TAG TEAM REVIEW: Alpha Flight #0.1

A comic review article by: Morgan Davis & Danny Djeljosevic
Morgan: I just want to kick this joint review off by saying that, in order to make this experience the best it could possibly be, I gave Danny a quick rundown of Canadian politics. Who says comics can't be educational??

Danny: It's weird, but less circus-like than American politics.

Morgan: What Danny means is that it has more Northstars than Sarah Palins. And what better way to illustrate this than that introductory scene?

Danny: In which a Canadian citizen yells at a meter maid.

Morgan: What I like about this scene is that it perfectly exemplifies the Canadian tradition of self-victimization without being preachy. That's a balance that the rest of Alpha Flight #0.1 struggles to meet, in my opinion
Danny: Overall, I dug this issue, but I am not Canadian, so I didn't really pick up on any overt sense of Canadian-ness, at least. At least, it doesn't feel as exaggerated as the first couple issues of that Great Ten miniseries before I gave up on it. I did, however, laugh a bit when they said "province." Don't they know we call them states here?

Morgan: It's not overt Canadian-ness that rubs me the wrong way, per se. It's stuff like the villain Citadel saying such hammy things as "THE LIGHTS ARE GOING OUT ALL OVER QUEBEC!" without the slightest bit of irony. Or the confrontation between Northstar and Guardian that just left me wishing I had a distinctly Quebecois goatee to stroke. By the way, this episode of The Office I'm watching while doing this is so amazingly terrible.

Danny: I am watching it, too.

Morgan: Let's just review that instead.

Danny: It is not as good or as funny as Alpha Flight #0.1. And that episode has Ricky Gervais in it! Briefly.

Morgan: The funniest thing about Alpha Flight #0.1, to me, is how effectively it nails the smugness of the Quebecois. Everyone in this story gets a moment to be preachy and condescending, which is an extremely accurate depiction of life in Quebec, sadly.

Danny: Is the giant person made of regular-sized people accurate?

Morgan: Canadian law stipulates that once a month Canadians take part in such an exercise.

Danny: That was easily my favorite part of the book, because I am easily won over by clever comic book ideas like that.

Morgan: It was a good moment, I'll give you that. But here's my question: If you were totally unfamiliar with Alpha Flight, would that moment have been enough to suck you into the series permanently?

Danny: To be honest, not really. I like Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente (this week's Herc made me lough out loud at least three times), but this isn't their strongest work.

Morgan: Because what I see here is an issue that has a bunch of vaguely political moments that doesn't makes its stakes clear or sets up much in the way of future developments outside of its fairly transparent "Unity" plotline.

Danny: I chalk it up to this being a Point One issue, and not part of the main miniseries. I'm almost positive Pak and Van Lente made this issue extra Canada-centric to drive the point home.

Morgan: Fair enough, that is a good point. This issue was admittedly extremely Canada-centric but I think that may ultimately work against it. We can dive into that in a moment. Let's take the opportunity to jump into Alpha Flight history for a moment here: Do you think the presentation of Purple Girl is enough to give this team its own Dr. Doom?

Danny: I doubt Purple Girl was meant to be anything but a villain meant to drive home that point about the Hudsons and their kid. Do you know the history there? 'Cause I don't.

Morgan: I do, but you don't think that set her up to be Alpha Flight's own weirdly familial foe? True, Reed and Victor were more fraternal than parental, but there are parallels to be sure. The history is even weirder than you could imagine.

Danny: I was wondering if she was of any relation to the Purple Man. Alas, my life isn't as improved as I hoped it would be.

Morgan: Are you implying you are now worse off for knowing the Purple Man goes around basically raping women across North America?

Danny: To be fair, it's a bit more enjoyable than The Office. I figured Purple Girl was just a one-off villain doubling as a treat for the hardcore Alpha Flight fans (do those exist?). Since the miniseries is set to be more Fear Itself-related, I imagine a different villain's in store for them. Unless Purple Girl is part of some anti-Alpha Flight. Zeta Flight?

Morgan: Actually, that would theoretically be Omega Flight, who she's already come up against.

Danny: Oh! I remember Omega Flight as the post-Civil War superhero team. I had no idea they were villains. Holy shit, you know a lot about Alpha Flight.

Morgan: Sadly, I didn't realize I even knew much about Alpha Flight until just now. I actually can't even tell you how or why I possess a near complete run of the first volume of Alpha Flight but, uh, I do

I guess in some ways I'm just confused about what Fred van Lente and Greg Pak intend this incarnation of Alpha Flight to be. Are they merely supposed to be the Canadian Avengers? A superheroic symbol of Canada's inferiority complex? Some strange outlier of the long abandoned Initiative?

Morgan: That confusing lack of identity bothers me. I don't like my team books to be unsure of their purpose. I know what the Avenger stand for, regardless of their roster. I know what JLA represents. Alpha Flight, not so much. Their own members spend an inordinate amount of time debating their role, after all.

Danny: I feel like Alpha Flight has always been that way, no?

Morgan: I'd argue that's only been the case since that New Avengers issue where Bendis used them as a sacrifice for the gods of crossovers. Back in the day, Alpha Flight were a non-nationalist police force of sorts, a team that didn't feel the need to instigate international conflicts but instead just keep status quo. In fact, that insistence on maintaining the norm is arguably what brought them into conflict with the X-Men to begin with.

Danny: Their original appearance in Uncanny X-Men kind of painted them as the original Ultimates for the evil Canadian government.

Morgan: Well, you have to see it from their perspective. The US just kept stealing their best agents -- that would piss any one off. But, point being, in that appearance, you knew exactly where they were coming from: the X-Men stole their best man, they wanted him back.

Here, Unity is attempting to Quebec-ify all of Canada and no one seems to give a shit, not even Northstar, who would normally be all about that development

Morgan: Don't get me wrong, Ben Oliver and Dan Green do a great job making this a truly dynamic, exciting issue. But Fred van Lente and Greg Pak don't leave me with a lot of faith in where this series as a whole will go.

True, as you pointed out, this is just the Point One, but I don't believe this is the kind of issue that will get new readers with no knowledge of Alpha Flight very excited. It's extremely talky without much action and the characters are almost all mouthpieces rather than distinct personalities

Danny: Yeah, their attempt to reintroduce the characters to readers kind of backfired a little. I almost feel like this was editorially mandated and the #1 issue might introduce the characters a little better than this glorified #0 issue.

Morgan: You've hit on an excellent point there. Alpha Flight have always suffered from this constant need for re-introductions. Apparently I am the only person to ever give half a fuck about them in the first place, ha-ha.

But all I need to point out as a rebuttal is Agents of Atlas, a team that nobody knew much about before Jeff Parker and who were brought back without an awkward reintroduction.

Danny: The main difference, though, is that Alpha Flight's become a bit of a joke in recent years (despite having a series that ran more than 100 issues!!), while the Agents of Atlas are just a group that didn't really catch on with readers.

Morgan: That's only because Americans naturally associate Canada with jokes. And have been the butt of some of our greatest jokes.

Danny: Well, they HAVE given us some of our greatest comedians.

Morgan: But seriously, do you think Alpha Flight would have been better off ignoring their history altogether?

Danny: I think Alpha Flight needs a defined reintroduction, rather than an issue that just kind of gives us a random Alpha Flight adventure. Because of their specific nationality, they have more work to do in convincing us that we should care. That is, those of us who aren't Alpha Flight converts.

Morgan: Even as an Alpha Flight fan I think that needs to happen. I'd even argue that an Initiative-style province-by-province (shut up, Danny) recruitment could be an especially interesting first arc, especially considering how diverse Canada's provinces are both geographically and politically.

Danny: That'd be great. I'm sure there are tons of interesting superpowered people in Canada, all of whom are too well-mannered to don a costume and fight evil.

Morgan: "Oh, soo-rry about that Doctor Doom, didn't meant to get in the way of your plans and all"

Danny: That's a comic I would read every month. And then buy the trades to share with friends and strangers.

Morgan: "In this month's Alpha Flight, Northstar sends Citadel a gift certificate as amends for getting him arrested last month"

(insert French translation here)

Danny: "Sasquatch studies with the Hand to learn how to quietly transform."

Morgan: "Vindicator meets with the First Nations to discuss how to better integrate"

Danny: "Vindicator files the correct papers to change his codename to something more quaint."

Morgan: "Puck carves a totem pole"

Danny: I think Pak and Van Lente have met their match.

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