Alpha Flight #1-6

Alpha Flight had a brief reintroduction during the Feat Itself storyline. Canada’s favorite (and only)  team comes back, this time in what can only be described as a super powered political thriller.

The Unity Party has come to power in the Canadian government and has Alpha Flight in their sites. The city of Vancouver was heavily damaged by the Fear-powered Attuma, and the super hero team has been blamed for failing to protect the city. Alpha Flight is on the run from the government. This kind of reminds me a lot like the Civil War storyline, except this time it’s across Canada.

It’s revealed that the Unity Party is secretly led by none other than longtime nemesis Master of the World (who simultaneously has the coolest and lamest name of any super villain ever). He’s dispatched a squadron of old Alpha Flight villains out to take them out.

While this is going on, the team is having their own personal difficulties to overcome. The Vindicator has begrudgingly teamed up to hunt her former teammates in exchange for regaining custody of her daughter. Northstar’s boyfriend Kyle has been taken prisoner by the Unity Party and is undergoing some sort of mental reprogramming that all non-Unity Party members are being forced into. And to make matters worse, Northstar’s sister Aurora is having a relapse with her split personality disorders. As a light Alpha Flight reader, even I know that isn’t good.

At least the team had the good sense to put out a call to Wolverine for some help and assistance in liberating Canada. What makes this

This was written by the team of Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, both of whom I’ve been a big fan of. I really liked that this wasn’t heavy on prior Alpha Flights history. I’ll admit, I was never that big of a fan. But I was able to pick up what had happened in previous volumes. Dale Eaglesham’s art was great as usual, and I’m sure him being a Canadian made the depictions of the cities more accurate. Fun stuff; you should check it out.

Fear Itself: Red Hulk

I read through another of the Fear Itself collections, this time featuring the adventures of the crimson Avenger none other than the Red Hulk. This is the first I’ve picked up of this series since the reveal of his secret identity, so I was a bit fuzzy on some of the particulars.

The first half of the story has Rulk battling it out against the fear-powered Thing. While this is going on, writer Jeff Parker has the story cut back to M.O.D.O.K. and Zero/One (a villain to this point I wasn’t introduced to but a hybrid human/robot that blames Rulk for her current state) debating whether this would be the time to kill Rulk. Instead, they realize that the Serpent, his herald Skadi and her Nazi legions would most likely take over, if not destroy, the planet. And with them in power, that would put a damper on their own evil plans so M.O.D.O.K. decides to fight the good fight.

I love in comic book stories have the villains switching sides, partially for their own needs but for the greater good. Redemption scenes/stories always warm my heart. And maybe I’m being a little too altruistic, since M.O.D.O.K. tried to kill Rulk. These things happen…

Anyway, Rulk winds up resurfacing at his parents’ old farm in Vermont with his Life Model Decoy sidekick/confidante Annie. This trip down memory lane was interrupted by the alien killing machine Omegex who has a simple mission: ending Rulk’s life.

Good thing Rulk is a master strategist; he turns back into General Ross which is too much for Omegex to comprehend, effectively resolving Omegex’s mission because Rulk was gone.

Where Parker excelled in this second act was visiting Ross’ past. You see that loss of life is something he continually had to deal with, whether it being his father dying in front of him as a child, or his wife’s death. That explains why he’s been so obscenely protective of his daughter over the years. It also give reason for why he’s such a great soldier; he’s detached himself from most of his humanity. With this emotional rebirth, it’s interesting to see what direction they will take with the character.

Fear Itself: Avengers

I usually don’t read the tie-in issues of the event comics, but I gave this a shot. Fear Itself: Avengers does a great job supplementing the Fear Itself event, by collecting some issues of Brian Bendis’ Avengers and New Avengers comics from that time, giving insight into how the Earth’s mightiest heroes are dealing with this crisis.

Bendis shares the Avengers point of view of these events in a unique way; the story jumps from the current time to later on when they’re interviewed by an author chronicling the history of the team.

This narration sets the tone for the rest of the book. It’s not what the Avengers did during this crisis that is covered, but how the team dealt with the impact of this event. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones argue about what it means for them to be accepting money from the government to be Avengers. Spider-Man can’t trust  Victoria Hand (a former executive in his enemy Norman Osborn’s H.A.M.M.E.R. forces), who is now serving the Avengers in a similar capacity. Mockingbird is still coming to terms with both her return and Infinity Syrum given powers, while her quasi-ex-husband Hawkeye is growing more attached to Spider-Woman by the way. Squirrel Girl also gets some face time, as she has taken a job as Luke and Jessica’s daughter Danielle’s babysitter, and has to protect the child as the Avengers Mansion is stormed by Sin’s Nazi army. There is so much going on in this book that works to set up future stories just as much as the main Fear Itself book.

Usually these types of books just supplement the crossover, but this goes beyond that. It shows the dynamics of the team, and that these super heroes have the same concerns as we do–financial security, relationships and self-doubt. Not to mention, some awesome art from John Romita Jr., Mike Deodato Jr. and Chris Bachalo.

Fear Itself

If Siege was the story of Loki’s redemption, Fear Itself is the story of Odin’s failure. So how did the All Father ruin every everything?

The roots of Fear Itself go back many, many years ago, as seen in the prologue  Fear Itself: Book of the Skull by Ed Brubacher and Scot Eaton. Odin has an evil brother Cul, who is the god of fear, and is imprisoned on Earth. This prologue is set during World War II, with the Red Skull trying to find the enchanted hammer of Skadi, one of Cul, which according to old folklore granted its wielder immense power. Obviously, the Nazis would have wanted that. Captain America, Bucky and Namor prevent that from happening. Fast forward to the current time, and the Red Skull’s daughter Sin now wields the hammer.

This brings us up to the actual Fear Itself miniseries by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen. Sin–wielding a hammer that makes her as powerful as Thor–has freed Cul. To make matters worse, Cul has armed seven random super heroes and villains with enchanted hammers as well, turning them into a group of super powered heralds at his command. With them added to Sin’s Nazi army, Cul leads a rampage on Earth before setting his sights on Odin and Asgard.

The Avengers are in super trouble against Cul’s forces; Sin winds up killing Captain America/Bucky. Things  get worse when Odin reveals his plan to destroy Earth   as a way to stop Cul. It only gets more complicated as Odin further explains that there is an ancient prophecy that the only way to stop Cul will leave Thor dead. Odin would sacrifice mankind if it meant Thor would survive.

Fraction’s story depicts Odin as a cowardly old man. He may be the ruler of Asgard and one of the most powerful inhabitants of the Marvel Universe, but he’s petrified. His son Thor isn’t, and is willing to give up his own life if it means that Earth is safe. Even Iron Man sacrifices his integrity–in his case,his sobriety–in an attempt to offer something as a sacrifice to Odin for help.

Because Thor is a hero, I’m sure you have an idea how this winds up ending. What I liked about this story was how much of a hero he is, being even braver than Odin. the only thing that I didn’t like was them killing off Thor, since they did a whole world without Thor story a few years back after Avengers Disassembled storyline, and Bucky, because I was really enjoying him hanging around. But thanks to the flexible condition of death in comics, they came back not too long after this.

Comics, everyone!