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Jun 21

Heroes Reborn: Weapon X & Final Flight #1

Posted on Monday, June 21, 2021 by Paul in reviews

“Freedom or Death”
by Ed Brisson, Roland Boschi & Chris O’Halloran

There are two X-Men one-shots which tie in to the Avengers’ Heroes Reborn event. I reviewed Heroes Reborn: Magneto & The Mutant Force #1 a few weeks ago, and wasn’t exactly impressed. So let’s say right now that Weapon X & Final Flight is much better. Which is to say that it functions properly as a story, and finds some kind of angle on the characters it’s using.

Even so, we’re deep into completist territory here. It’s hard to imagine why you’d buy this unless you were a Heroes Reborn completist, a Wolverine completist, an Alpha flight completist, or a close relative of one of the creative team. Of those constituencies, the Heroes Reborn completists will doubtless get the most out of it. Otherwise… well, it’s there, and it’s perfectly decent.

The basic premise of Heroes Reborn is simple. It’s a timeline where instead of the Avengers, you have the Squadron Supreme of America, who are essentially an evil version of the Justice League. And so they basically run America. That means Brisson has a fairly obvious angle to take as his starting point: how do they get on with the neighbours?

The short answer to that is that the Squadron annexed the good bits and turned the rest of Canada into a client state. You could do the story about Alpha Flight heroically making their final stand against the Squadron, but that’s both rather obvious and a bit depressing. Depressing is kind of unavoidable when you’re doing a quasi-apocalyptic timeline, but Brisson has a more interesting angle. Alpha Flight did manage a heroic last stand against the Squadron, where Wolverine even managed to kill Hyperion. And then they lost anyway. (Presumably Hyperion’s return is explained somewhere else in the event.)

Two years later, the war is comprehensively over, Canada lost, and Alpha Flight are still running around under Wolverine’s leadership, pretending that some sort of guerilla war is in progress. Ostensibly this is about liberating Canada – in reality, it looks a lot like the Squadron just want revenge for that time Hyperion got inconveniently killed, and Wolverine wants revenge for the loss of Jean Grey. And the rest of the team are just being dragged along in the wake of that.

It’s a solid enough idea, and reasonably well rooted in Wolverine stories down the years. Plenty of writers have done the routine where Wolverine vigorously insists that he’s pursuing a higher cause by going after the bad guy, when it sure looks like he just wants personal revenge. Wolverine can be good at rationalising this sort of thing to himself, and this story is basically that idea writ large. The real antagonist here isn’t the Squadron so much as the teammate who wants to concede defeat and throw in the towel – with the story strongly suggesting that this might not be very heroic, but it’s a lot more realistic.

And that’s all fine. Like I said, this is light years better than Mutant Force. It has an idea, it does something with Wolverine’s reaction to the situation, it tells a complete story about that, and it does so in the margins of the wider Heroes Reborn arc.

It is a bit grimdark. Not in the traditional way of cranking up the violence to absurd levels, but it’s very angsty. Roland Boschi’s art strikes a balance between traditional action storytelling and everyone looking a little bit worn down and not quite superheroic – but that works. The whole point is that Alpha Flight are diminished by years on the run; it’s fine that they no longer look larger than life. The colouring is more of an issue; we’re not dealing with the traditional Vertigo beige, but it’s all low light levels, washed out colours, subdued greys. And the last page is a bit over the top – in a way that feels out of key with the rest of the issue.

In a cute touch, the Weapon X Project itself plays out differently in this timeline. Since it can’t be a Canada/US joint venture any more, instead it becomes a purely Canadian effort to create a super soldier to defend the nation. The Professor from “Weapon X” is still around as the scientist who gave Logan extra powers, and it would have been very obvious to make him the treacherous villain. But instead this seems to be a version of the Professor who never needed to get caught up in weird schemes and conspiracies, because there was an actual war on and people were queueing up to offer their services voluntarily. It’s a nicely understated angle.

This is a much better example of how to do a tie-in one-shot than Mutant Force. It’s completist fodder, but at least it’s giving them a decent issue.

Bring on the comments

  1. Moo says:

    “the Squadron annexed the good bits”

    That rules out Newfoundland.

  2. Mark Coale says:

    It reminded me of that BKV book We Stand on Guard, about a mech war between the US and Canada (simplified).

  3. JD says:

    Hyperion’s return is NOT explained anywhere else in the event, but then this is such an obvious Death of Superman riff that there’s no real need to.

  4. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Mark Coale- yeah I thought of that book too.

  5. Joseph S. says:

    Yeah the non explanation works really well with the overall meta level gimmick of the crossover, as if we’re picking up issues of a shared universe that have an actual publishing history. Hyperion got better somehow and came back, like so many comic book characters have done.

  6. Adam says:

    Hyperion’s return isn’t explained elsewhere (yet), he he does die elsewhere in the event. I don’t know if that’s a story clue or some sort of running joke about Superman I’m not getting.

  7. Luis Dantas says:

    At this point, Superman dying has become a bit of a running joke, yes.

    It was once a touching story, but the wheel was visited somewhat too often.

  8. Mark Coale says:

    Just look at comics/DCEU Twitter for how stupid people can get about Supes. 😉

  9. MasterMahan says:

    The US and Canada being at war was also a background detail in Mutant X, and damn you, Marvel, for making me think about that comic again.

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