Retro Review – Alpha Flight

It was the 70’s, I lived in the smallest of small towns back then. Even at the young age of 5 and 6 I rode my big wheel up and down our street like I owned it. I had a best friend named Shawn. Like most young kids, it didn’t take much for us to become that way. It was Kindergarten, the first time I was able to join my older brother on the bus. I was excited, Tom not so much, while I don’t remember what Tom had said but it was probably him telling me where to sit or some such older brother power play , but I do remember Shawn telling this older kid – “YOU can’t talk to him like that.” I knew I liked him right away, and sat next to him. It turned out we were in the same class. Not surprising since there was probably only one or two kindergarten classes – so the odds were in my favor. I did say this was the smallest of small towns didn’t I.

For the next four years we were pretty much inseparable, I can remember him pulling his red wagon behind him on a Saturday morning when we would watch cartoons, old Godzilla movies, and our favorite old kung-fu movies which invariably got us kicked outside as we jumped off the back of the couch attempting to perform the perfect flying kick. It was with this friendship that i got my first taste of comic books, you see that was what was in the wagon. We would thumb through the latest comic books he had gotten and talk about what we liked about each character. Those Saturday’s were good times.

So I’ve liked comics from an early age, from the time I learned to read, comics were the thing for me. I tell you this, because when I pick up a comic there is a part of me that remembers those Saturday mornings, and how the art and colors use to draw me in. We are all still kids on the insides when it comes to certain things. For me comic books is one of those things that for a moment can take me back to simpler times a more innocent time.

Over the years, I have gathered a small collection and recently I felt the urge to re-read some of my favorite’s and share what memories I have of them, and how I feel about them today.

So we are going to start with Alpha Flight vol 1. Issue 1. Aug 1983.

Creative Team

Created by John Bryne

Lettered by Joe Rosen

Colored by Andy Yamchus

The first issue of Alpha flight was double sized, and even that isn’t big enough for the story that is contained inside these pages. Even after all these years I’m still drawn into the story.

The first page introduces us to James Hudson, Code Named Vindicator, standing in a dismantled room, with these powerful words – “you are witnessing the death of a dream.”

We are quickly given the run down on the situation, the Government funded Department H is shutting down, and without funding Canada’s hero’s are left out in the cold. As Vindicator flies off from the now defunct Department H contemplating how he is unemployed, and only has his wife’s salary to live off.

We are taken to to a isolated area some 2000 miles from Parliament Hill where a lonely tent and small fire is burning with a thin man muttering about how he will show them they were wrong. He gets up and begins walking dragging one foot, slowly making a shape in the melting snow as he goes.

Now with the threat hinted at, we switch back to introducing the team members, first up is Dr. Michael TwoYoungmen, who is a member of Alpha Flight as Shaman.

4 pages are dedicated to introducing us to the next members of Alpha Flight, Aurua who suffers from multiple personality disorder. Her super hero persona is flirty and carefree, and her Jeannie-Marie is much more restrained, libriain / school teacher look. Her brother NorthStar is a famous and it is made plain that he has used his powers to get him there. These two are the speedsters of the group and most likely the most complicated characters of the book.

We move on to Mariane, Puck, Snowbird and Sasquatch. With the introductions complete we move into the action, as we meet Tundra, a massive mountain size evil brought to life and composed of the very earth he walks on.

Each of the team members attempts to use their skills to attach the problem, Sasquatch uses his incredible strength to rip large chunks out of the creature, Vindicator’s uses his suit to electro magnetic pulse but as Tundra screams out in pain, the ground begins to split and crack open for miles around him.

The twins begin to literally fly circles around tundra and doing so the erode Tundra’s mass, which gives Shaman an idea and he calls forth a deluge of rain. this weakens their foe, but it wasn’t enough, just then they see a water spout in the distance, it is Marina as she attempts to reach her team mates. she is controlling the spout and using it as transportation.

Vindicator flies off to retrieve her, and allowing shaman to pull the water down around tundra, eroding him with a deluge of Salt water and creating a new salt water lake in the process.

The Team is hanging out at Hudson’s house, and there is debate on what to call themselves and after some discussion it was decided that they will stick with Alpha Flight.

Thoughts

This first issue flows like a movie, building tension as it goes. while the threat was easily defeated, the story served it’s purpose and quickly introduced the team members and gave a good hint at the powers each of them had.

When I was younger this was a chance to get in on the ground floor, John Bryne was known to me from his other work in Marvel. After this book he quickly became one of my Top 5 favorites working at Marvel at the time. This was a brand new team, and it was exciting to hold the first issue in my hands. While the art style wasn’t attempting to break any new ground, it was good ole fashioned story telling that drew you in month after month.

This wasn’t known to me at the time, but now makes it even more remarkable. This team of super-hero’s was created as a one off. They were just a group for the X-men to fight to move the wolverine story along. John Bryne only reluctantly took the book on for reasons only those at marvel at the time may know. While he has said in interviews that working on the book was hell. It proves that he is a professional, and you couldn’t tell by his work that he hated it that much. Probably all the more maddening for him was that the fans loved his work on this book, myself included.

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