Take (again) off for the Great White North
Classic Alpha Flight variant by Phil Jimenez
Back in 1979, John Byrne was the bee’s knees. His run on Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont was a major success and led to the inevitable Byrne-only series. In an issue of the X-Men, fans were introduced to Byrne’s own creations, the sup-powered group from the North known as Alpha Flight. Billed as the Canadian answer to the Avengers, Alpha Flight’s history has been wrought with troubles both fictionally and in sales, but they are still a fan favorite.
Given free reign from Marvel editorial, the result of Byrne’s celebrity status was Alpha Flight. Byrne himself has some misgivings about the series, claiming that it was not his best work, but the title retains a cult following to this day. Alpha Flight debuted as part of Wolverine’s shadowy past with the Canadian government’s super soldier program, Department H. James MacDonald Hudson, dressed in a maple-leaf bearing suit if armor attempted to bring the rogue Wolverine back to Canada to form Alpha Flight with no real success. The team disappeared into obscurity until they re-emerged in their own series in 1983. I have always been a fan of Byrne’s from his X-Men days, citing his Fantastic Four run as being amongst the best of that series. He is also the first creator to attract me to buying Superman on a monthly basis. However, I have a soft spot for Alpha Flight. It’s a weird book and even begins with the group being dismantled due to budget problems with the Canadian government. The first 24 issues are a wild ride and develop each team member along with a rich backdrop of political intrigue and superhuman tragedy.
If you are a stranger to Alpha Flight, you really need to read this classic run by Byrne. Later creators arrived after Byrne departed, such as a little known artist by the name of Mike Mignola, and the title enjoyed a relatively popular status until it was canceled in 94. Even so, it returned several times since then, even though the entire team was massacred in the pages of New Avengers: The Collective.
The team roster has rotated over the years, but most fans consider the first line-up the most iconic: the twins Northstar and Aurora, Sasquatch, the dwarf wrestler/acrobat Puck, the mysterious undersea creature Marrina, Shaman and Snowbird. Later on, the roster expanded to include Madison Jeffries who is currently part of the mutant community of Utopia in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.
Rumor was that a new Alpha Flight series was on its way by Jim McCann (New Avengers: The Reunion, Hawkeye and Mockingbird), causing much bally-hoo-ing from fans of the cult Canadian superteam, but it appears that it was all for naught.
Marvel Vice President Tom Brevoort stated that “Alpha Flight is dead. Dead, dead, dead. I killed them. (Well, Bendis and I.) They are demised, dead, finished, decomposing, dead. They’re hanging out with Nightcrawler.
However, if you happen to live in Canada (or are just visiting during the right weekend), the members of Alpha Flight are taking over for the Avengers, at least for one special variant cover to “Avengers” #4 illustrated by Phil Jimenez. This special extremely limited edition will only be available for purchase at the Fan Expo in Canada on August 28 and 29. And wait’ll you read the cover copy!”
I’m hoping that this is a ruse to gauge the fan reaction for a new Alpha Flight comic as the title has had trouble retaining a following in the past. I think that the path that may prove most successful could be a starting the comic off with a mini-series or even a back-up in the Avengers, eventually leading to a new ongoing title.
Alpha Flight Classic, Vol. 1
The Classic Marvel Figurine Collection #89 Guardian