Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Tedd Riccio is a comic book aficionado chock full of useful comic history knowledge. So why not tap into that knowledge for the betterment of you, the reader? Welcome to Hank McCoy (Before the Fur), a weekly column by Assistant Editor Tedd (just Tedd will be fine). Leave all that you know at the door when reading, and make sure to not speak ill of Dazzler (that will anger Tedd). And also make no mention of films The Howling or Event Horizon. I’m a little under the weather today, so if I ramble, you’ll have to forgive me. Okay, so…Alpha Flight. Or Omega Flight. Whatever. What is the DEAL with this (these) comic book(s)? Marvel has been trying to get Alpha Flight into a “tier one,” or hell, even a “tier two” slot for a long time. In the span of my nearly thirty years on this planet, I’ve seen them launch the comic no less than three, now four times. I’m not exactly sure where the premise for a comic featuring Canada’s premiere super-team came from. Like a lot of comics that aren’t set in the New York of the Marvel Universe (thereby depriving the characters featured within it from limitless interactions with other Marvel characters), nothing besides the obligatory cult-following has ever rallied around this title. West Coast Avengers didn’t carve out a huge niche (although we all like the idea of two teams of Avengers, sometimes at odds with each other, don’t we?) and even some of the most dedicated X-Men fans never took the time to read Excalibur (which was a freaking AWESOME comic, by the way). It seemed to me like the writers we’re always trying to tie Alpha Flight and X-Men closely together- such that, if the X-Men were ever in serious trouble they would be more likely to call in Alpha Flight to back them up than those stuck-up and judgmental Avengers-types. But for some reason, everything they’ve tried to do with this comic hasn’t quite…stuck. To add insult to injury, I feel like Alpha Flight is constantly featured as the cameo-super-team who gets obliterated by the new, ominous supervillain simply to demonstrate to the heroes of the book you’re reading that this new threat is E-VIL with a capital “E” and is going to be super, super dangerous. I swear, I’ve seen them die in cameos like as many times as they’ve been launched. But for every writer who figures “oh, let’s just kill these guys off and be done with it”, there’s another who’s out there saying “Let’s give this comic another shot.” In truth, I think Alpha Flight has some good ideas. Some of the characters are interesting. A government sponsored team, Alpha Flight is connected with this weird, shadowy branch of the Canadian government known as “Department H.” Now, among the book’s failed relaunches, the 1990s series has an awesome promo featured in the back of a number of Marvel titles. Essentially, it involved the team leader (Vindicator? Or Guardian? His name changes a lot) testing out his abilities (which I think are costume-related? I’m unclear here) in a controlled environment. Something goes wrong, and the suit (or something) starts pouring all this feedback into him. He’s on the floor writhing in pain, yelling for help. Some Department H employee is on the mic saying “Don’t worry James, it’s gonna be okay, we’re…” and then he trails off. Suddenly: “Okay, James, you’ve gotta sign this new contract.” And Guardian says: “What? OH GOD IT HURTS” (etc.) and the guy on the mic is like: “JAMES, they are telling me you have to sign this new contract before I can help you, JUST DO IT.” And these guys walk out into the room and have Guardian sign this piece of paper while he’s writhing in pain on the floor. Finally, they help the guy. You’re left to wonder if the whole thing was an accident or prearranged to coerce james Hudson into signing something under duress. And that was the new flavor of the 1990s series- conspiracy. Much darker run. It didn’t last. Recently, Marvel tried again. And this time, they took a slightly different tack- more light hearted, funnier. Spider-Man and Deadpool come to mind- not too serious, not completely fluff though. Among my favorite characters features in this run is Major Mapleleaf, the Canadian equivalent of Captain America and a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Yes. A “Mountie”. His personality is something along the lines of “Dudley Do-right” (the guy from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show…I know, the classics never die, right?). And yes, he even wears those big hats. Apparently, this Mapleleaf is actually the son of the original character, who appeared way-back in the day with Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the original Human Torch. Back when they beat up Nazis and such. This comic run (the third volume, I guess?) was well balanced. Funny, well-drawn, interesting. I highly recommend it. Which brings us to today- and this “Omega Flight” business. The current lineup features a bizarre (but fascinating) hodgepodge of miscellaneous Marvel characters that have been “homeless” for a while. The current lineup includes: Beta Ray Bill- an alien, one of the few in the universe to prove themselves worthy of the power of Thor. So essentially, Bill has Thor’s armaments and abilities. U.S. Agent- Not Captain America. The other guy. A little bit rougher. Interesting choice, putting him on a Canadian team. Arachne- the former Spider-Woman (that is, the Spider-Woman after the original…who is now Spider-Woman again. Sigh). Anyway, I’m not totally sure where they are headed with the whole thing but it may be worth following along. If nothing else, the series has great art. So in conclusion, please- Alpha (Omega) Flight is trying HARD. Over and over again. The Canadians deserve a home. Please, give them one in the Marvel Universe. This message brought to you by Omnicomic.