09th Sep2019

‘Alpha Flight: True North #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Jim Zub, Jed McKay, Ed Brisson | Art by Max Dunbar, Scott Hepburn, Djibril Morissette-Phan | Published by Marvel Comics


Fans of Alpha Flight have been pretty hard done by in recent years. Although the John Byrne written and drawn first 28 issues remain fan favourites to this day (the first 13 issues are as good a run as you will find anywhere, and a huge personal favourite of mine) later efforts have seen somewhat diminishing returns, with the occasional bright spot. Alpha Flight characters and history became a mess, so convoluted every new attempt required rebooting and retconning, creating more mess. I think the final nail in the coffin for ‘Canada’s super team’ was when they became nothing more than second banana space warriors backing up Captain Marvel. So, what’s a publisher to do? How about give us some stories from the classic era, with all the creators being Canadian themselves. Yep, that works.

So, we get three stories from the classic era and featuring the characters we loved then and now. We kick off with ‘Mired in the Past’, by Jim Zub and Max Dunbar, featuring Snowbird and Talisman, two great female characters that rarely have been written very well. They have been drawn to a small town in the Arctic Circle by Snowbird’s senses, and discover a town being terrorised by supernatural creatures. The creatures actually have a very personal link to Snowbird’s origin, and the ending adds a little more to her story. Very short and sweet story, but nicely written and drawn by all involved.

The second story, ‘Monsters’ features everyone’s favourite Puck, written by Jed MacKay and drawn by Djibril Morissette-Phan. We begin on Prince Edward Island, where Puck, Marrina, Northstar and Aurora are resting up after a mission. To pass the time Puck tells Marrina of a previous time he was on Prince Edward Island, way back in 1937. He went with Fat Cobra (from Iron Fist) and adventurer Ulysses Bloodstone on a mission to hunt monsters, something they did for fun back in the day. He didn’t know then, but the creature he killed was a Plodex, the same creature as Marrina, who assimilate in the worlds they arrive on. The ‘Monsters’ of the title, in Puck’s head refer to him and his companions then, not the creature. Nice touch. Excellent writing and art on this one, with a little more substance to it than the first story. Could have been a full blown special. Nice little in joke at the end about that convoluted continuity I mentioned earlier. Lovely character piece.

Our final story is ‘Illegal Guardians’ by Ed Brisson and Scott Hepburn, and features Guardian and Vindicator, James MacDonald Hudson and Heather McNeil Hudson. Heather has essentially been on the run with her daughter, after some bad things went down with Guardian and Department H in the past, and has now been found by some hired mercenaries. She does her best to fight them off before Guardian arrives and helps her escape, promising to get her far away from Department H (The Canadian Department that manages superhumans, at best a morally grey organisation). Mac wins her round, promising to clear her name (she was, of course, framed) and helps her find a new home to be safe in. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say Guardian, as Canada’s Captain America, doesn’t have the same sense of morality and what constitutes right and wrong as Steve Rogers does. Another fine story, superb script and art.

Well, the only thing wrong with this book is the fact that it is a one-shot. It certainly does exactly what a one-shot should do, and tries to generate some new interest in these characters, and certainly does that. Rather than just being three inventory level shorts, all the stories were high quality, all spotlighted individual characters well, and all were linked thematically by the past, and the effect it has on these characters in the present. Any one of these creative teams could produce a very nice Alpha Flight monthly without doubt.

Probably not a book that leapt out at you when you saw it listed, but one that exceeds expectations, and the best Alpha Flight book for quite some time.

I’d recommend this one most definitely, eh’?

**** 4/5


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