I loved the original run of Alpha Flight, Canada’s super-team. Writer/artist John Byrne gave us a book in which the characters were new enough, the action far away enough from the rest of the Marvel Universe that anything could happen. Characters changed, left, loved, died … and then Byrne went too, and the book was never the same.
Of all the revamps down the years, the Steve Seagle/Duncan Rouleau run, with its many new cast members, came closest to capturing the spirit and excitement of the original, but sadly, it didn’t take.
Now most of the original team is back, courtesy of crossover du jour, Chaos War, in which some dark god fellow is killing other, nicer gods. Well, mostly – old Alpha Flight baddies the Great Beasts are in here, and they’re as dark as they come. Which isn’t to say they mightn’t do a good deed, as Sasquatch finds out when they offer to revive his fallen teammates if they help defeat the Chaos King, before he destroys the Beasts.
And before you know it, dead Alphans Guardian, Vindicator, Marrina and Shaman are back among the living, and guaranteed to continue breathing if they keep CK (no, not that one) busy long enough for the Beasts to recover their fighting strength. Unfortunately, my old favourite Puck isn’t back – it’s explained by Shaman that he’s off ‘to a place even I dare not follow’ (ie some Wolverine comic or other). Other deceased members are also absent, but I’ve little idea who – keeping up to date with Alpha Flight’s death rate is about as simple as explaining Donna Troy’s continuity.
The main thing is, Guardian and co show up on the frontlines and are reunited with Sasquatch, Northstar, Aurora and Snowbird. But will they go along with the Beasts’ plan and earn their continued existence by acting as lackeys? After all, as Snowbird points out (ad nauseum), the Beasts are hardly angels.
That’s the dilemma and it’s handled in a satisfying manner by writer Jim McCann. What’s disappointing, though, is the attitude of the revived Alphans towards their deaths. They’ve been among the choir invisible for years, but it’s if they’ve just come off their lunch break. There’s no disorientation, no trauma, just mild surprise that they’re back. And while the artwork hints at what various members’ powers and abilities are – here a blast, there an aura, everywhere a polar bear – there’s no real run-through to bring new readers up to speed.
That said, I liked this comic. Hawkeye & Mockingbird writer McCann’s scripts just get stronger, while penciller Reilly Brown holds his end up with strong, imaginative pencils. Standout pages, nicely inked by Terry Pallot and beautifully coloured by Val Staples, include a splash of the heroes setting eyes on the Great Beasts which evokes the work of much-missed Rom inkers Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, and a heroes’ farewell.
(Some surnames are on the cover, which features a pleasant illustration by Salva Espin, but I’ll be danged if I can find detailed creator credits inside. Letterer, whoever you are, nice job too.)
The micro-storyline of the dead members’ return is tied up nicely here, but Alpha Flight’s struggle against the Chaos King will continue in Chaos War #5. I won’t be bothering with that, but I will be hoping we get a new series starring the team, by this creative team, and soon.