to offer.
Given that Byrne practically designed this entire book on his lonesome, he deserves quadrillions of credit which he already has by me.
My only major quarrel was with Puck’s patrons in Toronto. Although Puck flawlessly uses the Canadian lingo “eh?” – all of the restaurant patrons forcibly say it – making it very unnatural.
All aside, Alpha Flight would go on to be a strong series – running for just over a decade until issue #130 in 1994, followed by a twenty-issue reboot from 1997 to 1999, and a twelve-issue one from 2004 to 2005. Given their unexpected reemergence from the Chaos War, I can only assume another one is on its way.