Or – “We Really Do Have A Limited Understanding Of Canadia And It’s Bacon.”


Alpha Flight is one of those concepts that never really gelled for anyone but the original creator. John Byrne had a feel for the characters that no one else has ever really managed to recreate, and the fact that this was a Canadian team seemed to make the writers try and treat them differently than a “normal” superhero group. From the revelation that Northstar and Aurora were actually descended from fairies (irony, indeed), to the fake resurrection of Guardian to the real resurrection of Guardian to the second death and second resurrection of Guardian, as well as Guardian and Vindicator switching names back and forth, nobody ever seemed to really get a creative hold on the concept. Marvel is going back to the well one more time, but they’ve already done two things that make me wonder about their commitment: changed the name, and demoted the book from ongoing to limited series.

OF1.jpgPreviously: Canadia’s greatest heroes banded together as Alpha Flight, and fought the likes of Llan the Sorceror and Gilded Lily before finally getting cancelled under the weight of too many radical ideas trying to “save” the team. Various attempts to save it led to a revamp in the 90’s where they tried to X-Menify it with mutants and bad art, but that tanked. More recently, the team was revamped again as a humor-oriented book, but despite interesting characters (Yukon Jack for one, though the “young girl taking on male superhero’s role” thing with the new Puck just rang false for me) it didn’t break dozen issues. In a recent issue of New Avengers, the creative team decided to show how powerful a particular enemy was by having him kill nearly the entire Alpha Flight team on panel (and then get stopped by Iron Man in about fifteen seconds, showing that Marvel follows the “Hulk Hogan’s Title Match” school of respecting their characters) setting us up for this post-Civil War outing. The rise in crime from villains fleeing the Civil War-torn United States has led the Prime Minister of Canadia to ask for dramatic changes in their superhero-related policies…


Chief on the list of prospects: the last remaining member of Alpha Flight (at least the last remaining member who hasn’t been killed and resurrected as telepathic and now may or may not be X-Men), Walter Langkowski, currently teaching a class on planetary phenomenon. He explains why planets behave the way they do, explains why Pluto is no longer considered a planet, and makes the mistake of asking for questions…


Heh. The clone storyline was one of the things that I hated about the last volume of Alpha Flight, and it’s pretty funny to see Walter angrily denying, “I AM NOT A CLONE!” As he leaves the classroom, he’s approached by Agent Brown of the Canadian version of SHIELD, the Canadian Secret Intelligence service. He explains the American super-villains are flooding the borders, and that with no more Alpha Flight, there’s nobody to stop them. Walter immediately begs off, telling them that he’s not Sasquatch anymore, but they’re not biting. The discussion continues, and Agent Brown explains that the New Omega Flight is more than that. It’s the last chance, for Alpha, and for Walter…


It does seem a little odd to take on the name of the team that killed your first leader, a name that has been associated with villainy. It would be like The Avengers changing their name to The Masters of Evil, in a way. But, Walter acquieses (’cause Joe Quesada told him to) and they discuss who’s in. Yukon Jack is a mess, the Beaubier twins are MIA, the rest of the team is mostly dead, so they’re going to have to call in some assistance from the neighbors downstairs: SHIELD. Iron Man being busy, he can only afford to throw them a couple of castoffs from his old Force Works squad…


Walter knows Talisman, and every time we have a “new team being assembled” story, you have to have the one reluctant member who eventually flips and becomes the most dedicated member of the squad. Speaking of Talisman, she’s currently up north at the Sarcee festival, explaining the story of the sweat lodge to a group of tourists and young idiots. She ends of seguing halfway through to the origins of her father, the core Alphan known as Shaman. Her story turns into a mystical vision as a group of owls tell her of her late father’s destiny, and imply that it is hers as well. A white owl confronts her, asking “Elizabeth, are you paying attention? Do you see what you are being shown?” Her vision ends, significantly, with the arrival of Walter as Sasquatch, 10 feet of orange fuzzy hero. After he gives a few rides to the children at the festival, Walt tries to convince Elizabeth to sign up with the new Omega…


Meanwhile, at a bar in the middle of nowhere, four Americans have decimated a bar full of toughs, and laugh about their new horizons. Apparently, a cell phone went off playing “I’m Bringing Sexy Back,” which triggered their leader to violence. Suddenly, even before they break out the helmets and costumes, I know who these idiots are. Their leader laughs as they suit up and prepare to sow their incompetent and poorly educated violent oats.


Oh, goody. It’s the Wrecking Crew. I hate these guys… They’re everything that’s wrong with super-villainy, wrapped up into four big dumb packages. Not only that, they’re nearly completely incompetent, and I’d rather see the new team kick off with a foe or team of foes that hasn’t been played for laughs more often than not. You can’t figure that they’l get a whole lot of credibility from taking out the Crew, even if they are tough. In any case, even before his team is assembled, Walter gets the page to action, that the new Omega Flight is needed. Suddenly, Bulldozer interrupts their killing spree, to look at a large shadow that passes by… “Hey, what IS that?”


Heh. That’s really kind of funny, so long as you don’t take into account that the man just DIED and stuff. “Sasquatch. I thought you were dead!” “Me, too,” replies Walter, “I was wrong.” The Wrecking Crew attacks (with Bulldozer nearly getting himself killed by saying that it’s just a clone of Sasquatch), but Sasquatch is considerably more powerful than they thought. He presses his advantage, but Thunderball gets his chain around Sasquatch’s neck, and Sasquatch panics, flashing back to the death of his old team at the hands of The Collective. Post traumatic stress or not, he falls to pieces, and the Wrecking Crew does their best impersonation of the n.W.0. and begins the four-on-one beatdown.


I’m sincerely hoping for Beta Ray Bill to arrive and knock all four of these morons into next week, frankly, or at least for Talisman to melt them. Have I mentioned I hate the Wrecking Crew? The overall effect of this issue isn’t unpleasant, actually, and the art doesn’t bother me as much as it might have. Penciller Scott Kolins’ faces are expressive, and his Sasquatch is quite good. The story is a bit by-the-numbers, and pointing out that forty percent of the team used to be in the Avengers-Lite team, Force Works, doesn’t help to overcome the assumption that the new Omega Flight is a cobbled-together series of minor fan favorites in the hopes of capturing lightning in a bottle. The “random collection of heroes” motif is all over the Marvel U right now, with both teams of Avengers, as well as the entire Initiative being based on the concept.

It’s a well-done issue, I suppose, with nothing leaping out as a bad idea, but the overall effect leaves me ambivalent. I am glad to see that Alpha Flight’s death is more than just a two-panel shocker to make us believe that anything can happen, but the pacing concerns me, especially if the book has been cut from ongoing status. It would really suck if the five issues end with the team finally being assembled, and then sales don’t warrant more Omega Flight. Given the basic nature of the “assembling our new team” plot, I think a solid 2.5 star rating will cover it. We shall see if this assemblage gels and gives the readership something worth more than just a limited series…



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Matthew Peterson on

    It does raise an unpleasant point… Obviously, Marvel editorial thinks the problem with the group was that it was too Canadian, or that the characters were the problem, when the problem is simpler: It was a lower-tier book, and the various layers of revamp that were slapped on the book to make a best-seller out of it made it incredibly complicated.

    With any luck, Oeming can pull this off, using the cult hero status of Beta Ray Bill and Sasquatch (and, to a lesser degree, the U.S.Ajerk) to bring in new readers. I don’t expect, based on this issue, for it to be immediately granted ongoing status, but I’ve been wrong before, and they’ve got four issues to hook the readers.

  2. Just wanted to point out the first issue sold out at Diamond and is going back for a 2nd printing based on re-orders. That means the book far out performed Marvel’s projections so there is a chance if the rest of the mini goes this way they will then relaunch an ongoing.

    I think the characters are the best of what Oeming had available in terms of Story potential. I liked the early Byrne stuff but man, not a lot of open ended story posibilities. These characters have a ton more and I think they are off to a pretty good start.

    And I don’t know if they are so much the “premiere Canadian superteam” so much as they are the Initiative North. You know, one country sending in its military to help stabalize the area from outlaws and ruffians and oppressors. Like Stalin did with Eastern Europe at the end of WWII. Or Mao did with N. Korea a little later. Or the U.S. with Texas in the 1800’s. Totally peaceful and helpful. Nothing menacing or evil.

  3. Matthew Peterson on

    There’s a lot of built-in potential with having Michael Whatsisface on the same team as Sasquatch, and I’m a mark for Beta Ray Bill (and, for that matter, Talisman, one of the sexisest costumes Byrne ever put together). But I think perhaps that Tommy makes the good point here. I mean, after all, what POSSIBLE harm could come from one country sending their own people into ANOTHER country to keep the peace for both countries’ benefit? Certainly, as your examples portent, that sort of thing would NEVER turn bad…

    Also: Iron Man is a jackass. That is all…

  4. I have to come to the defense of the Steven Seagle Alpha Flight series. For something that was thrown against the wall to see if it would stick in the bankruptcy era of Marvel, it was very well written. The origianl artist (can’t remember his name at the moment) was different from all the Joe Mad clones that were being thrown about in most of MArvel’s books at the time. He was followed up by Buncan Rouleou who, at the time, was not my favorite artist, but grew on me. The series had great characterization for the time and quite a few twists and turns. I don’t think that iteration of Alpha gets enough credit.

  5. Matthew Peterson on

    Once again, when it comes to comics, I try not to cast too many aspersions on other people’s favorites.

    Rather than referring to it as “bad art,” I think I could have better quantified what bothered me about the Seagle run: seemingly derivative visuals. Granted, in those days, most of Marvel’s output was pretty homogenous, and pseudo-Image. Heather, with red flowing hair in her open cowl, looked for all the world like Jean Grey in green, whereas the new Sasquatch felt like it was drawn by Sam Keith. Overall, a lot of shoulder pads and visors made for a very X-Men/WildC.A.T.S./Youngblood feel.

    Most importantly, when it comes to comics, popularity is overrated. If you dig it, then it’s a treasure, and nothing *I* say can take that away from you… As a guy whose favorite heroes include the Earth-616 Mimic, The 3-D Man, Nova, Mon-El, and the original Champions, I have no room to criticize your tastes.

    Major Spoilers: Fair And Balanced. Except To Tommy Grice. Who Is WRONG, Sir, WRONG!!

  6. Matthew Peterson on

    Canadian zombies are purple. It’s due to the same changes in water that make their beer stronger and their bacon look just like ham.

    Knowing is half the battle!

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