Friday, June 17, 2011

Flightpath 07's review of AF Vol4 Issue # 0.1

(Flightpath07 - that's me!)

Review: Alpha Flight, Volume IV, Issue # 0.1

Well, first let me say that it took me a long time to get my hands on this issue. Many weeks of waiting, keeping my eye on the mailbox. Many weeks spent NOT going on, as I did not want to know what was going on in the issue before I actually read it. Many days of crying myself to sleep into my pillow, muttering “Hurry up, dang it…” in my dreams.

But, the issue is here. And I have read it.

The wait was immeasurable, but it was well worth it. As was waiting for Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak to resurrect this dying franchise; it has been a long wait since Brian Bendis killed over half the team off in New Avengers without a second thought, but now the original team is back and they are being written respectfully at last (no offense to Michael Oeming of Omega Flight writing credit, who did a truly wonderful job despite the fact that Omega Flight was never going to be Alpha Flight, nor was it going to be liked or pushed by the Marvel executive suits).

Artist Ben Oliver does a fairly decent job on this issue, the 0.1 jumping-on point for those who are interested in purchasing this maxi-series (8 issues, and hopefully becoming an ongoing really soon). I still think his Sasquatch leaves something to be desired. That being said, Sas seems to be one of the hardest characters in comics to draw properly (John Byrne really spoiled us with his great rendition of Walter Langkowski’s alter ego); Ben did a decent job – truly, I’ve seen much worse.

I should mention here that in this issue, Ben Oliver shares artist duties with Dan Green, as well as colourist Frank Martin. For those of you who really need to know, the lettering is done by Scott Bowland, the editor is Mark Paniccia, and the cover (oh, the cover!) is rendered by Phil Jimenez and Frank D’Armata.

Let’s start with the cover. First off, I do have to say that it is a little misleading; Marrina is shown looking more like how we have always known her to be and a lot less than how she is actually now being drawn. Aurora is shown in her short hair and yellow costume, which is also not how she is pictured inside. And finally, Sasquatch…looks like he went to the beauty parlour and spent way too long under the hair dryer, lol! All that being said, the cover does look amazing. Very iconic, very…classic. Well done, misters Jimenez and D’Armata!

The story itself is well-told. Van Lente and Pak do a great job of throwing one into a plotline, creating angst and suspicion and intrigue, without actually giving away any answers to any questions. The characters…Alpha Flight actually acts like Alpha Flight! It is amazing how good these characters are, when they behave like themselves. The villains are a good mix of big, nasty, threatening, familiar, and disturbing (that last one, because one used to be a hero and a friend).

Now, let’s talk about each Alpha character in a bit more detail.

We’ll start with Snowbird. In this issue, we get to see her in her Anne Mackenzie character as well as in her demi-goddess form. It is good to know that Snowbird has something to do, when she is not super-heroing. You can tell Van Lente really knows and understands this character; she seems to have almost no emotion in her scenes as Anne Mackenzie the meter maid. In fact, she seems to not understand humour, or irony, or whatever, and just plays all her scenes as the “straight-man”. People yell at her and stuff, and she just looks at them without saying a word or showing any emotion. She has a good grasp of her ability to undergo form changes, as at one point she rapidly switches back and forth between several animal forms. And she ends up being the one to get close enough to Purple Woman to knock her out with one punch. All in all, a quite believable Snowbird. A nice bit of humour, as well, slipped into the story, with Anne ticketing the villain’s vehicle – nice way to make her seem not so bland. Good job, FVL and GP!

Next up, we’ll take a peek at Guardian and Vindicator. James is shown to be his usual self, totally not interested in or believing in politics or politicians. He doesn`t trust them, it seems, which fits well with his character I think. Heather is his emotional tie, who tries to get him to focus on better things; indeed, in many ways, James is seen as the one brooding over the loss of their daughter. By showing him doing so before Heather, he is seen as having strong family attachments, which is good. Heather being the first to answer their summons from Department H, shows her leadership skills, which is also in-character, as she is probably a stronger leader than Guardian is. Heather is shown looking a little mousy, it is probably her bland-style brown hair that helps a lot, as well as the glasses. Once she switches to her Vindicator uniform, her figure comes more into play; interesting that she is still drawn as having probably the best bum in all of comics, yet I definitely detect that her boobs are now drawn in more of a “I’ve had a child, my boobs sag a little now, and I am just not as young as I used to be” sort of manner. Heather’s bravery is seen as she blasts into battle against Citadel, only to find her electromagnetic blasts from her battle-suit to be useless against him – thankfully, she is rescued by Aurora (anybody else notice that Aurora seems to ‘almost’ grab Heather’s boob as she carries her to safety?). Even as she is being rescued and carried to safety, heather is barking out commands, planning the team’s attack as she instructs Sasquatch, Marrina, and Shaman. Meanwhile, Guardian is liaisoning with S.W.A.T. team members, and arguing with Northstar – two strong personalities that obviously do not get along. FVL and Pak do give Guardian a funny line, though, at least showing him to have a sense of humour (something usually given to Heather, not Mac). When Mac tells Heather that Kara Killgrave is attacking them, she seems much more surprised than he is – but this is quickly explained , as Mac admits Heather has had way more contact with the Beta Flight members than he has (which is quite true). Northstar and Mac get in each other’s way, still arguing as they try to prepare to face a new threat, only to have the threat roll right over them. As a per-usual Alpha staple, lack of teamwork caused by infighting and bickering; classic Flight! Once Purple Woman is taken down, Heather is shown to be feeling bad about losing yet another one of her ‘children’; Mac is shown to feel Heather’s pain, and Vindicator tells Agent Brown of Department H to make sure that Kara is treated well. All in all, Guardian and Vindicator are treated well, their characters staying within proper parameters, playing well off of each other and other teammates as well.

I think I will tackle Sasquatch and Aurora as one. They are first seen together, Aurora flying and carrying Walter Langkowski, who is dressed in his green flight suit that protects him from the wind when being carried at high speeds. Aurora shows she is reading Department H briefing logs, and Walter shows how impressed he is with that; she responds that she has been in therapy, and he says he wants to date her again, and she says “Sorry, doctor’s orders” and drops him. Of course, it is all part of the plan, as he transforms into Sasquatch mid-fall, tearing out of his jumpsuit and lands on top of Citadel. Good exchange of banter between the two, showing their past together as well as their playful teasing in the present. These two legitimately love each other, whether they are dating are not, they care deeply about each other and it shows. As Sasquatch gets pummelled by the villain, Aurora is right there to take the fight to him, and we see that she still does not like to be touched; Citadel grabs her by the shoulder/neck, and she says that she would cut off his hand for touching her if she could. She then has a good use of her powers, as she vibrates quickly to get him off of her, and then Vindicator jumps in to the battle. When Heather is threatened, Aurora runs in at super speed and carries her off, and then Sasquatch picks up a turbine (they are fighting at a large dam, after all) and hits Citadel with it. I am quite happy with the way both of these characters were handled. Sasquatch looks a little rough in his furry form, certainly not up to Byrne standards, but Walter looks exactly like Walter should. Aurora looks good, and although I enjoy others of her costumes more than her black and white one she is wearing here, her shape is drawn right, very sexy. The conversation between the two characters is excellent.

Now we come to Northstar. I have already touched a bit on his arguments with Guardian. It seems that Northstar is not a current member of Alpha Flight, and really wants nothing to do with them; it is actually his boyfriend Kyle who presses him to continue being a hero, while JP is more interested in just being with Kyle. In his exchange with Guardian, Northstar seems less pissy than he used to be written by Byrne, and more self-confident; it is almost like he is laughing at Mac, for the suit he wears (“draped in the flag”), for the way he appears to be looking after the interests of the rich and powerful only, and because Mac still believes he can “change the system from within”. Northstar seems less cocky, and more sure of himself for real; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Again, he does not want to be associated in any way with Alpha Flight, and makes that quite clear to Guardian as they talk (as they are being shot at). Northstar’s fear for Kyle is quite evident, and shown well. And, at the end of this issue, when Alpha Flight poses for the cameras, Northstar is nowhere to be seen…But he does make sure that Kyle is alright, and express to him how important he is to him. Kyle tries to say that Northstar and Alpha Flight saved him (which they did), but Northstar cuts him off and says that it is only because of Alpha Flight that he was in trouble in the first place.

Shaman has always been a difficult read; Shaman, the stoic one. When first we see him, he is in an operating room in a Native hospital, and he receives the call from Ottawa and leaves his body behind to astral-ly investigate. As has been stated before, it is quite strange that his body can continue to operate (literally!) without his spirit inside of it…When he joins the battle, it is to read the mind of Citadel and discover that the real danger is heading towards the city…Beyond that, same old stoic Shaman, although his response to Citadel saying “Hey Indian” to him is a little unique at least…

Finally, Marrina. She…definitely has her own personality in this series, much more pissed off than anyone has ever really been in a Flight book. She uses her water powers in the fight with Citadel, calling him a “land mollusk” with a tough exterior but a “squishy center”. Later, as Alpha poses for the cameras, she starts screaming at the media, saying how she is an alien and proud of it. Some of her comments make me think the gossip mags have been talking about her alien heritage and chasing after her for photos or something! As she bellows, “Bite me, Earth media!”

Purple Woman, Kara Killgrave, as a former Flight-er, deserves some mention here as well. Something has definitely got her riled up (or is controlling her), as she is looking downright pissed off, and thinks nothi9ng of using innocents to get her way, or of having people under her command try to kill Guardian and Northstar. She looks good (va-va-voom!), she seems mean and svelte and a nasty piece of work; I am sure she would make her father proud (it IS almost Father’s Day, isn’t it?). But the answers to the question, Why? Those will have to wait.

All in all, I cannot help but give this issue full marks. The art was better-than-expected, hitting far more than it missed (Sasquatch). The characters were written beautifully, the dialogue was both informative and witty, and we were teased lots without being told too much of anything. This has me very much looking forward to the next issue! Great job, everyone involved.

Art: 9.5/10
Story: 10/10
Dialogue: 10/10
Intangibles (or, as some call it, Alpha-Flight-iness): 10/10

I’m giving this one 39.5 Maple Leafs out of 40!

Heather's Bum:

Van Lente and Pak introduce...your Alpha Flight team, Volume 4!


Anonymous rplass said...

I love the random shot of Heather's butt! You should feature this in all your reviews. Issue #1 has a darn good shot of her butt as well. NICE LONG REVIEW, good job and as always enjoyable to read a fan's perspective.

7:48 PM PDT  
Blogger Dredd Sweet said...

Thanks RP! Heather's butt is just SLIGHTLY better than your numerous pics of Rogue's beauty, lol. Looking forward to reading issue # about 3 to 4 weeks (groan)! I love having my bathc of comics arrive in the mail; but i hate the interminable wait for them! Cheers, and long live The Flight!

8:00 PM PDT  
Blogger bigbloo said...

Great review!

I also loved the way Anne/Narya and Aurora were written in this issue. And I am also very disappointed at the artist's rendition of Sasquatch, very off.

I think there is more to Kara's "defection" and this has made me even more interested in reading the next issue.

7:52 AM PDT  
Blogger Dredd Sweet said...

Thanx BB! Long live The Flight!

9:49 AM PDT  

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