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.

Let’s Talk About LGBT Characters In Comics

With Northstar getting married and DC getting ready to reveal that one of their longrunning characters is gay, the portrayal of LGBT characters in comic books has become quite the topic of conversation. As a friendly neighborhood comics junkie, I’ll be speaking at two public libraries in New Jersey about their portrayal in super hero comics.

You can check me out at the Stafford library (129 North Main Street, Manahawkin) on Monday, June 4 and Point Pleasant Boro library (834 Beaver Dam Road) on Thursday, June 7. Both programs start at 7 pm. Check out those sites for more information.

This program came out of a pet project of mine. I’ve been researching themes of diversity in comic books for a long time for an ongoing project. After discussing it with several librarian pals, I was asked if I would be interested in leading a discussion on the topic. So I’ll be leading a presentation on the history of LGBT characters in mainstream super hero comics, from the golden age to modern-day Northstar.

Local newspaper the Sandpaper even did a quick little write up about the event here.

DIY Wedding Cover for Astonishing X-Men #51

So Astonishing X-Men #51 seems to be shaping up to be the comic book of the year, with Northstar marrying his long-time boyfriend Kyle. As you can imagine, this has received a bunch of mainstream attention. Keeping it short, it’s a great plot twist for Northstar as nothing ever seems to go his way. Remember, he was killed and ressurected twice in the same story.

The alternate cover for this comic has a bunch of pictures of some of Marvel’s more prominent married couples, with space where you can affix a picture of you and your significant other. How cute is that?

What I’m alarmed about when looking at this picture is the lack of successful Marvel marriages. Let’s examine the one’s pictured:

  • Storm/Black Panther: Constantly bickering, marriage always on the brink of divorce
  • Lilandra/Professor X: Shi’ar empire annuls their marriage because they hate him. Although they still consider themselves together in a super long-distance relationship, Professor X has no idea she is most likely dead.
  • Ant Man/Wasp: Inadvertently became the poster child of super hero domestic violence, Ant Man later goes crazy after his wife both turns into an alien insect and later gets killed during the Skrull invasion.
  • Quicksilver/Crystal: Crystal has an affair and takes their daughter to live away on the moon.
  • Cyclops/Jean Grey: Finally marries her after marrying her clone, Jean finds out that he has been cheating on her and then dies.
  • Power Man/Jessica Jones: Happily married.
  • Scarlet Witch/Vision: She married an android then goes insane and alters reality.
  • Mister Fantastic/Invisible Woman: Happily married.
  • Namor/Marrina:  She turns into a sea monster when pregnant and he has to kill her. Eventually she is resurrected as a sea monster, only to be killed again.

So out of those nine other married Marvel couples, only two of them are still together or in a healthy relationship. That doesn’t look so good for the happy couple. Maybe Northstar and Kyle should just elope…

30 Things I Like About Comics—#20 Happy Canada Day!

Sasquatch and Wolverine belt out "Oh Canada"

Sasquatch and Wolverine belt out "Oh Canada"

So how does Canada Day count as something I like about comics? Canada is a very important part of the comic book world for many different reasons!

The first and most obvious way is that the comic book world has seen its fair share of prominent comic book creators! This goes back as far as Joe Shuster–one of the co-creators of Superman! Did you now that John Byrne, Todd McFarlane, David Sim, Stuart Immonen and Hal Foster are just some of the great comic book artists that the Great White North has produced? Just imagine how much less fun comic books would be without them.

Although there are many Canadian super heroes (and super villains), Marvel has the most elaborate Canada in comics thanks to Byrne, who is graduate of Alberta College of Art and Design in Canada. Byrne’s first high-profile work was on Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont, where he created Alpha Flight, a super hero team mostly made of Canadians!

Sasquatch is one of the many proud Canadian super heroes.

Sasquatch is one of the many proud Canadian super heroes.

Alpha Flight was a project of the Canadian Department of National Defence’s Department H. Although the team’s lineup rotated, it usually featured Aurora and her twin brother Northstar (the first gay super hero), Arctic tundra goddess Snowbird, the gamma-radiation created man monster Sasquatch, and the diminutive Puck. Alpha Flight was the best of Canada’s three government organized super hero teams, ahead of Beta Flight and Gamma Flight. To continue the flightiness, there was even an Omega Flight, which was a group of villains who wanted to take out sometimes Alpha Flight leader Guardian.

Alpha Flight has been a staple of the Marvel Universe since introduced back in 1979. They’ve had countless on going and limited series through the years. But that’s not the only way Canada contributed to making super heroes.

The Canadian government also sponsored the ongoing top-secret Weapon X program, which recruits (and sometimes forces) mutants and humans and genetically modifies them into living weapons. Some of the most popular Canadian Weapon X products are Deadpool, Sabretooth and Wolverine, definitely the most popular Canadian super hero and arguably one of the top five!

Wolverine would be a monster on the blueline.

Wolverine would be a monster on the blueline.

Just as the real world Canada is allies with the United States, the same goes for the two nations in the Marvel Universe. Weapon X is the Canadian branch of the Weapons Plus Program, an agreement between the two nations to create super soldiers that goes back to World War II.

Grant Morrison added this new wrinkle to Weapon X during his run on New X-Men in the early 2000s. On the American side, their biggest success was the creation of the Super Soldier Syrum which powers Captain America.

So let’s celebrate Canada Day by honoring the country’s great comic creators and characters! Crank some Rush, drink a Molson if you want and have a great day!