Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chaos War: Alpha Flight (full review)

Twenty-three pages of oozing Alpha Flight goodness... aaaaahhhhhh! [very large and loud contented sigh]

Written by Jim McCann
Art by Reilly Brown and Terry Pallot
Colors by Val Staples
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover art by Salva Espin and Victor Olazaba

Where oh where oh where to begin? [Note to self - endeavour not to appear to be merely a fanboy, but a serious reviewer.]

First, Truth be told, for me, this is one of the worst parts of this issue. I think, were I not an Alpha Flight fan, the cover would turn me off enough that I might not even wish to purchase the comic.

It brings up memories of too many piss-poor artists who were previously pushed onto the Alpha Flight franchise. The style is silly, the figures are all out of proportion, the expressions are stupid and almost all the same. Could have really done with better and more established (I am guessing Espin and Olazaba are newcomers?) cover artists!

That being said, the actual layout or overall vision of the cover picture is good; the living Alphans in front, charging into action, with the iconic headshots of the four dead Alphans who appear inside floating in the clouds looking on. A cool concept...just poorly executed.

Were I to give the cover a rating out of ten, ten being highest, this cover would rank a 4/10.

Interior art, by Brown and Pallot, is much better. Perfect? No, not by a long shot. Still not my favourite style, too much anime influence. But the attention to detail is quite amazing. For instance, in the second panel of the second page of action. And the following panels, where , is awesome; the look on her face, her hair, her jewelry, even the blood splatter, all drawn in an expert manner! [Note: I'm not sure if Narya has ever looked this good, since John Byrne himself drew her!] Page six, the big reveal panel where into the land of the living, is amazing; they all look so happy to be back (and when is the last time you saw Shaman smile?)! Page seven,
between Heather and Northstar and Snowbird and Shaman...brought a tear to my eye. Page ten, the huge scene of the Chaos King's into the Great Beasts; everyone watching, Shaman helping Narya to her feet, she with barely contained rage (as seen in her clenched fist), he acting like the concerned father helping her up off the ground...Page fourteen, Marrina in her ...Page seventeen, of Heather...And page 22, the last panel on the page is another image...

The details are amazing. Unfortunately, I still am not a big fan of a lot of the facial imagery, something about the style used just turns my stomach a bit. It's like...were there actually two artists, one who draws faces well and one who doesn't? And Sasquatch...sigh. Look, I get it, he's hard to draw! But, geez...was that seriously the best those two could do with him? His face was all wrong, proportions totally off. The arms have to be longer, like an orangutan. And you need to find a way to make him look fiercer when he is in battle. Yes, he is orange and cuddly when he smiles, but when he snarls, he should look bad-arse!

As far as interior art goes on this issue, were I to give it a rating out of ten (again, with ten being the highest), I would rate it 8/10. They got much right. Just not Sasquatch. Any other marks that came off their final score, would have just simply been for me not liking the style used so much...

Things I like that I noticed in this issue...

Page two, Snowbird is referred to correctly as Narya. Also, it is pointed out to the reader that only Snowbird can travel between dimensions, the Inuit gods cannot. Page three, the land of the Great Beasts is colourless (again, correct!). And the Great Beasts are well-drawn. Interesting that they refer to themselves as the "gods of the elder night", a term I have not heard before in reference to them. I'm not quite sure what exactly it is that on the last panel of page three, but I am willing to bet that one panel was well-researched and totally in keeping with canon and continuity for Alpha Flight! On page four, Sasquatch is shown images of dead loved ones; I am trying to figure out . I see AF on the right. Is that Saint Elmo next to them, with the beard? Who else is there? I note that Snowbird says, on page five, that her "family is dying", NOT that they are already dead, so perhaps they will not be eternally-wiped-from-existence. Page seven, Mac says it's good to be alive, "Again, again." LOL. Also on that same page, (in a classic pose for those two) while Northstar looks on (wish we could have seen his face in this panel!), and the panel where they realize Puck is is great, Shaman looks so lost looking at his hands while Narya stands by supporting him, Marrina hugs herself quietly, Sas looks anguished as he cries out Puck's name, and Heather and Mac stare at the ground and mourn silently as they hold hands. Page 8, the way Narya says "Files" in quotations,she reminds us all that she is a god (demi-god) and above mortals, there is both some attitude towards Heather in how she states that and also there is the fact she is hurting inside from the attack on her kin. Page eleven, and the AF infighting has begun! Snowbird and Sasquatch argue. Then Sasquatch and Northstar argue. Love it! Page eleven lists the fact that the Great Beasts need to be on our plane for twenty minutes before being restored to full power. On page fifteen, Aurora and Northstar butt heads over their involvement with the X-Men versus their place with Alpha Flight. Mac brings up his and Heather's daughter ( I really think she should have done that, not him!). And Snowbird turns her back on saving Somon from death on page 16. Page 18, we see Marrina slowly losing control and becoming more of a plodex beast again. And there's Sas's anger when he realizes that the dead Alphans are trying to sacrifice themselves again. Page 19, lol, why Northstar attacks Mac and tells him Heather is a better leader...I don't know WHY he does this, but it sure is funny! It is strange, how on page 21 Marrina is now all calm and under control, almost like banishing the Great Beasts did away with whatever was tainting her.

There were a lot of great moments in this issue. Alpha Flight fans cannot help but be encouraged. Jim McCann did a splendid job with writing the characters, he treated them with respect. The issue went by very quickly, I wish it had been double-sized or something, but it was very, very, very good nonetheless.

As far as intangibles go, in that I mean did the writing (and art) stay true to what Alpha Flight was all about? In this, were I to give it a rating out of ten, with ten being the highest, I would rate it 10/10.

As far as the actual script, and the plot, considering this was a one-shot spun out of a larger event, I'd once again have to give it a 10/10 due to the way Alpha Flight was treated.

There were some disappointments, although they were so overshadwoed by the highs that I hate to even discuss them...but I will anyways. Puck being absent...sucked. The fact that the other AFers who died in NA#16 did not get resurrected too, and Shaman's explanation that they "were with" him, and then suddenly when the Chaos King's forces attacked...what, he lost them? It was weak; understandable, but weak. As much as I loved seeing Aurora, I almost wish she hadn't been so close to Walter, hugging him and stuff, or that Northstar had blown up and attacked Walt again becuz of it. Also, as good as she looked, I missed her red designed outfit from her little tete-a-tete with Norman Osbourne...More info on how Shaman got his medicine pouch back, why Mac and Heather are suddenly lookin' lovey again after all they have gone through, whether or not Mac is a clone or a cyborg or a real person or a 19 year old would have been good to know, and at least SOME mention of Elizabeth by Shaman would have been expected (as well as an appearance). And Heather`s suit, and her powers? Hmm...oh well, I liked it anyways!

But, it is hard to complain, really. Overall, it is hardly worth it (complaining, I mean). What Jim McCann did, in one single issue, was to breathe hope back into a dead franchise! Amazing job, Mr McCann!

Of course, the best part of the Chaos War:Alpha Flight one-shot comic book, is that it exists! The second best thing about it, is that Alpha Flight is in it. The third best thing, is that Alpha Flight is alive again, and back together (or nearly so - poor Puck...). So, the fact that it was beautifully written, and the characters were handled respectfully (and they stayed true to their character), is an absolute blessing on the side.

All in all, I would recommend this issue to any fan of the Flight. Here is hoping Mr. McCann gets a chance to write more great Alpha Flight stories!

My final rankings...

Story - 10/10
Art - 8/10
Intangibles - 10/10

Grand Total Rating - 28/30 !!!

Cheers! And long live Alpha Flight!

Note: Some described images above can be clicked on to reveal a scan of the actual image. Yes, they are links!

Below, I am also including a short interview conducted with Jim McCann in the pages of X-Men Curse of the Mutants Spotlight issue. Yer welcome!


Anonymous rplass said...

Nice review, sweet! The page with the images of dead loved ones is a real problem for me. What's with the floating screens around the Great Beasts? It's an odd mixture of modern day technology with the ancient surroundings. You'd expect to find that type of floating viewscreen in the command center of S.H.I.E.L.D. or in the science lab on Utopia or some other ultra-modern facility, not the sacred plaza of the Realm of the Great Beasts. It's such a mismatch of ancient and modern... I was expecting Tundra to whip out his iPad and start playing Angry Birds in the next panel (damn these gargantuan fingers and this tiny touchscreen!)

4:00 AM PST  
Blogger Dredd Sweet said...

Good point about the the screens, rplass. I thought something similar when I first saw them, then lost that thought in an explosion of "whoa...dude..." as I read the whole issue.

I find I am a little too picky about the art, which overall was very good...nobody has ever drawn Sasquatch right for me, but JB.

5:49 AM PST  
Blogger Dredd Sweet said...

Have you visited htp:// yet?
If you haven't, you are missing out on THE best alphaflight solo site on the 'net!
And don't forget about either!

12:57 PM PST  

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