Back in the 80’s I was getting re-acquainted with comics and had seen an ad for this new book called Alpha Flight. Back then I wasn’t all that familiar with the group but, I knew they were super heroes and…they were from Canada, and I like Canada. In fact, when I was younger, I wanted to be a Canadian Mountie but that’s another story for another time. One thing I was familiar with was the artist.
Next to George Perez, Byrne was one of my favorite comic book artists, so it was natural that I’d pick this up and give it a try. This was a time before I had found local comic shops, such as Comic Book World, so I remember a friend and I taking a hike to downtown Cincinnati….leaving our Northern Kentucky stomping grounds in search of this elusive (at least to us at the time) issue. For some reason, the little United Dairy Farmers store, where we had usually bought our books, didn’t get AF 1 in so we had to trek across the Ohio River.
Like I said, I had a very passing knowledge of the group so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had seen them in a back issue of X-Men where they had come to take Wolverine ‘back home’, much to the X-Men’s chagrin. What ensued was a big brouhaha with the X-Men winning, of course (hey, it was their book, so..) and Alpha Flight sent packing back to the Great White North. Even in those two X-Men issues, the team looked pretty cool….and they were from Canada!
You had Vindicator (who had changed his name to Guardian…more heroic sounding, I guess..the leader who wore a cybernetic battle suit), Snowbird (a mystic shape changer who I always figured was named for the Anne Murray song), Sasquatch (a big Hulk-like type, who looked like Bigfoot and could stand toe to toe with Colossus, the twins Northstar and Aurora ( super speedsters who could produce a huge flash of light when they touched hands), and Shaman (a tribal medicine man who could pull almost anything from his mystic bag).
In issue one of AF, we’re also introduced to two ‘new’ members….recent recruits from Beta Flight, the second tier team….Marina and Puck. Marina was an aquatic type who could swim faster than anything in the water and survive there indefinitely. Puck was a dwarf (suffering from achondroplasia or ‘lack of growth in the long bones’) who had, seemingly, been everywhere and done everything. He was working as a bouncer in a run down bar when he got ‘the call’.
Needless to say, the Byrne issues were really well done. Some great characterization and backstories were set in place and, for a long while, it was my favorite book. Then, inevitably, as all things Byrne do……the creative team changed. Byrne left the book and, from that point on, it just wasn’t the same for me. The stories were still decent but the art….well, for me, John Byrne is a hard act to follow, so I began losing interest before, finally, dropping AF altogether. I tried picking a few of the later issues up, just before the book was cancelled, but still…no interest there. Not that they were bad issues but, they just didn’t seem like my Alpha Flight. The new creative team had gone their own way, as creative teams do, and it just didn’t click with me. I even tried the ‘brand new’ Alpha Fight when they revived the series but, again, still not my thing.
It’s a shame, but all things change…especially in the world of comic books and we either go along or move on. One thing’s for certain, though, I’ll always have a soft spot for Canada’s premier super team….
Alpha Flight. (from Canada!)