Published May 01, 2004Marvel is at it again. Instead of letting a good title die quietly, they have decided to revive original Canadian comic title Alpha Flight again. Packed full of stereotypical Canadian "eh's" and other tired clichés, it seems that the legacy of its creator, John Byrne, has fallen by the wayside.
When Byrne created Alpha Flight in the mid-70s, he conceived of a team of superheroes that would be able to withstand a fight with the X-Men. Uncannily, the team turned into something even bigger than that. Their first appearance in X-Men #120 received so much fan mail that Byrne was given the go-ahead to write a series. Made up of a rotating roster of Canadian superheroes, Alpha Flight was considered one of the most progressive comics of its time. By focusing on one or two characters during a storyline that only lasted a couple of issues, fans were given the opportunity to get to know and understand the characters. This attention to character detail made it unique amongst Marvel titles including Flight's "parent" X-Men and its popularity continued to grow.
Byrne represented Canada by the diversity of his super team: a Sarcee Indian shaman, a woman blessed with divine powers of ancient Inuit deities, super-fast twins fluent in French, a Newfoundland mer-woman, a super strong dwarf and a shape shifting scientist. The Alpha Flight team continued to grow, eventually spawning two additional teams Beta Flight and Gamma Flight became a farm system for the big leagues of Alpha Flight.
Along with the solid geographical and cultural foundation of a comic book written by a Canadian native, the group's popularity was also boosted by some famous compatriots: various X-Men characters, as well as Sub-Mariner and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, were regularly featured and crossover stories involving two or more books were commonplace.
Having poured a solid foundation, Byrne left the book to write Incredible Hulk, but those who followed turned the book into little more than Canuck punch-lines. Trying to fill John Byrne's shoes on a book he created was a near impossible task and Alpha Flight was doomed. The book was cancelled.
Marvel's newest attempt at reviving Alpha Flight is already gaining a reputation for more camp than quality. Much like the Batman of 70s TV, the new Alpha Flight is all laughs and barely any plot. For new readers who haven't read the original series, Alpha Flight appears to made up of pathetic government cast-offs.
In a nutshell, one of the old members of Alpha Flight (Sasquatch) is recruiting new members for a covert operation, but none of them is interested. They have their own lives and when this weird guy shows up and offers them a position with Alpha Flight, they laugh at him. So, he knocks one out, buys another from his tribe and wires a biological bomb to a third's spine in order to get them to co-operate with him.
One of the most disappointing characters is Major Mapleleaf. The Canadian compatriot to Captain America, he is the embodiment of any Canadian stereotype. An RCMP officer (of course) who loves to wear his red ceremonial uniform everywhere he goes, Major Mapleleaf visits schools and lectures kids on staying on the right track to clean living. Which is exactly what the Mounties do, right?
Gone is the character development laid down so carefully by John Byrne. Gone is the tight storytelling that made the book compelling to read. Gone is the awareness of Canadian geography. In place of a solid comic that could have been so much better is a comic that is mediocre at best. Perhaps the expectations were too high, but is it so hard to want something that is being revived to be as good as the original?
Wolverine Is True North
One of the most enigmatic characters in the Marvel universe has come clean. Gone is the wondering, forgotten are the debates, the time has come to settle this once and for all.
Wolverine is Canadian.
In the miniseries aptly named "Origin," all the questions people have been asking are dealt with. Mostly. There are clues hidden in almost every panel to authenticate his heritage, from the exchange of Canadian money to the reference of the geography of Alberta. So then why is he part of X-Men, an American superhero group, instead of Alpha Flight?
Wolverine served with Alpha Flight but decided to resign. When he left, the Canadian government decided to bring him back. In charge of this expedition was Guardian, aka Vindicator, aka Weapon Alpha. Acting leader of Alpha Flight, he was sent to collect Wolverine and bring him back to Canada so he could lead the team. Unfortunately for Weapon Alpha, Wolverine had already joined the X-Men and they weren't about to let him go. After a brief but intense skirmish, Weapon Alpha reported back to his superiors that Wolverine would not comply, and plans were made to go back with Alpha Flight and try again.
Not knowing too much about their team-mate, the attack of Weapon Alpha led to many shunning Wolverine until more could be learned about him. So much for the "friendly" Canadian stereotype. Professor X tried to help Wolverine regain his lost memories but in the end he did it himself by going back to Canada. He remains mysterious, and there remains much hidden about his history, but at least one thing is known. He is Canadian.