Thursday, August 09, 2007

Alpha To Omega (Marvel comics)
Omega Flight #1 When: June 2007
Why: Michael Avon Oeming How: Scott Kolins

The story so far...
Suffering a defeat that saw the death of most of it's members, Alpha Flight came to an end with the attack of the being known as The Collective.

The only survivor, Sasquatch, retreats from the life led as a superhero to return to his first love of science, but as the Americans begin to crack down with the advent of their Hero Registration Act, problems begin to creep across the boarder to Canadian soil.

The Canadian government, with aid from the US, seeks to reform the team around Sasquatch as Omega Flight, the last chance to prove once and for all Canada is worthy of a super team. However, before the team can gather, Sasquatch finds himself thrust back into action as the Wrecking Crew roll into mapleleaf country, looking to raise rabble without opposition.

Previous Form:
The Wrecking Crew [#24]: Defeated by an early incarnation of Thunderbolts.
Sasquatch: Making his first appearance.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Wrecker 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Sasquatch 6 (Genius)
Speed: Bulldozer 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Piledriver 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Piledriver 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Thunderball 4 (Arsenal)

Alright, so I'm not a big Alpha Flight fan, but I can get behind what they're about. One of the greatest contradictions of mainstream superhero comics is the relative lack of diversity amongst their powers, with the improbable majority of radiation leaks and magic infusions occuring in the United States.
From that perspective, I think Alpha Flight is a good thing. Omega Flight, ironically, not so much, but it's inclusion of US mainstays into the mix is the least of it's problems. More on that later.

I like the Wrecking Crew. For the most part they're a pack of poorly designed super-thugs, but I like them, I think they're a good bit of fun, and I quite enjoyed the last time we took a look at them. [Thunderbolts #1]

In the painstakes they're a mob of heavy hitters that make even Thor blush, each possessing their own Nordic enchantments on an assortment of cheesy, suitably thematic weapons. Wrecking balls, crowbars, standard fare for a team of mooks pitting their hopes on the market value of a brand built on construction.

Some minor fluctuation aside, Sasquatch is a Hank Pym-level intellect with a Hulk-level body, give or take some fur. When it comes to combat he's no slouch, but in the way Hulk can rise to the challenge of a god like Thor, I'm not terribly confident in Sasquatch's mythic abilities.

Considering each member of the Crew derives their powers from Norse god-power, that doesn't bode well for ol' saskie. For Sasquatch to stand any chance against a team of this level it would require surroundings that could facilitate an intelligent strategy, that might see him pick each member off one by one in a stealthy Canadian Wolverine-fest. Or, failing that, Alpha Flight would have to come to his aid, which completely evens the stakes.

Alas, this battle is schedule for Sasquatch alone, so there's little to no argument for Sasquatch to debut with a victory in the Infinite Wars. Still, as the only survivor of The Collective's slaughter, he can probably at least look forward to a bout of unconsciousness, before returning to his survivor's guilt.

The Math: The Wrecking Crew (Total) Sasquatch (Average)
The Pick: The Wrecking Crew

No kidding. For starters, Captain America doesn't smell like WET DOG...What went down...
Rolling into Canada and raising hell seems to be the best plan the Wrecking Crew have ever pulled off until they step out of the bar they've spent the night terrorizing.

Bulldozer takes a shotgun blast from a nervous resident, but his cackling is cut short by something descending from amidst the rain. "Hey, what is that?

Their celebrations for the absence of familiar heroes are cut short when Sasquatch lands with destructive results. Like a cartoon nail, Bulldozer is buried in the ground by the force of Sasquatch's landing.

Piledriver makes remark of current affairs, having believed Sasquatch had died with his fellows in the slaughter of Alpha Flight. Sasquatch snarls something in response, and The Wrecker kicks off the action once more with a promise to clarify the situation, raising his enchanted crowbar in the air.

Sasquatch puts the Wrecker down hard, using his speed and reach to great effect with a swiping attack. He fields further speculation about whether or not he's a clone, keeping Wrecker and his enchanted crowbar underfoot until Piledriver initiates a rush attack.

Sasquatch takes the hit, and lets loose with emotion, defying the Wrecking Crew's intentions to roll into a defensless Canada.

He stalks confidently back into battle with the Wrecker, but suffers a chain garotte from behind from Thunderball.

Wrecker and Thunderboll lay into the Alpha Flight survivor with unrelenting blows. In desperation, Sasquatch lashes out with his claws, raking at Thunderball's eyes sufficiently to temporarily blind him.

Free from restraint, Sasquatch pounds the ground, scattering the members of the Crew, while he has flashbacks of the demise of his team at the hands of The Collective. The memories drive him into a feral rage, but before he can act on them, a truck hurtles through the air toward him.

The truck explodes, putting Sasquatch down for the count.
Ever the villainous types, the Wrecking Crew seek retribution in blood, all four members laying into the fallen Sasquatch with murderous intent.

The hammer...
The winners by knock out, the Wrecking Crew!
This marks their second outing as a unit, and their first victory, after suffering a defeat in another series starter. Which contrasts the way to start a superhero comic; either with a strong initiation at the expense of an established threat (ie; the Wrecking Crew) with bigger, perhaps brand new threats to follow. Or, like this issue, you start the hero in peril, building up to ultimate victory at the end -- like a Rocky movie. With any luck Omega Flight will end with Sasquatch single-handedly ending the war on terror, uniting all mankind in celebration.

Of course, to do that, all mankind would have to avoid buying Omega Flight.

Alright, I'm not usually one to use this forum as a means for baseless bickering, and comfortable with my tastes, it's rare I actually buy a bitter disappointment, but this is the exception that proves the rule. The issue itself isn't terrible, but if you've been following us over the past few weeks, you'll have seen the discussion about series beginnings including their opening storyarcs. [Captain Atom: Armageddon #1, Batman #608, Avengers #1, Nova #2, Avengers #4, DC: The New Frontier #2]

Omega Flight has become the measure of how not to start a series, particularly a title ultimately designated 'mini-series' status, but in truth there are a lot of other perpetrators. The posterchild of the painfully slow burn has to be Brian Bendis, whose original New Avengers work calls back to this in a big way, and in a solo perspective, Ultimate Spider-man also begins in much the same track. Unfortunately for USM, that sort of thin story telling has continued, while New Avengers has, for the time being, found it's footing somewhere in the late twenties.

Omega Flight gets the big red X for simple lack of progression in storytelling.
There's a lot of talk about 'writing for the [five/six issue] trade', and as a writer I can fully understand and support the notion of writing to a strength of the medium, but not like this. Not when you have your team on the cover, and meander through a single adventure that doesn't see the team forming until somewhere well past the half-way point.

Personally, I have some issues with Scott Kolins' output over the past few years, starting somewhere around covers on New Invaders and interiors for the ill-fated Marvel Team-Up. I couldn't falter Kolins for that, given that he, for the most part, competently tells what little story there is here, but it doesn't help matters.

Likewise, on the flip side, every time I see Mike Oeming's name on a Marvel character, I can't help but slump my shoulders when it's a writing credit.
Though essentially regarded for affectionately aping the Bruce Timm style, Mike Oeming's strengths as a story teller remain at the tip of a pencil. His gritty minimalist pencils are the kind of stylized approach I long to see at a Marvel drifting farther and farther from the early 00's that saw successful creative experiments like Grant Morrison's New X-Men, X-Statix, and various other wins.

I mention New Invaders, and really, that's probably the kind of book I'd hoped to find here. Not just because of the obvious US Agent connection, but because it felt like it had the opportunity to operate on the fringes of the Marvel universe, delivering stories with familiar characters, in slightly less familiar settings.

Never before has this been a more valuable juxtaposition than with the advent of the superhero Civil War. To be fair, Omega Flight does successfully differ itself from the superheroc conflicts of the core Marvel titles, but it does so with such frivolity that I'm positively surprised, and maybe even a little appalled by the titles selling far less than it.

What really prompted this entry was my browsing over sales figures for June 2007, which highlighted what I consider to be a disappointing fact of this particular industry. A fact that quality, at the end of the day, is meaningless, and that for all the talk of many, the money is not where the mouths are.

Some of the surprising titles selling less than Omega Flight: Iron Fist, She-Hulk, Spider-man Family, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, The Spirit, Checkmate, Catwoman, Ex Machina, Blue Beetle. That isn't even delving into the regularly neglected titles from publishers that aren't Marvel or DC. Poor form, direct market. Poor form.

I don't want to go over the top. I'm not about to blame Omega Flight for the numbers on those other books, because I think I've been scathing enough of it's legitimate faults, but I think it's worth setting in stone. This is not good comics writing. This is not even slowburn comics writing. This is not for me.

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 3
[Average first issue to a meandering, thin series. An unfortunate distraction from Mike Oeming's pencilling work. Some fun action for fans of the characters, but otherwise a book for the hall of shame. Sorry guys.]

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