Alpha Flight. If this issue is any indication of the stories to come, this ongoing is going to be very limited.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Get in on the ground floor for one of this year's hottest new series before they head into the fight of their lives during Fear Itself! Do you fear your country turning on you? Watch as the team gets drawn into a civil war all its own this May, only in Alpha Flight #0.1!
ALPHA FLIGHT #0.1 (MAR110629)
Written by GREG PAK & FRED VAN LENTE
Penciled by BEN OLIVER
Cover by PHIL JIMENEZ
Rated T+ ...$2.99
FOC – 4/25/11. On Sale – 5/18/11
How many Canadians went out to buy Alpha Flight today with hopes that it would be good? I count myself among them. Having picked up the first graphic novel of John Byrne's run on Alpha Flight a couple of week ago, I was excited to see that Marvel was bringing the original lineup back (minus dead-and-in-hell Puck). Byrne's run was a great introduction and had some really interesting ideas, but I can't say the same applies to the first issue of this incarnation of Alpha Flight. Van Lente has been quoted as saying that this is a "Canadian Civil War," and that didn't initially scare me; but now I can't help but say "Get a new idea guys, fans don't need recycled storylines" - especially when those ideas are half-baked.
There aren't too many ideas in this issue of Alpha Flight that are original. The villains are recycled: "...an anti-government fanatic in an adamantium exoskelton" (is adamantium really this much of throwaway in the modern Marvel Universe?) smashing a power turbine, and a Purple Woman with mind control powers (see Bendis' alias for the Purple Man) that causes people to join together into one big purple person (something I've seen used about five times in the past year). There are no real introductions to the characters, so I sure fucking hope that you've read an Alpha Flight comic before. Not to say that each character isn't introduced, but there is nothing to latch onto, no real emotional connection beyond some pithy quips, and stilted banter between characters. Aurora, one half of the Canadian super-twins, has such wonderful lines as "Tch. The property damage is bad enough--do you have to bore us with your politics too?" If you're going to have a story that centers on politics I believe it isn't in good faith to balk at the idea of politics on the first page. It takes the intensity right out of the storyline. Even if the line is believable for the character, it rings hollow for the story and should be left out.
That is one of the major problems with this story, if you are going to do something with political convictions, do it hardcore or go home. It seems to me like Pak, Van Lente and Marvel are shying away from any actual discussion that may cause people to think about the issues. What was interesting about Civil War and how they handled it was that the characters involved had political intentions and broke into factions because of them. The fanbase of those characters were split right along with the superheroes, causing discussion and arguments among everyone - and what comic fan doesn't like to bitch with their friends? If this is indeed where Alpha Flight is headed, they have started with a very soft approach that won't hook any new readers that decided to give this title a shot with this introductory issue.
Northstar's character here is defined simply by the fact that he has a male partner who gets turned into the innocent hostage at just the right time, so that Northstar and Guardian (among the teams most powerful members) are rendered useless and unable to defeat a purple lady with a machine gun. In a believable comic (I only suspend my disbelief up to a point), Northstar could speed in and smack the living daylights out of the Purple Woman. Here he is immobilized by the fact that his partner has turned into part of a giant person-creature. Northstar's characterization has been "phoned-in" on this one. Just being gay does not make you character. There is no room for any of the characters to breathe in this comic, there are no situations in which to connect with them, leaving us with just the hollow shells and useless stereotypes of what could have been a bunch of believable characters.
Ben Oliver, with assistance from Dan Green, is someone that you should keep your eye on. If you like concise storytelling mixed with a nice clean line, Oliver is your man. His semi-realistic style doesn't skimp on motion and action for the sake of bringing you something that looks based in the everyday, but it still races through the action clearly and intentionally. Frank Martin brings a very detailed and carefully rendered coloring style to Oliver's work, which keeps his line weights undisturbed and complements the overall style perfectly.
Overall, if you're thinking about picking up Alpha Flight, skip it and pick up another title for 2.99, because if you're buying this chances are you're not going to like the stories of the superheroes of the North. I know this is a setup issue, and setup issues are hard to write, but Pak and Van Lente tried too hard to fit too much into too small a space. A smaller, more personal story with a slow burn setup and some political intrigue would have been much more inviting. The only reason that I would come back for issue one is for the promise of Dale Eaglesham's artwork on something that he has been pining to draw for a long time.
Review by: Martin John