Cancelled Too Soon: Alpha Flight Volume 2

Posted by No_name_here (1225 posts) - - Show Bio
  All said, I still prefer this re-design of Guardian's outfit over his classic look. 
It’s a bittersweet business to look back on all the comics I’ve liked that were cancelled before their time. You’ll often hear creators talk about how they were able to get away with murder on a second or third string title because the powers-that-be figured it would be cut any day and, thus, opted not to be as hands-on with it. Sometimes, that leads to  unexpected underdog successes like ALL-NEW X-MEN and SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING. All too often, it means that all the great unconventional twists you enjoy about a book only manage to get through because the clock's ticking down to the inevitable ax drop - - and that ax always drops sooner than you’d want it to.

The cancelled-before-its-time series I want to spotlight here is the second volume of ALPHA FLIGHT, the Canadian super-team whose ranks include Red Lamp’s favorite pugnacious dwarf, Puck. Steve Seagle wrote 20 issues that ran from summer ’97 to spring ’99, with penciling duties split largely between Duncan Rouleau and Scott Clark. Fill-in issues featured art by Ashley Wood and a then-unknown Bryan Hitch.  
 == TEASER ==
 You could practically hear that creepy melody whistling in your head when you saw these pages.

THE SPIN 

The elevator pitch for this was that it was capes by way of THE X-FILES. It presented the kind of militarized superheroics you’d later see in the likes of the ULTIMATES, but with a thick air of paranoia and corruption. An exponentially-more-corrupt Department H recruited veterans like Puck and Vindicator into an odd team that included fresh recruits like Flex, Radius and Murmur, as well as a number of old members who’d returned under puzzling circumstances. Many mysteries were presented in the first issue and the real fun of the book was trying to solve those mysteries. Was this new Guardian actually a resurrected and de-aged James Hudson, or was there some devilry involved? Was this Sasquatch actually Walter Langkowski, or a new creature whose nature was truer to the name? Was Sunfire dying of poisoning from his own powers, or was he actually being transformed by a stolen Zero Fluid sample? The questions abounded, and they (mostly) got answered.
 Which side was in the right here depended entirely on where you started the story.  

UNCONVENTIONAL PRESENTATION 

This might be the only comic series I can think that was narrated entirely in the second person. A menacing, omniscient narrator would address readers and characters alike with an ongoing monologue that probed at fears and teased about secrets. The fact that Dept. H wiped the members' memories clean after each mission further added to this artful confusion. In one issue, Puck would come across some horrible revelation about Sasquatch, only to be forced to forget it in the next. The readers thus knew terrible things the characters were oblivious to, ratcheting up the dramatic tension significantly. This emphasis on unreliable subjectivity was employed to great effect in a crossover with UNCANNY X-MEN (which Seagle was also writing at the time.) The two-parter presented the two teams’ perspectives of the same encounter, with key information being hidden or revealed depending on which title you read. It was a simple conceit, but it's still memorable after all these years.
 Daken's Half-Brother?

WOLVERINE’S SON WAS A MEMBER? 

Fans who recently got into the X-books will probably be intrigued to know that this line-up featured a son of Wolverine ten years prior to Daken's conception (in print, if not in continuity.) One gradually-revealed mystery concerned the paternity of the half-brothers, Flex and Radius. Unus the Untouchable was revealed to be Radius’ father about halfway through and it was a fitting twist, as both mutants could generate force-fields (of course, Radius’ problem was that he couldn’t turn his off.) Flex’s Dad, however, was never explicitly revealed, even though there were very strong hints to Wolverine being the culprit. While his powers weren’t one-to-one equivalent like Daken’s, Flex’s ability to turn his limbs into sharp metal objects suggested that the metal on Logan’s bones might've somehow siphoned into his DNA. With cancelation, this sub-plot had to be dropped before it was resolved and, unfortunately, it wasn’t one of the loose ends that was tied up in the two-part arc Erik Larsen did in his WOLVERINE run. 

There you have it, a brief examination of a series I feel was cancelled far too soon; a series whose back-issues I highly recommend hunting for if you want some superheroics that are still pretty edgy today. Have any of you maniacs read this particular volume? Do you share in my enthusiasm for it? While we're at it, let's hear some titles that you thought were cancelled too soon....

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of  HYBRID BASTARDS!  &  UNIMAGINABLE . Order them on Amazon   here  &   here .  Follow him on Twitter:  @tompinchuk
#1 Posted by soundbite (463 posts) - - Show Bio

Agreed on any Alpha Flight accounts, but many Americans don't want to read about Canadian heroes, unless we can make people forget their Canadian.  *cough* Wolverine *cough*  Alpha Flight is one group I would love to take a stab at if I was ever given the chance on a comic book, but it would probably be canceled anyway. *sigh*
#2 Posted by Chane (539 posts) - - Show Bio

Nice article. 
Not trying to be picky but there's a typo:   " wrote 20 issues that ran from summer ’97 to spring ’97,"

#3 Posted by Angelique_LeCount (9 posts) - - Show Bio

 Syrup and Hockey...This was/is the attitude towards Alpha Flight as is any group of heroes non American which is saddening do to the America doms all syndrome. Not only was this a great team but it stayed true to itself while characters and or teams such as X-men have a million different members/looks to catch unto whatever happens to be in at the moment of sporadic coolness ideal. A.F members stayed the same for the most part throughout and i wonder still how the popularity of Wolverine would have been if he remained true to his red and white with the middle claw towards the blue. Would the X-men still be winners in these various versus battles posted here if he were on the other side (not even close to saying that he would win MOST of the battles you people claim he would do to mere healing factor)? What if Todd Mcfarlane (Canadian)  said to hell with these fat gutter-punk slobs and remained true with Spawn's red and white maple leafed cape wrapped around his form? Pshhh hell no...Syrup and Hockey my friends...Syrup and hockey.

#4 Posted by G-Man (36764 posts) - - Show Bio
@Chane: Thanks. Fixed.
Staff
#5 Posted by Chane (539 posts) - - Show Bio
@G-Man: Not a problem :)
#6 Posted by soundbite (463 posts) - - Show Bio
@perry_411 said:
" @soundbite: You could have just gone Southpark with Fuck Canada. "

never heard of it.
#7 Edited by YoungFrey (17 posts) - - Show Bio
@soundbite:
I really don't know if that is true.  I think that most Americans regard Canada is a cold boring verision of America.  The average citizen probably knows that a lot of famous people are from there but can't tell you anything except for: hockey, maple syrup, and Molson.  Somebody who really pushes the bound might be able to add in: poutine, Tim Horton's, and peameal bacon.    

I think Alpha Flight (or most any foreign team) could be made interesting to Americans, but it might require a popular character to get it going. Something like Wolverine's adventures in Japan.  Popular Hero spends 6 issues tracking down a villain or organizaion and works with the local team to do so.  Why not let Deadpool (or whomever the latest workhorse is) do more than sell 12 series starring himsefl?  Send them out to seed other series along the way.  So you might have something after those books run their course.
#8 Posted by spider-man 2996 (660 posts) - - Show Bio

I like Alpha Flight I wish they would get a new series
#9 Posted by Chaos Prime (10857 posts) - - Show Bio

Thats a Dam shame :-(

#10 Posted by TheShame (477 posts) - - Show Bio

awesome

#11 Posted by PrinceIMC (5422 posts) - - Show Bio

This was a great run, and much better than the third volume of Alpha Flight that didn't even last for the 20 issues this did. They had a good combination of old characters (some with new twists) and new characters. The malevolence of Department H was great too but has meant that more recent Flights have steered clear of them which I think is too bad since the H in Dept H stands for James Hudson. I was always kinda hoping that Flex would turn out to be Colossus' son from the Savage Land but I guess that was shown to be not possible either. Partially because his powers would make more sense that way and his relationship with Ghost Girl.
#12 Posted by Mumbles (846 posts) - - Show Bio

alphaflight is lame

#13 Edited by Thunderscream (1813 posts) - - Show Bio

That first issue was pretty cool....but the characters weren't strong enough to carry it. Murmur was lame....and the confusion about her powers was silly. When she grabbed Vertigo and said "Paris." I thought it was pretty clear that she meant "Parrish" but said it with an accent...then there was this wacky business that she either activated a hidden teleportation device or that she could actually teleport of her own power.
I'm glad they never got to explain Flex's tie to Wolverine. I'm not riding this "Adamantium siphoned into his DNA" train, it just doesn't work for me.
I think maybe they made it SO mysterious, confusing and convoluted that it became inaccessible to readers.

#14 Posted by The Devil Tiger (1263 posts) - - Show Bio
@Thunderscream said:
"That first issue was pretty cool....but the characters weren't strong enough to carry it. Murmur was lame....and the confusion about her powers was silly. When she grabbed Vertigo and said "Paris." I thought it was pretty clear that she meant "Parrish" but said it with an accent...then there was this wacky business that she either activated a hidden teleportation device or that she could actually teleport of her own power. I'm glad they never got to explain Flex's tie to Wolverine. I'm not riding this "Adamantium siphoned into his DNA" train, it just doesn't work for me. . I think maybe they made it so mysterious that it became "

Incomprehensible ? Boring ? 
 
I've buyed the first issue, and drop it after that. You're right about the character, in the end, it became less and less interesting and frustrating. 
 
#15 Edited by EdwardWindsor (14428 posts) - - Show Bio
@soundbite: I thought Wolverine was born in america in Origins? so technically hes American. Not that it bothers me really being a brit and all. 
#16 Posted by miki (1209 posts) - - Show Bio

i'm sorry! 

#17 Posted by Trodorne (2592 posts) - - Show Bio

This is a great write up. Im a Huge fan of Alpha Flight an i hope after Chaos Wars now that the old team (minus puck) is back that some how they can be worked into the mainstream. like the best thing about characters back in the old comics is they made special guest appearances which made the issues that much better. 
 
  Though I love Darkstar and the Winterguard i could not see them holding their own series. Though Alpha Flight is pretty famous i say give them special guest appearances right now until more people want ot see them. 
 
  But other than that. Great write up Tom.

#18 Posted by Dr. Detfink (460 posts) - - Show Bio

Geezus, not since HBK & Vince screwed Bret Hart have I ever read such scornful remarks about the fate of Alpha Flight. 
 
Don't blame Joe Q, it was Bendis' fault who killed them all off in Avengers. I enjoyed Alpha Flight until they had to bring back Guardian along with Sasquatch. In volume 2, they had the "de-aged clone" of Guardian...and that was enough to say I was "a-boot" done.  
 
I'm sorry to say, a Canadian NHL team will win the Stanley Cup before Alpha Flight gets another chance. I mean, exactly who are Canada's enemies? Canadians are the nicest people.  

#19 Posted by BKole (502 posts) - - Show Bio

I really, really enjoyed this series. With fantastic Duncan Rouleau artwork, I remember being on Holiday in Florida back in the late 90's,  and getting my hands on the last four issues of the series. I was completely hooked, and from that moment onwards, I have been a complete Alpha Flight fan. Loved V2 much more than v3 and Omega Flight - Just thought it was great - Shame they don't get the props they deserve.

#20 Edited by leokearon (1836 posts) - - Show Bio
@lazystudent said:

" @soundbite: I thought Wolverine was born in america in Origins? so technically hes American. Not that it bothers me really being a brit and all.  "


No, Wolverine is from Canada. 
 
Nice article by the way, one comic I believe that was cancelled too soon was Transformers: Generation 2
#21 Posted by Joe Venom (1275 posts) - - Show Bio

Well I just really miss the Runaways, I love reading that book as soon as I got home from the shop but then for like no reason it just stopped, sure you can spot Molly a X-Men one shot every now and then but come on the Runaways deserve much better then that *sigh* I just really hope someone will pick up this team or the Movie will actually happen

#22 Posted by Blue_Shield (760 posts) - - Show Bio

Nice article Tom, and I definitely agree about this series' early demise.  Other series I wish had lasted longer are Heroes For Hire (1997-1999), Mutant X(1998-2001),  and more recently Capt. Britain and MI: 13.
Moderator
#23 Posted by JonesDeini (3620 posts) - - Show Bio

Meh, never cared about these guys and I love books about characters who aren't from the states. 

#24 Edited by Kid_Zombie (824 posts) - - Show Bio

LOVE ALPHA FLIGHT!!! if you didnt already know that. As a Canadian I was so happy we had some Canadian superheroes that actually spend there time in Canada. I mean its cool that wolverine and deadpool are Canadian but its not like they go around stating this fact...well wolverine does sometimes.
This series, Vol. 3 and omega flight were all ended to soon. this one and omega flight specifically. I would really love to see a new on going that actually lasts, but more importantly i would love LOVE to see some Canadian  talent bring us the good. One thing that bugged me was the inacuraces that these books would have. Less American and British talent and more Canadians on these books would be great. Imagine jeff lemire and karrie Andrews as a team on a new Alpha Flight. GOLD!
@YoungFrey:  Sad but true, Many people dont know dick about canada, but it is not there fault, you arn't taught anything about Canada. people don't realize that Its not always snow here, in fact In Toronto we hardly get snow, in summer its boiling hot, in BC, we have palm trees and it never snows (well rarely). But meh, maybe a new Alpha flight comic could educate more people about this country. I would love to see more stories on characters from all across the world, not just the states and Canada, but everywhere. Something different then the same city (new york) over and over and over and over again.

#25 Posted by Green Skin (2932 posts) - - Show Bio

Still one of my favorite runs!

#26 Posted by Meteorite (3351 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article! You should make a Cancelled Too Soon article on Hawkeye and Mockingbird!

#27 Posted by Trodorne (2592 posts) - - Show Bio

The thing is Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and WInnipeg are no different than any other major american city. Toronto would be the Equivalent to New York with the stock exchange, Montreal is like a northern New Orleans, Winnipeg is like Kanas City, Calgary is a mix of Denver and Dallas, and Vancouver is just a slightly north Seattle.
 
  We have the potential for any villain to come up to canada. and its true, why would american readers want to read about canada. but a country can be only interesting as the people make it to be. I could see the team making an appearance in Uncanny X-men and Avengers. thats about it.

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