Reviewer: Adam Chapman firstname.lastname@example.org
Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Born on the First of July
With Alpha Flight branded traitors and most of the team captured, it's up to Northstar to save the day!
Writers: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Pencils: Dale Eaglesham
Inks: Andrew Hennessy
Colours: Sonia Oback
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover Art: Phil Jimenez & Frank D'Armata
Variant Covers: Dale Eaglesham, Hennessy and Oback
Production: Mayela Gutierrez
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Special Thanks: Louise Stephenson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente take what could have been a much more standard superhero plot device in any other writer's hands and instead forge this issue into a great character piece, as we learn more of just what drives James MacDonald Hudson, as well as his wife, who has seemingly turned on him. They also write one of the best versions of Northstar that I've ever read, which has many of the same traits as Quicksilver (super-speed, mutant, tight bond with his sister), but adds a bit more flair and reduces how headstrong the character is. Northstar as presented here thinks things through more clearly than the similar Quicksilver, acts less brashly, and is more effective as a result, not to mention more enjoyable reading. The main element of this mini-series is that of what happens when the government turns against you, when a government goes too far, and starts to take out not just the superheroes that might threaten them, but also the political opposition. I still chaffe a bit at Pak/Van Lente writing Canadian politics in this manner, as it really doesn't have a lot of basis in reality, but I'm trying to let that go and just enjoy the story for what it's saying, regardless of what country it happens to occur in.
Alpha Flight can be a tough team to write, and write well, because although they are extremely well known in comics, it's mostly their name and the classic team roster, not to mention their multiple appearances in X-Men comics and animated series which serves the basis for many readers' familiarity with them. What I'm liking about this series thus far is that Pak/Van Lente are taking this opportunity to actually flesh out who these characters are a bit more, adding a bit more dimension to them, so that they're not just two-dimensional super heroes that happen to operate out of Canada. The opening sequence with James and Heather fighting for custody of their daughter is a great example, and it immediately connects the reader with the characters, and their outrage when things don't go as they would have hoped. You can see why, because the judge's arguments are valid and logical, but you still feel for these characters, especially given how they've given their lives, sometimes multiple times, in service of the Canadian people, and now feel like for all their sacrifice, they don't even get to raise their own child.
This issue also has a great focus on Northstar, as well as on Aurora as the Unity Party tries to get her to accept the brainwashing conditioning so that she will embrace the program just like Heather Hudson. It also features the awaited and anticipated return of Puck to the pages of Alpha Flight. Admittedly I didn't read Chaos War, so I'm still fuzzy on the details of Alpha Flight's return and what happened to Puck, but I'm extremely glad that he made his return here, and in fine form, despite the potentially crazy babbling.
Eaglesham truly delivers in the art department, as his visuals are extremely solid, with a great sense of style. Reading this book, I really got the impression that Eaglesham really is putting his all into this book artistically, and it shows. It's remarkably consistent, and remains extremely enjoyable throughout. The colours by Oback fit the tone of the book, issue and series perfectly, and Hennessy does a brilliant job on the inks, adding great dimension to the already impressive pencils. If you thought Eaglesham's artwork on Steve Rogers, Super Soldier was great, you haven't seen anything yet. As this is a team that has not just strong characters and those skilled in martial arts but also those wielding energy blasts, etc, he gets to stretch his artistic muscles a bit more in showing the action and intensity of the issue, and it succeeds wonderfully.
Despite my lingering misgivings about the heavy political aspect of the book, and how I don't think it really works in a Canadian context, there's no doubt about it that this book is a fantastic piece of work, with a great script by Pak/Van Lente and extremely enjoyable artwork by the always-enjoyable Dale Eaglesham. Editor Mark Paniccia has truly assembled a grade-A team here, and it shows in the great finished product. Also, for those not in the know, the title of the issue, Born on the First of July, is a nice take-off on the classic film Born on the Fourth of July, which works because July 1st is Canada Day, analogous to the US' July 4th. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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