The latest Marvel collaboration from Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente — who have years of Incredible Hercules adventures under their collective belt, plus current series Herc — is a revival of Alpha Flight, Canada's No. 1 superteam that was recently resurrected by the co-writers in Chaos War. Unlike past Alpha Flight relaunches, like the 1997 series written by Steven Seagle or the 2004 volume by Scott Lobdell, this eight-issue miniseries doesn't tinker too dramatically with the formula, restoring the classic lineup from the John Byrne days. Not everything is back to normal, though, as the events of Fear Itself have left the national heroes on the run from their own government — as seen in Alpha Flight #1, in stores now. (Preview here.) Newsarama caught up with Pak and Van Lente during their recent signing at Golden Apple in Los Angeles, to talk all things Alpha Flight, including the challenge of writing a team book with such a big cast, reaching new readers while pleasing the old, the work of series artist Dale Eaglesham, and researching the complex world of Canadian politics. Alpha Flight #2
variant cover.Newsarama: Greg, Fred, Alpha Flight had kind of an unconventional debut because it started with a Point One issue, and then followed that up with a #1 a month later. So it was basically like you had two #1 issues. How did that all work out, and was it a challenge to be essentially writing two introductions? Greg Pak: It was a great opportunity because this Point One thing was happening, and anything that will shine a bit more light on a book is always great. It's of course a creative challenge, but it ended up working really nicely. We had to kind of sit down and figure out how the story would pan out, how to introduce the team interestingly two times, but we're really happy with the way it panned out.
Fred Van Lente: The decision was in the Point One, we basically tried to introduce people more to them in their civilian guises, and then we wanted to introduce them in a combat setting in the first issue.
I kept saying — and I don't know how serious I was about this — but if you take Point One and #1 together, they're kind of a two-hour season premiere. It's also tricky because you don't really want people to have to pick up the Point One to follow the #1.
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Alpha Flight #2.Pak: We definitely drop hints in the Point One that get paid off later on down the line, but it had to serve two masters in a way. Van Lente: You'll see characters that were in the Point One come back in issue #2 that are major players.
Nrama: Alpha Flight has a big cast — at least eight primary characters — so you're reintroducing each of them, as well, along with the general concept. How do you do that in a way that's natural and not didactic?
Pak: This is the challenge of comics, really. This is the challenge of doing mainstream comics. To take these characters that have these amazingly long and detailed histories, and reintroduce them so that new readers can just jump right on board. But at the same time, long-time fans feel like they're in secure hands because they're with creators who respect the characters, know where they're coming from, and are taking them to new and interesting places.
Van Lente: It's the challenge of storytelling. Part of it also is that one of the things that I think is unique to comics that you have all these characters — everybody knows who Spider-Man is, everybody knows who Wolverine is. In a lot of other media, you get the chance to take time with the characters, and really find out who they are. You might not necessarily get them 100 percent in the first instance. In this issue, I definitely feel like there's people we get to know fairly well. Northstar is pretty well fleshed out at this point.
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Alpha Flight #2.Nrama: He's been around more recently, too.
Van Lente: That's true, he's been around more recently in other people's books.
Pak: All of these characters will have their key moment to shine during the course of the maxiseries. We've had a ton of fun with it, because we love these characters. But it's also something of a new challenge for us, because it is the first team book we've written in a while. Together we've been doing Hercules, which is a buddy book. We had a pretty big supporting cast, but it was pretty clear who we were focusing on. Even just choreographing fight scenes with the large team is an interesting challenge. But it's been a blast.
Nrama: Alpha Flight in particular is in an interesting position because it's been so long that these characters have had their own book or even been around in the Marvel Universe, that this is probably a lot of people's introduction to them, but it's also got a long history with a built-in fanbase.
Pak: That's a great opportunity, but also an ongoing challenge — to use that history in ways that are fun and take it to the next level, but also doesn't confuse new readers. I'm feeling — knock on wood — pretty good about the way we're handling it so far.
cover.One thing that helps is that I'm kind of the Alpha Flight newbie. Back in the day, I read the first issues and all of that, but Fred is the one who has been reading it forever. In some ways, maybe that's a good combo, because we've got a couple of perspectives, which helps.
Nrama: Past Alpha Flight revivals always tinkered with the concept. This take, especially the lineup, is much more traditional. What made now the right time to bring back the classic team?
Van Lente: Don't forget, Alpha Flight is beloved in the halls of Marvel. I never thought I'd actually get a chance to write an Alpha Flight series, because I assumed that someone else would pitch and get the job before me. So it's great that we got that opportunity. This was our second or third pitch — the decision isn't all ours.
The other aspect of it also is that as a result of Chaos War, they were all back on the table.
Nrama: And you were the guys who brought them back.
Pak: Yes. We brought them back before we were sure we were going to be able to write the book.Alpha Flight #3
cover.We talked about it a lot. If you're going to take that Alpha Flight name and do a new book, there are a lot of different ways you can go, but once we realized that this was the story that we wanted to do, we also knew that we needed that classic team. We're turning the world upside down for them. They are patriotic heroes, they represent their country, but during the course of the story, almost immediately, their country is against them. That really works best if you have the classic characters. They're the ones who are most identified with that role of patriotic representatives of their country. So it has a bigger impact if you turn everything upside down for those classic characters. Also, we just like those characters.
Van Lente: And I think part of the reason some of the reboots didn't work as well is because they didn't have those core characters. Not that there's anything wrong with them, but I think that's what got people excited about this version.
Nrama: The book is scheduled for eight issues, which means that even though it's a Fear Itself tie-in, it'll actually run longer than that storyline. Does it stick to the same story arc throughout the run?
Van Lente: Yeah, we'll lose the Fear Itself dress with #5.
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cover.Nrama: I saw on Twitter that you guys were reading up on Canadian politics and current events as part of the research for this series.
Pak: We did some poking around. Neither of us are Canadians, so we definitely had to bone up on the political system and other kinds of things. Of course, the story takes place in the Marvel Universe so things are going to be a little tweaked here and there.
We were just astounded, because we set it up with this election happening in our Point One issue, and then we found out after we had written the issue, and it had been drawn, and gone to press, that there was an election scheduled for the week before it came out.
We've also been helped immensely by the fact that our artist is Canadian, as is his partner Louise. She's not only Canadian, but she speaks fluent French, and has helped us not look like fools when our French-Canadian characters open their mouths.
Nrama: Speaking of Dale Eaglesham, his art seems like a good fit for this book because it does have a classic look to it, which seems even a little bit more pronounced in Alpha Flight #1.
Pak: We were really thrilled that he agreed to come on board. He's been amazingly passionate about the project, and has helped so much in so many ways. He's really helped plug it, as well. It's exciting when everybody who's working on a book really wants to be there, 110 percent, and is really giving it their all. It feels special in that kind of way.
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variant cover.Nrama: The big question remains, will we see Puck at all during the course of the series?
Pak: Yes! I'm just going to say it. Puck is coming.
Van Lente: Read #2.
Pak: It's going to be awesome.
Nrama: You guys clearly have a lot of established Alpha Flight characters to contend with, but will there also be any new characters joining the fold during the series?
Van Lente: We need more characters?
Pak: We did introduce Alice Hu, the intrepid, and sometimes annoying, news reporter.
Van Lente: There will be surprise reoccurring characters you'll start seeing in the beginning of #2. You'll be seeing more characters from Alpha Flight's past. We were able to get in Agent Brown from Omega Flight, and some of the Beta Flight characters. I vainly put in my creation from Wolverine: First Class, Citadel.
Pak: Just about every issue there's a little bit of an Easter egg for old-school Alpha Flight fans.
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cover.Van Lente: Sometimes more than one. Next major part of the series comes from a character who first appeared — and has not appeared since — X-Men Unlimited. That's how übernerdy this amalgamation of Alpha Flight characters is.
Pak: But new readers should not at all worry, because everybody's introduced organically within the story. You'll have no problem following along.
Nrama: Anything else you guys want to tell readers about Alpha Flight?
Van Lente: We've had a terrific response, and want to thank everybody for that.
Pak: If you like the book, please do pre-order. When folks pre-order, that's how Marvel knows that we need to make more of these books.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!