Longbox Diving: Alpha Flight #53
After Byrne left Alpha Flight, I would check in every now and again, and one of the later issues I remember buying was issue #51 from 1987. Written by regular writer Bill Mantlo, it featured an all-new team and a new artist who nobody had ever heard of named Jim Lee.
Yes, that Jim lee.
Flash forward to 2011. My comic book store is unloading most of its back issue inventory for $1 each and I end up rooting through its bins, looking for something that might catch my eye. I find the Alpha Flight books and see that they have issue #53 by the creative team of Mantlo and Lee. It guest stars Wolverine and for a dollar, I just can’t pass it up.
After reading it, what really got me was what a relic of the time this issue was. Mantlo crams what would nowadays easily be a 4 or 6 issue arc into 23 pages. We get:
- The debut of a new villain named Bedlam
- Alpha Flight getting a new headquarters
- The resolution of 2 ongoing plotlines
- The formation of a new super villain team named The Derangers
Talk about getting your money’s worth. No decompressed writing style here. Sure, there is a ton of dialogue and exposition, but talk about a dense story. And every issue of Mantlo’s run was like that!
As far as Jim Lee’s art, there are definitely glimpses of the iconic artist he was going to become and his Wolverine looks amazing, but he is still raw in some places. The issue has lots of small, crowded panels and you can see he is still learning his trade. But there was no doubt that this was an artist to watch.
I find it incredible that Marvel hasn’t collected these yet. Maybe it’s because Lee is DC exclusive, maybe it’s because they think no one cares about Alpha Flight anymore. But if you can find these issues, check them out and learn where the term “old school” came from.