By Jim Beard
Back in 1983, by popular demand, writer/artist John Byrne spun the Canadian super team Alpha Flight out of the pages of UNCANNY X-MEN and into their own spotlight series. Today, writers Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak pick up the threads woven by Byrne in to kick off a new era for the team in ALPHA FLIGHT, premiering with a special Zero Point issue on May 18.
By using classic elements and the Byrne team, the writers, both huge fans of the original book, stand poised to deliver a title that reflects its roots yet looks to the future. Van Lente fondly calls the original membership “wonderfully dysfunctional.”
|ALPHA FLIGHT #1 preview art by Dale Eaglesham|
“Aurora with her split personalities, Sasquatch with his bestial rages, Shaman's estranged family, Snowbird not quite fitting in with the rest of humanity,” he cites. “And Northstar was in the closet, an ex-terrorist and used his mutant powers to defraud the Olympics—how complex a character is that? And Byrne also made, I think, the brilliant decision to split up the team in his first issue, and as they all went their separate ways he had the opportunity to do story arcs focusing on one or two of them, which really let you get to know them as people.”
“The fantastic character design and the fact that the team featured such a remarkably diverse group of heroes,” adds Pak to the reasons why the characters clicked. “[That] made a big impact on me when I was a kid picking up that first ALPHA FLIGHT #1.
Of course, the duo play a few favorites among the Byrne Alphans, ones we wouldn’t be surprised to see stand out in the new series.
“Northstar’s coming out may win him the Most Dramatically Transformed award,” Pak notes. “And he’s been a blast to write in the book. But I’m probably most excited about what we’re doing with Shaman. [Upcoming ALPHA FLIGHT artist] Dale [Eaglesham] draws him so well; somehow just removing that headband ups his attractiveness about a thousand percent. And we have some interesting things to reveal and explore about him as the [new] series progresses.”
“Puck is such a unique, fun-loving mercenary as a dwarf, he's a true classic,” says Van Lente. “That's why I had him as Logan's right-hand-man in X MEN NOIR. Snowbird has a great otherworldly quality to her; she's one of these mythological characters that really feels alien to our world, and that made her a great fit in INCREDIBLE HERCULES. My new favorite is Marrina, thanks to Dale Eaglesham's redesign. With her resurrection we've given her a complete personality overhaul. I don't want to give too much away, but I predict she'll be the new fan favorite coming out of this series. Also, since Guardian got knocked off early in Byrne's run, we can make him a focus of the series and bring him in new directions, particularly with the premise of our series: that Canada has turned fascist and against Alpha.”
|ALPHA FLIGHT #1 preview art by Dale Eaglesham|
“Interestingly, Guardian was the least interesting of the characters to me back in the day, but he’s been among the most fun to write in the new series,” notes Pak. “I particularly love the notes Dale wrote up for his initial character sketches: ‘Little nicks and scars—he’s not the perfect athlete—he is tough, though. Takes chances. Takes risks. Reluctant leader. Has a cottage. Likes lake/sea fishing?’
“I’m having a surprising amount of fun exploring the guy who’s essentially the group’s straight man, the earnest leader who’s just trying to do his job. Sometimes the least flashy character can end up being the deepest and most interesting.”
A few cherished original storylines also come to mind as both writers ponder the origins of their newest work.
“The solo Puck adventure, ALPHA FLIGHT #5, was the first one I bought - that really was hooked me on the series,” Van Lente recalls. “The next one, which focused on Snowbird, which was a battle in the middle of a supernatural blizzard, so you had a lot of all-white panels and sound effects. It was awesome! And who wouldn't love Sasquatch going toe-to-toe with the Super-Skrull in ALPHA FLIGHT #10?”
As much a character as the Alphans themselves, the country of Canada not only served as a backdrop for Byrne’s book, but also as a source of pride for the team. Van Lente notes that he and Pak will do their best to represent the country as well as their predecessor.
“As a foreigner I'm loathe to render any deep observation about the Canadian national character,” he says. “A lot of what I know about the country comes from reading—and rereading and rereading—Byrne's series. Greg and I have done our research though, and we have genuine Canuck Dale Eaglesham watching our backs, so we're going to be as true as we can to the country's heritage.”
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