Friday, June 7, 2013


ALPHA FLIGHT CLASSIC VOL. 2 (Marvel, 2011; Softcover)

Collects Alpha Flight Nos. 9-19 and Uncanny X-Men No. 109 (cover dates: UXM- February, 1978; AF- April, 1984- November, 1985)

Writer and Penciler: John Byrne (and Inker issues 9-14, 17)

Writer: Chris Claremont (portions of Issue 17 and UXM 109)

Inkers: Bob Wiaceck (15, 16, 18), Keith Williams (19), and Terry Austin (UXM 109, portions of issue 17)

This run of comics is as near and dear to my heart as it gets. I started buying this title with issue 17 in September of 1984 (cover date December, 1984). I thought that the cover was so badass that I had to pick up this strangely titled comic off of the spinner rack at 7-11 and leaf through it. I saw Wolverine and that incredible John Byrne artwork and I was in. Yes, even at age 11 I was nit-picky about artwork and the like. But more on that particular issue later.

I was able to procure back issues of the title for cheap in 1985, and so I had read all of these by late 1985. Issues 9 and 10 are a Sasquatch fan's dream. I loved the Sasquatch versus the Super Skrull battle royale as a kid, and even more so as an adult. I like how dysfunctional and fractured the team is. In fact, the team doesn't even appear as a team between issues 1 and 12. Scene shifts and back-up stories ensure that the characters and subplots all get their turn, but Byrne really seemed to throw everything up in the air and juggle the characters around like balls. The most amazing thing about this is that he didn't drop a single one. Everything was mapped out perfectly without coming off as overly labored or stale. The life and energy of old comics was still apparent within the confines of the modern story arc structure. 

Issue 11 is where the seeds of the earlier issues start to bear fruit. This is one of the all-time greatest set-ups, in my opinion. The battle between Alpha Flight and Omega Flight in issue 12 is fantastic. The scene where Northstar smashed Wild Child into the wall has long been a favorite of mine.

Speaking of Northstar, it should be noted that he was the first gay superhero. This may sound like a big “so what” to younger readers, but back in the Ronald Reagan, ultra-conservative America of the mid-80s, this was huge. Byrne had to be sneaky about it since then Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter wouldn't allow him to come out and say that Northstar was gay. Mind you, this was the era of the Comics Code Authority and newsstand distribution, and any flack could be catastrophic to a comics publisher. They didn't court controversy at this time, they avoided it.

There were enough hints dropped that I figured out Northstar was gay at age 12. There wasn't an over-hyped press release or anything, it was merely presented as an organic character development. I took it matter-of-fact-like at the time and shrugged it off. It didn't bother me then, and it doesn't bother me now. I think that when creators make it an overt attempt at getting a headline then they make it an issue...and then defend it by saying that it's not. None of which does anything to help gay people with acceptance, which is what these schlocks all claim to be doing.

Issues 14-16's Marrina/Sub-Mariner/Puck/The Master of the World arc is great, great stuff, but it was issue 17 where I came in. Little did I realize that much of the issue was a re-cut reprint of Uncanny X-Men No. 109. I didn't know and I didn't care. All that I knew was that the battle between Wolverine and Guardian (then known as Weapon Alpha) was badass. I read that issue dozens of times, and I mean that literally. Dozens. My family was poor and we didn't have cable, so I would read every comic book that I had dozens of times. I can still recite that issue word for word. 

From Alpha Flight No. 17 and/or Uncanny X-Men No. 109. John Byrne was unstoppable during this era.
Issues 18 and 19 feature the coming of the Talisman, in a story where the team travels back 100 years into the past to do battle with one of the seven Great Beasts of the North. Sinister things have been happening to Snowbird, a child of the Gods sent to do battle with the Beasts. Trouble is brewing, and while I didn't catch it at the time, I can now see all of the hints dropped at what was going to happen in issue 23.

I loved these comics as a kid, and I love them as an adult. I got totally different things out of them as an adult, which is to be expected I suppose. I latched onto the more accessible superhero aspect of the title as a kid, and while I enjoyed the characterization of the team members then, I really enjoyed it now.

It's nice when something that you loved so much as a child still holds up in every way as an adult. Alpha Flight was ahead of it's time, and yet very much of it's time. Fans of so-called “sophisticated” modern comic books owe it to themselves to check this series out.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Alpha Flight should have been given the Marvel Masterworks treatment; deluxe hardcovers, sewn binding, the whole bit.

Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.25 out of 5. Everything looks fine except for Puck's face being shaded incorrectly in issue 17 and some linework dropouts and mediocre color line blends in issue 19. I'm not sure if the film for issue 19 is in bad shape or if the colorist did a “spray paint/ airbrush” willy-nilly coloring job and obliterated some lines in a few places. If you had never seen the original issues you might not notice it. I have these comics burned into my brain and can detect the slightest problem with restoration. I have provided several examples below.

Original comic book. I never noticed how crappy the original printing methods were until I compared my originals with this trade paperback.
The original color palette is faithfully maintained.
Original from issue 17.
Incorrect coloring on Puck's face. This type of highlighting was present on the original for issue 18. The spot on Puck's lapel is simply a printing error. Does YOUR copy have this?

My original issue 19 side-by-side with the trade paperback. Note how much linework is obliterated on this page. This page is the worst-case example, but much of issue 19 looks subpar in my opinion.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. This book uses the same beautiful dull matte finish coated stock paper that the softcover Masterworks use. I love it.

Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Glued binding.

Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Marvel's typical lamination makes me a happy OCD camper.

1 comment:

  1. i agree, byrne was cooking with gas on this book! interestingly, he has said he never felt the same.

    I'd totally buy an omnibus of his run!