Their job is to protect an area of 3 million square miles – which is home to 34 million people – from any and all unconventional threats, be they super villains, alien invasions or supernatural entities. Their jurisdiction includes both teaming urban metropolises and desolate frozen tundra. They are Alpha Flight, and for many years they protected their home country of Canada from some of the Marvel Universe’s most dangerous and despicable villains. Then, in 2005’s “New Avengers” #16, they ran afoul of an immensely powerful being known as The Collective who ended up murdering almost every member of the team.
Canada continued its superhuman program after the death of most of Alpha Flight, but subsequent teams have not proven as successful as the original group that debuted back in 1979’s “Uncanny X-Men” #120. This October, the “Chaos War” event begins and the entire Marvel Universe finds itself threatened by the powerful entity known as the Chaos King. Once again, it’s time for the original Alpha Flight to reunite and show the heroes of the Marvel Universe how saving the world is done – and they’re not about to let a little thing like their teammates being dead stop them. In the November shipping “Chaos War: Alpha Flight”one-shot by writer Jim McCann and artist Reilly Brown, this is exactly what happens. CBR News spoke with McCann about the book, which he hopes will reintroduce fans to a classic Marvel super team.
The first volume of the “Alpha Flight” ongoing series debuted back in 1983 and lasted for 130 issues. During that run, the book earned a dedicated fan base thanks in large part to the complex nature of the characters and the often chaotic events they found themselves embroiled in.
“Alpha Flight has been a very unique beast in that people always wonder and sometimes write them off as Canada’s X-Men or Canada’s Avengers. It’s not Canada, though, that defines this team to me at all. It’s the characters, especially the original cast, which I find most fascinating. I think that’s what people react to the most. The book was at its most successful when it featured a majority of the original cast members,” McCann told CBR News. “Subsequent relaunches never really caught on for various reasons. I’m sure people have their opinions of why they didn’t. Each of those relaunches had their own different take on the team that was different from Alpha Flight’s original run. I definitely appreciated what they we’re trying to do, but for me it’s those original members and what they bring to the table.”
One of the reasons McCann finds the original Alpha Flight characters so compelling is because at their core, the individual members are all very flawed people simply trying their best to be heroic. “They are psychologically the most screwed up team in the entire Marvel Universe. If you take a look at them, they all have almost crippling neuroses. Then, you throw them all into a team and they’re insanely dysfunctional personality-wise. Yet, as a team, they can kick a lot of ass and get the job done,” McCann explained. “On a character level, though, they are really messed up. They’re all damaged. They’re all scarred and they all kind of need each other to work properly. I think that’s the key to Alpha Flight; they really do need each other to work properly.”
Another element McCann finds interesting is the origins of the various characters that comprise the team’s Rogues Gallery. “They have a tendency to create their own worst enemies. Professor X and Magneto became enemies because of their differing ideologies, but Alpha Flight just has a tendency to either mess up their own members and trainees, or things just happen to them and it spins out of control very quickly,” McCann said. “To be able to write a team that spawns their own worst enemies is very cool, because you never know what is going to happen. One thing can go wrong and suddenly your greatest ally is your greatest enemy. That sort of suspense and potential is really what makes a book like ‘Alpha Flight’ sing for me.”
“Chaos War: Alpha Flight” takes place in Canada shortly after the events of “Chaos War” #3, about which McCann says, “I know that I said that Canada doesn’t define Alpha Flight, but the timing of where this appears during ‘Chaos War’ is important. That’s because of what the Chaos King and his minions are doing. What happens in ‘Chaos War’ #3 makes this story happen at this time. It couldn’t really happen at any other time or place.”
The machinations of the Chaos King and his followers creates a situation that allows dead Alpha Flight members Guardian (James MacDonald Hudson), his wife Vindicator (Heather Hudson), Shaman (Michael Twoyoungmen) and Marrina Smallwood to return from the grave. They won’t be the only Alpha Flight members in the book, however; McCann plans to reunite them with several of the team’s still living members.
“This is a full reunion of the core cast. We’ve got Sasquatch, Northstar, Aurora and Snowbird,” McCann stated. “Sharp eyed readers will notice there is a missing name from that list. The character is a very popular member, and that’s Puck. That is addressed in the one shot. I can’t say much more than that.”
As the adage says, nothing is free, and the resurrection of the dead team members in “Chaos War: Alpha Flight” does come with a price. “One of the living Alphans is doing whatever possible to bring back the dead ones. In doing so, this character basically makes a deal with their version of the devil to make this happen,” McCann explained. “Once they’re brought back, there is one character that is basically trying to hold the team together on the dead side and one character trying to hold the team together on the living side. So when the two are able to succeed and do that with the help of their greatest enemy, you get this awesome reunion, but also, in classic Alpha Flight style, you immediately get the conflict and fallout that rocks every member.”
In “Chaos War: Alpha Flight,” the reunited titular characters find themselves having to come together despite their internal conflict because McCann isn’t pitting them again just one foe – he’s got several adversaries lined up to test his characters’ mettle. “I was able to tell a story where the original Alphans must face some pretty massive threats. It’s almost like a three front war. There’s the Chaos King, there’s their greatest enemy and they’ll also have to deal with the threat of someone from within the team,” McCann remarked. “So we’re putting these original characters in a setting where they’re fighting on three different fronts. I only wish this story could be longer, but when you read the story, you’ll under stand why it’s self contained.”
McCann’s editor Mark Paniccia feels that the writer has cooked up a tale that delivers all the action and pathos that Alpha Flight fans have come to expect from stories involving the team. “We’re really psyched that we had the opportunity to revisit this particular line up of the team. The ‘Chaos War’ event is going to test both living and dead teammates like no other point in their history,” Paniccia said. “It’s going to be intense and, I think, troubling to see them in this kind of heartbreaking situation.”
McCann urges Alpha Flight fans to pick up the “Chaos War: Alpha Flight” one-shot, stating that if there’s a strong response to the book, there’s a good chance it will lead to more Alpha Flight projects and the writer has by no means told all the stories he’d like to tell with the team. “I would love the chance to spread my wings more with the characters, especially the original Alphans, and see how big things can get. At their heyday, there was Alpha Flight, Beta Flight and Gamma Flight. So it’s a fascinating concept that I’m only scratching the surface of in this story,” McCann said. “My goal here is to show people why these characters are so cool. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with ‘Hawkeye & Mockingbird’ since Mockingbird had been gone for so long. Alpha Flight, in this incarnation, has been gone for decades. So ‘Chaos War: Alpha Flight’ is an introduction to what’s great about these characters and I definitely have much more story to tell with them.
“Writing this one-shot has been a personal dream come true and if it is the only chance I get to write these characters at least I can say, ‘I wrote the original Alpha Flight,” McCann continued. “So I’m definitely thankful and giving it my all when it comes to this special. It does have ramifications and fall out for all the members of Alpha Flight. This changes the status quo of the way the original Alpha Flight members will see each other for the future. If there is a future! Bum Bum Bum!”