• Review - Alpha Flight #0.1 : Thoughts from a First-Timer

    In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit to being a relative newbie to Alpha Flight. I've been a comic book reader for most of my life, but, I was attracted to other titles. Living in Canada, obviously, I have been exposed to the adventures of our own team and many good friends of mine have been known to proselytize their homegrown (as it were) heroes. Names like Puck, Northstar and Sasquatch were familiar to me, but, that's really all they were. Names. Now, however, I have been afforded the opportunity to start reading the new regular series and I feel pretty excited about it.

    One of Marvel Comics' greatest strengths has always been its focus on real world issues, both large and small. Issue #0.1 begins against the background of the Canadian Federal elections, which happened on May 2nd of this year, and politics is the key motif in this issue. In fairly fast succession we are taken to various locations around this large nation; Montreal, Ottawa, Grand Lac Victoria et al. to check in with some of the members of Alpha Flight and politics, both national and personal, play within every scene. As the country heads to the voting booths, crimes are being committed by meta-humans with strongly voiced issues regarding social awareness and the possible moral inequities of a multinational business.

    Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente's writing in these scenes strikes me as being very well thought out on two levels. 1) It allows the internal frictions of the team to speak as a voice for a country struggling with similar issues, and 2) The heroes' actions are handled with positive results despite the obvious disagreements, from both team-mates and, at one point, armed members of a security force. What this says to me is that a beneficial accord may be reached despite the occasional fractious viewpoints of the involved parties (that word was deliberately chosen for its several meanings). I also enjoyed the idea of not providing translations for every line of French spoken in the book. It feels like both a tip of the beret to the bilingual readership and a level of respect for the wider audience that allows, "You're smart enough that we don't have to spell it out in huge capital letters...".

    Among the many things that Canadians are known for, beyond our national borders (eg: hockey, Kraft Dinner, curling and the invention of orange flavoured pop), is our reputation as a country with a strong, dry sense of wit. This trait is deftly handled with the eventual reveal of Snowbird by the end of the issue. Reading through her lines of dialogue back to the opening page, made me smile. Indeed, there are several examples of our sense of humour written into the panels. This sort of attention to detail speaks very well of the creative team and the tone that they are aiming for. (Oh...we also spell a lot of words with a letter "u" that our American cousins consider superfluous...)

    The artwork for this issue, both cover and panel, strikes a very clean, well considered style. Fights and motion are handled with a minimum of fuss and flash and the colour palette bring a great sense of light and subtlety to the overall look of the work. This preview edition managed to convey a good deal of information and detail to a reader who is not at all versed in the mythology and that strikes me as a very good thing. With smaller titles such as this (steady now...that isn't a moral judgement), one has to aim at expanding its core audience. Time will tell just how far that audience will reach, but, for now I think that they've started off with exactly the right map to the land of the big titles.

    Also...the last written screen-crawl of the issue? "Unity wins in landslide"? You know that isn't leading anywhere good...