X-Hausted #3: Alpha Flight

Alpha Flight The Team NOBODY Wanted..

From the Land of Mild Disappointments, the land better know as Canada, comes a team that Marvel has been trying to kill since the mid 80’s.  Alpha Flight exists as a strange mix of being an X-Men derivative and Avengers clone.  It had interesting characters, interesting storylines and was really well written.  This book was just kind of cursed.  Regardless of how competent the writing was, this book really never found it’s mark.

Degrassi High: The Alpha Flight Years

The Claremont and Byrne run on the X-Men books contained a strong mix of melodrama and action with sympathetic villains and flawed heroes.  When Byrne started Alpha Flight, he brought over all of the melodrama…and that’s it.  Through much of the first volume, we would get entire issues of the main characters talking through their personal issues with a villain or adversary taking a backseat to the in-team drama. Alpha Flight’s main cast were fully fleshed out characters.  The characters in this book were probably the most well developed when compared to other X-Men properties.  They were strong enough to share panels with other more established characters from other books.

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So What’s the Issue?

Look.  John Byrne never wanted to make this series.   He really meant for this team to just be a team that could seriously go toe to toe with but eventually lose to the X-Men.  Byrne intended Alpha Flight’s appearance in X-Men #120 to be a one-off showing in a self-contained Wolverine-centric story. Often, when a good idea outlives its anticipated lifespan, the idea survives in a zombie-like state. It just limps around the countryside looking for someone to put it out of its misery.  Alpha Fight was competent idea that should have been mercy killed after the first year.

Alpha Flight really felt like the D-League of superhero teams in the Marvel Universe.   They ranked right below Power Pack and ahead of the Champions of Los Angeles. On paper, Alpha Flight is pretty impressive.   They have a good variety of talents and abilities.  They even had satellite teams like Gamma, Beta and Omega Flight.  Most of the characters has a unique backstory.  There were simply too many characters to invest in and not enough external conflicts to keep us interested.  The thing most people remember Alpha Flight for…is getting killed.

Alpha Flight Get Stomped…all the time

Alpha Flight exists in a perpetual state of getting their asses kicked or even killed.  They get curbed in their own book.  They get curbed when they guest star in books.   They get curbed individually.  They get curbed when they are moonlighting on other teams.  They can’t get right.  It seems the first step in becoming a Crossover Villain in Marvel is to kill Alpha Flight.  Alpha Flight’s original run was 11 years long…they are an established team, there is no reason for them to lose at such an incredible rate.

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They won’t quit.

The original run lasted from 1983 to 1994.  In the subsequent years, the book has been relaunched on multiple occasions.  Sometimes with the original lineup, other times with  new members the pattern remained the same…Alpha Flight gets stomped.  New characters die.  Old characters die.   Characters are resurrected from the dead and are killed.  When the creators value the characters so little? Why should we care about them?  Maybe that is why the team never landed as a major force in the Marvel Universe.  In the process of building this team up to be sympathetic underdogs, the writers effectively neutered them.  Alpha Flight are the sacrificial lambs of the Marvel Universe.

The Fix

The only way to improve this team is to reboot.   Establish them as Canada’s Avengers.  Make them a formidable force to deal with.  Have them dominate in guest appearances.  Have more established teams name-drop Alpha Flight as a deciding factor in past conflicts and have the mainstream members of the MU consult with members of the team the same way they consult with Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank Pym or Hank McCoy.   This will expose a new generation of fans to the team.  The book itself should contain a similar level of attention paid to the characterizations as was shown in the original series but should focus on giving them something to do besides just talking to each other.  Deliver some action and play up the unique nature of Alpha Flight’s Rogues Gallery.  Focus on elements of Inuit and First Nations Culture and hip the readers to the history of the indigenous people of Canada.  A formidable Alpha Flight team in a well written book would be rife with story opportunities.

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