Alpha Flight is mostly known for its visually distinct team of founding members as written and drawn by creator John Byrne. With a Byrne Alpha Flight omnibus plucked straight from the 2016 survey results to be released earlier this year, is there any point in pushing for another collection of a less recognizable team?
In any other case, the answer might be no, but the next run of Alpha Flight has its own remarkable pedigree – it’s written by Bill Mantlo with Jim Lee first ever sequential art for Marvel!
Alpha Flight, Vol. 2 AKA by Mantlo, Ross, & Lee is the #32 Most-Wanted Marvel Omnibus of 2017 on Tigereyes’s Secret Ballot.
Visit the Marvel Masterworks Message Board to view the original posting of results by Tigereyes – plus, CK patrons have access to a super-detailed Alpha Flight reading and collecting guide that tracks not only every issue, but a complete reading order for each core team member’s every appearance.
Past Ranking: A 2017 debut!
Probable Contents: Alpha Flight by Bill Mantlo, Dave Ross, & Jim Lee would collect at least Alpha Flight (1983) #30-66, Annuals 1-2, and Avengers #272 – marking a clean break on Mantlo’s run of the title before James Hudnall takes over with the “Wrath of the Dreamqueen” arc on #67.
That said, it would make just as much sense for the omnibus to include Wrath of the Dreamqueen in #67-70, as it caps a few running plots. Then, it could push into Hudnall’s run as far as issue #78, which is another relatively clean break just prior to Acts of Vengeance. (Hudnall’s run continues through #86.) Then, one day Marvel could release a rather hefty final volume would cover #79-130, and maybe Northstar #1-4.
Since running out the latter years of this relatively obscure team likely isn’t a priority for Marvel (who, after all, haven’t even reprinted this series past a trio of Classic trades from the John Byrne era), it seems much more likely they’ll go with the slimmer Mantlo / Ross / Lee volume. I still say it should end on #70, despite that ending on a bit of a cliffhanger.
Creators: Written by Bill Mantlo through #66 and then by James Hudnall with pencils by Mike Mignola (#30-31 & 47), Jon Bogdanove (#32), Sal Buscema (#33-34), Dave Ross (#35-44), June Brigman (#45-46, 49-50, 52, & Annual 2), Jim Lee (#51, 53, 55-62, 64), Hugh Haynes (#54, 63, 65-67), and John Calimee (#68-76, 78 and beyond).
Can you read it right now? Only in floppies! Otherwise, issue #39 is the sole collected issue in this run thanks to its crossover with The Avengers. It’s the same on Marvel Unlimited.
Alpha Flight, Vol. 1 was previously a mainstay in the Secret Ballot top 10, but lo and behold we saw it printed in January of this year as Alpha Flight by John Byrne.
Knowing the completionist urges of secret ballot voters, us wanting a volume two is fait accompli regardless of its quality – right?
Well, maybe. But, the Bill Mantlo run from #29-66 that follows John Byrne’s turn on Alpha Flight contains a number of interesting plots that make it worth reading as a companion to the first volume. Byrne created, assembled, and defined the mainstay characters of Alpha Flight, but he didn’t spend much of his run writing them as a complete team. Mantlo pens their most memorable and stable period, but also significantly transforms the members and deconstructs the team.
Mantlo takes Alpha Flight immediately to a more Avengers- and X-Men-like place in issue #30 (with a young Mike Mignola on pencils!) by moving them into their own mansion. While this leads to later domestic scenes, the team is splintered throughout a number of disposable stories in the early issues of the run (including a terrible origin for Puck in #32). There are not many moments of, “Hey, there’s the classic line-up in action!” to be found until their battle against Pestilence (not the Horseman) in #37-38.
Dragging down this early part of the run is a side-plot about Marrina, Attuma, and Namor. Mantlo keeps this plot boiling throughout the first year of his run, but mostly it just detracts from the team book you want to be reading! It’s a relief when it finally comes to a crescendo that results in a single-issue crossover with the Avengers from Alpha Flight #39.
It’s what comes after that that is likely the version of post-Byrne Alpha Flight of which fans have positive recollections.
With Mantlo’s set-up of the cast behind him, there’s more of a recognizable vibe of a Marvel team book as Alpha Flight starts working as one through both fights and teeth-gnashing interpersonal drama. Mantlo even adds a young charge to their midst – Purple Girl, the daughter of Killgrave the Purple Man (of Daredevil and Jessica Jones fame).
That doesn’t mean the book suddenly has a reliable status quo. Just as Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men of this period lacked for a consistent cast, Manto was always shaking things up for Alpha Flight. In the span of just a handful of issues Marrina is jettisoned, Snowbird’s arc meets a mournful end, Sasquatch returns with a major surprise, and Box turns on the team.
Opinions on Mantlo’s disassembling the team are mixed. Some of his moves made sense, like ditching Box in favor of promoting Madison Jeffries and sending Marrina off with Namor. However, removing Snowbird and Shaman – and then Puck, Northstar, and Aurora all in issue #50 – really strips the heart and soul from the team (even if some of them depart in spectacular fashion).
That left just Guardian, Sasquatch, and Madison as Box to anchor the book and mentor new recruits starting with #51 – not exactly the most entertaining of all the personalities. Luckily, it’s here that the art suddenly gets very intersting.
After a quick bursts from Mignola and Sal Buscema in the early 30s, Dave Ross pencils for 10 issues followed by June Brigman before none other than Jim Lee arrives with his first Marvel interiors work on #51.
Yes, that Jim Lee. He remains on the title (with a handful of fill-ins) through #64 (and covers through #69).
Lee’s first two issues – #51 and 53 – are inked by Marc Silvestri. They aren’t especially recognizable as being from either artist, though they do include a few choice moments, like one crazy 40-panel page! However, Lee is in iconic, recognizable mode starting from issue #55 with Tony DeZuniga on inks.
I find this early run of Lee to be more interesting than his subsequent work on Punisher. His distinctive faces and muscular figures are already evident. What’s more notable to me is that some of his composition choices are much more striking than they are busy. There are also hints of his future work here – his leggy Heather Hudson is as clear a precursor to Void from WildC.A.T.s as any of his Marvel women. Later, inked by Al Migrom, Lee’s work takes on a a surprising amount of realism – especially in facial expressions.
If it weren’t for examining Lee’s early work in this year of issues they would be pretty forgettable. As it turns out, Alpha Flight is more like New Mutants or New Warriors than X-Men or Avengers, in that it requires a very specific combination of characters to click rather than simply any group collected under the title.
That’s because the book really doesn’t have much of a central theme. Mantlo plays with a dispute between the team and their government in the time-honored Marvel fashion of pretty much every other major team, but it doesn’t really hold up (plus, who wants to read about a team fighting with the Canadian government?)
The title gains some momentum heading into the 60s with the introduction of the Dreamqueen, the first notable, recurring villain for the team aside from Pestilence and a brilliant bit of character design from Lee. It’s here in the end of his run that Mantlo finally wrings some decent drama with the younger characters he built up – it’s a pity he didn’t stick around for the aftermath.
Will we see this omnibus in 2018? No.
Mantlo is finally getting some much-deserved recognition as the creator of Rocket Raccoon, but that doesn’t mean his name sells omnibuses. And, Marvel opted for a paperback for Lee’s similarly-lengthed run on Punisher even though it could have been pitched as part of an omnibus.
Basically, they’re in no hurry on this one.
Would I recommend buying it? For Alpha Flight fans, absolutely! Otherwise, only for Lee completists.
This run and the stories inside of it are much more core to the continuing saga of Alpha Flight than a lot of what Byrne wrote. That’s because it is Mantlo who introduces the most memorable transformations of these characters which have been revisited, rehashed, and reversed over the years.
If you aren’t in it for Mantlo’s plots or Lee’s pencils, I don’t think the run holds much interest outside of its brief on-fire period of #40-50.
The 2017 Most-Wanted Marvel Omnibus Secret Ballot Results
- #60 – What If? Classic Omnibus, Vol. 1
- #59 – House of M Omnibus
- #58 – Captain Marvel by Peter David, Vol. 1
- #57 – X-Force by Kyle & Yost
- #56 – Namor, The Sub-Mariner, Vol. 1
- #55 – X-Force, Vol. 3 AKA Cable & X-Force, Vol. 1
- #54 – Conan The Barbarian, Vol. 1
- #53 – Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron
- #52 – Incredible Hercules by Pak & Van Lente
- #51 – Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day, Vol. 1
- #50 – Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch, Vol. 1
- #49 – Captain America (Silver Age), Vol. 3
- #48 – Doctor Strange by Roger Stern
- #47 – Marvel Horror of the 1970s
- #46 – Killraven
- #45 – Captain America by Mark Gruenwald, Vol. 1
- #44 – Runways by Brian K. Vaughan
- #43 – Superior Spider-Man
- #42 – The Punisher by Rucka & Checchetto
- #41 – Black Panther by Christopher Priest, Vol. 1
- #40 – Avengers West Coast by Roy Thomas
- #39 – Amazing Spider-Man by JMS
- #38 – TIE:
- #37 – X-Factor by David & DeMatteis
- #36 – Generation X, Vol. 1
- #35 – The Micronauts, Vol. 1
- #34 – Alpha Flight, Vol. 2
- #33 – TIE:
- Wolverine by Jason Aaron, Vol. 2
- Iron Man by Michelinie, Vol. 2