Alpha Flight (3rd series) – (2004-2005)
a.k.a. “All-New, All-Different Alpha Flight”
When Marvel editorial decided to bring back Alpha Flight, they tapped Scott Lobdell to return to the book. Following his all-too brief stint on the original series, Lobdell had gone on to write many of the X-Men's biggest stories of the 90s, including the Eve of Destruction storyline, which had first brought Northstar into the X-Men as a member of Jean Grey's Interim X-Men team. Chuck Austen might have made Northstar a permanent member of his Uncanny X-Men cast, but Lobdell had brought him into the fold first. Joining Lobdell was Exiles' artist Clayton Henry on penciling duties, with Dave Ross, who penciled issues #35-44 of original Alpha Flight, filling in for two issues.
Right away, it seemed Lobdell wanted to do something very different with the team. This was made clear by the “All-New, All-Different” blurb above the logo of the series throughout its run. Longtime comics readers would see this as a nod to Giant-Size X-Men #1, which established a replacement cast for the team, introducing the likes of Wolverine, Colossus, Storm & Nightcrawler. Indeed, Lobdell’s first story mirrored this famous story. Rather than the “classic” Alpha Flight team restored as supporting characters in Wolverine’s series, Lobdell intended to introduce a whole new cast, retaining only Sasquatch as a returning member. Instead, the rest of the team would be made up of Nemesis (an obscure character returning from the original series), Major Mapleleaf II (the son of the original Major Mapleleaf introduced in Alpha Flight (1st series) #106), Puck II (the long-lost daughter of the more well-known Puck) and entirely new characters Centennial (a 100-year old who had been in a coma until his mutant powers activated), and Yukon Jack (heir to the throne of an ancient civilization hidden in the Canada wilderness). This All-New, All-Different Alpha Flight was assembled by Sasquatch to rescue the classic team (whom Lobdell referred to as the “Uncanny Alpha Flight” in early interviews).
The highly-comedic book began with a flash-forward scene depicting Sasquatch and his new team confronted with the classic team as captives of the alien race known as the Plodex. The first several issues then chronicled Sasquatch's efforts to put his new team together, while weaving in their origin stories, and even expanding on the history of the little-seen Plodex. Lobdell had Sasquatch sever ties with Department H, and included an appearance from the Mole Man. By the end of this six-issue arc, the new characters all had established personalities and interacted with each other to the extent that the reader knew how the characters felt about one another. As for the “Uncanny Alpha Flight,” they didn't even need rescuing, as they freed themselves from the Plodex and were quickly dispatched from the book as they journeyed to the Plodex homeworld to return hundreds of Plodex eggs. This potentially interesting story was never chronicled and, by the end of the final issue of this series, the status of these beloved characters would become very complicated.
Following the initial six-issue storyline, a two-issue arc explored the new characters further while pitting them against wax replicas of classic Marvel heroes. What would eventually become the All-New, All-Different Alpha Flight's final adventure began in issue #9, another clear homage to the X-Men, with the cover spoofing the famous Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #141, and the title for this arc “Days of Future Present, Past Participle” a clear play on the classic time-travel adventure chronicled in that issue. The storyline began with the return of a long-forgotten character from the original series, Flashback (who returned in a scene spoofing Patrick Duffy's return in the television series “Dallas” following the infamous “Dream Season”). Flashback was long-thought dead in the original series when one of his "future-selves" was killed, indicating his inevitable end. Diamond Lil referred to him as simply “disappearing from his prison cell.” It was assumed he was pulled back into the past to meet his demise at the hands of Delphine Courtney in issue #27. In fact, he had escaped death, but was haunted by his death still to come. To do so, he asked for Alpha Flight's help in preventing this from happening. What followed was a convoluted time-travel storyline in which each member of Alpha Flight returned to the past separately and, each time they did, the events of the present day were altered. The storyline was resolved when past copies of the original Alpha Flight – Guardian, Heather Hudson, Puck, Shaman, Snowbird and even Northstar and Aurora were transported to the present. “Not too confusing, eh,” the past Puck remarked.
Unfortunately, this new series did not catch on and, due to low sales, this third series of Alpha Flight would end with #12. Reportedly, Scott Lobdell was so unhappy with Marvel’s decision that he purposely concluded the series with an impossibly confusing turn of events. Considering it involved time travel and the timeline being rewritten multiple times, any future writer’s first job would be to unravel a rather prodigious Gordian Knot.
Despite being able to round out the new characters fairly well, Lobdell was unable to wrap up all of their storylines before the end of issue #12. Still, the last two pages of the series were designed to give some sense of closure. Most characters received single-panel narrations about events that happened to them after the conclusion of the series. Among these were Snowbird and Yukon Jack marrying and retiring from Alpha Flight, Major Mapleleaf II and Puck II having a child, and Nemesis and Centennial being reunited in death. The when of these events occurring, however, was left ambiguous.
For Alpha Flight fans, the cancelation was a tragic ending to an all-too short-lived series. Lobdell clearly had long-term plans, not only for his All-New, All-Different Alpha Flight characters but for the “Uncanny Alpha Flight” as well. Early publicity interviews for the series even included sketch art for a new costume for Snowbird (a character who has only ever worn one main costume). Whether it was the comedic tone of the book, the new characters, or the stories having to be modified to fit into Marvel's new 4-6 issue storylines for the benefit of trade paperbacks format, fans did not take to this Alpha Flight.
As tragic as this was, Alpha Flight endured worse in their next appearance. A little over a year into his run with the first New Avengers series, Brian Michael Bendis utilized the team as meaningless cannon fodder in his story labeled “the Collective.” Ostensibly, the story dealt with the aftermath of Bendis’ House of M event in which almost all of the world’s millions of mutants were depowered. If energy can neither be created nor destroyed, the story attempted to answer where all of that power went. The answer was a man named Michael Pointer, who received all of these powers, earning him the moniker of “Collective.” Driven insane by the powers, he killed all members of Alpha Flight over the space of three panels in New Avengers (1st series) #16, including Guardian, Vindicator, Shaman, Puck, Puck II, and Major Mapleleaf II.
Of course, this did not clear everything up. Most of these Alpha Flight members were the “classic” team, which at the end of Alpha Flight (3rd series) were still in space, having not yet returned from the Plodex homeworld. Some fans wondered whether these were the Alphans from the past, who at the end of #12 had not yet returned to their proper place in time. None of these questions seemed of interest at the time and Alpha Flight’s unceremonious deaths simply seemed to be Bendis’ solution to Lobdell’s Gordian Knot.
Omega Flight (2007)
A little over a decade after Alpha Flight had introduced the idea of a super-human registration act during Simon Furman’s run on the series, Mark Millar resurrected the idea for his Civil War crossover event in 2007. The storyline ran across most of Marvel’s titles, with heroes (and villains) taking either pro or anti-registration positions. The resulting fissure in the super-hero community resulted in a “civil war” between heroes taking either side.
How did this super-hero Civil War affect Alpha Flight? Considering there was no Alpha Flight… very little. Northstar was off in the X-Men books, Aurora sometimes appeared there, too. Talisman had finally escaped comic book limbo and made an appearance in the She-Hulk's solo book. However, otherwise, Alpha Flight was gone. Reportedly, Mike Carey, writer of the adjectiveless X-Men series, who had used Northstar and Aurora prominently in X-Men Annual (3rd series) #1 from 2007, had been asked to write a new Alpha Flight series for Marvel, but he declined, not sure he knew what stories he could tell about the team. However, in the aftermath of the Civil War, Marvel saw an opportunity for a new lease on life for Canada's superheroes – as Omega Flight.
For some, the name “Omega Flight” was synonymous with Alpha Flight. The first Omega Flight team was comprised of disgruntled members of the former Beta and Gamma flight teams who were banded together to destroy Alpha Flight. Years later, a second Omega Flight team was used as lackeys of the Master of the World, though they hadn't been seen in a very long time. This new Omega Flight was to be Alpha Flight's replacement team. Dark times for dark days in the Marvel Universe required a dark team. Spinning out of the Civil War event as part Marvel's over-arching Initiative storyline, Omega Flight was written by Michael Avon Oeming, who had previously written several Thor-related storylines, and penciled by Scott Kollins, who had been around at Marvel for some years, penciling fill-in issues and several mini-series, along with some comics set in the Ultraverse.
Picking up shortly after the events of New Avengers (1st series) #16 and the finale of the Civil War, Michael Avon Oeming attempted to maintain a good continuation of what had been previously established. The character of Yukon Jack was referred to as having suffered a mental breakdown following Alpha Flight's time travel adventure, but no mention was made of his wife, Snowbird. Omega Flight's new administrator, Agent Jeff Brown, simply referred to Canada's heroes as being underqualified, having moved on, or not interested in serving their country once more. Sasquatch, revealed to be the only survivor of the Collective's assault, was asked to lead Omega Flight and he agreed. Two American characters who caused problems for the authorities during the Civil War were John Walker, the U.S. Agent, and Julia Carpenter, the second Spider-Woman, now going by Arachne. Both characters were former members of the Avengers West Coast and Force Works, something not lost on readers or the other characters within the book. Talisman was a reluctant addition to the team, which was rounded out with (somewhat ingenuously) the Michael Pointer character who was restored to sanity and was to become Canada's new Guardian. The cast was supported by the aforementioned Jeff Brown, Arachne's daughter Rachel, the Wrecking Crew, several low-level American criminals and Beta Ray Bill. Despite being depicted as a member of the team in promotional images, Beta Ray Bill never joined the team and barely interacted with the other characters.
The strange use of Beta Ray Bill could no doubt be put down to the unfortunate backtracking by Marvel, who had announced the Omega Flight comic as an ongoing series, but quickly changed their plans and instead released it as a five-issue mini-series. While this hurt Beta Ray Bill's involvement with the story, Sasquatch, Talisman and the new Guardian received good character development across the five issues. U.S. Agent and Arachne were essentially characterized as how they most recently had been depicted during the Civil War. A particularly interesting aspect of this storyline was the notion that the Omega Flight team was the result of a partnership between the governments of both Canada and the United States. Previously, the United States had been shown to have little to no interest in the affairs of Canada's superhuman community but, with the influx of American supervillains fleeing to Canada, one could argue that the Americans had a moral responsibility to assist with the problem.
It's not known what plans Michael Avon Oeming had for the Omega Flight book had he been able to continue the series past five issues. Presumably, at the least, Beta Ray Bill would have been properly integrated into the team. Would any resolution to the temporally displaced Alpha Flight members ever be made? Not for some time, at least, despite Michael Pointer attempting to recruit Snowbird for Omega Flight in Incredible Hercules #117. In that story, Snowbird referenced her marriage to Yukon Jack being over, confirming that it was indeed the present-day Snowbird who married Yukon Jack. Even later in 2007, when Marvel launched a new Marvel Comics Presents series, the Omega Flight characters appeared in a twelve-issue storyline written by Rich Koslowski with art by Andrea Di Vito.
Interestingly, Di Vito had worked with Michael Avon Oeming on several Thor stories. With Beta Ray Bill disappearing at the end of Omega Flight #5, and Talisman declining to work further with the team, this storyline primarily focused on U.S. Agent as he explored the mysterious goings-on with Michael Pointer. Sasquatch and Arachne appeared occasionally. The team would make one final appearance in Mighty Avengers (1st series) #21 & 23, in which U.S. Agent was enlisted to the Mighty Avengers team. It seems his departure was the final nail in the coffin for Omega Flight, whose members went their separate ways soon after. Similarly, Michael Avon Oeming and Scott Kolins' time with Marvel ended with Omega Flight too, while Rich Koslowski's only work with Marvel was the Omega Flight storyline in Marvel Comics Presents (2nd series). Regarding the characters, Arachne would eventually find her way into the Spider-Man books. For Michael Pointer, despite the interesting storylines presented by him being a member of any Flight-related team, he was soon shipped off to the X-Men books, and essentially written out completely when was put into a coma.
Despite its short-lived life, however, the end of Omega Flight would soon mean the return of Alpha Flight....