Alpha Flight tries yet again

Do you remember Alpha Flight, Canada’s premier team of super-heroes?  Introduced in a memorable issue of the Chris Claremont/John Byrne run of Uncanny X-Men, Alpha Flight eventually spun off into their own somewhat successful comic that ran 130 issues before fading into canceled obscurity.  Several attempts could not revive the team over the past two decades, but later on this year, the Canucks will be trying again.

(Hint: It's 72% maple syrup.)

I’m not saying that this isn’t a good idea, nor am I saying there’s very little demand for an Alpha Flight revival, but I don’t have high hopes for this one.  I’ll tell you why after the jump.

For a team that’s been around since 1979, not too many memorable characters/moments have come from Alpha Flight.  Sure, they were a decent threat in their two-issue debut with the X-Men and there was that time that Northstar became the first major Marvel character to come out as homosexual, but other than that, what do you know of them?  Can you even name all seven characters in the image above?  Do the names Talisman, Weapon Omega or Diamond Lil have any meaning to you?  Wait…did you even ask for Alpha Flight to come back?

Alpha Flight could never claim to be made up of B-list superheroes, ala the West Coast Avengers.  That would imply that anyone knew who they were.  Instead, Alpha Flight was a D-list all its own, nestled in its own little corner of the Marvel U (the Canadian corner) minding its own business and trying not to get caught up in the likes of Infinity Wars or Acts of Vengeance.  There wasn’t much fan outcry when the book was canceled in 1994.

Three years later, Marvel decided to give the Alphans another go, but with a new and edgier team (it was the 90s after all) with only two of the original members, a clone, a mindless beast and a bunch of hip youngsters.  The book was more focused on government conspiracy, which might interesting until you realize that it was Canadian government conspiracy.  The book lasted 20 issues before quietly ending without much fan outcry.  Most of the new characters were never heard from again.

Five years later, Marvel decided to give it another go.  After all, the original had run 130 issues!  Why couldn’t the magic happen again?  Knowing that the gritty reboot didn’t work, the new new version was tooled as a comedy book, but again the original Alphans were played down in favor of hip, new characters.  The only returning member was Sasquatch, which surely alienated some of the fans who still claimed to be in the Alpha Flight fanbase.  The second arc brought in familiar characters, but even they couldn’t keep the title afloat.  It ended after 12 issues.

Back to character obscurity, Brian Bendis picked up the main characters to serve as sacrificial lambs for his ill-received Collective arc of New Avengers.  Alpha Flight turned up, then died in one page.  They didn’t even get an actual death scene.  It was later revealed that Sasquatch survived, but longtime members Guardian, Vindicator, Shaman and Puck were all gone.  A relaunch of the concept, dubbed Omega Flight was set to come out of Civil War, but the series was cut to a five issue mini-series before the first issue even hit stands in 2007.  It was forgettable fluff – featuring the likes of U.S. Agent and Beta Ray Bill – at best.

So here we are three years later, and Marvel is ready to try again with Alpha Flight.  The resurrection of Guardian, Vindicator, Shaman and Marina (who was killed elsewhere) have been announced, and it looks like Marvel is going to try to get something going again.  I’ll likely check out the first couple issues.  There is a special place I keep for Alpha Flight after all.  It just happens to be in one of my longboxes stored in a closet.

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