Apr 3, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 768: Alpha Flight v.1 #24, July 1985


The end of the second year of the title closes out the "Great Beasts" storyline as the Alphans travel to another dimension to rescue the soul of Walter Langkowski, and battle the last of the beasts. Snowbird fulfills her purpose on Earth (we should all be so lucky), and the team seems to have cohered in a way unlike their previous gatherings throughout the series. Though there is still much of the American superhero comic to Alpha Flight, there's also much of that is different. I made the comparison to Doom Patrol yesterday, and I think that a lot of that similarity is tied to the fact that we're seeing characters that no only are super-powered and thus more than human, but are also deeply flawed, and deeply disturbed by their experiences, which makes them very human. I was chatting with a friend about this very thing, the Marvel aesthetic of being unable to decide if their characters are gods or humans, and the fine line they tread in treating them as both. It makes me think back to the levels of story that Frye discusses in Anatomy of Criticism. Superman, ur-hero, is obviously the mythic hero, superior in kind to his fellows and to his environment. He chooses not to be, on occasion, but he still always is, Kent or no. The Marvel characters are created to straddle the line much more actually, in that they don't just show the qualities of both god and human, but embody them in a way that the DC characters often don't. Which is fine, of course. These difference of mythic aesthetic is what makes the characters and stories great.

We'll see, though, if the team is not a little more US-styled in its composition, whether or not the comic itself manages to maintain that quality that is setting it apart from other Marvel team titles of this era. I'm thinking, of course, of the X-Men and Avengers titles that are concurrent with this one. Avengers, of course, is large-scale superheroics, as they always have been, whereas the X-titles at this time are more allegorical. Alpha Flight, I think, if it bears resemblance to anything in the Marvel U at this point, it's to Goodwin's original Squadron Supreme, in that it deals much more explicitly with the consequences not just for the world, but for the weilders, of superpowers.

To be continued.

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