“Alpha: Big Time” #1 by Josh Hale Fialkov and Nuno Plati brings back Spider-Man’s teen sidekick from last year, depowered and ostracized by his peers, but he won’t be for long.
Alpha’s introductory storyline in “Amazing Spider-Man” left the character open for a return, so it’s no surprise to see him back in his own series. What is a surprise is to see the return motivated by the “Superior” Spider-Man who (as expected) is a lot less concerned about the personal and social ramifications of Alpha’s powers and much more interested in the data he can glean from reactivating them.
Intended to be a skewed reflection of the original Spider-Man — a teen hero with powers but a much weaker moral compass — Alpha is a fairly strong concept. The book itself clearly shoots for an early Spider-Man feel, establishing a school-based supporting cast and support network (though a thoroughly modern one, composed of outcasts) and it succeeds well. Happily, Fialkov manages to tone down Alpha’s the angst and arrogance that blighted his first storyline to more believable levels.
Nuno Plati’s artwork is enjoyable and appropriate, bending and stretching to accommodate the larger-than-life world it depicts, but comfortable in familiar settings, like a school or street. It’s full of energy and movement and pulls off the comic timing wonderfully. Plati’s style has modified since I last saw it, with thicker lines and less fluidity than he had in the past, but the storytelling is much stronger.
Between Fialkov’s grasp of teen soap-opera dynamics and Plati’s strong visuals, there’s no doubt that this is a more likeable and well-rounded version of Alpha than readers have seen before, and one who inhabits a more well-rounded world. It’s precisely that which makes the ending — a rather jaw-dropping moment — work so well. It feels like whatever just happened could have serious consequences, rather than be explained away on the next page.
Whether those consequences actually come to pass remains to be seen, but it’s a bold image on which to end. Fialkov can’t be accused to taking his time to get to the story, and it’s the sort of cliffhanger that’s going to bring readers back. It’s not a perfect first issue — it has a lot of exposition to slog through and some fairly perfunctory scenes of, “Let’s give back Alpha his powers,” not to mention that Fialkov seems to stumble a little over the voice of the Doctor Octopus Peter Parker. However, if teenage superheroics are what you enjoy, this is a good version of the classic setup starring a newly-sympathetic Alpha, and an enjoyable read overall.