Alpha Flight (AF) is one of a large number of hit-or-miss, somewhat cult comic book series that I enjoy. Currently, Alpha Flight has three runs, which means that it's about at a tie with LSH although not quite. I became interested in AF during the second run of it, which was a 12 issue limited series.
The thing I liked about AF was the pace--it's slower than the X books. I'm not sure what the reasoning behind this is, but it's just true. AF moves at a more leisurely pace that lets you get a little more intimate with the characters and the situation. Which isn't to say that there weren't points that I wish the writers had embellished on because I always want more. In fact, the whole idea that it was just a 12 issue run, while making sense considering that the AF was battling a evil team known as the Zodiac, was somewhat disappointing. This disappointment was caused by the fact that it was not approached like a limited run. It was approached like a series. We never got to know the characters fully and some story threads were left open for future exploration--that never came.
But it created a spark in me that led to me purchasing large (and I do mean large as the first run of AF hits into 130s and I had none when I started) amounts of back issues of the first run, which was mildly better than the second run. It has the old school, slightly cheesy, B writer feel to it that a lot of the not-so-popular Marvel books get. Yes, they have their moments of glory but they're not batting 100% all the time. They're not worth the effort of finding a really stellar creative team to set them apart from everything else. Still, I enjoyed it. I really liked some of the AF characters. I also liked the idea of the lower Flights--Beta, Delta, Gamma--even though we hardly got to see them. I would have wanted more exploration of those but, again, it never really came to be.
And then 2004 found the third run released, only this time Marvel coughed up an A list writer for it. Lobdell. The funny man. I forget what all he's written because I don't really follow things that way, but he got AF. Being a sucker for the AF book, I picked up the second issue of the run and read it. It was decent. Still with a slower pace and, once again, filled with all new characters. But good. In that slightly, funny way that Lobdell has. It wasn't your average mutant book but AF has never aspired to be the average mutant team. It was good. I enjoyed it. So I picked up the TPB when it came out, as once again Marvel had dictated a short run for AF rather than another full-blown series. The first story-arc is pretty good. It has humor along with a story and characters that are entertaining to read about.
So I picked up the second TPB, and I'm horrified. Lobdell turned it all into one big joke. It's like a satire of all the mutant books out there, only it's done poorly and without any real justice to the characters themselves. Plots are wrapped up in ways that show that Lobdell was told, "Look, this is going to be a limited run, so pull it in." Rather than compose one long story arc for the entire limited run (as would have been wise) Lobdell broke it up into two story arches that make you wonder why he even bothered to write it in the first place since its so incongruous. I don't know. I'm just really unhappy with the way the second one turned out. It's like they decided not to even try because it's the "Canadian" book, which is achingly familiar since they eventually decided to do the same thing with Excalibur when it became the "British" book. Although Excalibur got a much better run than AF ever did.
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