Power Pack #30-32
Issue(s): Power Pack #30, Power Pack #31, Power Pack #32
These issues comprise a well intentioned but borderline offensive attempt at looking at the drug problem affecting children in New York. The questionable choices begin with the cover to issue #30, which features Alex holding the body of a black boy that has OD'd on crack. Someone in the issue does die from crack, but it's a white kid.
Johnny Rival's older brother, Raphael "Rip" Dominguez Rival, a drug dealer, is also killed in a shoot-out with the police.
At no point in the story does Alex hold up an emaciated black kid dying from crack, but i guess nothing says "crack" better than a black kid, hence the cover.
The cover to issue #32 similarly colors the main villain of these issues, the, er, Garbage Man, black, even though he's white in the interior.
The art and coloring on the covers set the tone for these issues, which make a clumsy attempt at dealing with the serious problem of the crack epidemic.
Alex stops Johnny from getting involved in his brother's shootout with the cops, but that doesn't win him any points with his newfound friend.
A big part of the story is Alex dealing with peer pressure...
...and taking out that pressure on his younger siblings.
And also becoming driven with the idea that Power Pack needs to use their powers to stop the crack trade in their neighborhood. Despite the cover and some rough writing and art, it's not a terrible issue.
Things get worse with issue #31-32, which introduce a group of kid super-villains. In theory, it would be nice for Power Pack to have a rival team as adversaries, and in theory, it's nice that this group is diverse enough to include more non-white characters than you typically see in a super-villain (or hero) line-up, but that diversity is countered by the fact that the group are employed as crack house guards and by the fact that their group name is "Trash".
They don't have much personality, either. The guy named Razor Cut is unrepentantly evil, the big strong black guy is extremely low IQ...
...and the others don't really have distinct personalities. They all fill the role of people that are forced into villainous circumstances because of their environment and/or family life.
The group are under the employ of the Garbage Man, who is even more evil than Razor Cut and is also impossibly strong and invulnerable.
Maybe "Trash" are all too much victims to figure out that they could find more profitable or legitimate uses of their powers, but you'd think their boss, the Juggernaut-level Garbage Man, could at least move up in the crime world.
There's a lot of moralizing on the part of Alex and the rest of Power Pack, and weird juxtapositions between the Power kids being regular goofy middle class white kids...
...and the drug riddled world around them.
It puts Alex in a Batman-like driven state of being responsible for the world.
I remember reading these issues as a kid and first being really interested in seeing Power Pack fight a team of similarly aged super-villains...
...and then being really disappointed that it was much more of a "message" story.
(I was probably equally disappointed that Julie was calling herself "Molecula, Mistress of Density".)
Subsequently, since these issues weren't ones that i pulled out to re-read a lot, i came to think of these issues as the ones where Power Pack fought a group of black crack-themed super-villains and that they were really offensive. Reading the actual issues and not getting mislead by the covers, they actually aren't that bad, and you can see that Louise Simonson (and John Figueroa, who continues to get credited with a "Story Consultant" role as he was on issue #29) are at least trying to make a sincere point. The overall impression, though, is still one that reinforces negative stereotypes and that's before you get to the fact that one of the members of Trash is a black kid in a basketball uniform whose power is that he has really long legs.
The theme is not really a great fit for the Power Pack book unless your plan was to turn it into more of a Cloak & Dagger type series. It's kind of difficult to have the group go back to whimsical adventures with Kymellian and Snarks now that they've seen how crack is destroying their neighborhood and tempting their schoolmates.
There's an attempt to attract some interest in seeing Trash on an ongoing basis...
...but this is the last appearance of the full group, with three of the characters appearing one more time in Luke Cage's solo series in the 90s.
Even beyond the topic in these issues, we've crossed a line on Power Pack where the book no longer feels like a top tier series in terms of quality. The earliest issues definitely felt that way to me; i'd rank the first year or two among my favorite runs. But at this point, it's at best a middling title, and dropping. Part of that for me is the change in characters' powers. Part is Jon Bogdanove, which is often good and usually cute, but it can also feel chaotic and messy and cartoony, and tends to undermine the parts of the story that are meant to be serious. I also think that Louise Simonson's writing has declined; she may have run out of things to do with this team or may be distracted with X-Factor (and soon New Mutants). We're not done yet - there's still some interesting issues coming up - but it's not the special book that it used to be.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 121,761. Single issue closest to filing date = 83,600.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This arc begins soon after the end of issue #29, with Alex walking home with Johnny Rival. A few of these characters will appear again in Cage, so for consistency i've listed them all as Characters Appearing.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAirhead, Allison McCourt, Blasting Cap, Brute (Power Pack villain), Crazylegs, Energizer, Garbage Man, Gee, Jim Power, John Rival, Lightspeed, Margaret Power, Mass Master, Razor Cut
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|