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Alpha Flight

Minimates
by yo go re

Canada's answer to the Avengers, Alpha Flight is a team of superheroes from across the Great White North. Some of the team's most famous memebers are the shape-shifting Snowbird, doctor/sorceror Shaman, scientist/mythical creature Sasquatch and the troubled Aurora, a super-fast mutant with light powers.

You know how we say there are no "normal" scientists in the Marvel Universe? Sasquatch is Dr. Walter Langkowski, a physicist who studied gamma radiation because he wanted to be like the Hulk. Why is he orange instead of green? His theory was that it had something to do with the Aurora Borealis (his lab was near the Arctic Circle, you see). He also used to play football for the Green Bay Packers, so maybe he joined Alpha Flight because he wanted to atone for his past. (Go Bears!)

Sasquatch is Alpha Flight's "big guy," and this Minimate lives up to that. While there is a Minimate body at the core of this figure, it's far from a standard release - he gets new feet with individually sculpted toes, new forearm "gloves" that more than double the length of his arms, and an all-in-one head/chest cap that bulks him up and eliminates his neck.

The add-on pieces certainly do their job in re-creating Sasquatch's distinctive silhouette, but at the expense of some mobility. Other than the neck and ankles, none of the joints are completely blocked off, but the range doesn't seem as good as it normally is. The fact that the head doesn't move is annoying, if the similing face isn't pointed straight out.

Snowbird is technically a demigod, since her mystical momma did the ol' "horizontal copulation" with her down-to-earth daddy. She has the ability to change into any animal native to the Canadian Arctic - any female animal. And that animal is always white. She also has to stay in Canada or lose her powers, which seems rather arbitrary. If Alan Thicke could survive the transition, why couldn't Snowbird?

Despite having been created in 1979, Snowbird has only ever worn one costume. It's white with blue gloves and boots, and a blue cape that somehow also connects to her briefs - it's sort of the opposite of DC's Dove, which just serves as a painful reminder that DC messed up the Minimates license. Her cape is new, a piece, as is her hair (with its built-in mask).

One of Snowbird's most unique physical characteristics was that her eyes were black with white pupils. The Minimate gets that detail right, but the face seems to be painted a little too low on her head. leaving her with a very large forehead. It's also a shame she doesn't come with any animal accessories, but it's not like the Minimates had any that could be reused.

She does get one accessory, though: a flight stand. Just like the previous Alpha Flight boxed set, which was an exclusive this year's San Diego Comic-Con, this set includes two "swooshing" bases: a one-footer and a two-footer. In theory they could be used by any of the four figures in this set what with the leaping and the hovering and all, but it seems most likely they're meant for Snowbird and Aurora.

Aurora is Jean-Marie Beaubier, the twin sister of Northstar. She also has multiple personality disorder: "Aurora" is her vivacious, outgoing half, while "Jeanne-Marie" was straight-laced and prim. At one point they even went so far as to have Jeanne-Marie unable to access her mutant powers, which caused problems when the personalites would switch in the midst of battle.

Aurora's costume is a mirror image of her brother's: black and white, with a big white starburst on the left hip and a flare at the top of the right boot. Like the Northstar figure, her anatomy is suggested by simple gray lines. She's worn more unique costumes than son frere, because she's always struggled to be seen as an individual.

As we told you before, some artists failed to properly interpret the highlights in Aurora's hair, and drew her with a completely white mane. As with Northstar, this figure has both white and black versions of the same hair piece, but to mix things up a bit, she's got her white hair on in the package. You want the proper black? Open her up and switch it!

Even after the flight stand and the hair, Aurora gets a new accessory. Beyond the super-speed and flight, Northstar and Aurora had one other mutant power: when they made physical contact, they could release a brilliant flash of light. Rather than just expecting us to stand our Minimates next to each other and call it a day, Art Asylum included a new double "clasped" hand that can plug into two Minimate arms at once. It's the same sort of thing Revoltech did, but it's new to Minimates, and it's clever.

And yet we still can't get a Spider-Man with a "thwip" hand.

Our final figure in the set is Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen, who, despite having a name just made for gay porn, goes by the supranym Shaman. Because he's an Indian [no, this is Canada - that's "First Nations," eh? --ed.], he naturally has to be a shaman. Because every Indian in pop culture needs to be magical somehow. Progress!

Shaman's costume is green and orange, because while he might be in harmony with nature, he's not in harmony with the color wheel. The original design had a loincloth that this one has done away with, but he makes up for it with a very ornate belt that includes his... sigh. His "enchanted medicine bag." Yeah. John Byrne's goal in creating Alpha Flight was diversity, not cultural sensitivity.

Because it's against pop culture law for an indian to not dress like he should be standing outside a cigar store, Shaman has long black hair and a patterned headband. At least they didn't paint his skin red this time. His face is rather neutral, but it's painted low enough that the eyebrows don't disappear behind his headband. And hey, his skintone isn't red.

He gets two accessories, though neither of them is really new: they've just been molded in a new color. In order to portray his magical abilities, he comes with a glob of energy that fits over his hand, and a wrap of lightning like Storm had. They're both done in a rather snazzy blue.

This New York Comic-Con exclusive is a wonderful companion to the first Alpha Flight set, and the companion TRU two-pack has just hit shelves, too. It's a good time to be an Alpha Flight fan (and we're pretty sure that's a sentence that's never been used before).

-- 10/29/12


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