Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Review: Alpha - Big Time #1

Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Artist: Nuno Plati
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Oh how things change in such a short amount of time.

Mere months ago, the character of Alpha was introduced to much fanfare by Marvel. If not a resounding everyone dropped their issue of Amazing Spider-Man back on the stands and resolved to come back next month, once this awful kid sidekick had finally gone away. Now, he's back with his own mini-series to annoy you in brand new ways!

Alpha was created in a similar fashion to Peter Parker's Spider-Man i.e. the classic "science project gone wrong". However, where Spidey took to heart his Uncle's mantra about great power coming with great responsibility, Alpha went completely the other way, proving with great power comes no responsibility whatsoever. He used his powers irresponsibly, didn't care who got hurt, took revenge on those who'd wrong him (*cough*schoolbullies*cough*) and most impressively - to hit on girls. Poor Andy Maguire proved a monumental irritant and raised the ire of the internet community in a fashion not seen since Damian Wayne first reared his grumpy head. His initial reign of terror ended just as quickly as it had began, with the Avengers de-powering Alpha, leaving him with only a fraction of his true potential.

Picking up where we last left him, Andy has returned to regular life, but not quite the one he had before. His profile has been raised so high, he'd be hard-pressed to be considered "normal". Similarly, his literal power-trip has left him on the outs with the "cool" crowd. Instead, he's somewhere inbetween. Stuck in social limbo. This gives us the smallest glimpse of humility in Andy. Has he finally learnt his lesson? Hell no. We're only on Issue 1!

After being flown back to New York City for his monthly checkup at Horizon Labs with our formerly-Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, the now "Superior" Peter Parker has had a change of heart. On account of Andy's good behaviour, our newly villainous wall-crawler has decided to restore Alpha's abilities, a little bit at a time. On the outside, this appears to be a gesture of good faith, but with Otto Octavius' mind currently occupying Peter Parker's body, the true intent is to exploit the Parker Particles that gave Alpha his abilities in the first place. More so than Peter ever would have thought to.

Sufficed to say, Alpha goes on to try and become the hero he's always dreamed of, but his usual reckless standards slowly begin to creep in. I have to admit, I love the narrative device of only giving Alpha a percentage of his powers back at a time. It almost acts like a metaphor for his personality. Everyone hated him at 100%, so now they're dialing him back to 10% and seeing if there's a hero worth working with at Andy's core. However, if he's still screwing up this badly at 10%, it doesn't bode well for future issues when Doc Ock cranks up the juice.

As insufferable as Alpha had been previously, I was surprised to find I really enjoyed this issue. Finding him down on his luck and slightly more modest, worked wonders for his likability. Also, coming at the story from Andy's perspective gives us the true entry point we were lacking in the previous Amazing Spider-Man arc. Where before, all we saw was Peter freaking out about having created this horrifying potential supervillain, we're now firmly on Andy's side, knowing his true intentions and just how genuine he is in wanting to become a superhero. Even when he screws up towards the end, it was in service of doing the right thing. I particularly liked the teenage point of view, where instead of thinking "oh my god, I did something terrible", he's thinking "oh my god, I'm in so much trouble".

Fialkov has done a wonderful job of re-introducing Alpha to an already-hostile fanbase. Before, Andy was nothing but a plot device in service of an anniversary issue. Now, he's his own flesh and blood person, with thoughts, drives and emotions. Human beings are complicated animals and sometimes it's easy for comic books to forget that in pursuit of "hero hits villain", but this series adds some much needed nuance to this new character. It's early days yet, but this issue proves to be a wonderful new beginning, with genuine promise.

8 out of 10

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