I really wanted to love Alpha Flight #0.1. It’s written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, whom I’ve really enjoyed on Incredible Hercules, and it’s spun off from the Chaos War: Alpha Flight one-shot that I totally expected to suck and then was pretty decent and made me think I could learn to appreciate Alpha Flight. But so far I’m not feeling it.
This is one of the comics in Marvel’s “Point One Initiative,” where Marvel helps new readers get introduced to a series by producing an accessible jump-on point and adding .1 to the issue number. For example, right between Secret Avengers #12 and #13 there’s a Secret Avengers #12.1 so you don’t have to read the previous twelve issues. In this case, the point-one issue is coming out at the beginning of the series, before #1, hence Alpha Flight #0.1. Because, y’know, some new readers might not be up to speed with the preceding zero issues of backstory, and might not expect that they can start reading at, say, issue #1. After all, stories sometimes don’t start at issue #1. There might be a #0 or an ashcan or a #∞ you need to read. Or it might be part three of a crossover following an issue #7 or an issue #49. Or it might be the last issue because the series is running backwards. Or it’s a direct continuation of issue #612 but they restarted the numbering for a gimmick. Or it might be a side story from some miniseries that’s being sold as a one-shot just to boost sales. It’s as if the whole concept of a first issue has been so completely watered down that it’s become ineffective as a marketing device. Good thing Marvel came up with the whole .1 business, because if there’s one thing you don’t want to do to new readers, it’s confuse them!
At any rate, there isn’t much of an issue with accessibility in Alpha Flight #0.1, because the only backstory seems to be a) they were dead and b) now they’re not. That works for me, because all I’ve ever known about Alpha Flight is that the ones you’d recognize are usually dead and the team is usually a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of. But all your favorites are in this issue! Snowbird! Northstar! Northstar’s sister! Orange Beast! Canada Girl! Canada Girl’s dead husband! Indian Guy! Fish Face! Hockey Puck Guy! Well, actually, Hockey Puck Guy is nowhere to be found, for some reason. Also Northstar doesn’t want to be in Alpha Flight and is mad people always assume he’s in Alpha Flight. (Earth to stupid, that’s because when you’re not in the X-Men you’re always in Canada hanging around Alpha Flight.) So I gather this is one of those postmodern superhero teams where even the main cast doesn’t want to be there.
Seriously, I know the characters’ names and powers, but I’ve never really known who they are because I’ve never had any reason to care. And that’s where this issue really let me down, because I would have thought Pak and Van Lente could sell me on these characters and make it look easy. As it is, I don’t know anything more about Guardian than I did before I read this story–he’s still just Canada’s Captain America who was dead for a long time. The only one I feel like I kind of get is Snowbird, and that’s mostly due to her appearances in Incredible Hercules.
It only makes matters worse that the plot of this issue, and presumably the entire story arc, revolves around Canadian politics. Whee. The whole “A charismatic politician starts his own party to take over the government” premise is annoying enough, but as a United Statesian I am innately allergic to all your Liberal Conservatives and your New Old Labours and your Tories and your Ashleys. I have had the Canadian political system explained to me many times over the years and all I understand is that the government collapses every other month but it never really goes away. Suffice to say I am still not sure if the “Unity Party” is a real thing, or what tremendous power it has captured in the fictional election. I am, however, amused that Heather Hudson dismisses it all by saying “It’s just Gary, Mac.” So unless this guy turns out to secretly be the Master of The World, it looks like Alpha Flight’s archenemy is now…just Gary.
I dunno, I’ll probably stick it out for a while on this series, just out of loyalty to the Pak/Van Lente team. (Yes, Hercules is that good, yo.) But they’re going to have to really bring it to convince me that these guys are Canada’s mightiest heroes, and that this is important for some reason. I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs to be shown this.