• Review - Alpha Flight #0.1 : Phil's Take

    Issue: Alpha Flight #0.1
    Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
    Artist: Ben Oliver with Dan Green
    Colorist: Frank Martin
    Lettering: Simon Bowland
    Cover Art: Phil Jimenez & Frank D'Armata
    Cover Date: July 2011
    Period in Alpha Flight's history: After Chaos War #5

    It's always hard to review something that you're passionate about objectively.
    It's easy to get swept up in nostalgia and hope and jump on a bandwagon.
    I remember when Volume 3 was announced and Scott Lobdell's initial plans and hype surfaced and hopes were high.
    And like that Volume or not, it wasn't what Alpha Flight fans wanted after Volume 2, and it definitely wasn't what the casual comic buying public wanted.
    After the events of New Avengers we were given 'Alpha's Final Chance' (paraphrasing) in the form of Omega Flight which, despite a sell-out first issue, was downgraded to a mini and thus didn't get a chance to draw onto Alpha mythlore. Although, thankfully, Marvel's use of Pointer/The Guardian/Weapon Omega since has pretty much shuffled him firmly away from us... for now anyway.

    The events of Chaos War gave us the classic team of Alpha Flight together again for the first time in... well, ever if you focus on Heather fighting with the team alongside Mac & Marrina, but it was a definite high seeing the classic team not written as a joke.
    While not setting sales records on fire it was a fun book that was generally well received by fans and promptly led to the announcement of Volume 4, starting with the very book I now hold in my hands.

    Marvel have been promoting the heck out of this Volume, and so far everything writers Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente have mentioned in interviews has hit the spot; it seems we're finally getting a book that harkens back to the era most fans regard as the definitive Alpha Flight: The Byrne era.
    Now that's no mean feat and those are pretty big shoes to fill...


    The Writing:
    By now we've all seen the Preview Pages which each introduce a member of the team; all of which show that the writing team of Pak & Van Lente have clearly done their research; Snowbird's government alter-ego, Mac & Heather's family life, Shaman's Indian doctor roots, Walter & Jeanne-Marie's flirting... there's definitely a lot of love for the Byrne era shining through already.

    Use of AmCan, Aurora's ability to speed up molecules and the use of Persuasion (or Purple Woman) also add to this throughout the issue, along with Snowbird's very clever way of taking down one of the villains.

    The previews for #1 have thrown up the question of Northstar's loyalty but this issue being read first makes his reasons very clear and they make sense. It's not the big conspiracy and fallout that fans feared.

    The team works well together, yet they all come together seperately and interact in their own way, reminding me of the way Byrne's early issues focused on individual team members rather than have each issue start out with a big team assembling at a central base to deal with a nationwide threat.
    These characters have their own lives, their own jobs, their own roles. They don't all hang about a mansion all day. They're heroes in their own way during the day be it saving lives or maintaining the law.
    I haven't seen that in a long time.
    The disfunctional family aspect was always a big part of the team and the playful banter continues within the issue, as if they've never been apart(or dead).

    However, there'd be no point in just recycling Byrne's stories.
    We've got back issues for that.
    We've got Alpha Flight Classic for that(Volume 2 soon, yes Marvel?).
    There's more to Alpha Flight than Byrne's issues and more has happened to them since, something Pak & Van Lente don't shy away from, taking the good and using it.
    The writing team give us a story that mixes Byrne's spirit with Furman's political edge, follow up on the birth of Baby Hudson, use Agent Brown from the Omega Flight mini and actually give Jean-Paul and his boyfriend Kyle a kiss scene. I shouldn't even have to mention that as it really shouldn't be a big thing; but it is. In a good way.
    It's taken far too long for this to happen so kudos to the Writing Team, & to Marvel generally for showing something that makes complete sense.

    The Art:
    I think the art works really well in this issue. Realistic, yet full of action. Not too cartoony and not a million miles away from Eaglesham's style so as to not be too jarring going into the Maxi-series.
    Ben Oliver draws some really dynamic panels for the fight scenes and the texture and depth of facial features created by the art team works really well. I'd be very happy for more from this team later down the line.
    I particularly like the way he draws Heather as a civilian.
    A few fans were commenting on Sasquatch's lack of hair/fur in the preview pages shown so far, but let's remember that they focus him mid-transformation and falling from the air. As i said earlier; they're dynamic shots.
    Later shots of the character have him looking more like the Great Beast we know and love.
    There's a great splash page of the team at the end of the book. Very iconic, and very Alpha Flight.

    In Conclusion:
    Issue #0.1 is a fun read.
    As with all the Marvel Point 1 issues it's a very quick read, but there's nothing within it that's exceptionally jarring, or groan-worthy. The issue is clearly setting up for the Maxi-Series and does it well, whilst also being a solid self-contained story.
    It's respectful to the characters for old fans, and very accessible to new fans; something I feel many of the Point 1 issues weren't.
    If your first exposure to Alpha Flight was the Chaos War oneshot then chances are you'll enjoy this. It's quite similar in it's team dynamics but because it's outside of the confines of Chaos War it's very much it's own title.
    Fear Itself isn't involved in this issue at all, either.

    Before reading this issue I had hoped that this would be the title to erase the pain of previous attempts. That this book would be the one the fans wanted.
    However there was always the chance that despite the fact that Pak & Van Lente's writing worked so well on Incredible Hercules they wouldn't be able to find a distinct voice for Alpha Flight, or their writing wouldn't gel with the characters.

    However based on this issue alone, I don't have hope. I have faith.
    I eagerly await #1 and seeing what the team do with a longer storyline.
    I do hope that Citadel & Purple Woman get used again though. I'd like to see what motivated them to their actions in this issue.
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. sengsterooney's Avatar
      sengsterooney -
      Phil - thanks for a wonderful review! It makes me want to head on NOW to my LCS and get my issue. Alas, I will need to wait until next week (gah!).

      From what I have seen of the previews, it seems that FVL and GP are really turning this title up a notch or two, and their respect for characterisation is going to be top notch.

      I'm really looking forward to it!
    1. Flightpath07's Avatar
      Flightpath07 -
      Nicely written, Phil; great job!
    1. Legerd's Avatar
      Legerd -
      Great review Phil, now I just have to get through the work day so I can read it myself.
    1. DaVeO's Avatar
      DaVeO -
      Had to delay my trip to the shop by one day. Thanks for the positive review (and the CBR article) to keep me going 'till then.
    1. berserkerclaw's Avatar
      berserkerclaw -
      I havent read this yet, since i dont have a lcs here but im brother in california is getting it for me along with my other marvel books for may and sending thrm to me. Ive also asked him to preorder Alpha Flight 1-8 so that i can help turn it into an ongoing. this sounds good andf glad to here purple women appearing. One question who is trhe other guy you mrntioned doesnt sound familiar
    1. Garry/Al-Fan's Avatar
      Garry/Al-Fan -
      Good story, good review, good CBR article.

      'Nuff said...for now.

      Not as disgruntled, not as frustrated, pleasantly surprised comic book reader
    1. varo's Avatar
      varo -
      this was a great issue, and as phil stated perfectly, i m not hopeful, i have 100% faith in fvl/pak/eaglesham. the one thing that really stuck out to me is how much i forgot who these characters were. its been almost 20 years since these characters acted like the characters we fell in love with, and i am soo happy for that.
    1. rplass's Avatar
      rplass -
      Nice review Phil! Thanks for getting up on the site within about 30 seconds of the actual comic being published!
    1. Phil's Avatar
      Phil -
      Thanks all.
      To be fair, the review wasn't aimed at people here for the most part, as lets face it we're all pretty much guaranteed sales.
      I just wanted to get something up for the lurkers and non-fans that were on the edge, and trying to get it up as quaickly as possible was all to help spread the word and get a buzz going.
      Hopefully we can get some decent sales numbers this time around.
    1. Le Messor's Avatar
      Le Messor -
      My review was aimed at the people here,
      not the ones who aren't .

      So, I wasn't as positive as you, Phil. Sorry.

      - Le Messor
      "It's really easy to mind your own business - there's so few engaged in doing just that."
      ~ W.G.P.
    1. Le Messor's Avatar
      Le Messor -
      Quote Originally Posted by berserkerclaw View Post
      I havent read this yet, since i dont have a lcs here
      Where's 'here', out of curiosity?

      - LM
      "That list of New Year Resolutions you made last year can be used again. It's as good as new."
      ~ W.G.P.
    1. cmdrkoenig67's Avatar
      cmdrkoenig67 -
      Very nice review, Phil...Bravo!