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Cancelled Too Soon: Alpha Flight Volume 2

A melding of the X-Files and superheroes that's still edgy today, even years after cancellation.

     All said, I still prefer this re-design of Guardian's outfit over his classic look. 
  All said, I still prefer this re-design of Guardian's outfit over his classic look. 
It’s a bittersweet business to look back on all the comics I’ve liked that were cancelled before their time. You’ll often hear creators talk about how they were able to get away with murder on a second or third string title because the powers-that-be figured it would be cut any day and, thus, opted not to be as hands-on with it. Sometimes, that leads to  unexpected underdog successes like ALL-NEW X-MEN and SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING. All too often, it means that all the great unconventional twists you enjoy about a book only manage to get through because the clock's ticking down to the inevitable ax drop - - and that ax always drops sooner than you’d want it to.

The cancelled-before-its-time series I want to spotlight here is the second volume of ALPHA FLIGHT, the Canadian super-team whose ranks include Red Lamp’s favorite pugnacious dwarf, Puck. Steve Seagle wrote 20 issues that ran from summer ’97 to spring ’99, with penciling duties split largely between Duncan Rouleau and Scott Clark. Fill-in issues featured art by Ashley Wood and a then-unknown Bryan Hitch.  
 == TEASER ==
       You could practically hear that creepy melody whistling in your head when you saw these pages.
 You could practically hear that creepy melody whistling in your head when you saw these pages.

THE SPIN 

The elevator pitch for this was that it was capes by way of THE X-FILES. It presented the kind of militarized superheroics you’d later see in the likes of the ULTIMATES, but with a thick air of paranoia and corruption. An exponentially-more-corrupt Department H recruited veterans like Puck and Vindicator into an odd team that included fresh recruits like Flex, Radius and Murmur, as well as a number of old members who’d returned under puzzling circumstances. Many mysteries were presented in the first issue and the real fun of the book was trying to solve those mysteries. Was this new Guardian actually a resurrected and de-aged James Hudson, or was there some devilry involved? Was this Sasquatch actually Walter Langkowski, or a new creature whose nature was truer to the name? Was Sunfire dying of poisoning from his own powers, or was he actually being transformed by a stolen Zero Fluid sample? The questions abounded, and they (mostly) got answered.
       Which side was in the right here depended entirely on where you started the story.   
 Which side was in the right here depended entirely on where you started the story.  

UNCONVENTIONAL PRESENTATION 

This might be the only comic series I can think that was narrated entirely in the second person. A menacing, omniscient narrator would address readers and characters alike with an ongoing monologue that probed at fears and teased about secrets. The fact that Dept. H wiped the members' memories clean after each mission further added to this artful confusion. In one issue, Puck would come across some horrible revelation about Sasquatch, only to be forced to forget it in the next. The readers thus knew terrible things the characters were oblivious to, ratcheting up the dramatic tension significantly. This emphasis on unreliable subjectivity was employed to great effect in a crossover with UNCANNY X-MEN (which Seagle was also writing at the time.) The two-parter presented the two teams’ perspectives of the same encounter, with key information being hidden or revealed depending on which title you read. It was a simple conceit, but it's still memorable after all these years.
       Daken's Half-Brother?
 Daken's Half-Brother?

WOLVERINE’S SON WAS A MEMBER? 

Fans who recently got into the X-books will probably be intrigued to know that this line-up featured a son of Wolverine ten years prior to Daken's conception (in print, if not in continuity.) One gradually-revealed mystery concerned the paternity of the half-brothers, Flex and Radius. Unus the Untouchable was revealed to be Radius’ father about halfway through and it was a fitting twist, as both mutants could generate force-fields (of course, Radius’ problem was that he couldn’t turn his off.) Flex’s Dad, however, was never explicitly revealed, even though there were very strong hints to Wolverine being the culprit. While his powers weren’t one-to-one equivalent like Daken’s, Flex’s ability to turn his limbs into sharp metal objects suggested that the metal on Logan’s bones might've somehow siphoned into his DNA. With cancelation, this sub-plot had to be dropped before it was resolved and, unfortunately, it wasn’t one of the loose ends that was tied up in the two-part arc Erik Larsen did in his WOLVERINE run. 

There you have it, a brief examination of a series I feel was cancelled far too soon; a series whose back-issues I highly recommend hunting for if you want some superheroics that are still pretty edgy today. Have any of you maniacs read this particular volume? Do you share in my enthusiasm for it? While we're at it, let's hear some titles that you thought were cancelled too soon....

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of  HYBRID BASTARDS!  &  UNIMAGINABLE . Order them on Amazon   here  &   here .  Follow him on Twitter:  @tompinchuk