Marvel's Next Big Thing: Alpha Flight

Marvel Comics was playing mum on the topic of their latest "Next Big Thing" call up until this afternoon when they sent out an image promising the return of "Alpha Flight," and CBR News was on the call for all the news.

Marvel's James Viscardi started the ball rolling by announcing that the series will be a maxi-series in conjunction with the "Fear Itself" event, written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente and drawn by Dale Eaglesham, who all joined in on the call. The series will be eight issues starting in June with a prelude "Point 1" issue drawn by Ben Oliver shipping in May.

"You don't have to have read anything to jump on board here," Pak said at the start. "Old time Alpha Flight fans will have a lot of fun seeing everything references, but you don't even have to have read an 'Alpha Flight' book before."

He added that for those looking to place this series into the context of the Marvel U, the book will pick up with a reestablished Alpha Flight in the wake of the recent "Chaos War" series, and with issue #1 "All hell breaks loose."

Van Lente noted that while traditional team benefactors Department H will play a role, "As a result of 'Fear Itself' there is a change in the government not unlike when you see a government go from democracy to a facist state." Alpha Flight will be seen by the new Canadian government as the country's greatest traitors.

The book was described as a dream project for Van Lente, and although Pak said he had multiple copies of the "Alpha Flight" relaunch by John Byrne in polybags that his writing partner was the true team expert. "I love these characters, and it's a total blast to be punching into it," he added.

As an honest to goodness Canadian, Eaglesham said "I'm pretty excited to build a Canadian superteam into a force in the mainstream...there's a lot of depth to these characters and a lot of potential. If there's anything different in my approach at all, it'll be an authenticity to the locales because this is where I live."

Asked why "Alpha Flight" seems to stay so strongly with fans, Pak said, "John Byrne, who created them, often said that they were created solely to survive a fight with the X-Men...but they're such interesting and flawed personalities," Van Lente said, noting that Northstar would struggle to live up to the idea that he wears a flag on his chest while Heather Hudson stuggles not to be overshadowed by her husband. "It's like a team of Captain Americas in a way." Pak added. "At the same time that they're protectors of their nation, they're kind of underdogs in a way...both within the position they've held in the Marvel Universe and their individual characters...there's also something that's exciting about Alpha Flight. The character design and the diversity of the team is incredible." He noted that several native characters, the famously early openly gay character Northstar helped make the team stand out.

Over the past few years, the most oft-repeated comment from Marvel Editorial has been that they were waiting for the right pitch to make the fan favorite team work in the modern Marvel U. What was the element of this pitch that made this series ge the green light? The hard right fascist government story hook didn't hurt, the writers explained. "We're going to play this on a huge scale, and it fits right in with the 'Fear Itself' story line," said Pak while Van Lente noted that doing such a twist in Canada opened them up for some more story latitude. "We can do this right and in the most intense way possible.

"The other aspect to is that this is the original team," Van Lente said, noting that this will be the first appearance of the original team working together as one force on the page maybe ever - a situation brought about by many of the members return from the dead in "Chaos War."

Pak added that the fascist takeover of the Canadian government was hinted at in the end of the original, long-running "Alpha Flight" monthly. "Stories often come out of unexpected contrasts. The stereotype of Canada is not one you'd automatically associate with booming fascism," said Pak.

As for which characters will or won't be appearing and how, the team heavily hinted that Puck will appear in the series, and asked whether Northstar would continue his role in the X-Men line, they said that elements from those stories will make it in - including Kyle, Northstar's boyfriend from "Nation X" - but overall he will become a full-time Canadian again. "Greg and I aren't all that protective of our turf," Van Lente added, saying that if the X-Men writers want to use him, they're welcome although "Alpha Flight" will be the place he appears most often from here on out.

"Basically, if John Byrne didn't come up with it, we're throwing it out," said Van Lente who noted that through no intentional malice, the team had been subjected to a lot of bad continuity over the years. "I wouldn't say we're ignoring everything that came later, but we're not going to be referring to an individual character's multiple resurrections over the years...this is one of those stories that wants to start with a clean slate," Pak added.

Eaglesham said "I prefer a team dynamic because I like to have a lot of characters to work with...the greatest challenge in comics for me is designing different personalities." After some time working on solo heroes including Steve Rogers, he was ready to return to a large cast.

Asked whether the book will feel a bit dated, Van Lente argued that the book's initial audience numbered at half a million issues sold as the book was created by a very popular creator in Byrne. "Alpha Flight" was in many ways the first X-Men spinoff, so the writers expect that the original fan interest in the concept and characters will carry over to their modern take on the team.

"It's not a spoof book. It's a big, crazy action-adventure thriller with a big canvass and the world turned on its ear," concluded Pak.

"Alpha Flight" #1 will ship in June with a special "Point-1" lead-in issue shipping in May.

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