Chaos War: Alpha Flight (2010)
By now, annual events spanning dozens of comic books was standard fare at Marvel. These events showcased some of Marvel's biggest characters in sprawling events, while simultaneously allowing an opportunity for some lesser-known or long-abandoned properties to be revitalized. 2010's Chaos War event saw the gods and other mythological beings of the Marvel Universe take center stage to battle the Chaos King, who planned to destroy all creation. Since Omega Flight's disbanding, Canada had no official super team. Northstar (and to a lesser extent Aurora) were still appearing in X-Men comics. Sasquatch and Snowbird made occasional appearances elsewhere. As for those temporal-displaced versions of Alpha Flight? Nothing. No mention, no appearances. Probably for the best.
Sasquatch and Snowbird, although never appearing together until Chaos War: Alpha Flight #1, were both still struggling with the deaths of the other members of the team back in New Avengers (1st series) #16. While Snowbird had sought solace in the warm embrace of Hercules in Incredible Hercules #117-120, Sasquatch meanwhile sought for a chance to bring his dead friends back to life and, with the collapse of the Underworld as a result of events taking place in the Chaos War storyline, he found that opportunity. He did this by striking a deal with the deadly Great Beasts, promising to protect them from the Chaos King should he come for them. In return, the Great Beats would return Sasquatch's dead friends to life.
While only released as a one-shot, this story gave Alpha Flight some of the best treatment they had received in some time. Jim McCann wrote the story, having penned an assortment of Avengers-related comics over the last few years. Taking on penciling duties was Reilly Brown, who had drawn issues of Cable & Deadpool, New Warriors (4th series) and Incredible Hercules.
The story began with the Chaos King laying waste to Snowbird's godly family, before reuniting Sasquatch, Snowbird, Northstar and Aurora, who were astonished when the deceased Guardian, Vindicator, Shaman and Marrina (who had died some time ago in an unrelated storyline) returned to life. Puck was excluded from this storyline, as he was appearing in issues of Wolverine, set in Hell, around the same time. Mention was made of other dead Alphans simply by a line that Shaman was unable to keep all of their dead friends together. This happy reunion took a dark turn when the Great Beasts called on Sasquatch's debt to them – the Chaos King was attacking them. The eight Alphans ended up battling each other when Snowbird opposed helping the Great Beasts by any means. Any assistance offered to the Great Beasts would see them cross over permanently to this world, something she was sworn to prevent. In the end, the Great Beasts were thwarted (for now) and, to everyone's surprise, the four dead Alphans did not return to the Underworld.
The eight Alphans quickly aided other heroes in defeating the Chaos King and, when this was accomplished in Chaos War #5, reality was restored to how it was prior to the Chaos King's disruptions – with a few anomalies. The most significant of these was that Guardian, Vindicator, Shaman and Marrina were permanently restored to life. A deus ex machina for sure, but a clever way to bring back multiple characters as part of a way to restore a property to its most well-known inception. While Jim McCann and Reilly Brown may have been responsible for restoring Alpha Flight, it would fall to others to continue Alpha Flight's story, with McCann continuing to work for Marvel on an assortment of Avengers-related comics, and Brown penciling both Amazing Spider-Man comics and Deadpool comics.
Alpha Flight (4th series) – (2011-2012)
Alpha Flight's return would take place during yet another company-wide event, this time Fear Itself, a storyline which saw the Asgardian Serpent God make a play for power, giving several super-villains enhanced abilities and spreading a sense of paranoia across the Marvel Universe. The writing for the new Alpha Flight series was by frequent writing duo Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, who had already established themselves at Marvel on many projects, including a long stint on the Incredible Hercules title. Canadian Dale Eaglesham had worked off and on for Marvel for many years and would handle penciling duties for the eight-issue miniseries, while Ben Oliver, who had a stint on Ultimate X-Men and drew several other fill-in issues, penciled the introductory point-one issue.
Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente were both known fans of Alpha Flight. They had already written a well-received Snowbird story in Incredible Hercules #117-120 and even stated in an interview published on CBR in May 2011 that they had been planning for Alpha Flight's return before they even got approval for the series. The “point-one” issue quickly established the classic Alphans were once more united as Alpha Flight and working with the government to protect their nation. Although the team consisted of Byrne-era members, the series itself spanned several eras of Alpha Flight's history. Agent Jeff Brown was carried over from the Omega Flight series to be Alpha Flight's liaison. Purple Girl, long absent from Marvel Comics, was back, now as Purple Woman and working against Alpha Flight. Northstar, while not an official member of the team, had his boyfriend, Kyle Jinadu, brought into the series. Marrina, a character who had limited association with Alpha Flight over the years, was even given a personality, albeit a grating one. Perhaps most interestingly of all, Gary Cody was returned to life without explanation. Cody was a Byrne-era character who had been the government liaison to Alpha Flight, though he only appeared in a handful of issues before Bill Mantlo developed the character further. Cody was believed dead after an encounter with Bedlam the Brain-Blast in Alpha Flight (1st series) #52, but was now elected as Prime Minister of Canada, backed by the mysterious Unity Party.
The first issue of the new series proper set the scene for things to come – Fear Itself spread to Canada when one of the supervillains empowered by the Serpent God attacked Vancouver. Gary Cody as Prime Minister announced martial law in Canada and, worse, Alpha Flight was betrayed by one of their own. Shockingly, this was Heather Hudson, who had sided with the Unity Party and had undergone the mysterious “Unity process” in order to win back custody of her daughter. Issue #2 revealed that, when Heather and Mac were dead, their young daughter Claire was given to a cousin of Heather's, who now had custody. Mac was angry, Heather was exhausted. For a woman who spent her life fighting for what was right, Heather had given up all hope and, in exchange for return of her daughter, she opted to work with the Unity Party. This storyline took an extremely dark turn in #4 when Heather murdered her cousin and his wife to take back her daughter. The stakes for the Alpha Flight characters were as real as they had ever been.
Other members of the now outlawed Alpha Flight were also subject to disruption to their status quo. Sasquatch was discovered to be suffering from a degenerative mental condition. Not only was Aurora's multiple personality disorder back but it played quite an important part of the story when the Jeanne-Marie persona wanted to side with the Unity Party and join Vindicator's new Alpha Strike team. Puck returned from the afterlife and quickly rejoined the outlaw Alpha Flight. Northstar, despite continuing to maintain he wasn't a member of the team, had a significant storyline thanks to Kyle being captured by the Unity Party and forced to undergo their brainwashing. As for Alpha Strike, they were comprised of several Alpha Flight-related characters – Purple Woman, a Wendigo, Ranark the Ravager (a character Alpha Flight fought in a pre-Alpha Flight (1st series) #1 adventure) and Citadel, who appeared in an Alpha Flight flashback story in Wolverine: First Class #5. Of course, even a team of villains needed a leader and, while Vindicator acted as field commander of the team, the true brains behind the team was Alpha Flight's deadliest foe, the Master of the World, who was revealed to be responsible for developing the Unity process as part of yet another attempt to take over the world. In the end, Alpha Flight defeated the Master, the Unity Party was dissolved and Alpha Flight were no longer outlaws, concluding the story with almost no unresolved plotlines.
Originally announced as a miniseries, sales for the first issue reportedly made Marvel very happy and in August 2011 it was announced that the series had been upgraded to an ongoing. Being interviewed at the time, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente indicated their happiness with that announcement, and revealed one upcoming storyline where Alpha Flight would work with Captain Britain & MI:13 as part of a larger team called the Commonwealth of Heroes (presumably a reference to the British Commonwealth, of which Canada is a part). Sadly, two months after the announcement that Alpha Flight was upgraded to an ongoing series, Marvel reversed their decision, citing updated sales figures as the reason for the return to miniseries status. Apparently, sales fell some 20,000 in number after the first issue. If indeed this series was originally planned as an eight-issue miniseries, then presumably the series played out as planned, although some pacing and events that take place in issues #4-6 suggest otherwise.
Despite Alpha Flight's cancellation, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente were not completely done with the characters and a five-issue storyline in the Hulk series they were writing saw Sasquatch, Snowbird, Aurora, Guardian, Shaman, Puck and Marrina play roles of varying significance. Northstar was back with the X-Men, while Vindicator would go on to be something of a problem for any writers who wanted to use Alpha Flight going forward. The final issue of Alpha Flight (4th series) saw Vindicator, free from the Unity programming, take her daughter and head into the unknown, apparently wanting nothing to do with Alpha Flight any longer. Curiously, there was no mention of her during the Hulk storyline, so her status became somewhat uncertain.
Unfortunately, that would be the last time Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente would write the Alpha Flight characters, despite the two of them continuing to be very prolific writers at Marvel. The team would continue to enjoy sporadic appearances, appearing in Astonishing X-Men (3rd series) #51-52 which depicted the wedding of Northstar and Kyle, while Sasquatch, Puck and even Talisman popped up sporadically. A new heroic Omega Flight team even briefly appeared in Avengers (5th series) #9-10, but these characters were mostly killed in their first appearance. This era of Alpha Flight would come to a close with a surprising storyline in Amazing X-Men (2nd series) #8-12, which saw the Wendigo curse begin to spread across Canada and even cross into the United States. This storyline was written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, who unfortunately misfired in terms of their use of Alpha Flight. Talisman was back with the team with no explanation and, most shockingly of all, was in some sort of relationship with Puck. Perhaps most frustratingly, Heather was back with the team, also with no explanation as to what had happened to her since she vanished into the wilderness. Guardian, Snowbird, Aurora, Puck, Talisman and Marrina would make one final appearance as a team in Fantastic Four (1st series) #643 before one of the biggest changes to effect Alpha Flight would come.