Monday, October 26, 2009

1982 – Alpha Flight


Alpha Flight #1-5
John Byrne, writer and artist

John Byrne's Alpha Flight was a comic book about characters that was disguised as a team book. Unlike other team books where heroes would gather each issue and battle the latest world-threatening menace, an issue of Alpha Flight focused on one team member while it kept the team story alive as a subplot.

After the debut of Canada's super-hero team in The Uncanny X-Men #120-121, overwhelming positive fan response prompted several guest appearances of Alpha Flight across the Marvel Universe and eventually spawned their ongoing title. John Byrne, the co-creator of Alpha Flight with Chris Claremont and former Canadian resident, was given the creative reigns of this new team book. Alpha Flight was originally designed as a super-hero team that was meant to match up against the X-Men. Byrne challenged himself to bring the characters to life beyond a supporting role and shake the title's billing as an X-Men spin-off.

Interestingly, the first story arc read much like an X-Men adventure. These heroes were still confined by their X-Men stereotypes: Guardian's insecurity seemed much like the X-Men's leader, Cyclops; the playful relationship between Sasquatch and Puck was similar to Wolverine and Nightcrawler; Snowbird was as quiet and powerful as Storm. However, the comparison ended with this initial story arc.

Byrne successfully brought the team together in a great story, but then boldly had them go their own way once the threat had been dealt with. It was bold in that Byrne set up an interesting team dynamic, but then decided to move away from the familiar device. The team concept seemed to be a means for Byrne to branch out into each character' story. Each character resumed their life and had adventures independent of each other, which was a revolutionary idea seeing that the more successful team books, Avengers and Fantastic Four, spend most of their time in the comic together.

Byrne's early notable contributions to the team were the agile and mysterious Puck and the innocent amphibian Marrina. Puck was another uniquely Canadian character complete with his "eh" accent and was a solid addition to the team despite his unspectacular appearance. Marrina was a bit more of a reluctant hero and carried with her an ominous past that would prompt the events in issue #2-4. Marrina would leave the team until she returned the following year in issue #14.

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