Power Pack #1-4
Issue(s): Power Pack #1, Power Pack #2, Power Pack #3, Power Pack #4
This was Simonson's first writing effort at Marvel. She was previously an editor, notably of the X-Books. She does a great job right out of the gate, writing really believable children...
...and doing a great job with the plotting.
The origin story for these characters is drawn out over four issues, including a double-sized #1. That's pretty "decompressed" for 1984, and the story works well at that pace, allowing for proper reactions to each new discovery of the new fantastical elements that are introduced (new alien species, new powers, new costumes, new technologies, new characters).
We start with a space battle.
Scenes from that are interspersed with an evening with the Power Family.
The father, Jim, is a scientist. His wife Margaret, is an artist.
Each child has a distinct personality. Alex (age 12) is the oldest and he has that "first child" responsibility (similar to Cannonball in New Mutants). He's also a science geek.
Julie (10) is into fantasy and science fiction and is a bit of a dreamer. She reads while she washes dishes.
Jack (7) is a real highlight of the book. He's feisty and rude.
He takes the longest to believe in any of the fantastical things that are going on (and for a while believes that he didn't receive any powers, and then that he received the worst of the powers, because he refused to believe). Later fan letters will refer to him as being the group's Wolverine, which isn't entirely accurate (he's no killer and no berserker) but it's a fair rough analogue.
And Katie (5) is too young to define her personality. She's a whiny baby. But she definitely has her own persona.
Eventually the space battle ends with a crash landing by the fleeing ship. It lands at the Powers' beach house.
The kids, sleeping outside on the deck, investigate.
Inside is a horse-headed alien named Whitey. Whitey's full name is Aelfyre Whitemane. His nickname gives new meaning to the Gil Scott-Heron song (just kidding, but i had to put in at least a little snark (no pun intended) about that).
The ship - called a Smartship - is named Friday. It is said that Friday chose her name from one of Earth's heroes in Earth's literature. That would be Friday from Robinson Crusoe. Later, the Power kids will debate whether Friday is a boy or a girl. The fact that she's named after a male character might seem to settle that debate, but it's worth noting that the movie title "His Girl Friday" was a play on the expression "Man Friday", which was in turn derived from the Robinson Crusoe character. I don't know if the gender debate was ever resolved, but when i need a pronoun i'll be using female ones since that's the norm for ships.
The pursuing aliens are Snarks.
"Snarks" is actually an approximation of the "unpronounceable" (says Whitey) Zn^rx. The name is based on the Lewis Carroll poem The Hunting of the Snark.
They are after father Powers. He's built an anti-matter energy device. What he doesn't know is that the device will fail and cause a reaction that will destroy the Earth. Whitey's people, the Kymellians, attempted a similar device once and destroyed their home planet. The Snarks want the device as a weapon.
Whitey rescues the kids from the Snarks (note the interesting variations in the Power Pack powers, including in that first screenshot above, where he's using the equivalent of Lightspeed's power except to teleport)...
...but is unable to prevent the kidnapping of the parents. He's also fatally wounded in the battle. In desperation, he attempts something that's never been done before: the transfer of his powers to the children, so they can prevent the testing of their father's device and then rescue their parents.
The powers don't manifest right away. We get to see each kid get their powers individually as they become needed as the Snarks attempt a second abduction.
After escaping the Snarks (with Katie doing quite a bit of damage to their ship in the process), Friday gives the kids costumes.
These are especially helpful to Jack because the unstable molecules will expand with him when he turns to cloud form, meaning he won't lose his clothes after every transformation (and that's a great thing about working in a shared universe. You don't have to come up with a special explanation for why he gets to keep his costume on. Call it "unstable molecules" and move on). He nonetheless thinks they're "sissy".
They give themselves names at this point. From oldest to youngest: Gee, Lightspeed, Mass Master, Energizer.
The Power Pack head to their father's place of work, where his boss Douglas Carmody is getting ready to test his device (and take credit for it. and weaponize it and sell it to the military).
We get to see the Pack use their powers for the first time strategically, infiltrating the facility where the device is kept and then destroying it.
All this time, Jack is getting annoyed that all he can do is turn into a cloud and can't actually do anything proactive (let alone eat) in cloud form.
Although he did put out a fire in issue #2, which was an unusual use of his power.
After destroying their father's device, they return home for food but find it's been destroyed. Then the Snarks attack again. The team puts up another good fight, with Gee dropping a car on the bridge of the Snark ship and damaging their electrical systems, but in the end they are all captured, except for Mass Master.
It seems that the Snarks had been too aggressive in trying to extract information from their father's brain, and with the actual device also destroyed, the Snarks are hoping that the capture of the Power Pack kids (and the Smartship Friday) will appease their Queen Maraud. But they deem Mass Master's power not worth capturing, so they leave him behind.
He sneaks into the ship via their garbage chute and looks for his siblings. When he finds them, bound in neuro-fibers, a noise in the room alerts the guards. Knowing that his cloud form would be detected, he wishes that he could become very small. And so he does. Then he falls off a shelf onto one of the guard's heads, knocking him out. Reasoning (incorrectly) that he must be super-strong when he's super-small, he taunts the second guard.
It doesn't work out quite the way he expects, but by shifting to normal size he's able to knock out the second guard as well.
It turns out that, just as he can expand his molecules into cloud form, he can also compress them into a super-small - but just as heavy - form.
(I love that little "Right Alex?". Alex is the science guy. Jack is looking for his older brother's confirmation/approval.)
Julie is unimpressed by Jack's boasting, and offers something even better.
Basically from there, Power Pack fights its way through the Snark ship...
...rescues their parents, and escapes in Friday. Their parents are kept bound in the neuro-fiber and Friday convinces the kids not to open them up until they return home.
As Friday is fleeing, other Kymellian ships arrive to fight off the Snarks. Among them is Byrel Whitemane, Whitey's father.
Byrel is pleased by Whitey's sacrifice, and sort of adopts the Power Pack kids as his grandchildren.
Also, there was a running subplot where Katie was losing a tooth throughout this adventure, with Jack telling her there was no tooth fairy but then risking his life to pick up her tooth when she dropped it. Katie gives the tooth to Byrel and in return she gets a special coin under her pillow.
Part of the reason why Power Pack was so beloved initially is the art by June Brigman.
This was her first regular work in the comic world, and actually it was her only regular series. Her artistic experience came from doing portraits at a Six Flags theme park. And she does have a unique style, which is somewhere between portrait and caricature that bring a touch of realism but also childish whimsy of the sort you might see in an illustrated children's book.
Sometimes it's a little awkward in these early issues...
...but those moments are few.
A great first arc.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (15): show
Louise Simonson had previously been an editor at Warren, and her reign there is accepted as the last good phase of that publisher's stuff.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 9, 2011 1:50 PM
I've always liked this book. It's a real shame (on several fronts) that Simonson couldn't have kept doing this indefinitely and stayed away from New Mutants.
Posted by: Paul | May 12, 2012 10:46 PM
Actually, having just left that Nocenti comment(ary), I'll say that something similar applies to Simonson, at least in her first few series - she was great with her own characters and situations, but once she moved into the X-world, she was out of her depth, IMO, and ended up making a mess of things and not quite understanding the lay of the land. But I can't say she's a terrible writer, I enjoyed Power Pack and I liked her early-mid 90s Superman stuff. But some writers are better than others at dealing with established universes and characters, is I guess my point. Others have distinct voices and storytelling styles that are best suited, and perhaps uniquely suited, to certain of their own creations.
Posted by: Paul | May 29, 2012 9:02 AM
I had the 1st Power Pack issue and I wish I had collected the issues as they seem like a lot of fun, but when you're a kid you don't really think about that sort of stuff.
Posted by: JSfan | May 15, 2014 9:16 AM
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