Quick Reviews: Alpha Flight #0.1, Incredible Hulks #629, Skaar #3

A round of much-delayed, eagerly-awaited reviews, mes amis!

Alpha Flight #0.1 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, Ben Oliver & Frank Martin

The eight-issue miniseries begins in earnest in a few weeks, but Alpha Flight #0.1, which shipped May 18, serves as a terrific introduction to the characters and concepts for the uninitiated. The twenty-page story, behind a cover by Phil Jiminez that shows nearly all the original Alpha Flight cast from their 1980s heyday, introduces the ensemble, as well as some other peripheral cast from the "good old days." It's true what writer Fred Van Lente said: this series marks the first time since the early days of John Byrne and Bill Mantlo that virtually the entire group has been the focus. Guardian, Vindicator, Sasquatch, Shaman, Marrina, Northstar and Aurora are all here, and purely from a nostalgic point of view, seeing them together just feels good.

Van Lente and Pak don't let nostalgia carry the story, however, wisely involving the Alphans in a plot to interrupt Canadian elections, ostensibly planned by someone very familiar to the title's middle years. Both that villainess and the specter of the elections themselves are portents of bigger things sure to erupt in the series proper. The only drawback in the book is in the artistic layouts by Ben Oliver. While the figures themselves look great, Oliver's panel shape--always jagged, seldom having 90 degree angles--are a distraction at best and a source of vertigo at worst. I must say I'm glad the miniseries itself will be illustrated by another artist (Dale Eaglesham).

I'm definitely expecting the storyline to ramp up with the actual first issue in June, but this is still a solid introduction with an accessible story, on-point characterization, and above-average artwork. Do yourself a favor and Buy It.

The Incredible Hulks #629 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Greg Pak, Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher, Rick Magyar & Edgar Delgado

For the conclusion of Greg Pak's penultimate arc, "The Spy Who Smashed Me," which had been a surprisingly off-beat and humorous arc in its previous three sections, this story takes a decidedly standard superheroic slant. Behind another generic cover, this time by fan-favorite Frank Cho, "License to Smash" nonetheless provides an emotional finale that serves as setup for "Heart of the Monster," beginning next issue.

When you're talking about emotional Hulk stories, it seems the powers-that-be can seldom do one without involving Betty Ross. It's her eyes through which we're supposed to see Banner and the Hulk this issue. However, Betty here bears little, if any, resemblance to the same strong character of Peter David's tenure on the book. Becoming Red She-Hulk appears to have split the character into her strong and weak personality halves, with neither one of them showing exactly why Bruce carries such a torch for her. And maybe that's the point, right?

Arch-foe Tyrannus descends into his traditional mad brand of villainy for this final chapter, leaving the real emotional arc to be solved between Bruce/Hulk and Betty/Red She-Hulk. True, we do finally see what's in the urn and that particular conclusion is perplexing (and may provide a hint to next issue's story). If nothing else, Greg Pak has provided an excellent emotional underpinning for his final arc with this issue's soft conclusion. Tom Grummett finishes the storyline in his same standard superheroic style, which is still far above most else out there. While still not as strong as the previous three parts, you should still definitely Read It.

Skaar: King of the Savage Land #3 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Rob Williams, Brian Ching, Rick Ketcham & Guru eFX

The Savage Land adventure of Skaar, Son of Hulk, continues as he teams with Ka-Zar and delves deeper into the Designer's mysteries while encountering more of the area's unusual inhabitants. Rob Williams continues the story which seems to have less and less to do with the titular character and more to do with facets of Marvel continuity the writer wants to play with "just because." You can see one of the characters in question--Kid Colt--on the issue's cover, and while he looks a little different inside, he's still symptomatic of the "anything that will stick"-ness of the narrative.

On the plus side, Brian Ching's artwork continues to impress. He's really right at home in the jungle landscapes, drawing monsters of all shapes and sizes, from Skaar himself to dinosaurs. Guru-eFX similarly brings the pages to life with their colors. Still, I'm severely losing interest in the narrative as Skaar continues to be moved around like a pawn on a chessboard. I don't have much hope the remaining two issues will turn things around. Unless you have nothing better to read, I'm firmly of the opinion you should Skip It.



  1. Great reviews, Gary! I found Incredible Hulks #629 to be bitter-sweet, but still very enjoyable. I have yet to pick up Skaar: King of the Savage Land #3, but it does seem like Rob Williams isn't using Skaar to his fullest potential.

    I can only hope that the last two issues resolve this problem. I would still like to see Greg Pak come up with another long running series with Skaar as the main character, with perhaps Fred Van Lente co-writing. That is after Pak's finished with Heart of the Monster which I can't help but wonder if Skaar will be apart of or not).

    By the way, I can't wait for Incredible Hulk: Heart of the Monster! Did you see the previews for Incredible Hulks #630 & 631 on Marvel.com? Paul Pelletier is really giving us some great art! If you've haven't seen them, I suggest you check it out!

    By the way, have you've checked out the Mighty Thor #1 & 2? It's pretty good, and Coipel's artwork is awesome, especially if you're a big fan of the Silver Surfer & Galactus.

    Anyways, great reviews, and I hope to read more of your posts. Take care, Gary!


  2. I'm waiting for my next shipment from DCBS to get Alpha Flight. Maybe you can tell me, however, do they provide a good introduction for NEW readers? Is there a page or two that describes who each person is, their powers, and maybe some bio or history? I'm looking forward to checking this out. I remember the only AF I ever read was during my first job, which was as a library page. Instead of work, I would sneak into the magazine room and read Daredevil issues (JRJR) and Alpha Flight, which I'm sure were Bill Mantlo issues.

    Speaking of Mantlo, I noticed major differences in Betty Ross between Boisterous Bill, Peter David and Grek Pak's representations. Bill had Betty as a army general's daughter, flying planes by herself and always willing to voice her opinions. David made her a bit more passive while bringing a bit more emotional depth to her character, and ... well, I don't need to describe what Pak has done. I'm generally unhappy with what's been done with her since her resurrection. But, I'll leave that to another discussion.


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