“Fear Itself” hits “Alpha Flight” in its first issue, providing a rather generic issue-long fight scene. Attuma, known as Nerkkod now that he’s been armed with one of the Serpent’s hammers, attacks Vancouver with tidal wave, leaving Alpha Flight as the only thing to stop him. While launching a book out of a crossover is standard practice, it hampers this first issue, not making this a good “Alpha Flight” story nor a good “Fear Itself” story.
Part of the problem is that Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente have too many balls in the air. It’s great that they have subplots for all of the characters, the country, and the larger Marvel universe, but none of them really mesh. Instead of creating a cohesive story, all of the various subplots clash with one another and give the comic a disjointed “And now here’s something about Sasquatch! And now here’s something about Guardian! Etc…” feeling. Oddly, despite being the center of the issue, Nerkkod’s attack feels like an afterthought, some random occurrence that provides an excuse for the characters to do something and advance the political subplot, but really could have been anything.
The character work is good and where the issue actually excels. Pak and Van Lente have a good handle on all of the characters and make sure we know that immediately. They take Northstar’s refusal to join the team, a plot point that could be your typical ‘one person doesn’t want to get the band back together because he’s a jerk’ twist, and has it come from — something better. Marrina also adds some needed levity with her alien pride that’s reminiscent of Machine Man in “Nextwave,” and, thankfully, not too overplayed here.
Something that I personally wanted to see about the comic was how ‘Canadian’ it seemed (whatever that means really) and the answer is ‘not very.’ There are some token phrases used, but nothing that makes the book stand out as Canadian. Even the use of the Emergencies Act isn’t presented accurately, treating it like it has the powers of the more draconian War Measures Act, which it replaced to retain the power of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms during an emergency, contrary to what’s said here.
Until I read the credits, I forgot that Dale Eaglesham was drawing this series. He’s pushed his art style so far and it’s under so much overbearing computer coloring that any sense of uniqueness or style is gone. It’s just bland, generic ‘Marvel style’ superhero art that leaves no impression whatsoever aside from the odd shot or page. The final page, for example, stands out both for its impact and for its art. He also does a good job with making sure the pages are never so chaotic that it’s hard to tell what’s going on. But, on the whole, this is the worst and most forgettable art from Eaglesham in a long time.
As far as first issues go, “Alpha Flight” #1 is unremarkable. The fight is serviceable and does its job, but it’s hard to say you’ll remember anything about it a couple of days later. So much is going on that none of it gets a chance to make an impact except for the odd thing. The issue does end on a strong, interesting note and that may be its one saving grace. That cliffhanger is a hard one to not want to follow up on.