“Alpha: Big Time” #2 by Joshua Hale Fiakov and Nuno Plati continues to explore what happens when Alpha, an irresponsible, de-powered teen hero gets a second chance through the new “Superior” Spider-Man’s scientific curiosity.
After a pithy recap from our narrator Alpha, Fiakov immediately segues into addressing the aftermath and consequences of the violent cliffhanger at the end of “Alpha: Big Time” #1. It’s satisfying how Fiakov doesn’t immediately let the incident fade, but instead has it loom over the entire issue. From a cosmic perspective, “Alpha: Big Time” is an interesting mix of light-hearted and deadly serious. The mood is light, but Fiakov doesn’t go easy on the main character.
Although Andy Maguire is trying, he isn’t markedly that much more mature or worthy than when he took his first turn as Alpha. Fiakov doesn’t hesitate to show him in an unpleasant light at times, especially in how Alpha is much more concerned with how his mistake will affect his life than in the ethics of violence.
Despite signs of continued arrogance, angst, shallow ethics and self-absorption, Alpha does seem mildly changed, and it’s pleasant to watch Fiakov develop him further without making him heroic or entirely likable immediately. Also, although he is a seriously flawed protagonist, Alpha is not evil or entirely without the stuff of heroes. He engages in some freaking out and “woe is me” hand-wringing, but this is balanced by some actual bucking up and admirable attempts to do the right thing. Fiakov makes him come across as a regular kid.
Fiakov’s humor shines on the page where Alpha responds to an emergency mid-flight to Horizon labs, starting with a string-of-consciousness chain of text boxes, and then with a joke that references The New Warriors.
The main problem with “Alpha: Big Time” #2 is that narrative tension is weak. The adults in Andy Maguire’s life seem affectionate but clueless, and his friend and love interest are amusing, but two-dimensional. Fiakov’s ironic treatment of Alpha is funny, but this same irony makes it harder for the reader to care about Alpha’s confused slosh of guilt, anger, self-pity, hope and dread.
Plati’s art style is reminiscent of Humberto Ramos’ work, especially in how his style has similar elongated teenage bodies, but with a heavier, less energetic line and more quiet detail in the backgrounds. His human figures are very stylized, starting with Alpha’s huge dark eyebrows, and all his characters’ heads have small noses and flat frontal facial planes. His interior spaces are lush, from the warm orange and green decor of a diner-like restaurant to the knickknacks, wooden furnishings and carved bannisters in the Maguire home.
At the most exciting moment of action in “Alpha: Big Time” #2, when Alpha fights a “giant gross guy,” Plati draws an amazing double page spread that looks almost abstract. The elephant-wrinkles-like texture of all those little lines is unusual as well as beautiful. Also, Plati’s color work is showy and noticeable, but in a good way. His palette uses cool translucent greens, mauve purple, slate blue and oranges, moving from warm to cool gracefully. The delicate minimalistic line he uses for Alpha’s bubbly ascent into a mint green sky makes for a particularly striking panel near the end of the issue.
The cliffhanger at the end of “Alpha: Big Time” #2 promises for interesting developments next issue. Fiakov’s script rings true in how it tracks the aftermath of a calamitous mistake, and I look forward to more of Plati’s art, as well as what may turn out to be Fiakov’s ironically funny but nuanced exploration of whether power will again prove to be too much for Alpha this time.